Mackenzie Warren, an Aquarius mom in her 30s based in North Carolina, said she and her husband had hoped their first child would be a Scorpio, like her father. The couple stopped using birth control once they were near the threshold for conceiving a Scorpio, but their daughter was born early, and ended up a Libra. “We delayed trying for our next by a month, hoping to avoid a Pisces,” Warren said, as neither of them typically get along well with the sign. They were successful: their son is an Aquarius, like his mom.
Bringing a new person into a perilous world is so fraught with uncertainty that many people will do whatever they can to get over the hump of fear that accompanies having a child. For some prospective parents, this means proactively trying to determine their children’s zodiac signs. Compound already high stress rates with the stressful experience of having a baby, and it’s no wonder some parents turn to astrology in the hopes of easing some of that anxiety. “Expecting parents are under a lot of stress. They want to provide the best possible outcomes for their child, but may feel that much of it is outside of their control,” said Aiyana Willard, a psychology lecturer at Brunel University London who researches the cultural evolution of religion and supernatural beliefs. “This type of uncertainty makes people very uncomfortable, particularly when the stakes are high—such as the future success and well-being of a child.” Attempting to influence a child’s astrology sign may help parents feel more in control of the situation, she said.
Because fertility can be difficult to predict, parents aren’t trying for one particular sign over all the rest; rather, they’re hoping a baby on the cusp will fall into one sign rather than the other. “I was due on the cusp of Leo and Virgo. I did all these folklorish things to kickstart my labor for a chill Leo,” said Kimberly Miller, an Aquarius public health cancer researcher in Los Angeles. She grew up with an “anal Virgo mother,” so, though she loved her mom, she hoped to have a child who was a bit more laid-back than a Virgo, who are typified as obsessive perfectionists. But Miller got nervous once she approached her due date: The kid did not seem like she wanted to be born during Leo season, which takes place from July 23 to August 22.
Miller tried a wide variety of methods to encourage a birth within Leo season. “Everyone in LA was like, ‘Eat the maternity salad,’ so I hauled ass to Studio City and ate it,” she said. “My friend who is a psychic and Buddhist said she’d chant to bring on my labor before the cusp. So she was doing that. There was nipple stimulation, which I found unpleasant, and some raspberry tea thing.” Despite her efforts, she gave birth to a proud Virgo, a teenager who so far is “pretty chill,” said Miller. She thinks that the cusp factor “may have something to do with it.”
Even if people are otherwise skeptical of astrology, some account for it when thinking about their kids, just in case. Barbara VanDenburgh, an Aquarius and editor in her 30s who’s based in Phoenix, Arizona, said that if she ever gives birth, she would make a serious effort to ensure she didn’t have a Virgo. “I cannot deny that every Virgo I’ve known has stressed me out, like they’re living in a parallel world I cannot access or understand,” she said. “I’m not religious, I don’t believe in ghosts, I’m inclined to think there’s a rational explanation for most things. But rationally, taking in the evidence: Virgos get on my damn nerves at a higher percentage than other signs.”
Claire Comstock-Gay, aka Madame Clairevoyant, an astrologer for The Cut and the author of Madame Clairevoyant’s Guide to the Stars, said that hoping for a particular sign won’t necessarily give parents the sense of control and results they’re hoping for. “The traits associated with each sign can be expressed in all kinds of different ways—not all Leos are stereotypically dramatic, not all Virgos are stereotypical neat freaks, et cetera,” she said. She also pointed out that it can be hard enough for children to figure out and assert their identities without adults trying to presage them by way of their sun signs. “In general, I think it’s good to have a very light touch when using astrology to talk about kids,” said Comstock-Gay.
You don’t have to believe in astrology completely to get some emotional benefit from it, though, according to Willard, the psychologist who specializes in religion and the supernatural. “If the cost is low, you don’t have to have a lot of faith in the effectiveness of the outcome for it to seem worthwhile,” she said. “Even the smallest chance it will benefit your future child might still be worth the effort.”
All told: People hoping to presage a certain sign for their child obviously shouldn’t take that pursuit too seriously, even if they are all in on astrology. “All 12 signs are absolutely wonderful. And one sign is not any better than the other,” said Annabel Gat, a VICE astrologer and the author of the upcoming book The Moon Sign Guide: An Astrological Look at Your Inner Life. She told VICE that the doctor’s opinion should always come first, before any considerations about astrology come into play. “Astrology is just for fun,” she said, and shouldn’t be used to guide important medical decisions without the input of a doctor.
If someone is given the all-clear from a doctor that certain dates and times for a C-section or induction are acceptable, “electional astrology”—in which an astrologer helps a client choose an ideal date for an event—“could be something interesting to explore if you are astrologically inclined and find it interesting,” said Gat. Rather than trying to choose the ideal birth chart for the baby, though, she said it’s more ethical to use that information generally, to encourage smooth sailing for the procedure itself.
Suzanne Degges-White, a professor of counseling at Northern Illinois University who specializes in transition periods such as planning to have a baby, pointed out an additional wrinkle: “A lot of what happens when we read about the traits of an astrological sign is confirmation bias,” she said. “We see that a particular sign has traits that appeal to us in a person—goal-driven, patient, fun-loving, etc.—and we might imagine how nice it would be if our child was like that.”
Confirmation bias can ultimately play a role in how a child is perceived as emblematic of a particular sign. Georgia Andrews, a Sagittarius and software developer in her 30s based in Tahoe, California, said her mother scheduled her C-section for a particular time of day so that her rising sign would be Aquarius. “If I was going to be born in the morning, roughly, I would be independent and a couple other adjectives about my personality. And if I was born in the afternoon, we’d have a close relationship and a couple other things,” she said. “She picked the morning, basically, and is happy about it.” Andrews said that the independent, strong-willed nature of the Aquarius rising rings true, “sometimes to a fault,” noting that she bought her own condo and moved house almost entirely on her own last year.
Though Andrews views her mom’s astrological decision-making mostly as a fun anecdote, she feels warmly towards it all the same. Reflecting on it now, Andrews said, “She did it because she thought it would be better for me, and it’s hard to argue with that.”