Thoughtful Thursday: Luck

January 22, 2009

Thoughtful ThursdayThoughtful Thursday plus IComLeavWe? This convergence calls for a celebration, in the form of a new icon. Everything’s more fun with an icon. Clicking the Thoughtful Thursday icon to the left or the one in the sidebar to the right will take you to the Thoughtful Thursday archives — feel free to be retrospectively thoughtful, if the mood strikes you.

A few days ago I showed you some lucky fertility-oriented jade talismans that I bought at a Jade Market. I also mentioned that I don’t actually believe in lucky charms. Which brings us to this week’s Thoughtful Thursday topic: luck.

Sometimes (often, when it comes to fertility), we don’t know why things happen (or don’t happen). If the odds of something are 1 in 4, why you and not the other three people? Statisticians might call this randomness (typically random error, but occasionally another term depending on the statistical context). Physicists might call it chaos. Believers call it Providence, or G-d’s will. The superstitious call it luck.

I believe in randomness (and, as I have illustrated before, I obviously believe in statistics). I believe in chaos. I do not believe in Providence/G-d’s will (which perhaps is a topic for another Thoughtful Thursday, though it’s one of the greatest philosophical/theological questions of all time so maybe not).

And luck? I believe in luck inasmuch as it’s the same thing as randomness and chaos (and when I wish people Good Luck, as I often do when commenting on ALI blogs, what I really mean is “I hope that randomness works in your favor”). But I don’t believe in a luck that we control with rabbits’ feet or avoiding the undersides of ladders. Plenty of people do, I know, including some of you. That’s fine, and I look forward to hearing all about it in your comments. But I don’t. In fact, DH and I frequently mock friends and relatives who exhibit irrational superstitions, just as he mocks me when I throw salt over my shoulder.

When I dragged brought my husband to that Jade Market, I hadn’t told him of my plans to find specific fertility talismans. As far as he knew, I was just seeking jewelry. When I floated like a butterfly (but didn’t stung like a bee) from stand to stand to stand, asking for very specific designs, he became puzzled. Once I had everything in hand, I explained my purposes. He said, “That’s funny. Normally you aren’t superstitious at all. Normally you are entirely rational.” And I had to explain, “Oh, I don’t believe in them. I just want them.”

I don’t believe that these little carved pieces of jade have any impact on any aspect of my life. But I bought them anyway. I don’t believe in the feng shui that says that we should put one on each nightstand for balance. But I keep them in their designated spots anyway.

Seven years of infertility can turn you into a walking bundle of contradictions. Baby-crazed yet avoid most babies? Check. Can’t stand teenage mothers but hungry for paparazzi photos of Jamie Lynn Spears? Check. Sort of superstitious but not really? Apparently so.

Here’s what I do believe. I believe in the power of placebo. Remember Dumbo and his feather? He could fly because he thought he could, thanks to his magic feather. And so, sometimes if someone believes that something will improve their luck, they might take specific actions that direct their “fate.”

And where does that leave me? I’m already taking the actions that would have the biggest impact on my outcomes, particularly IVF. And still, I hedge my bets — just in case.

As rational as I try to be, I am also open-minded. I’m not so arrogant to think that the Science on which I rely and in which I ultimately believe (even as it has failed me so far in my quest for a baby) has all the answers.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
–Hamlet, Act 1 Scene V

The Mojo Socks do seem to have brought some mojo to Miss Conception, or at least she believes that they have, which is good enough for me. In her case, I entertain the notion that the redemption I sought in giving that gift made the socks different from regular socks you’d just buy at the store. It may well be that the socks had nothing to do with anything, and she would have successfully gotten pregnant with these babies regardless. But something that I know that the socks accomplished was to introduce me to a stranger that I now consider to be one of my best bloggy friends. That qualifies as luck, right?

