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The Dry Holidays

Dec17

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Advice Smackdown ArchivesHi Amy,

First let me say, you are amazing! Your blog has made me laugh, made me cry, and kept me thoroughly entertained when I should be working for over a year now. I read your 0-40 pregnancy calendar when I was struck with a major case of baby fever last year, and now that I’m officially pregnant (I just found out on Thursday!) I am re-reading it again. Obviously I’m so excited, but it could not have come at a worse time for keeping it under wraps. Being that it’s Christmas time, I have about 5 million holiday party festivities to attend, and anyone who knows me will suspect something is up if there is not a glass of wine in my hand. Do you have any suggestions for how I can hide my pregnancy through the holidays?

Thank you so much, and Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family (and the little one on the way!).

-Anna

Ah, yes, the lack-of-cocktail dead giveaway. Always a tricky one, especially when you combine other lubricated, easily-excited party guests who might not hesitate to shriek OMG ARE YOU PREGNANT?? the instant they notice you turning down a glass of bubbly. I admit I don’t have a TON of experience, as I was generally blabbing to the Internet about my pregnancy by six or seven weeks each time, so even if I wasn’t overly thrilled to announce the news to a particular audience at a party, it wasn’t quite the same as blowing some Big Huge Nuclear Launch Code secret if it happened over a glass of sparkling water.

But, the way I see it, you have three basic choices:

1) Lie.

You’re on antibiotics. Or trying a new migraine medication. You’re just getting over the stomach flu. You went out the night before and already suffered through one hangover. You’re driving. You just started such-and-such (Zone, South Beach, etc.) diet and the first stage doesn’t allow alcohol. (This one doesn’t tend to work very well BEFORE the holidays, though it’s very believable right after!)

2) Fake it.

Hold a glass of wine as a decoy, or claim you just keep putting yours down and misplacing it, oh well. Opt for club soda or cranberry juice with a lime wedge in a highball glass — no one will know it’s not a cocktail. If you’re close to the host or hostess and think they can keep the secret, request sparkling juices or even non-alcoholic wines ahead of time (or bring your own and stash it in the kitchen or back bedroom and get your refills on the sly).

3) Calm down.

Seriously, a sip or two of wine at a party is not the end of the world, or even close to it. Yes, heavy drinking during pregnancy can lead to terrible things, like Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and less-severe-but-still-bad Fetal Alcohol Effect. However, the whole assumption that if heavy drinking is bad, then light-to-moderate drinking (picture about three glasses of wine a week) must be just as bad is flawed and not backed up by science. Here’s a comprehensive, realistic rundown of what we know — and what we DON’T know — about alcohol and pregnancy, and why many of the warnings and pushing of total abstinence stem from it just being easier to tell pregnant women “no” than risk lawsuits or the chance that some pregnant women are too stupid to know that getting wasted on Jager shots a couple times a week is not “moderate drinking.”

In the absence of knowing exactly where the line is (and it is probably even different for every woman’s metabolism), the party line from the surgeon general on down has possibly thrown out common sense, putting the sight of a pregnant woman sipping some Chardonnay with her pasta on par with Cruella Devil clubbing puppies. There are many things that are just as harmful or suspect in excessive amounts — artificial sweeteners, certain fish, high doses of many common ingredients in skin care products, even just regular old SUGAR — but in other cases, we’re certainly not told that ABSTINENCE is the “only” safe answer.

The first trimester is indeed the most critical development time, so extra vigilance about potentially harmful foods and medications is GOOD. (Though plenty of women don’t have the luxury of even KNOWING we’re pregnant at the earliest possible moment, so all three of my pregnancies began with a couple weeks of sushi and raw beef kitfo and regular levels of alcohol consumption, followed by a extended period of freaking out about it, followed by the realization that everything was fiiiine.) Plus, the very idea of a glass of wine might already be turning your stomach, and the actual thing might cause nausea or heartburn.

So please: I’m NOT saying “oh just drink the glass of wine at the parties because isn’t that so much better than people finding out you’re pregnant???” NOT SAYING THAT AT ALL. Lying about an antibiotic for a UTI is a much simpler, less-fraught way of dealing with the holiday party scenario and shutting people up reeeeeal quickly-like. But pregnancy fearmongering is a pet peeve of mine, and it’s hard to me to resist a chance to take a little swipe at it. Enjoy your parties and your pregnancy, with mocktails or otherwise.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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23 Responses to “The Dry Holidays”

  1. Kate Dec 17 at 5:01 pm Reply Reply

    I found strolling around with a half-full glass of wine worked just fine. I think I was more paranoid than necessary – drunk people were much less concerned with my uterine-status than I thought.

  2. Kailee Dec 17 at 5:01 pm Reply Reply

    So, I have a little experience with this question that I’d like to share. I’m going to announce my pregnancy over the holidays to our families, so I’m happy to put the ruse behind me, but my husband is co-owner of a bar and we usually always go in once a week for a drink, so I have plenty of avoidance strategies!

    Sometimes my husband would get 2 beers at the bar, along with the water. He’d drink them both (happy to have a designated driver until June) and nobody would notice I was only sipping the water.

    The hangover excuse is brilliant, especially with so many holiday parties this time of year. Make some remark about being champagne sick, and people usually drop the questioning. Then, just quickly change the subject!

    Another good way to go is to say that you’ve GOT to get something in your stomach before you have a drink. Then, spend time grazing the food and then just inconspicuously go to the bar when it’s less crowded and fix yourself a drink of your choosing.

    Honestly, most people won’t think too much of it. And those that might suspect something are more likely to whisper their suspicions to their partner than approach you because they understand. Good luck and congratulations!

  3. HereWeGoAJen Dec 17 at 5:33 pm Reply Reply

    If it were me, I’d go with the glass of wine in my hand, taking an occasional sip if necessary. I don’t really drink much (not currently pregnant though), so at my last party, I just kind of carried around a cosmo to avoid the questioning that I would have gotten if I had been drink free. Sometimes that is just easier.

  4. Carmen Dec 17 at 5:35 pm Reply Reply

    When I was pregnant with my first, I worked in a lab where everyone went out on Friday afternoon/evening for drinks, so if I were to abstain all of a sudden, it would be painfully obvious. But I was lucky (?) enough to get quite sick with the flu about 1 week after I found out I was pregnant. So I used the medication excuse first, and then after that, I just made sure that I was ALWAYS the designated driver. Not a single person clued in, so that strategy could very well work amazingly well for you too. Good luck! (And congratulations!)

  5. Erin Dec 17 at 7:34 pm Reply Reply

    Yes – the fake drinking works so well! I hid I was pregnant during the holidays 2 years ago, and I found out pretty quickly that people only notice if you say NO to a drink. If you accept it, and don’t finish it? No one ever notices. My husband and I also employed the ol’ drink swap. We’d order the same drink, and he’d pick up my glass after his was about half full. Congratulations on your pregnancy!

  6. kelly Dec 17 at 7:54 pm Reply Reply

    In addition to nursing / fake nursing a drink, I’ve told people “well, we’re trying for a baby, and it’s possible that I’m pregnant, but it’s too early to know, but I’d rather just stay on the safe side.” This only works if you are comfortable with people knowing that you are actively trying to make some babies.

  7. Bridget Dec 17 at 8:00 pm Reply Reply

    I’m with everyone else. I grabbed a glass of wine upon entering the party, then said I was DD. So it was no big deal that I was drinking my wine super slowly (or that I told my husband that he HAD to try some, and he took a super huge gulp), and mixing it with many glasses of water. I ended up having about 3 sips of wine, and nobody ever suspected I might be pregnant – my friends would absolutely call me out if they thought I was. They are of the “announce at the positive HPT” camp, while I am of the “I have miscarried before, I keep my mouth shut in the first trimester” camp.
    Congrats on your pregnancy!

  8. Jaymee Dec 17 at 10:55 pm Reply Reply

    The medication route is a good one and very believable! I really was on medication for a stomach virus a couple weeks ago and wasn’t able to drink for 3 weeks straight. That should be plenty of time to get you out of the holiday season.

  9. Jaymee Dec 17 at 11:11 pm Reply Reply

    I hadn’t finished the article before I posted (ugh, why do I alwasy do that. I need to learn how to be patient) Anyways … Amy is totally right! A glass of wine is just fine, and I absolutely loved the comment about some women not having the luxury of knowing they are pregnant so soon. I had deployed a couple months prior to finding out that “oops! I guess my husband and I said goodbye too many times because now I’m pregnant” I had been deployed to a base that allowed drinking(although it was rationed and we were only allowed 2 drinks a day). You better believe that I took advantage of those drinks after working a 12 hour shift in heat that can’t even be described with words. Plus I had a nice cocktail of shots including small pox, anthrax, typhoid, and others. Once I found out I was pregnant I was already in my second trimester and freaking out because “OMG my baby is going to come out with 6 arms from all the crap he’s been exposed to.” When I finally got to see an OB she told me that it was nothing to worry about and the baby is going to be just fine. She then told me about how it’s not true that you can’t drink anything, you just don’t want to drink a lot. A glass of wine or even two aren’t a big deal.
    That was a long story and I didn’t really say anything but yeah…

  10. SarahB Dec 18 at 8:19 am Reply Reply

    At a recent holiday party, one person asked “what are you having?” in reference to my club soda, thinking that if drink tickets got him a gin and tonic that big, he wanted one!

    The phrase I’ve been using a lot is, “Oh, I’ve just been feeling a bit under the weather this week.”  One, it is so not a lie, and two, it covers all manner of possibilities, and no one has pried so far. Plenty of people have been cold/flu sick lately, and it just rolls right in with that theme.   

  11. eva Dec 18 at 11:09 am Reply Reply

    When I was newly pregnant I just made sure to host some get togethers so I could be drinking grape juice instead of wine, and soda water with lime instead of gin and tonics.  Maybe a bit late for that this holiday season though!

    Also – thanks so much for increasing the diversity of the people in photos on this website Isabel! Awesome!

  12. Jay Dec 18 at 9:25 pm Reply Reply

    I have a question about faking it. Will people realize or just assume after you “come out” that the “gin and tonic” was really club soda? Or will they think, “wow, she’s going to be a terrible mother–I saw all those drinks in her hand at the company party!” I’m worried about the latter.

  13. emily Dec 19 at 12:07 am Reply Reply

    Ugh, newly pregnant at the holidays! Last year I tried it all, sick then designated driver, and taking wine but not drinking … I got called out EVERY SINGLE TIME. I am not sure if this says a lot about my drinking habits or the people I hang out with, but ugh, it was impossible to keep it a secret. I was confronted point-blank and just ended up lying, which sucked. But good luck, I am sure keeping it under wraps can be done, but maybe just by someone with a better poker face! And congrats :)

  14. liz Dec 20 at 9:37 am Reply Reply

    I’m allergic to alcohol, so I don’t drink…ever. And I’ve been asked if I’m not drinking because I’m pregnant.

    I always answer, “Don’t you know that you NEVER ask a woman if she’s pregnant unless the baby’s actually crowning? If I were pregnant, and I wanted you to know about it, you would know.”

  15. Shannon Dec 20 at 10:42 am Reply Reply

    After attending a couple of family weddings early in a pregnancy I’ve found that people (esp. drunk people) only notice if you’re drinking something clearly not alcoholic, like a diet coke or water. If you’re drinkless you can just say you’re on your way to the bar in a few minutes, or about to go to the washroom but will grab something on the way back. A lot depends on your pre-pregnancy drinking habits, but most that suspect will be too polite to say anything anyway – congrats!

  16. The Maiden Metallurgist Dec 20 at 11:28 am Reply Reply

    I just always said it was my turn to be the DD. My husband was having a beer, and nobody ever gave it a second thought.

  17. EB Dec 20 at 11:53 am Reply Reply

    Oh yeah, my favorite line! “OMG, are you PREGNANT!!?”
    In my case, NO, but geez, thanks for concentrating so much on the state of my womb!
    Seriously. Can’t walk around at 27 with no behbehs! I just found out that my hypothyroid condition is worsening, and so I’ve been going through all the symtoms again. A.. female family member.. called me and asked if I was feeling under the weather, as I had declined an invitation to lunch with other female family members the week before, and then turned down a beer at another gathering. I started explaining that my thyroid was off, my medication was being adjusted, but I was still tired, achy, and agitated and had gained an unwelcome 10 pounds. And she said, “OMG! Are you PREGNANT?!” Umm. NO! I just got done telling you why I feel this way, and honestly, if I were, I probably wouldn’t tell any of you until the 2nd trimester! I’m not a baby machine! I agree with you Liz. Guess your comment just got me going a little. Really, people, if you ‘suspect’ something, please don’t be the one at the holiday party that outs the pregnant lady. Especially if she’s not pregnant, just kinda fat right now. She might kick you a little. ;>

  18. Erin Dec 20 at 12:19 pm Reply Reply

    Jay, when I did the “fake drinking” during my first trimester, my friends ended up thinking it was hilarious they had been fooled for 3 months. No one actually thought I was drinking all of that time.

  19. Sarah Dec 20 at 2:09 pm Reply Reply

    I hated being in the pregnancy closet! I’m now 27 weeks pregnant and found out this summer, the day before we left for an annual BEER FEST trip with friends, which is the world’s best timing. I did my best to pretend to sample the drinks while not actually sampling any drinks, and no one really noticed (though I was asked point-blank by an acquaintance if we were trying to get pregnant, to which I truthfully answered no). However, the next weekend at a wedding, when I was still not drinking, people were onto me. I used the headache story, but once we finally announced it everyone was pretty much like, WE KNEW IT! It’s amazing how quickly alarm bells go off when you suddenly stop ordering beer with dinner.

  20. Dawn Dec 20 at 4:06 pm Reply Reply

    Yeah. Right there with you. I got my positive test last Wednesday and lo, it will be much noticed if I don’t drink during the holidays. It kind of sucks being known as ‘the one who will always be down for a glass of wine’. Thankfully, I will be hosting/chasing down preschoolers/toddlers at the family festivities so hopefully no one will clue in. Congrats on your pregnancy!

  21. Amy in StL Dec 21 at 2:49 pm Reply Reply

    I’m taking antidepressants that don’t mix well with alcohol. So I truthfully tell people I’m on meds so I can’t drink. Honestly, everyone has so far assumed it’s an antibiotic.

  22. Bella Dec 21 at 5:32 pm Reply Reply

    “Are you calling me fat?” in a semi joking tone. Redirect ;)

  23. Lela Jan 05 at 12:31 pm Reply Reply

    Congrats! And thank you so much for including our article in your thoughtful post. Glad to find you!
    Lela
    Editor, ParentingSquad.com

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