Originally posted on Life on the Outside, 2 March 2006.
Well, we visited the mothers and babies (and foetuses) doctors in Holles Street again yesterday. Don’t worry, there wasn’t anything wrong with your mother’s ketones this time. The doctors just wanted to check that you were all right in there, and that you were happy with the standards of food and accommodation and so on.
Unfortunately, this did involve bouncing some more of those sound waves off you, and you probably noticed a bit more banging on the walls than usual. Sorry about that. You’ll be relieved to learn that there should be no more sound bouncing sessions from now on.
This is partly because we discovered something about you yesterday. It’s a small detail, but it’s probably going to determine, among other things, your views on handbags and on Anne Francis and her collection of skirts.
We’re overjoyed at this discovery, but we’re also a little embarrassed. You see, we thought we’d already settled this particular matter at an earlier sound bouncing appointment, but it turns out we were wrong. Not only that, but we were so sure we were right about this particular, er, detail, that we’d started to plan certain things.
We had settled on booties of a certain style. We had started to plan a colour scheme for what will be your room. And then there was the small matter of your nick name, which really had begun to stick. We’ll tell you about it someday. I’m sure you’ll see the funny side. You might require a little counselling, but you’ll see the funny side.
By the way, your mother observes what’s called a superstition. This is a kind of irrational belief. In this case, it’s a belief that magpies, or rather the number of magpies present in a flock, can predict certain categories of events in the life of a person who encounters them. It’s all based on an old rhyme.
To be fair, she doesn’t really believe this. It’s more a matter of tradition and personal ritual. In fact, it’s a bit like what’s known as Pascal’s wager. Pascal argued that believing in God was a better “bet” than not believing, since you stand to gain a lot more if you turn out to be right than if you had bet on not believing.
Anyway, the thing is that, on the way to the hospital yesterday, we saw a number of magpies. It may have been three, it may have been four. Now, these two configurations of birds are said to predict the particular detail (think of it as a flavour, like chocolate or strawberry) about foetuses like you that we were on our way to discover.
Of course, there are certain obvious problems with this. For instance, what if two or more mothers with foetuses are looking at the same flock of magpies, but one has a strawberry foetus and the other chocolate?
But never mind that. The point is that the magpies were wrong anyway. The flavour they predicted was contradicted by the, um, anatomical features we saw in the hospital.
Now, I realise that this hasn’t exactly cleared anything up for you. All we’ve established is that a species of bird you’ve never heard of (and what’s a bird, anyway?) doesn’t have any supernatural influence over something about you that’s a bit like a flavour but not quite, and that we spent yesterday afternoon peering at your “details”. That probably does seem, well, a little opaque, if not downright unsettling.
Just bear with us here, OK? It’s just that you’re quite a big deal out here already. A lot of people are talking about you already, and everyone is dying to meet you. Your mother and I are just trying to preserve a little of your mystique, to save something for the end, for what television executives call the Big Reveal.
And I can see it now. I know just how those television executives would describe you.
You’re going to be fabulous, darling. Just fabulous.