If I truly believed in luck, I would have run right out after Miss Conception’s BFP and bought a pair of those socks for my IVF #2 (or would new socks not have worked because they wouldn’t be infused with the spirit of all of my demolished pottery?). If I definitely did not believe in luck, I would get rid of the jade talismans, or at the very least put them away. I seem to be somewhere in between — I don’t think it will work, but it can’t hurt to try. Very much the same line of thinking as when I have sex with my husband around ovulation outside of a treatment cycle, or when I drink wheatgrass, or do any of the other dozens of things that I’ve tried — on the off chance that something might actually make enough of a difference to get me where I’m trying to go.

So, what do you think?

Do you believe that lucky charms truly have an impact on the outcomes that you seek? Do you believe that you can change your luck?

25 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Luck”

  1. 'Murgdan' Says:

    I’m too logical to actually ‘believe’ that ‘things’ can be ‘lucky’ or ‘unlucky’…but there is such a comfort in at least TRYING to believe. And I’m pretty sure I’ll be picking out a ‘lucky’ pair of socks pretty soon…

    …but what I’m really hoping for is a ‘lucky’ microscope in the lab, a ‘lucky’ sperm, and a ‘lucky’ ICSI pipette…

  2. Bobbie Says:

    I have had some lucky charms in my life and they have provided me with comfort. I don’t think that they changed the outcome of anything though. But, they did comfort me at the time.

    I think you can change your luck, you just have to believe in what you are doing. And try your hardest to do so. But, I only believe in bad luck about every day things. If your car is breaking down every couple of days, it is time for a new car. If you are broke because you spend to much money put it in the bank and forget about it. Those sorts of things.

    The bigger things like medical issues and such, I don’t know what I believe about that. Like why one person has cancer and it is cured while another person has the same cancer and they are gone in 2 months. None of that makes sense to me at all. And it probably never will.

    Thanks for commenting my blog. The name is Ryan like the boys name.


  3. ^WiseGuy^ Says:

    Do you believe that lucky charms truly have an impact on the outcomes that you seek? Do you believe that you can change your luck?
    Wow for the new icon. I like it as it is both meaningful as well as aesthetic. I love your questions. They make me think and my fingers positively itchy to respond. I am going to answer this question looking at life inclusive of my known infertility status.

    I do not really have something like a lucky charm, but I am irrational enough to have some ticks. For example, I do not try out new underwear when I am going for an examination, or when I am about to make some presentation or such. On the other hand, I may decide to wear a new undie if I get positive vibes about it. Can I change my luck? That really is a very tough question for me because racking my brain enough, there are no clear-cut answers. A part of me is a fatalist, another part of me believes that if I put in my best efforts, I can overcome the most adverse situations, whatever they may be. I stick to one emotion well – hope. You see, somewhere I read a quote that said that failure becomes a final outcome only after you stop trying. Oh, and I have one other thing – my mother made me pray before going on journeys/ writing exams and such. This may sound a bit funny, but when I close my eyes and visualize my deity, I observe the hand positions to see what is there. And somehow, I have a tick about what is falling from those hands. If it is something else other than my ascribed-lucky thing, I believe that the outcome may be negative or sub-optimal. Jeez!

    My mother was my lucky charm, and even her magical touch did not save me.

  4. N Says:

    It’s funny, because I don’t believe in luck, but I’m still superstitious. I guess I believe in bad luck, if it’s possible only to believe in that.

    I do think it’s always good to keep an open mind, though, and that the power of placebo is a big one. And that, most of all, if something helps make us more comfortable, then it is good.


  5. Ah, I agree with a lot of things you say. Some people have offered me lucky charms during TTC/IF and I’ve always accepted them. Sometimes I did put them away again after it obviously didn’t make any difference at all… But I’m currently wearing this round silver-colored ball around my neck that makes a soft tinkling sound. My sister-in-law gave it to me just after ET. During the wait for the first u/s I was reading a sad m/c story and then suddenly the ball made a sound and it somehow gave me the feeling that my baby wanted me to know that he/she was still there… Strange, I know. I don’t wear it every day, but still pretty regularly.

