Friday, October 12, 2007

The Power of Magic

I have so many things to blog about, and I can't choose which ones to do.

Like my ultrasound next Tuesday, which is stressing me out. And now I really have found out how my husband feels about all this, I'm feeling guilty for putting him through all this torture and stress again.

You see, he has been acting stupidly happy, in fact, boyishly adorable, sending me long gushy emails all about the great things that we will do for the next 9 months, and signing them "Love, Your Baby Fadder". I mean, heeelllllooooo who is this romantic dude and where did my regular husband go?

And he really didn't want to try again, or at least that's what he said, usually whenever he was tired of my hormonal rollercoaster. But a few times, after we had lost Georgia and Mira, he simply lost it and freaked out and told me he wanted to get a vasectomy. I thought he blamed me and was trying to punish me, but instead he was in so much pain, that he really wanted to shut the door and run away. Men really do grieve differently than women, not worse or better, but differently. My support group kept telling me that, and I didn't believe them.

He kept telling me that he was fine and it was no big deal, he was in control of his emotions, and that men just didn't feel the same way. Of course, this was crap.

So last night we go out to dinner to get away from the paint fumes in my house, and we start talking about the Bruce Springsteen concert Monday. He has tickets, 2 really fabulous ones, and we are discussing going. I knew I might be tired, so we discussed him taking a friend or even Kaz, who has been raised on rock and roll since he was a baby.

I regret this now, but I told Mr.Cotta all about my magical thinking fears and how I was determined not to be ruled by them this time. He said, "What's that?" and I explained about how it works. Since I know you guys don't click through all the time, here below is the Overview from Wikipedia. (but you should really really read the entire article if you have EVER experienced infertility or a pregnancy loss-it's a bit of an eyeopener.)

According to Frazer, magical thinking depends on two laws: the law of similarity (an effect resembles its cause), and the law of contagion (things which were once in physical contact maintain a connection even after physical contact has been broken). These two laws govern the operation of what Frazer called "sympathetic magic", the idea that the manipulation of effigies or similar symbols or tokens can cause changes to occur in the thing the symbol represented. Typical examples of sympathetic magic include the use of voodoo dolls, and the fetishization of cargo cults. Others have described these two laws as examples of "analogical reasoning" (rather than logical reasoning).

Typically, people use magic to attempt to explain things that science has not acceptably explained, or to attempt to control things that science cannot. The classic example is of the collapsing roof, described in E. E. Evans-Pritchard's Witchcraft, Magic, and Oracles Among the Azande, in which the Azande claimed that a roof fell on a particular person because of a magical spell cast (unwittingly) by another person. The Azande knew perfectly well a scientific explanation for the collapsing room (that termites had eaten through the supporting posts), but pointed out that this scientific explanation could not explain why the roof happened to collapse at precisely the same moment that the particular man was resting beneath it. The magic explains why two independent chains of causation intersect. Thus, from the point of view of the practitioners, magic explains what scientists would call "coincidences" or "contingency". From the point of view of outside observers, magic is a way of making coincidences meaningful in social terms. Carl Jung coined the word synchronicity for experiences of this type.

Adherents of magical belief systems often do not see their beliefs as being magical. In Asia, many coincidences and contingencies are explained in terms of karma in which a person's actions in a past life affects current events. Likewise in the west, ideas of "motivation" and "positive thinking" in themselves achieving outcomes are not seen as magical by those who tout their benefits.

A common form of magical thinking is that one's own thoughts can influence events, either beneficially, by creating good luck, or for the worse, as in divine punishment for "bad thoughts". Freud reflected on these phenomena in his essay, "The Uncanny". These beliefs reflect an incorrect understanding of the boundaries of self - i.e. one can indeed will to move one's own arm, but not the ashtray on the table[citation needed], at least not by any direct means (e.g. we can will our arm to move the ashtray, or there may be even less direct routes of influence). We can also make the opposite error: thinking that outside agencies can see into or influence our thoughts (paranoia).

Another form of magical thinking occurs when people believe that words can directly affect the world. This can mean avoiding talking about certain subjects ("speak of the devil and he'll appear"), using euphemisms instead of certain words, or believing that to know the "true name" of something gives one power over it, or that certain chants, prayers or mystical phrases will change things. More generally, the identification of a symbol with its referent.

Magical thinking has prevented me from enjoying my pregnancies and my life, and has never once protected me from the pain and grief of losing a child. All it has done is suck the joy out of my life and left me with sadness over all the precious moments I wasted. I could have been celebrating the short time I had, and instead, I tried to "protect" myself from the world. Fat lot of good it did.

So how does this relate to Bruce Springsteen? Well, in 2004 I miscarried Georgia at 16 weeks, a little while after I went to the Madonna concert. Great tickets, (8th row floors!) I had an absolutely awesome time, and yet----for years I felt guilty for going, like the rock concert caused my miscarriage.

Stupid, eh?

