Last Thursday, I went two two different bars after work. Sure, happy-hour bar hopping is nothing special — except that I happen to be six months pregnant. OK, don't freak out. I didn't get wasted. Instead I sipped on a rotation of fresh fruit juice and sparkling water while I caught up with friends.
While we could debate the one-glass-a-day exception endlessly, I've personally decided to abstain from alcohol completely during my pregnancy. Before I got pregnant, I just assumed I would go nine months without drinking. But it was also a source of anxiety. I wondered if being pregnant would banish me to almost a year of social isolation. Well it turns out, it didn't, and I believe this experience will have a lasting effect on my relationship with alcohol following pregnancy. After half a year of no booze, here are nine lessons I've learned.
You don't need alcohol to have fun
Remember those grade-school sleepovers where you laughed so hard your stomach hurt? You didn't need any booze to have genuine fun. Being pregnant has brought me back to that place. Here's an example: during my pregnancy, I've attended a few weddings. At first I was bummed out about the timing. But it turns out that when you're dancing to a good DJ, you don't even have time to grab a drink. I thought I'd want to go home early, but instead I outlasted other guests, who burned out from the marathon of cocktails, wine, and Champagne toasts.
Most drunk people over 30 aren't actually horrible
Drunk people are so annoying when you're sober, right? At least I remember feeling like that in university and my early 20s. Turns out that by the time you're over 30 (like me), most people have learned to handle their alcohol. I've rarely even noticed people are tipsy when I've been out with them. If I do, it's usually a subtle tell, like a slight slurring of words or uncharacteristically edgy comment. Instead of annoying me, it just makes me smile slyly to myself, knowing my friend is letting loose a bit.
Some people don't like being around non-drinkers
While drunk people don't bother me, I can't say I don't bother some drunk people. I've noticed that when I'm out in a social setting where most people are drinking, my presence seems to make some of them uncomfortable. It can feel like you're a parent breaking up a high-school party, if people assume you're judging them for being drunk. Other times, you get the sense that they pity you or can't quite figure out what to talk about. I try to set the tone by acting like it's no big deal and saying how much I'm enjoy my mocktail if it comes up. And of course, many other drinkers could care less! I try to seek those people out.
Forgoing the first drink is the worst part
OK, so my new alcohol-free existence hasn't been perfect. Whenever I hear a Champagne bottle pop, my heart sinks a little bit knowing I won't get to partake in the fun. There have also been work happy hours or double dates where I know that first glass of wine would take the edge off. And I must admit, when friends decide to open a chilled bottle of rosé on a Summer day I feel left out. That's what I've missed the most: the festive feeling I've come to associate with that first drink.
Coming home completely sober is the best part
The feeling I get when I jump in an Uber to go home after dinner or (virgin) drinks out is my all-time favourite thing about not drinking. I'm in total control and not overanalysing anything I said or starting to regret the hangover I'll have tomorrow. When I get home, I can even do something productive if I'm up for it! While I worried I'd be a hermit, the fact that I can go out with friends without feeling like crap the next day actually makes me want to make more plans.
You shouldn't underestimate the power of delicious food
For the first three months of pregnancy, booze did not sound good to me — and neither did most food. So after a trimester of horrible nausea, just being able to crave and enjoy food brings me so much joy. Now, a delicious meal is my new glass of wine. Instead of feeling like something is missing because I can't drink, regaining my appetite after a few months has added a new pleasure back to my life.
There are a lot of great non-alcoholic drinks
I have a soft spot for lemonade. It just makes me happy. Before I was pregnant, however, I wouldn't let myself order it regularly because I'd rather "save" the calories for a more adult beverage. Now that I'm pregnant, I can honestly say I look forward to my predinner lemonade just a much as I would a cocktail. And sometimes I'll venture out with other refreshing mocktails, which often come with a range of exotic ingredients, minus the booze. There's been a revolution in non-alcoholic beverages at restaurants and bars, and as a pregnant woman, I'm more than happy to reap the benefits.
Alcohol is expensive
It's a great feeling to go out to a nice dinner and not groan when the check comes thanks to the mark up on the wine. It's like fine dining with a 50-percent-off coupon. Cutting out alcohol greatly reduces the cost of going out in general, as non-alcoholic drinks are a fraction of the cost.
I should probably drink less when I'm not pregnant
When I reintroduce alcohol back after giving birth, I hope I will be more moderate. By taking out alcohol completely, I've realised that what I really miss is the buzz of one or two drinks, not the crappy downsides of anything more than that. So I plan to have best of both worlds: one glass of wine and no headaches the next day.
This story was first published on PopSugar.com.au.