news item: I’ve Been Drinking Through My Pregnancy

Drinking during pregnancy.

I’d hazard a guess that this is a hot button topic, and though it’s part of the title of this post, it’s not the whole point of this post. We’ll get back to that.

Last week one of the PAIL contributors sent us an email about the article, “I’ve Been Drinking Through My Pregnancy.” My knee jerk reaction before reading it (full disclaimer – I was someone who had a few drinks while pregnant with the full blessing of my medical provider) was along the lines of…oh great… another article where people are going to bash the author for making any number of responsible, informed choices with her own body while she was pregnant . Honestly? I was pleasantly surprised.

The author writes:

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.”

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.

Okay. So a show of hands here – how many women here have felt stressed about how to best  take care of their bodies and unborn child(ren) while pregnant?

NOW, a show of hands – how many women here have been lectured by friends, family members, and even strangers about how to best take care of their bodies and unborn children while pregnant?

In my personal opinion, when you travel the ALI road to pregnancy and parenting, you tend to research the crap out of … well, most anything and everything. For some women, it means that they end up afraid of doing, eating, or saying anything that would be perceived as being ungrateful for the pregnancy (read: the posts where women claim to not miss A SINGLE FACET of non-pregnant life – do you women really exist?). For others, it simply means they had time to research too much and drive themselves a bit batty. For many, the years of research and pages of questions we have peppered our medical providers with have allowed us to make informed choices that we feel good about…even if we’re afraid to admit it to everyone.

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.

Ugh. It’s hard to get mad at someone whose judgment is coming from a place of pain. I get it. But it’s still judgment. People judge you for everything from how you become a parent to how you actually parent… the judgment seem to be never ending at times. However, I love the writer’s final point:

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.

The main point of this post for me? The elusive “let’s respect each other’s parenting choices” card. Awesome.


What was the biggest thing people judged for you during your pregnancy?  Eating cold deli meat, sushi, and soft cheeses? Having a drink? Sleeping on your right side instead of your left?  Highlighting your hair? — How did you handle it?

If you adopted, what kind of judgments did you face? Open adoption vs. closed? Domestic vs. international? Newborn vs. older child? Telling the child vs. keeping it a secret? Did people try to tell you the “best” choice (in their opinion, obviously)? — How did you handle it?

Do you think you have become more/less judgmental thanks to the ALI journey?

To you catch yourself giving unwanted/unasked for advice to others? Or do you bite your tongue?


Share. Visit. Read. Comment. Support.


  1. Other people who read this comment may hate me. . . but I did absolutely nothing during my pregnancy for which anyone could judge me. Nothing. I followed every recommendation and caution 100% to the letter. Not a single bite of sushi, deli meat, or soft cheese or a single sip of caffeinated beverage, alcohol or high-fructose corn syrup ever passed my lips when I was pregnant. I completely gave up hair color, waxing, pedicures, and anything else I thought might have even a slight chance of harming my babies.

    But let me stress that this was my choice, and was a choice I made for a few reasons: not only to give my babies the best intrauterine environment, but also to ease my husband’s (high) anxiety, and to reassure myself that if anything went wrong with my pregnancy, it would not be my “fault.” Given the degree of difficulty and expense involved in getting pregnant for me, it seemed like the most prudent approach.

    I have many friends who have been more relaxed in their attitudes, having an occasional glass of wine or continuing to enjoy a daily cup of coffee or to color their hair, and I have not judged them for it. We each have to make our own choices in line with our comfort levels.

    • Yeah, I think that’s the best point – that as long as you’re not judging others for not making the same choices as you, that’s the most important.

      For me, my doc told me that the hair dye warning was an old thing that no longer is a concern b/c they’ve changed how they make the dyes, that if you get good quality fish that you trust the source and handling of, go for it (i mean, obviously the Japanese don’t quit eating sushi when they’re pregnant, you know?), soft cheeses in the US are almost always pasteurized now anyway (check the labels – I never found a SINGLE one while I was pregnant that wasn’t pasteurized, so there goes the listeria concern)…etc.etc…

      I think a lot of the well meaning “warnings” from people have to do with them just not knowing the updated research on the issues. I would just get frustrated by people who would claim to “KNOW” things — but really they were basing it on the advice their grandmother’s doctor had given in the 50s and the advice had just been passed down through the generations, you know?

      Also, isn’t it crazy that we are afraid of being judged both FOR doing things and for NOT doing things? *SMH*

      • sangela71 says:

        Yes indeed.

        Also, I wanted to add that I had a coworker who was just slightly less pregnant than I was (due about 4 weeks after me). She was 25, carrying a singleton, and conceived naturally her second month of trying, whereas I was 40, carrying twins, and conceived via DE IVF after three years of failed attempts with my own eggs with and without medical assistance. I always found it interesting to note how different our attitudes were about what was OK during pregnancy. (For example, she’d never even heard of the whole “no soft cheeses” thing and happily continued her daily cup of coffee without concern.)

