Juggling Act: Superstitions make uncertainty easier

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News
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My daughter was midway through a detailed medical procedure on her spine a few weeks ago when my husband and I broke a long-held family taboo when it comes to being in the hospital: We talked about lunch.

Like many special needs parents — or any parents for that matter — we have a list of superstitions whenever we are in the hospital with our daughter. If we can just avoid certain discussions, it’s as if we can somehow have a bearing on the outcome (or at least not doom it).

Our lunch superstition started more than a decade ago. I was pregnant with our first child when we discovered he wasn’t growing as he should be late into my second trimester. Panicked, the nurses hooked me up to monitors in a triage area to monitor his movement. Things seemed to be moving in the right direction so we discussed where we might eat lunch when we left the hospital.

Then all hell broke loose. A high-risk obstetrician pulled the curtain near my bed and started talking about growth charts and genetic conditions. The course of our lives took a sharp detour. I blame lunch.

Rationally, I know lunch had nothing to do with it but superstitions are an attempt at controlling the uncontrollable. And when you’re faced with so many variables on a day-to-day basis — big questions without easy answers, if there are any answers at all — it’s easy to understand why we sometimes latch on to whatever we can, thinking that’ll somehow steer the outcome.

When my kids were younger, I was obsessed with our diaper bag being in a very specific order. Diapers had to go in one compartment, wipes in another. There were other areas for binkies, spare clothes and baby gadgets. Everything had a place and I knew where it all was. I liked it that way.

My husband had the opposite approach. He ignored the compartments — there were compartments? — and stuffed everything in wherever it would go. He was a free-range diaper bag-packer and it drove me bonkers.

“The binky doesn’t go with the diapers!” I’d scold. “It goes in the side pocket!”

Looking back, I realize now it was silly to obsess over something as simple as a diaper bag. But I was a new mom with a baby with serious medical issues. Everything felt out of my hands.

What I could control was the diaper bag. Never mind whether our little girl would talk or walk one day. At least I knew where the burp cloths were. That was something. In some small part of the universe, I had a say in things.

Thankfully, I’ve relaxed a ton when it comes to the diaper bag (my husband may disagree) but the lunch superstition persists.

Sitting in a huge hospital waiting room for more than five hours a few weeks ago, I watched the hours tick by. I took walks along the hospital corridors and watched a few shows on Amazon Prime. My husband and I started to talk briefly about lunch when suddenly we caught ourselves.

There would be no talking about food at all, we agreed, until our little girl was out of surgery and in the recovery area.

Finally, the surgeon emerged. Everything went smoothly, thank goodness. Two and a half days later, my daughter was very sore and weak, but home. Every day she gets stronger and she’s finally back in school.

In the end, our lunch talk didn’t doom us, thank goodness. But just in case, I’m going to keep my mouth shut next time. I don’t want to jinx anything.


Twitter: @mfeighan

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