Magical thinking is one of the biggest reasons why I believe that we have to get accurate diagnosis for pregnancy loss and infertility. You see, whenever I start to think that rock concerts cause pregnancy loss, I just whip out my copies of the chromosomal analysis, and the placental pathology and the letters and reports I got from various doctors. I read, read, read, read. And there really is nothing like logic & science to beat the tar out of a little voodoo black magic bullshit.

I also am fighting the magical belief that I can't have a live baby because Ivory Snow baby soap flakes are no longer in production, and my two living babies only had clothes washed in them. (Powdered detergent is different, in case you wondered) Second biggie, is that I lost my favourite brown Gund Teddy Bear when I was 11 weeks pregnant with Mira, and that Teddy is what kept all the babies alive. Teddy's disappearance killed her. I can't even buy a new Teddy exactly like it to try to replace it because Gund doesn't make them in the "tender style" of fur anymore. (I have pictures, and tried to build another one at Build-a Bear, but it isn't the same!) Third biggie, is that when Dr.J. does my prenatal care and delivery my babies live, and when she doesn't they die. And she ISN'T delivering babies anymore, gahhhhhh. And worst of all, after Matthew died, I was convinced that his chromosomal problem was punishment from God. I thought that since my bad egg was the cause, and I insisted we try that month, it was my fault. I went so far as to believe that it was because I forced my husband to have sex with me on a Tuesday when he was tired from working, instead of waiting for the weekend. Yep, having sex on a Tuesday causes dead babies.

Utterly ludicrous, I know.

There are lots of other minor ones, like buying maternity clothes, and getting baby stuff, but those I am going to try and conquer by calculating how much circulation I'll be cutting the blood flow off to my uterus with splitting tight clothes, or by remembering how hard shopping was with newborn Mac after I hadn't bought a damn thing for him for nine months. I swear I whimpered in pain through that whole damn store. *Shudder*

And yes, this is the reason why I have become a science freak, so that I can conquer my terror and stop having panic attacks at every turn. I don't want to be afraid to live my life. I don't want to feel guilty anymore.

So after all this discussion, I told Mr.Cotta about my fear of rock concerts and miscarriage, and he suddenly freaked out and told me I wasn't allowed to go to the concert with him, that we could take no chances! I kept trying to explain that the concert couldn't be a cause and that I am purposely trying to confront my fears about magical thinking, and not give in to them, that in fact, I SHOULD go to to the concert, and live my life based on scientific facts, not irrational fears, even if it's emotionally hard, because I don't want to live in superstitious hell. Unfortunately, he will have none of it. The look of fear in his eyes was simply unreal. I know he won't shake it. He was upset the rest of the night.

So, Monday night I guess I'll be at home, with my feet up, gestating quietly and meekly.

I am not good at meek.


  1. Oh... poor Mr. Cotta... My husband would have responded the same way. I think men really believe that we women have some supernatural knowledge of our bodies (beyond normal intuition), and so they take what we say as gospel.

    Well, you better at least think of something fun to do on Monday night. Rent a good movie, take the boys out to dinner, or grab a girlfriend and have yourself a girl's night out! By all means, don't sit quietly and meekly!! :)

  2. Oh gosh, poor Mr. Cotta. Lori's right - do something nice on Monday. So who is going to the concert? Your ultrasound is on MY calendar! I'm the crazy lady now.

    Josh only thinks now that I have some supernatural knowledge about my body. Because during all my nervous freakouts before he'd tried to convince me all was okay, only to find out it wasn't....

  3. This site has a Tender Gund Teddy... One left... Maybe it's the right one... Not that I want to hurl you back into the magical thinking thing... But... In case you'd love to have it again...

  4. Berururiah, I do believe in instincts, sort of like our fight or flight response to danger? I think we sometimes now when the baby is in danger, or we are.

    I just don't think it's based on external factors, like soap or teddies. But I feel like it is, y'know?

    And Thank You cooler-doula, that is the exact one, except that mine had slightly darker fur, kind of caramel colored. I'm going to phone them though.

  5. I think it's sort of sweet that he's all over your magical thinking.

    But damn. I'd give my eye teeth to go to that concert. He's playing NYC a few days later and the tickets are out of control - like upwards of $400.

  6. I totally understand where you're coming from with the concert fear, as irrational as it may be. We've been delayed and delayed on our DE IVF such that if it had happened when scheduled, I would be unsure if I should attend The Police concert on November 9th. It's somewhat moot now as we've been delayed until now and are likely to be at retrieval on or around the 7th, so we won't be going to transfer until the 10th or later probably. So my fear of "will the loud music and vibration affect implantation" is now moot, thankfully. I know I would have definitely been wondering if I should attend that concert.

  7. What's the quote, "Well-behaved women don't make history"? I don't do meek well, either.

    I agree, do something for yourself on Monday while the boys are gone.

  8. My therapist told me last week that I believe in "magical thinking" at first I honestly had no idea what she was talking about. The more she explained it, the more I realized, to my horror, that it occupies an important place in my thought process. It is nice to see that others go through this, too.

  9. You meek? I really doubt you will be sitting meekly. You might not be rocking, but I don't think you will be sitting meekly!

