The Booze Police

Once we’d decided to have a baby, both Mr Cath and I both cut down on alcohol, which consisted of drinking less at home and reining it in when we were out. So naturally when the magic did happen, it was during a boozy week in Italy which included a wedding and a wine tasting trip, with plenty more wine, prosecco and Peroni in between. There was even a bottle of wine from the family’s vineyard waiting for us in the apartment. It would have been rude not to! We then attended a wedding reception the following weekend. After that, a quiet one would have been a sensible idea. But no, we then spent a few days in Northern Ireland attending another wedding. Wine, whisky and good times!

I’d heard that the first couple of weeks following conception “don’t matter” too much as the embryo has not yet implanted itself, so it is not seeking nourishment directly from its mother. While I’m not certain about the medical merits of this theory, I am convinced that there is absolutely no point worrying about what has happened in the past. I mean, what can you possibly do about it? Regurgitate all that alcohol?


At the initial consultation with my GP, she mentioned alcohol and said I was allowed one or two units once or twice a week… she actually said “if you’re going to a wedding or a special party, you can have a glass of champagne if you’d like”. A bit late for that, I felt!

During the first trimester I went off alcohol for one night. At a friend’s birthday drinks, the girl standing next to me was drinking red wine and for some reason I was finding the smell overpowering, to the point where it was starting to turn my stomach. And I normally love red wine. By the time we started to make our way to bar number two, I was exhausted from all the standing up and talking, as well as experiencing queasiness from the wine smell. I didn’t want to go but thought I’d better make the effort. Hence I found myself in an earsplittingly loud bar, packed with drunk people shouting at the top of their voices. Queasy, exhausted and stone cold sober, it was hell on earth and I lasted only five minutes.

The next day I was back to normal… I had wished I would be off alcohol for the whole of my pregnancy, but it was not to be. The problem is, there is contradictory information out there, so it can be very confusing about how much you’re allowed to drink and whether you should even drink at all. The latest NHS advice tallies up with what my GP recommended above, but warns against drinking anything at all in the first trimester and clearly describes the risk of foetal alcohol syndrome. One small glass of wine (175ml) is two units, so there really isn’t much room for manoeuvre.

In any case, I have hardly drunk any alcohol at all since the positive pregnancy test. I just don’t think it’s worth it, and to prevent any worrying about limits and so on I’ve decided to cut it out completely. Another reason is paranoia about what people might think about seeing a pregnant woman supping away on a pint (actually, it would have to be half a pint!) – I wouldn’t want to be cautioned by the Booze Police. When we told some friends over Christmas, I was onto my second bottle of non-alcoholic beer by the time we shared our happy news. Eventually one awkwardly asked whether I was still up to my old ways! Mortified, I quickly showed them it was acceptable. They hadn’t expressed disapproval as such. However, I would disapprove, and would feel hypocritical acting like someone I would disapprove of… I am really a paid-up member of the Booze Police myself.

Mr Cath has supported me on my sober odyssey and only occasionally drinks at home. I am very grateful for this – it would be a nightmare if it was the opposite! The way I see it, it’s only for a few months, and is drinking really that important to your life? If your answer is yes, you should probably seek medical advice – there are some helpful suggestions on the NHS link above.

My problem is, I miss the taste of wine and beer. Spirits and other forms of alcoholic beverage I’m not too fussed about, but I do like wine to accompany a meal, or an ice cold beer at the end of a long day. Enter my Dad, who before Christmas stocked up on the marvellous Becks Blue. I was pretty cynical about this beforehand as I’d tried non-alcoholic beers before and not been keen, but although I’m no connoisseur it tasted very close to the real thing.

Wine substitutes are not as easy to come by. My Dad, who has a cellar of the (real) stuff, tells me he has tried various kinds and they have been consistently unpleasant. Plus, only non-alcoholic white wine is really drinkable, so a warming red for these chilly winter nights is even less of an option. Most disappointing of all, they seem to be really expensive – now how does that figure? He prefers Shloer or grape juice as the best wine substitutes. I do like soft drinks but find they get overly sweet after a while. Ah well – I WILL sip il vino Italiano again one day!

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