Sunday, April 15, 2018

"B'Shaah Tovah!"

No, I'm not pregnant. But "b'sha'ah tovah!" is the traditional well-wish to women who are. 

Before we continue, let's review when it's ok to assume a woman is pregnant: 

Now that we've covered that, what do you say to congratulate a pregnant woman? You can say "congrats!" There's nothing "wrong" with that. But traditionally, Jews have been superstitious about pregnancies. Not a crazy thing given the history of maternal-infant mortality rates. But it lingers. Many people won't buy anything for the baby until it's born (or may leave it at someone else's house or even on their porch!). I imagine that was a lot easier to do back in The Olde Country™.  Your diapers were just repurposed rags/cleaning cloths. The baby probably slept in your bed instead of a thousand dollar crib. Your neighbors likely could lend anything you need. Babies really don't need very much, especially when you live in a two or three room hut or apartment and there are lots of people to help out. 

But the superstition lingers in the phrase "b'shaa tova," and you know what? I'm ok with it here, even though I'm normally very against superstition. B'sha'ah tovah translates literally as "in a good time/hour," perhaps better phrased as "at the right time." Having been pregnant twice now, that's a really good blessing. I would accept that bracha any day. From their mouth to Gd's ears. In fact, my kids listened a little too well and took their sweet time. It was so bad that my first was induced for being two weeks past her due date. That's a loooooooong time in pregnant time. 

Now the awkward part: how should a pregnant woman respond to this well-wish? It seems there's not a consensus, at least among my sample. I could never decide whether to say "amen" or "thank you," and since I waffled, I always stumbled and stuttered in the moment. Turns out both are considered "correct" answers. But even once I knew that, I still couldn't decide and continued stammering and trying to pick the best answer for the situation and/or conversation. These are the problems we should have, right? 

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