I am the mother to a very boisterous 11-month old. Before giving birth to my son, I was pregnant one other time which ended in miscarriage. With that pregnancy, I followed all the rules: I didn’t drink a drop of alcohol, stopped getting the light brown highlights I favor, didn’t even use nail polish on my toes lest the chemicals seep into my skin. I used all-natural shampoo and conditioner, stopped jogging, and took up prenatal yoga. I took my prenatal vitamins religiously, and avoided all the reccomended foods such as tuna fish, unpasteurized cheeses, and sliced deli meat. I miscarried at thirteen weeks, and felt devastated. I’d followed every rule my midwife recommended, and still, tragedy struck.
When I got pregnant for the second time with my son, I started out by again following all the rules. But everything changed when I booked a trip with my husband to California. The area surrounding Sonoma is wine country, and I found myself staying in a very quirky b&b by the ocean in the small town of Carmel. I was seven months pregnant, and enchanted by all the local vineyards and small, independent labels I read on the bar menu in our lobby. The name of the bed and breakfast was the Cypress Inn, run by the actress Doris Day. One is allowed to bring one’s dog, and the lobby bar, which has an open patio section with pretty white lights strung in the trees, showcases several of the inn’s dogs, as well as big Great Danes resting on beds by the roaring outdoor fireplace. A surreal, eartheal and beautiful scene, set by the ocean.
I guiltily fingered the bar menu, as my husband smiled at me. There was a quote by Humphrey Bogart on the cover, which read: “The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind.” My gaze lingered over a local 2009 Chardonnay from the Heller Estate, a vineyard which we would later visit down the road from the hotel. “Why don’t you order a glass?” my husband asked. “One glass of wine would be fine for the baby, I know women who drink one a day while pregnant!”
“I guess I’ll play a game of hide the belly under the table,” I answered sardonically when the waiter approached our table. I glanced furtively around, sure any moment someone from the Mom Police, aka our society in general would haul me away in handcuffs. My nervousness was unwarranted however, when I spotted a very famous and very pregnant actress three tables over. I gasped. She appeared to be drinking a glass of Pinot Noir, and looked relaxed and happy, laughing with friends. I’d just seen a movie she was in the week before we left on our trip. “Did you see?” I asked my husband. “I did!” he replied. Well. If a woman nominated for an Oscar could enjoy a glass of grape, so could I.
I just had the one glass of Chardonnay, but because it was one glass I enjoyed it more than I’d ever enjoyed wine before. Before the pregnancies, I was known to drink an entire bottle alone. This time, I learned to sip, and my one glass lasted the hour spent in that courtyard, trying not to ogle the actress. I tried a different glass from a different local vineyard each night of our vacation, and it turned out to be one of my favorite trips ever taken in my lifetime. After dealing with the heartache of miscarriage, I realized that I had to stop beating myself up. I’d followed all the rules doctors ask of pregnant women, and ended up without a baby. Part of me feels asking pregnant women not to drink a sip of wine throughout their entire nine months is another way of controlling women, which is what our society likes to do. There is definitely a very scary term called fetal alcohol syndrome, but I don’t believe one glass of wine enjoyed from time to time with dinner results in that sad diagnosis. I think my own miscarriage happened because not every pregnancy is meant to be, and I have to accept that we are human and therefore part of nature.
My son was born on a whip-cold night last winter, and he came out perfectly healthy at 7 pounds, 4 ounces. I’d never seen such a beautiful baby in my life. I hope our society eases up a little on the restraints for pregnant women, and that my fellow sisters no longer feel they have to play “hide the bump under the table” while out enjoying themselves at a restaurant or neighborhood bar. There’s always people who overdo it and I don’t condone that. But a nice, full-bodied glass of Chardonnay after a day filled with backaches, sore breasts, and bloated feet? That surely, we deserve.
Kate Rockland is the author of 150 Pounds, and Falling Is Like This. Kate lives in Hoboken, NJ with her husband, son, and cat, Elizabeth Taylor. She is a frequent contributor to the New York Times. She weighs 150 pounds.