The New Jewish Baby Announcement
Welcome to the Facebook pee stick pic
You know it's a new day in social networking (virtual and otherwise) when someone puts as her Facebook photo a picture of her pee stick home pregnancy test showing the two lines that indicate a baby is on the way.
While I don't personally know the woman who decided to announce her pregnancy this way, we have Facebook friends in common, which is how I meandered over to her page (procrastinating while trying to write a Sisterhood blog post).
I love when technology and popular culture bump up against tradition, and this is one small, new illustration of how the former continuously impacts the latter.
The Announcement Extremes
It's the first time I've encountered a pregnancy announcement on Facebook, but we Jewish women vary widely in when and how we tell people that we're expecting.
Mainstream and longstanding Jewish custom has long been to wait until after the first trimester, when the greatest risk of miscarriage has passed, before sharing the news widely. I told my mother and sister as soon as I knew I was expecting, but held off on sharing the news more widely until the second trimester kick off (or should I call it kick-in, because that's the trimester when you start having the astounding sensation of feeling the baby move).
On the other hand, in an effort to keep the evil eye far away, one of my haredi (ultra-Orthodox) nieces-through-marriage didn't tell anyone beyond immediate family that she was pregnant until she was a couple of weeks away from giving birth. That was one surprising answer when I asked, several minutes into the conversation, "so what's new?"
While that's a little extreme for my taste, so is a phenomenon I run into much more often: People talking about the name of the baby and shopping for little Max or Rachel the minute they see the sex on the sonogram.
Me, I could never get past that little whisper in my ear that 'ken'ayna hora poo poo poo nothing bad should happen but don't jinx it just in case.' My approach was to have a crib on hand but not assemble it until the baby arrived.
Influencing the Unborn?
I can't say I really agree with this Chabad.org article about the ways in which women influence their unborn child's spiritual welfare while they're pregnant.
Obviously we shouldn't smoke or take drugs (ever) or drink (much) when we're growing a baby inside, but the relationship between what we do – the Chabad.org story advises going to synagogue as much as possible and having your mezuzah scrolls checked by a scribe – and how the baby turns out is not clear at all.
Because of a variety of difficult things going on at the time, I was terribly stressed out while pregnant with my second child, much more so than when I was pregnant with babies #1 and #3.…but my middle one is by far the most easy-going of the three. Who's to know how these things shape a child's developing neural architecture or nature (and are these things the same thing)?
When I first suspected I was with child, I went out and bought a home pregnancy test. It was negative. I used the other one in the box. Negative again. I went back to the store the next day and bought a different brand, thinking if they're both 99% effective, this one would have to confirm the unmistakable signs of early pregnancy. But it didn't.
Yet about eight months later Boychik was born.
The Old Fashioned Way
In this age of Facebook and Evite, I wonder if anyone is still sending out beautiful birth announcements the old fashioned way. I loved putting my kids' together - wording them just so, designing them on the computer, picking out just the right papers, envelopes and stamps and then sending them out.
On the flip side of life, today I attended the funeral of the elderly mother of a member of our synagogue. She was, by all accounts, a sweet and loving woman. It was a simple funeral, in a simple Borough Park funeral home. After her son and sister spoke briefly about her life from behind the unadorned podium, her long-time home health aide stood by the draped coffin and sang her a beautiful spiritual song. Her thick Caribbean accent and the song's strong syncopation evoked the spirited funeral services of black culture, rich with music and testimony.
It was an image that contrasted with the starkly simple Jewish funeral.
Perhaps it is Jewish custom to have simple and plain funerals because we are so focused on life. Far more fuss is made, in Jewish culture, when a baby arrives in this world than when we see someone off to the next one.
I like this emphasis on celebrating life.
Even if it is with a picture of a pee stick posted on Facebook.