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.