Nine Months Sober
A reflection on pregnancy-induced sobriety.
I first experienced the delicious, sexy, magical allure of alcohol when I was 15. With a couple of icy cold sips of Smirnoff, I became prettier, funnier, and everyone around me looked and felt a little more sparkly. Fast forward another 15 years, and I can honestly say I have not taken more than a month-long break from booze. Don’t get me wrong, my relationship with alcohol isn’t problematic, I just really like the stuff. I revel in the simple pleasure of an Aperol Spritz with a dish of olives. I adore splitting a bottle of red with a girlfriend and venting about the week we’ve had. Date night just feels saucier with a martini, or better yet, when a glass (or two) of bubbles is involved. You can imagine I wistfully saw hundreds of happy hours flash before my eyes when I found out I was pregnant.
My nine-month reprieve from cocktails started at my brother’s wedding, just a few days after the YES appeared on the pregnancy test. At this very early stage of my pregnancy, I wasn’t sharing the news, so I was sweating that family and friends would notice I wouldn’t be sipping wine all night. I also wasn’t sure how I was going to handle giving a witty-yet-heartfelt speech to a room full of buzzed wedding guests when I was dead sober. My first sober debut made it glaringly clear how, like many of us, I use alcohol as a crutch in social scenarios. I made it through the evening without anyone catching onto the poppy seed-sized secret in my belly, but this was just the beginning of my sober journey.
"My first sober debut made it glaringly clear how, like many of us, I use alcohol as a crutch in social scenarios"
For so many reasons, my first trimester was mentally and physically trying. While initially, I still craved the relaxing, connecting power of alcohol, as soon as my constant nausea kicked in, the idea of a glass of wine quickly lost its appeal. I was feeling so terrible that I didn’t even get to enjoy any of the perks of skipping booze – hangover-free mornings, better sleep, and a clear head. Even though I wasn’t drinking a drop, I felt permanently hungover. If this is what nine months of sobriety was going to be like, I wasn’t here for it.
I am happy to report that the second trimester has been significantly better. My energy came back, I finally felt excited about the little human growing inside of me, my skin started to glow, and I felt the allure of cocktails again. What became immediately evident is that everyone and their dog has an opinion on the age-old debate on whether alcohol is safe during pregnancy. The mystery, coupled with the strict rules around it, made it even more appealing to me. I’m not here to dole out expert advice, but I did have a great conversation with my doctor that helped put my mind at ease about the situation. She assured me that adverse effects of alcohol on a fetus are linked to excessive drinking (we’re talking eight plus drinks a day), and that there is something to be said about giving pregnant women the space to enjoy the relaxing and socializing qualities of a drink. Ever since, I’ve felt more at ease when out for dinner, or if my husband is having a bevvy or two. I feel less resentful knowing that I can listen to my body to see if it actually wants a little drink, or if I can do without it and still enjoy myself.
"I feel smart, healthy, and confident, and absolutely do not miss the intense anxiety I used to experience on hangover mornings, or the dollars blown on bottles of wine"
I was admittedly worried that without drinking, life would be a lot less fun, and that my not-pregnant friends wouldn’t want to include me in plans that involved drinks. To date, I can confirm that while life does look a little different, I’ve still had fun and have thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of a weekend morning sans hangover. I was put to the test again with the recent wedding of a good friend. I worried I would be a boring wedding guest without a buzz. Was I still going to be good at carrying on a conversation with people I just met? Would I be able to hit the dance floor without any liquid courage? Turns out, I’m actually a decent sober dancer (or at least I think so), and that I can crack jokes with soda water in hand instead of champagne. As for my friends, they’ve been amazing. It’s been nice to challenge myself to make plans that don’t revolve around alcohol, and to know that we can still connect just as deeply without it. This break will also make those summertime glasses of vino we’ll sip together on the patio that much sweeter (baby boy in tow!).
My second trimester goggles are on, and I may be singing a different tune as my due date gets closer, but I’ve recently been loving the combination of sobriety and pregnancy hormones. I feel smart, healthy, and confident, and absolutely do not miss the intense anxiety I used to experience on hangover mornings, or the dollars blown on bottles of wine. It’s hard not to feel smug on Saturday mornings when I wake up early (feeling fabulous), and finish a Pilates class by the time most people’s hangovers start to kick in. I can’t help but smile to myself and think, While you were self-loathingly sipping Gatorade and watching your Instagram story from last night in horror, I was growing a set of eyes and a fully functioning heart for my future son. And in that same breath, I still miss the long-awaited first sip of wine on a Friday night and look longingly at your cocktail-fueled vacation pics. Like the rest of pregnancy, the break from booze has been a journey filled with high highs, dark lows, and endless learnings.
Photo courtesy of Rini D.
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