Some expectant mothers around the country made a superstitious decision Tuesday on the most bedeviling of dates: Their child would not be born on 6-6-6 — the so-called Number of the Beast.
"We were going to try to get it out before midnight or I was going to keep my legs closed," said Julie Haley, 33, a mom from Massachusetts whose contractions started Monday. "I don't want her to have that stigma for the rest of her life. When she gets older, her friends would say that anything bad would be because of her birthdate."
In New York, "people are canceling left and right because of what today represents," said Liza Washington, an administrative assistant at Children's Hospital of the New York-Presbyterian medical center.
While there were dozens of deliveries there on Tuesday, over a dozen others were postponed, she said.
A Chicago obstetrician, Dr. Scott Pierce, performed a C-section on Monday on a woman who didn't want her son to be teased about his birthday, with kids calling him names like "Omen." The plot of the movie, being released Tuesday, is about a child who turns out to be the Antichrist.
Pierce, who works at two Chicago area hospitals, said he and his colleagues canceled any births scheduled for Tuesday. But, the doctor added, "I'll do nothing that is ethically not indicated."
Pierce said that in general, about 25 percent of all births involve C-sections whose timing can be controlled — "give or take a day." And about 30 percent of births are natural, but labor is artificially induced, allowing the timing to be controlled as well.
In another Massachusetts delivery ward, at the Newton-Wellesley Hospital, which schedules an average of three C-sections a day, doctors performed five on Monday and planned five more for Wednesday. But there were no deliveries as of Tuesday afternoon, according to Rachel Kagno, a spokeswoman for the hospital in Newton, Mass.
In Wichita, Kan., a woman suddenly realized that her delivery date was June 6, and asked her doctor to delay the delivery.
"But she only thought about it after she heard a report on the news about the date and what it meant," said Dr. James Whiddon, of the obstetrics and gynecology department at Wichita Clinic.
Another baby was born early because of 666.
Tabitha Unternahrer of Wayland, Iowa, was to have a C-section on Tuesday, but called her doctor and had the date moved up. Her daughter, Taryn Reney, was born May 31.
"About two weeks ago I realized the date and called and told them it had to be moved," said Unternahrer, who had dreamed about complications in childbirth that triggered her decision.
The superstition is as old as the Bible.
The 666 stigma started with a warning in Revelation 13:18: "This calls for wisdom: let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number, its number is six hundred and sixty-six."
But fear of the ancient warning did not grip everyone.
Iris Barreto, the assistant head nurse of labor and delivery at Manhattan's St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, said the medical staff was busy delivering at least 10 babies on Tuesday. "We have a full house, we're booming! We've barely got enough beds."