At eight months pregnant with my daughter, I was in pain. Women at the grocery store stopped me to congratulate me on twins. One cashier at Target just asked if I had taken fertility drugs or did twins run in my family. My feet were so swollen I could barely wear flip flops. My brother kindly nicknamed me Bilbo Baggins. And my back was spasming. When I called my doctor to ask her what I could do to get some sleep, she said, “If you want, drink some wine. No more than one glass every other day. You’re not going to hurt anyone.”
Too embarrassed to buy some of my favorite Apothic Red while I looked like the Hindenburg, I asked a friend to sneak me over some. That night, I ate pasta, drank wine and fell asleep by seven p.m. It was glorious. For the next three weeks, until I went into labor, I had a total of four glasses of wine.
I had spent the majority of nine months worrying about my water intake, my caffeine intake, my calcium, my folic acid, my weight, lunch meat, cheese, mercury in my fish, my cankles, that I was exhausted. When my doctor suggested drinking wine, I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. It was precisely the permission I needed to make my own decisions about what was happening to my body.
I am pregnant again. This pregnancy comes on the heels of a miscarriage. As a result, I’ve spent the past nine weeks mired in fear, doubt, worry and tears. On the day I hit the 10-week mark, I made myself a light hot toddy, sat back with a book and took a moment just to enjoy that I had a child in me. No matter how long, no matter what happened, in that moment I was pregnant and I was determined to be joyful and live in that moment. This child is mine. This body is mine and I will not spend the rest of my pregnancy afraid and paranoid.
He just had one request: “Don’t tell my mom.” He didn’t have to worry. My Evangelical in-laws are teetotalers and when I was three months pregnant, my sister in-law balked when I asked for Caesar dressing with my salad.
“That might have eggs in it,” she yelled grabbing the bottle from me. I calmly took it back and, saying nothing, poured a thick creamy river onto my salad. I know exactly what my husband's family would say about drinking in pregnancy and it wouldn’t be pretty. But frankly, it’s none of their business.
I don’t tell my parents either. My mother raised eight children and did her best to feed us all-natural and organic foods. She refused to vaccinate us and for the first 17 years of my life, I was only given homeopathic treatments. She already lectures me on giving my toddler boxed macaroni and cheese. If she heard that I drank while pregnant, she might forcibly remove my child from my custody.
And my friends, well some of them are understanding and many are secret pregnancy drinkers too. But I choose carefully to whom I come out of the closet.
Recently, I admitted to a group of close friends that I occasionally had a glass of wine while pregnant and one of the women broke into tears. She told me later that it was so hard for her to get pregnant that she would never “play fast and loose” with her child’s well-being and confessed to being amazed that I am so “cavalier” with my precious babies. I understood her fears. But, I also knew that my miscarriage came during a time when I hadn’t had a sip of alcohol in two months and I was eating a low-fat, all organic diet. I was the healthiest I had ever been in my adult life and the worst still happened. Also, this woman lets her son play football, which seems far riskier. I said none of these things. I just nodded, thanked her and walked away.
Like eating lunch meat and soft cheese, the guidelines are there to guide and protect pregnant women. But in the end, we all make our own decisions.
And no matter what motherhood path we choose, we all end up muddling through somehow. What’s more important than following rules is giving ourselves the breath, the space, and the grace to be the mother we need to be. And if we could extend that lesson to others so I don’t have to write this anonymously, that would be great too.
And now, I’m off to go eat a Turkey club sandwich.
Send us your own Anonymous Mom submission.
(photo: Liv friis-larsen / Shutterstock)