The sober truth

A friend of a friend went to Italy at about five months pregnant. She was having lunch in a charming little Italian restaurant when the waiter moved to fill her glass with wine. With eyes open wide, she lunged to cover the wine glass, indicating her burgeoning belly to the waiter.

His reaction was puzzlement. A few sticky translations later, it emerged that as far as he was concerned, if you are pregnant, then all the more reason to indulge yourself, relax and enjoy a glass of wine with your lunch.

Another colleague consulted her doctor about drinking during pregnancy and was told that she could indulge in a half a glass of wine a week. She saved this for her Friday afternoon drinks with the boys, and had a weekly spritzer at the nearby Mike’s Kitchen. But once she was obviously pregnant, she gave up on this because of the terrible looks she received from other patrons.

A third woman I encountered was close to bursting. She was knocking back her fourth beer at a braai, and I must have failed to contain a twitch of my eyebrow, because she turned to me in a fit of defensiveness and said, “If you drink and smoke, the baby will have a low birth weight. Since I’m the one who has to push this baby out, I think it’s my business what I do.”

A drinking philosophy

I am not against the idea of drinking a very little bit during pregnancy. I have certainly had one or two sips of my husband’s beer because the stuff tastes so delicious in my current state. But the moment a couple of sips turned to three or four, the alcohol went straight to my head, and I felt immediately dreadful. After all, I wouldn’t give alcohol to a newborn, so why would I share it with my unborn child?

So, one or two sips, occasionally, with food, remains my policy. But the real danger of drinking and pregnancy lies not in the occasional sip that responsible women indulge in, but in the whole new way in which pregnant women end up viewing their drinking friends.

My husband is a moderate drinker, and when we go to friends’ houses, he’ll have one or two beers with them. Occasionally, he’ll drink a bit more, with the security that I’m his designated driver for nine months. The poor guy needs to cut loose occasionally, since the social high point of our week is watching The Wire on DVD at the moment.

But when I’m at events where everyone around me is drunk beyond measure, I must confess that I’m in danger of approaching a sense of humour failure. The repetition, the volume, the slurring and the intensity are all cast in a very different light when viewed by a sober person.

I’m not a purse-lipped prude by any stretch of the imagination, but my exposure to my drunken friends, and the knowledge that I was once hitting the bottle with the best of them, has given me an uncomfortable insight into drinking.

The lesson is simple, you may have fun when you are drunk, but you aren’t fun to other people. Pregnant women would do well to stick to sober company for nine months, or run the risk of realising how this social lubricant is actually a social extinguisher.

Do you think it’s okay for pregnant women to drink alcohol? And are drunk people as funny as they think they are?
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