        Honestly, there were times when I was pregnant that I wished I’d known less about the Do’s and Don’t’s so I could’ve just lived my life. 😉

      • sangela71 says:

        Oh, and P.S. Even though I did everything “right,” I still developed gestational diabetes and preeclampsia and delivered just after 34 weeks. But at least I could rest easy knowing I hadn’t caused these things to happen.

  2. MMM…I have many thoughts on this. Before I knew anything about my own infertility, I think I was probably fairly oblivious to pregnancy dangers. I was somewhat cavalier in my thinking, as are most young people, and I’m quite sure I would never have thought twice about taking some wine, or anyone I knew taking some wine when they were pregnant.
    Then infertility struck. I went through a long period of exactly what you describe, when you mention the woman who cried. Judgement from a place of pain. But still judgement. I know I was hyper sensitive during this entire (5 year) phase and looked for anything to enhance my chances of carrying to term- as I say in my self-description on iMags, I did everything shy of swinging chickens over my head in order to maintain pregnancies.
    Then we discovered that, no matter how many chickens I swung, a pregnancy just wouldn’t happen in my body. Regardless of wine consumption, mercury-laden fish, brie, a teensy amount of crack. Just wouldn’t matter. Just wouldn’t happen.
    When T and her husband offered to be our Gestational Carriers, we were faced with a whole new set of things to worry about- not the least of which, was judgement from our own family. My husband’s family is pretty religious. I’m not. When I told his mom about what we were going to do, she flat out denied acceptance of it. No matter how much explaining we (and the rest of the family) have done with her, I think she truly believes that my husband slept with T to conceive our children. Subsequently, my children hardly know her at all. They have no relationship with her. We have tried, as has she (OK not all that hard), but it never seems to have developed. I think she put that karma out there, and it has stayed with her. It’s too bad, but my kids haven’t suffered any. They have plenty of other Grandmother-type women in their lives.
    Now that I have also become a birth Doula, I DO find myself giving ALL SORTS of advice- both solicited and un. The first bit of advice I give, however, is always, “I’m going to give you some tips and suggestions, along with everyone else in the universe about this pregnancy. Only listen to what you feel is right for you, and always ask your doctor first before doing something you feel is in any way risky or seriously questionable.” In other words, I’m going to give you advice- but don’t take it as a proven truth until you test it for yourself. Trust yourself and your own body first. And take every every bit of advice or suggestion with five or six thousand grains of salt.
    But by all means, HAVE THAT GLASS OF WINE, GIRL!! I am a proponent of ANYTHING that helps to achieve calm and relaxation. Nothing in excess. No crack.

    • Phew. I cannot even imagine the judgment from your own FAMILY about using a surrogate. Consider me astounded. I like your attitude about it though, that’s for sure.

      I think you sound like an amazing doula. 🙂 You’re totally right – check with your health care professional and then go with what feels right. I remember one day being lectured about how I shouldn’t exercise while pregnant…and the next person told me I MUST exercise while pregnant to keep me strong and healthy for delivery. I mean, geez. You can’t please everybody.

      Everything in moderation, IMO! (well, except the crack. no crack!)

      • margalit727 says:

        LOL! Thank you, Josey- I love being a Doula, but find the time commitment while my kids are so young and I still work full time, to be too difficult. I really only do it for close friends anymore. And I don’t charge a penny. I wouldn’t feel right taking money for just helping someone. My motto about it was (is), “If I can’t do it, BY G-D I’m going to help other women who CAN!!” 🙂

  3. I was judged by my inlaws (MIL and both SIL’s) for having an “elective” c-section for my breech baby. “Elective” was their word, not mine or my doctor’s. They all kept telling me to do an external version, that I needed to do these crazy exercises to turn him, etc. I heard this over, and over, and OVER again – even at my own baby shower. At my shower, my mom actually piped up and said, “you don’t know what you’re talking about. My first two babies were breech and the version didn’t work on the first one and it was very painful – I didn’t do it for my second. Your baby flipped by chance, not by you sitting upside down on a sofa for 10 minutes every day. This baby is where he is for a reason, and she’s worked hard to get this baby. No one is putting his life at risk to make YOU happy.” Even after that, I still heard about it from my MIL. Unreal. Turned out that Matthew’s cord was VERY short and a version could have been catastrophic, and a natural BREECH birth would have been terribly risky.

    Funny thing is – we’re now having a scheduled section for baby #2 and my SIL whose baby miraculously flipped (but she ended up with a c-section anyway – HA!) informed me at Christmas that “If I could have another baby, I would do a VBAC for sure.” So it has begun again. I should have said, “but you’re NOT having a second child because you’re now divorced and too old, so I don’t really care what you THINK you would do in a situation you know you’ll never be in.” But I just walked away.

    Everyone else in my life knew not to fuck with me by giving me their unsolicited assvice.

