We Are Both Right

There’s a Reason Pregnant Bellies Don’t Fit at the Bar

no drinking during pregnancy

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“Green apple or chocolate martini?” It was a few minutes after we had arrived at a holiday party at Amanda’s house in the December of 2001. Exactly one week before, I found out for the first time that I was pregnant and couldn’t wait to share the news with friends from college.

“Thanks, but I can’t drink tonight,” I stammered, as T. mixed a drink for my husband.

In the space of a second, I could see the look on Amanda’s face change from one of puzzlement to suspicion. “Why not?”

“Because I’m pregnant,” I said in a whisper. And the girlish squealing ensued.

It was strange for me to actually say those words. Of course, the “I’m pregnant” part was all brand new, and it was going to take me some time to get used to it. But even though I had stumbled on the “I can’t drink” line, the truth was that I had been practicing that one a little longer.

Three months earlier (albeit halfway across the country where Amanda wouldn’t have picked up on it), the drinking ban had been put into place. As soon as my husband and I made the conscious decision to start trying to having a baby, I had made a personal decision to cut out any and all alcoholic drinks.

It was an even exchange — prenatal vitamins in place of a glass of wine with dinner. Not as tasty, that’s for sure. But it put me at ease in other ways.

I wanted to assure that my baby had every chance of being as healthy as possible. I knew I was lucky enough to be carrying a child, and certainly didn’t want to tempt fate by drinking during pregnancy. So sipping a glass of wine every now and then just wasn’t a chance I was willing to take.

Besides, the warnings are hard to ignore. That’s why it surprised me when a co-worker at the time freely confessed to drinking beer on a regular basis during both of her previous pregnancies. The children seemed fine, but I kept wondering why she was so comfortable flying in the face of science.

That was her decision, and I had mine to make — no drinking during pregnancy, or during preconception for that matter. If I had breastfed, I probably wouldn’t have indulged during that time either — even though it’s possible to squeeze in a drink between baby’s feedings with enough time for the alcohol to leave your system.

Looking back, it wasn’t a hard resolution to keep. I substituted fruit juice mixed with seltzer in the summer when I was craving something different. But for the most part, I didn’t feel like I was missing out.

A few years later, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I intended to keep to the same promise. I passed on alcoholic drinks for the most part during the entire pre-conception period (which stretched over eighteen months) — except once a month when I needed something to soothe my nerves in the hours after yet another negative home pregnancy test.

And then there was the time when I sat face to face with the bottles of wine on the table at my brother’s engagement party — that was the closest I got to straying, feeling compelled to swish a mouthful and spit in the style of a wine tasting.

An alcoholic drink during pregnancy can be tempting, yes. But is it worth it? You tell me.

Amanda may have had a sip or two of wine during her pregnancies, but I’ve also heard of OBs telling their patients that it’s OK to have some red wine after an amnio — so I’m thinking she wasn’t crossing the line at all. (And I thought I was the only one feeling self-conscious about all my unpopular opinions!)

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