Thursday, December 14, 2006


When you're trying to conceive -- or TTC, as the message boards call it -- you live your life in two-week increments. At the beginning of your cycle, when you've just received the disappointing news that is your period, you can do what you want -- eat raw fish, unpasteurized cheeses, drink what you like, etc. But once you've ovulated, you're told to behave like a pregnant lady: no sushi, alcohol, brie, etc.

It's hard enough to wait two weeks to find out if you're pregnant without omitting wine from your diet. Plus, it's just that much more time that you aren't drinking and aren't truthfully explaining why. (I'm not much of a drinker anyway, but for some reason, my co-workers always seem to question why I don't drink at every opportunity.)

The truth is, a glass of wine probably won't affect whatever might have been conceived at this point (I'll know whether I'm pregnant in about a week). The UK's health guidelines recommend: "Excess alcohol can harm your unborn baby. If you do drink while you are pregnant, it is better to limit yourself to one standard unit of alcohol a day (roughly the equivalent of a small glass of wine, a half pint of beer, cider or lager, or a single measure of spirits)." The US, by contrast, essentially tells expectant ladies that no amount of alcohol has been shown to be safe during pregnancy.

Let's recap: many women in the US who are of child-bearing age probably drink. A lot of them get pregnant accidentally (perhaps -- here's a novel concept -- as a result of drinking), which means they don't spend the two weeks after they ovulate in fear of yellowtail maki and cosmos. When they find out they're pregnant and decide to keep the baby, most of them probably stop drinking. Yet we don't have an epidemic of newborns with fetal alcohol syndrome because women who didn't know they were pregnant didn't stop having a glass of wine with dinner.

It's holiday party season now, a time when lots of folks look forward to getting ripped on the company dime. Time for me to decide whether I'll throw caution to the wind and have a cocktail, whether I'll order a decoy drink (decoy drink (noun): a beverage designed to look alcoholic but isn't, so as to avoid the questioning glances from insecure colleagues who hate it when others don't drink with them), or whether to stick with water. This may sound bizarre, but you would be amazed at the number of very smart people who look at a person at a party with a glass of water and say, with genuine concern, "you're not drinking?"

If it's a woman in her mid-30s (in my particular demographic/place of employ), not drinking might a sign to the clueful that a reproductive project is underway. When you're a lesbian among a bunch of straight people -- even relatively evolved straight people -- this doesn't come up. I'll take that, and perhaps a pinot noir, for now.

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