    • margalit727 says:

      Courtney- Some people just suck. I’m sorry you have such suck-ass women around you! Kudos to you and your mom for standing/ speaking up in the face of such ignorance! I think just walking away is the best you can do. And always remember: Karma’s a bitch! 🙂
      P.S.- If you do decide another “telling off” is in order, you can tell her this, from me:
      “I happen to know a very experienced and well connected Doula, who has taken classes with Barbara Harper (Author of “Gentle Birth Choices”), Dr. Michel Odent (look him up- he’s a biggie), and Penny Simkin (look her up, too) – all of whom would be the first people to tell you that no matter how “anti section” you are, sometimes it’s a necessary and life saving intervention.” I’ve seen a very long, very scary delivery where a very short cord wasn’t allowing the baby to drop, and a section would have saved over 24 hours of agony and fear and baby distress. I’ve also seen a vaginal delivery of a full breech, where the doctor took the baby by the feet and simply pulled her right out- luckily she was the second of a pair of twins and we were in the O.R. anyway in case something didn’t go as smoothly as it did. I’ve also stood right next to the surgeon during a section, for a baby who got stuck. The most difficult of all of these births was, by far, the one in which the section was avoided and the shortened cord resulted in an almost 48 hour “battle.” Frightening. Sometimes a section is what’s called for, and that’s that. Period. Sorry to rant. There is a lot to be said for the movement back to more natural births, but not at the cost of safety.

      • Thank you for this! I really, REALLY appreciate it!

        What my inlaws failed to recognize out loud was that prior to being told I needed the section, I was all about the natural, no drugs, labor at home birth. I mourned the loss of that, but I did what was best. When a “crunchy granola” ultrasound tech, who is friends with one of my SIL’s and would stop at NOTHING to have a natural birth herself, says to NOT do a version because it looked to her like it was a bad idea, you listen. I listened to everyone who cared, and knew much more, about me and our situation and I’m happy I did.

        Thank you again for your support!

  4. I have the advantage of being stealth-pregnant, in that I am overweight enough that nobody has the nerve to independently suggest I might be pregnant just by looking at me. I have to tell them first (and I don’t very often) so this reduces the judgement (yay!). I get dirty looks for drinking things with caffeine from my family though, although they won’t criticize me directly. I just get the “I heard somewhere that caffeine increases the risk of something awful in pregnancy. Isn’t it so sad for people who don’t know that?” sorts of lectures. Often. In pregnancies 1, 3 and 4, I did a super perfect job of eating only safe things and zero caffeine (and gestational diabetes diet in the 4th one too), and the result was one baby and two miscarriages, so I decided that I am going to have my single cup of coffee in the average week if I want to. I’m going to have a Coke sometimes, especially if I might have a migraine, and forget you haters. My body is just going to be the boss as to whether this pregnancy works or not, so I’m going to do what I like within reason because the odds are, my coffee isn’t the problem. This reminds me that I should go get some milk and make some ricotta myself. Maybe I’ll consider getting pasteurized milk, and maybe I’ll decide that making the cheese probably lowers the listeria risk pretty far anyway. Maybe I should have a sub sandwich to go with it, because I feel like it.

    So I’d say I’m less judgmental broadly post ALI journey, but I do get fed up with people who are blissfully ignorant of the risks of their “bad” behavior. It’s one thing to know the risks and choose something with a tiny risk and another to have no idea and keep doing risky stuff.

  5. I don’t think anyone was game to judge me in my second pregnancy. Just like Courtney ‘Everyone else in my life knew not to fuck with me by giving me their unsolicited advice.’
    My first pregnancy had ended with the stillbirth of my daughter, so during my second pregnancy other women more came to me for advice – ‘what do you think about the soft cheeses thing?’ and so forth. The all knew I HAD researched the hell out of everything this time.
    The one thing I did get a look of surprise about was that I drank during my pregnancy, and I certainly got sideways looks of disapproval if I was out doing this. But I knew that I only had a half glass at most, that I usually sipped it over several hours, on a full stomach and I only did this about 5 times during my entire pregnancy. I enjoy wine, I would savour the taste and ignore the looks.
    I have become less judgemental in general since my loss. After experiencing much misunderstanding, judgement and now knowing so many other stories, I know you can’t possibly know what is truly going on with someone. Let people own their own behaviour.
    But then again, as a teacher, I do look at some parents and the bad habits they are setting their kids up with and think – bugger, I am going to have to put up with the result of that bad parenting in a few years, thanks!
    As for advice, I have to bite my tongue constantly. I try to discuss instead of lecture. It is a thin line, some of the worst and best advice I have gotten from other Mum’s and I have also researched the hell out of a lot of things. So I try to judge when someone is asking for advice or not.
    This journey has definitely made me more aware and open.


  1. […] put that glass down just yet– Josey gives us a candid look at the controversial topic of drinking during pregnancy with this week’s news […]

%d bloggers like this: