I’m pretty clueless about the whole pregnancy thing. Among my close friends and family, I am the first person to have a baby in a really long time. The last baby I spent a lot of time around – my cousin Maddie – was born in 2000, and no, I can’t recall a lot more about my aunt’s pregnancy except that she had a rockin’ baby shower with really cute invitations.
That means that I’ve been introduced to “pregnancy culture” (ie, popular obsessions anchored in fear and “my pregnancy was done right” one-up-manship) through movies, TV, and other equally artificial sources of information, not real baby-fearing preggo women who are spurred on by a genuine concern that they’re doing the right thing regarding their pregnancies. Some women complain that they get sick of hearing unsolicited pregnancy myths and legends from family, friends, and even strangers, but I could use it every so often. At least they truly believe in their wacko nuggets of wisdom and possibly have good intentions.
When I first learned of the pregnancy, the first thing I decided I needed to do – because it’s what Pam did on The Office – was give up coffee cold turkey. I thought that if I didn’t, the baby’s growth would instantly be stunted for life, I would egg on a birth defect, I would miscarry. The list of my unexamined maybes just goes on and on. Yeah, that lasted about 20 minutes. Several facts:
- The Office is a hilarious show, but
- No matter how sane the character of Pam may be on the show, one cannot realistically model one’s very real pregnancy on her fictitious one, therefore
- Consult your doctor, silly girl.
I love coffee. Far from being an “addict” who uses it to regulate all facets of my life, I sincerely enjoy it and take a lot of pleasure from drinking it. Although I am a reasonably self-controlled person, it’s hard for me to resist it when it’s sitting there in my pantry waiting to be consumed.
So I drank a diluted cup a day and felt massively guilty because that was how I was supposed to feel, right? Guilty because I was putting my own craving before the well-being of the baby. Guilty because I was a freak of nature whose only desire was to drink coffee even when all other foods made me want to vomit. What’s next, Emily, cocaine?
Honestly, a lot of my guilt was rooted in my conception that I needed to make a bigger deal out of everything now that I was pregnant. I felt as though the pregnancy code of conduct was now my gold standard and that compulsory, public self-flagellation was the best punishment for any deviation from it. While it is true that pregnant women should carefully examine their lifestyles and what they put in their bodies, I soon realized that I shouldn’t arbitrarily blow things completely out of proportion simply because that’s just what it seems like I should be doing as a pregnant woman.
Incidentally, this is where I think a lot of pregnant women who talk about their pregnancies all the time and relate it to every single aspect of life start to get on every non-pregnant person’s nerves.
I realized that I had made a whipping boy of my scant coffee consumption when our friends were visiting us several weeks ago. One morning when we were all having breakfast, I had a cup of coffee and kept on apologizing for myself in a very falsely self-effacing way. At the end of my little production, our friends were like, “It’s not a big deal. My <insert sister, cousin, friend> drank coffee during her pregnancy with no problems.”
That began to put me in my place. Instead of beating myself up everyday because of my consumption of the “deadly” brew, I loosened up and started being reasonable. I’m at fourteen weeks now, and I am continually working on not excessively worrying over things just because I have a “duty” to worry over them because I’m pregnant. I’m trying to practice a lot more discretion and skepticism over the many, many gray areas of pregnancy that people tend to moralize.
As with anything having to do with your specific pregnancy, you should consult your doctor. What did my doctor say when I asked him about my caffeine consumption?
“You’d have to do something ridiculously outlandish to put you and your baby at risk.”
I’ll take that.