  6. MrsJoyner Says:

    I have some things that are lucky..But I think more than that they ARE lucky is the positive thinking that goes into believing they are lucky. I do believe in God, so that helps too, but I don’t think you have to have a lucky charm. I don’t think they can hurt and if they help a person’s mental state, then so be it.
    PS: Thank you so much for the comment on my blog!!

  7. Cat Says:

    I agree with you about luck being the randomness and chaos of it all, but I’d be lying if I tried to claim not to be superstitious. Unless someone knows a different work for it that doesn’t have the negative, Old World connotations. For my FET transfer I wore a pair of the socks I got from a friend who was pregnant, thinking they might help. I got a BFP but m/c at 5 weeks (much like her first pregnancy, actually). A friend gave me a “Mom” charm bracelet after that BFP that I refused to wear until we saw the heartbeat on the u/s, which we never did so now it’s put away. This fresh cycle #2 I did my monitoring at a different clinic, had all my b/w done from my right arm (all the others had been from my left), and I wore my new favorite socks to both ER and ET (there must be something about socks). So far so good as I got a BFP yesterday.

  8. Soralis Says:

    I am not sure about luck… all I know is the two times I held the fertility gods at our clinic the transfers worked, the other 5 times I didn’t it didn’t work! Maybe I just hit the random luck those times but who knows!

    Wishing you all the best!


  9. For me, the only real lucky charm comes from being more mindful with my inner divinity. On occasions when I am able to do so, there is a flow, an ease.

    It’s not a thing. It’s a zone.

  10. Michelle Says:

    I do not believe in luck either. However, I do seem to TRY to believe in it when it comes to making a baby. I figure it can’t hurt so I will pretty much try anything but I am not a superstitious person or someone that has certain rituals or anything like that. I will carry an angel a friend gave me that when she did she said it would bring me good things. Hasn’t really worked but it hasn’t hurt.

  11. Gina Says:

    I like the idea of lucky charms, and I’ve often sought them out, kept them, rubbed them, etc. Deep down, though, I don’t really believe in them. It’s strange the things we do. I think I’m willing to try anything to have a baby, so I don’t want to rule anything out. Oh, the things I’ve done on this IF journey…


  12. bellaandherfella Says:

    I don’t neccessary believe things can change my luck and I don’t really have anything that I’ve found to be lucky, but I do like things that give me hope. I kinda mesh the two things together, I guess. Good luck on IVF #2!!!


  13. Staciet Says:

    Great topic!

    It’s interesting, now that I think about it. I don’t really believe in luck, either. But, that being said, I have gone the way of well it can’t hurt to try route.

    Here from ICLW.

  14. Princess Jo Says:

    Thanks for the comment first up! Sometimes I feel I am talking to myself in my blog, regardless of what the blog counter is telling me!

    About the whole luck thing. I think sometimes there are these “perfect” days where everything is just “right”: and there is a peace about it all. But do I believe in lucky charms etc? Not particularly. I think you get out what you put in, but apart from that..I am just happy taking the good with the bad! Doesn’t make the bad any easier for me, but least I am not relying on a mystical being for my happiness.



  15. a Says:

    I believe that there is power in the universe. I also believe that God has the power to change things. I think luck is just the ability to channel that power (either the random power present in the universe or the power that comes from petitioning God) in the direction of what we want. Lucky charms are simply a focal point to help us direct that power where we will. Superstitions? They’re our attempt to deflect the power away from what we don’t want.

    Interesting discussion topic…Thanks for making me think!

  16. Brenna Says:

    I’d love to say I believe we make our own luck, but in this case I don’t buy it. Some people are more skilled at looking for opportunities in life that place them in a position to be “lucky,” but as far as infertility goes, there’s really no seeking out opportune situations that can increase our chances of a positive outcome. (Well…I suppose having a husband with MF issues, I could seek out a “lucky” affair that might get me knocked up! ;). I agree with the thought that anything that brings positive energy and increases our belief in our ability to conceive can’t be a bad thing. I totally had my friend, who gave us some fertility drugs a while back and has three adorable little girls, rub them all over her belly before giving them to us…

  17. luna Says:

    I love this post. you’ve hit on an interesting conundrum.

