NB: I wrote most of this before the pandemic hit and have decided to post it anyway.
Before becoming pregnant I anticipated that I would find not drinking for 10 months somewhat challenging. Though I would never classify myself as a big drinker, I definitely enjoyed the ritualistic comfort of alcohol — particularly red wine. I thought I would really miss it. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised: giving up alcohol has been far easier than I thought it would be.
I am not going to weigh into the debate on whether or not drinking in pregnancy is safe or not. I did quite a bit of research and long ago came to a conclusion that feels right for me: generally I’ve abstained, but the occasional small glass or few sips is fine. By this I mean, I had a small glass of wine a couple of times at Christmas, a small glass on NYE, and several sips here and there (usually from H.’s glass), but in general I am most comfortable with not drinking much more than that.
And, to be honest, it doesn’t taste the same: the few times I have had some wine, I can only really taste (and smell!) the alcohol. With beer, I just taste carbonation and bitterness. The smell of alcohol is really off-putting, to the point where if H. has a glass of rum I need him to keep it far away from me.
At home, I have usually stuck to water. Other times I’ve had Cawston Press juices or sparkling drinks. Eisberg sparkling “wine” has also been surprisingly palatable. When I could go out (obviously not anymore), my go-tos were ginger beer, alcohol-free beer, or cranberry juice. My favourite ginger beer is Fentimans (sooo gingery) and my favourite beer Krombacher Pilsner 0%. The best “mocktail” I’ve come up with is mixing Fentimans ginger beer with sparkling water and a huge dose of lime juice. This is what I drank on NYE and honestly it was so good.
It has not always been easy. There are definitely times that I wished I could have a drink, like at Christmas, in Valencia, and oh, maybe a whisky or two to settle the nerves in the time of a global pandemic. But it’s been really easy to say no and I think a lot of that has to do with what happens biologically to the body in pregnancy — I simply don’t want it. I can’t explain it better than that.
Not drinking has allowed me a LOT of time to think about alcohol from a cultural perspective, and I have really appreciated the chance to do so. Drinking is such an ingrained part of the culture here and despite huge advances in non-alcoholic products I really do feel for alcoholics and people who abstain. My empathy and understanding has increased with this group massively and I am grateful for that.