    I am sure he is just as scared as you are about this. Hell, I am scared with you. It is gonna be a long ride, but you aren't alone.

  10. Oh my gosh, I think my life is being run by magical thinking - at least to a certain degree. I always thought this was my OCD - maybe it's both.

  11. I can't imagine you as meek. That's a funny, but all too true-to-life post. You didn't tell him about the Tuesdays, did you?


  12. Poor mr cotta. I can't imagine you being meek either though.

  13. I do the magical thinking, it's like being a pitcher with a no-hitter going, you don't want to do something that will undo the unexplainable. But I mean, I was in utero for a Wings concert, so maybe this little one has a thing for BRUUUUUUUCE. Oh wait, magical thinking again. Doh.

  14. a)The Jungian Theory of Syncronicity, is a clear demonstration that
    everything in this Universe is predeterminated.The Heisenberg's
    Indetermination Principle comes from the human ignorance
    (we cannot see the reality in its totality) only an ignorant,can believe in Free Will.

    b)Matter is a complex form of energy; Energy
    is a complex form of Information; God's Thought.

    The Universe is we are parts of God.

    c) Every kind of "human desire",is followed by a Chain of "Electron wave
    functions collapses" (in agreement with Schrödinger's Theory) which will not
    follow ours expectations! ...So the paradox is: if we want to get hold of
    something,we shouldn’t have to search for it. (Men stay still,and the mountains move...).
    A curiosity: The connection between the electron
    wave-function and the human intent has to do with the fact that
    experiments have proved that the intentions of the operator of a radio
    transmission facility, directly and instrumentably alter the
    "footprint", the radiation pattern of the antenna. It has also been
    shown that the intent of the human being causes a divergence in
    the quantum field (which is the information field).
    Any divergence in the information field results in
    alterations of "probability", which directly influences
    the outcome of any system which contains any element
    of chance, directly influencing the resulting observable
    events. (See the work of Princeton Engineering Anomalies
    Research at


    "In agreement with Henri Bergson's thought (see the last pages of "Entre
    le temps et l'éternité" of Ilya Prigogine ,Librairie Arthème Fayard,Paris),
    we can accept the idea of a "Space-time absolute value", where
    all the "Space-time relativ values" are incorporated (in agreement with Einstein’s
    theory of relativity); the conclusion is that there is only one Real
    Matrix of the every other possible /potential parallel
    "event/dimension/future" it's only a human illusion.

    All the other parallel Universes (or Multi-Universes,as Phd. Everett said)
    can only exist in our minds...perhaps whilst dreaming.

    Unfortunately several physicists are conditioned by Heisenberg's Principle of
    Indetermination...which, as you will know, is enough explain the
    existence of Free Will.

    Well, the Principle of Indetermination is hardly bound by the limits of
    observations made by the human brain.

    (We cannot see the reality in its totality...Bohm taught).

    If we accept the idea that our Universe really is God,well,in a infinite
    Caos of Energy too, there must to be a logical (but not for human
    brain),exact,specific,and perfectly organized ...Plan.

    How many significant (important) coincidences can happen to a person in his
    life,living in a unorganizated and stupid Universe?...I think no-one.
    Every synchronism in our life, is like an open-eyes-dream (Jung
    taught)...and we can thank the fine intelligence of our Universe...if
    they happen."

    Fausto Intilla
    (Inventor-scientific divulger)

  15. Don't tell him about any of the other ones!

    You do a great job here of capturing the constant battle between logic and insanity that we all go through. One of mine -- that song I heard on the radio or in the pharmacy or somewhere each time I found out I was pregnant. And now when I hear it I still think about that, even though at this point if I were pregnant I could start my own religion.

  16. I loved this post about magical thinking, having learned more about this recently in a course I took.

    I think that for most people, some of it passes with age (we stop believing a plane might fall out of the sky just because we look at it and think about it crashing, or that turning off the TV during a game can make our team lose) and for others, they just can't let go.

    Having had both good and bad pregnancy experiences, I decided to always go with what seemed reasonable. When I did lose my baby at 13 weeks, I was OK with it, not blaming myself at all. I honestly believe there was nothing I could have done to prevent it.

    What I really wanted to say was that getting rid of the magical thinking gives you a lot of freedom. It means that you only control the things you actually control and don't need to worry about other things that are beyond your control... I wish you a great scan tomorrow!!!

  17. My background is in science but over the last year dealing with a difficult pregnancy I have really come to be afraid of this magic.
    It is hard when there is so much unknown and so much that you cannot control to be able to let go.

    I'm not good at meek either.

  18. I came via the creme. Isn't it amazing the "logical" things that go through our head when we are trying to get pregnant and stay pregnant. I probably will never wear the gray pants I was wearing when I learned I was miscarrying. For that matter any gray pants scare me and I have worn gray pants forever. Thanks for sharing this post on the creme list.

  19. I consider myself a fairly rational person. But at this point, I think I'd turn to just about anything with the slightest bit of anectdotal evidence.