This is an interesting article about alcohol consumption during pregnancy. It tells the story of an American woman who was refused a glass of wine in a restaurant – essentially, the waitress would not serve her, even though she could quote research that says that occasional alcohol consumption during pregnancy is not considered harmful.
It reminded me of similar articles I’ve read over the years, where random strangers have seen fit to police a pregnant woman’s behaviour. Two examples I can remember were of a pregnant woman who was not ‘allowed’ to buy a bottle of wine at a supermarket, even though she explained that it was for her husband, and a pregnant woman who was refused the right to buy ham at a supermarket deli counter, even though it was destined for her children’s school lunches.
The common theme seems to be that people regard pregnant women as public property, and often don’t seem to think it strange to be passing comment on their behaviour or lifestyle choices. Nobody would refuse to sell a fat person a piece of cake on the grounds that it was bad for them, but pregnant women seem to be viewed like idiotic children by some people.
I can’t imagine how I would respond if anybody attempted to chastise me at Countdown when buying a bottle of wine for Tristan, or some cocktail sausages for Tui. I’m sure you will all be confident that I would respond ‘assertively’ (to say the least!), but I think I’d be so shocked that it would actually be quite difficult to react. Similarly, I can’t imagine what it would be like to have some random punter reaching out and rubbing my large pregnant stomach – another apparently common ‘you are now public property’ thing that many pregnant women experience. I read recently that a good response is to reach out rub that person’s stomach as well, drawing their attention to how weirdly they’re behaving. But again – I’m not sure that I’d have the presence of mind to do it at the time.
The whole question of drinking during pregnancy is an interesting one, anyway. There is some research that minimises the risks associated with low alcohol consumption, recognising that the horror stories regarding foetal alcohol syndrome were drawn from studies of women who were heavy drinkers. Of course, my parents’ generation drank (and often smoked) during their pregnancies, and we seem to have survived unscathed. And when I had a full health check a few years ago with a nice woman doctor and explained that I was about to start trying to conceive, she volunteered the information that I shouldn’t look to make any major lifestyle changes and that low to moderate drinking would do me and a baby no harm at all. After all, a lot of women merrily drink through most of their first trimester – apparently the most important time of an unborn baby’s development – without realised that they’re pregnant, and their babies are fine.
The idea that pregnant women should never have alcohol is now so ingrained in society that most people find it slightly unnerving to see a visibly pregnant woman with a glass of wine in her hand. I don’t begrudge them the right to do it, though – they’re grown-ups and it’s up to them to decide what’s best for them and their babies. There’s obviously an enormous difference between a pregnant woman having an occasional glass of wine and a pregnant woman regularly writing herself off, but as a society we seem reluctant to acknowledge this. If we honestly don’t think that women are sensible enough to make rational decisions about their own behaviour during pregnancy perhaps we should just remove their children from them at birth and be done with it?
Having said all that, I’m not drinking alcohol during my pregnancy. I’ve only had alcohol on three occasions this year, and I have to say that I don’t miss it in the slightest, so ‘giving it up’ isn’t a big deal for me – it’s been many years since I was much of a drinker. I can appreciate that drinking alcohol is small quantities will probably do no harm to my unborn children, but it also seems unlikely that it will provide them with any benefits. Nine months of juice and soft drink doesn’t seem like any kind of sacrifice at all, particularly considering how incredibly blessed we are to be having children at all after trying for so long.
Actually, the thing that I miss far more than the occasional vodka and tonic is cured meat: ham, in particular. And pastrami. I wasn’t a big pastrami eater, but we occasionally go to one cafe that enables you to customise your sandwich, and my choice was always cheese, gerkin, pastrami and mustard. And I love ham so much that I’ve been craving a ham sandwich for weeks – it’s going to be the first thing I want after I’ve given birth.