In a pregnancy full of ‘no’s, a little wine won’t hurt

Who, if anyone, has the right to tell a pregnant woman would she shouldn’t eat or drink?

I haven’t written much about the fact that I’m, um, having a baby in a few months, but as my belly grows (I could be mistaken for stealing beach balls at H-E-B by this point), I can’t hide the fact that I’m the pregnant lady at the bar drinking wine or nibbling on soft cheeses.

With baby No. 1, I was so far along (16 weeks! It’s a crazy story for another day.) and so unsure about all things baby related that I abstained from most of the things even the most conservative baby manuals tell you to avoid. No booze, including wine (until the very end and I’d heard it would help start labor), and no sushi, soft cheeses, etc.

So by 42 weeks, when Julian finally came, I was ready for a freaking drink.

It’s no secret that Americans are much more jittery about what pregnant women shouldn’t consume than just about any one else in the world. The science isn’t completely clear about the point at which alcohol starts to affect an unborn baby, but it’s generally accepted in European countries, for example, that a few ounces of wine a few times a week isn’t going to do any harm to the baby.

With this pregnancy, I knew early on that I wasn’t going to be so strict on myself. I stopped worrying about if the cheese was pasteurized and indulged in a glass of kombucha when the mood struck me. Yes, there are dangers in doing all of these things, but I believe that the psychological impact (which we all know manifests itself physically at some point) on pregnant women who spend almost a year in a near constant state of denial can be more dangerous than half a pint of really good beer at the end of a workweek.

Think about it: Night and day for almost 10 months, you are living in a world of don’ts. Everyone from doctors to mothers-in-law are telling you what you can’t do (no roller coasters, no roller skating, no bike riding, no heavy lifting, no running, no sleeping on your back) and what you can’t eat or drink (no wine/beer/liquor, no caffeine, no kombucha, no raw fish, no runny eggs, no cookie dough).

You’re expecting a child, and you’re expected to be perfect.

Don’t get me wrong. Women who choose to have children understand that there are lifestyle changes that come along with both being pregnant and having a child. But pregnant women don’t seem to be allowed to say, “It’s exhausting being the sole source of life for an unborn kid whose growing body is pushing my stomach into my chest and is making my esophagus feel like it’s going to spontaneously combust.” I’m the first to acknowledge what a privilege it is to be a mother, and I’m even a fan of the whole pregnancy thing. To carry two children has been one of the most joyful and amazing experiences of my life.

I’m in touch with my body like never before, and my body is telling me it’s OK to share a nice craft beer with my husband on Father’s Day.

But from what I’ve been hearing from other pregnant women in my life (and there are plenty of them, let me tell you), not all husbands are as supportive.

I was surprised to hear two of my fellow pregnant mamas mention that their male partners were insisting, not asking or having a conversation about, that, in one case, she not drink a single drop of wine or beer during her entire pregnancy, and in the other case, that she not take a generic version of a painkiller (one that is approved for pregnant women to take) when she had a headache. (Apparently, the name brand was acceptable, but the generic wasn’t.)

Another pregnant friend recently told me that a waiter at a restaurant admonished her for ordering a single glass of wine.

Now, I can understand a server or even a stranger saying something to a visibly pregnant and visibly drunk woman, but I’m of the general opinion that people, including family members, should grant pregnant women a little space. Give them credit that they’ve done the research and made a decision for what’s best for them and the babies they are carrying.

(Photos, via Creative Commons on Flickr, by jannem and dizznbonn.)

10 responses to “In a pregnancy full of ‘no’s, a little wine won’t hurt

  1. Great post!

    When so much about women’s experiences continues to be considered taboo or not worthy of discussion (unless it can be used to titillate or entertain) it is so important to dispel the myths that make people–often unnecessarily–question and police women’s behaviors and choices. Here’s wishing you a happy, healthy pregnancy and a happy, healthy baby, too!

  2. It’s illegal to refuse a drink to a pregnant woman in the state of Texas, which is interesting given the strict alcohol purchasing laws here. I’m surprised to hear a server would say something given the training required for TABC licensing.

    I’ve served pregnant women who have drunk quite a bit at dinner, and been a little surprised (at four or five drinks), but never said anything. One’s job as a server is to make your guests happy, not judge them, whether it’s a pregnant lady ordering a glass of wine or someone ordering a side of ranch with a beautiful steak.

  3. As a former waitress, I am appalled that a waiter had the cojones to admonish a guest for ANYTHING, much less a pregnant woman for ordering a glass of wine. In a profession that depends on tips in a shitty economy, that dude is financially suicidal.

    Anyhoo, when I was pregnant the first time, I read Naomi Wolf’s Misconceptions and worked up a good head of ire about the infantalization of pregnant women in American culture. I especially get my back up over food proscriptions because hegemony is basically all up in your grill three times a day for 10 months. Ridiculous. I refused to give up caffeine during both pregnancies, and very much enjoyed a glass of wine with dinner on a couple of occasions when we were in Paris during my second pregnancy. Of course, no one batted an eye.

    I think every woman should use her best judgment when it comes to what she eats and drinks or does for recreation when she’s pregnant (I took the no sleeping on the back advice seriously when I tried it and nearly passed out for lack of oxygen!). On the one hand, we’ve come a long way from the days of confinement, when women weren’t really allowed to go out in public until well after she’d delivered, but I chafe against these ridiculous rules that are borne of OBs’ fear of being sued more than anything else.

    • Sounds like I need to check out that book! Even though I’m so far along, there’s a whole new round of rules placed upon us during the breastfeeding months…

  4. Outstanding post!

    Honestly, If any man thought he had the right to tell me what to drink or eat EVER be he waiter, king of Siam, or husband he’d probably make the acquaintance of my fist soon after… or at the very least a hostile glare of epic proportions followed by me doing exactly as I please.

  5. Thank you so much for being brave enough to write this, Addie. I have not yet had the blessing of being pregnant but (ojala) when I do, I hope to make my own educated decisions and surround myself with thoughtful, non-reactionary people, who will support me as well.

  6. I had to pipe in on your “Men telling women what to eat” segment. When my cousin’s wife was pregnant he wouldn’t let her eat fish because the “high mercury content” causes autism. I was so horrified that he was TELLING her what to eat, but even more horrified that she was listening.

    Americans are way to over-reactive when it comes to what people should or shouldn’t do. Sometimes it’s a good thing, but when it infringes on another person’s right to drink, eat and be merry, that’s just sad.

  7. “You’re expecting a child, and you’re expected to be perfect.”


    I don’t know why when women get pregnant people think they lose the ability to make sound choices. In fact, I’ve never put so much thought into everything I do, from remembering to buckle my seat belt the second I enter my car to leaving my prenatal vitamins on the kitchen counter so I wont forget to pop one every day. I have five million thoughts a day and my baby occupies at least four million of these.

    The thing I find humorous is that some women won’t think twice about indulging in Supersize value meals from shitty fast food joints, but consider a glass of wine or beer off limits.

    Can you believe people have lectured me about EXERCISING during pregnancy?

    What am I supposed to do, sit on the couch, read baby books and sip V-8 juice all day?

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