    I’m not a believer in luck and have a hard time figuring out if success is simply random or fateful. I suppose it doesn’t really matter.

    as for the talismans and “good luck charms” like the socks even, I do believe that our intentions can have an impact. but I can’t rely solely on intentions either, because I have intended to get myself pregnant for a VERY long time… I have tried positive attitudes, visualization, believing in success. none of that worked for me either. but maybe it works for others?

  18. nh Says:

    I think I’ m with you, I don’t really believe in luck – just that some people manage to bet the odds.

    Thanks for visiting my blog – I love teaching the 11 year olds (very keen on science), I love teaching the 16-18 year olds (because my then they actually want have chosen to study science). The ones in between I can take or leave.

  19. Annie Says:

    I don’t really believe in luck either, but like you, I still find myself searching for fertility talismans or creating little superstitions about how I shouldn’t do or say something until a certain week of pregnancy because I did that with my last pregnancy and then had a m/c, just silly things that have absolutely no impact on pregnancy/m/c–but I find myself thinking those things anyway. I don’t really believe any of that, but I still tell myself to follow these little rules anyway.

    I liked what you said about wishing people good luck and really meaning that you hope randomness works in their favor. I think that’s what I mean by it too, though I’ve never thought of it in those terms exactly. I definitely believe in randomness though–I don’t think there is any rhyme or reason to why some people suffer through IF or loss or some people get to have easy pregnancies without problem.

  20. katery Says:

    i don’t really beleive in things being lucky, it’s all mind of matter, if you believe that something is making you lucky it might work, not because of the object itself, but because of your belief in it… does that make sense to anyone besides me!

  21. Kara Says:

    Well… this is a toughie for me, I really struggle with luck. My maiden name is McGee and we have Irish on both sides, thus – loads of 4 leaf clovers have been placed around our home for years. They are a sign of luck yet, they have not been particularly lucky for anyone in my family so….sadly, while I love my Irish heritage and the 4 leafed clovers they have not provided me any *extra* luck in life or pregnancy.

    I like to think we create our own luck or own great situations.

  22. birdsandsquirrels Says:

    I am very much like you – I don’t believe in good luck charms, but at the same time, I threw my lucky pigs in my pocket on the IUI day and when going for beta draws. I figure it can’t hurt. Of course, they didn’t work for me. It seems like the farther along I get in the IF process, the more superstitious I am becoming. I have a science background, and I know it’s not logical, but IF makes me crazy.

  23. Phoebe Says:

    I guess I sort do. I was surprised not to see any Quan Yin’s in your collection of items you got. I have a small Quan Yin (like the Chinese “patron saint” of fertility and compassion) on a red thread I wear everyday. It has a special meaning to me, and serves as an inspiration during my trials of baby making. I also lent it to a woman in my support group. She got pregnant on her third try with DE and it was a great comfort to her. I hope to pass it on to someone once I get pregnant again. Whatever works for you, I say!

    Thanks for commenting on my blog. NOT from ICLW (*giggles*)

  24. Aramelle Says:

    Through my life, there have been a few things that I have carried with me for “luck.” It’s the term I use, because it’s what seems to fit most closely. I don’t actually think that these items bring to me a certain kind of luck…that they have the power to change any given outcome. But they do offer me comfort. They have significance to me that helps me to believe in things that are bigger than I can understand. Sometimes, the ability to remain positive and find faith is exactly the “luck” I need.

    ICLW #52

  25. Mel Says:

    Finally giving my thoughts–I love your idea of the power of the placebo. I am a very rational, practical person, yet I make wishes, sleep beneath a hamsa, etc. It’s a “just in case” thing. I mean, what if I found out wishes do work and I didn’t take advantage of them? Or if wearing a lucky necklace does have the power to get me pregnant?

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