Old-Time Ozark Customs of Pregnancy and Childbirth


August is the month that the most babies are born, so what better time to share a little folklore on the subject…

~After a woman’s first baby was born the granny woman (midwife) would count the lumps in the umbilical cord to divine how many children the woman would have.
~If a woman’s first child was born in August, she was said to have many more.
~They used to say that if a baby is carried high, it will be a girl. If carried low, it would be a boy.

Pragnancy Taboos
~It’s was considered bad luck to make a cap for a baby before it was born, or to talk about the cap or the head of the baby- it would cause a difficult birth.
~It was once believed that children became “marked in the womb” by a sudden fright or other unexpected happening or disturbance experienced by the mother.
~Cravings during pregnancy were catered to so the baby would not receive a birthmark resembling the craved food.

Birthing Rituals
~The laboring woman’s head should be toward the north.
~In a difficult birth, the granny woman would put a sharp axe or plowpoint under the bed to symbolically “cut the pain”.
~If things were going wrong, the granny woman would dip all the blankets in hot water and hang them up around the bed.
~Spikenard (wild licorice) or sweet flag (acorus calamus) were herbs used to ease childbirth. Blackberry tea was used to speed up labor.

Arival and Recovery
~After the baby was born, a handful of chicken feathers were burned beneath the bed.
~The bed was not swept under, nor the ashes removed, until it was certain that the mother was fully recovered.
~It was believed that the afterbirth had to be buried for the mother to recover properly.

~If a newborn’s head is bathed in stump water, it will prevent baldness later in life.
~The newborn baby was carried three times around the the house. It was believed that this would keep the child from running away in the future, but also protect against sore eyes and colic.
~A baby and a cat cannot live together in the same house. This belief has a basis in the fact that babies have been smothered by cats, which had lain across them for warmth.
~Catnip tea was a common remedy for colic.
~Babies are irritable when the wind is in the northeast.
~Babies are best weaned in the (zodiac) signs of the heart, legs, knees, and thighs.

Sunday’s child is ne’er to want.
Monday’s child is fair in face.
Tuesday’s child is full of grace.
Wednesday’s child is woeful and sad.
Thursday’s child has a long way to go.
Friday’s child is loving and giving.
Saturday’s child will work hard for a living.

One response »

  1. Cool post! As a doula, I find this interesting. The way I always heard that poem was

    Monday’s child is fair of face,
    Tuesday’s child is full of grace
    Wednesday’s child is loving and giving
    Thursday’s child works hard for a living
    Friday’s child is full of woe
    Saturday’s child has far to go
    But the child born on the Sabbath Day is bonny and bright and merry and gay

    Its funny how these rhymes change and morph over time and in different places. I tend to recite that poem to all my clients early in their labor. 🙂

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