by REBECCA SPARROW
Last year I was the victim of a verbal hit and run.
I hadn’t even taken a sip when I felt the tap on my shoulder.
Turning around, the smile literally fell off my face when the middle-aged, tracksuit wearing man in front of me, gestured to the can of Coke in my hands and said, “You shouldn’t drink that. It’s bad for the baby.”
Whatchootalkin’ about Willis?
“I’m sorry. What?” I said, my eyes, you know, POPPING OUT OF MY HEAD.
“You shouldn’t drink Coke. It’s bad for your baby.’ And this time he gestured at my sizeable bump.
Then Tracksuit Man walked off. And I continued to stand there, outside a 7-Eleven, with my mouth hanging open, looking not unlike that shouty looking guy in Edvard Munch’s The Scream.
And can I just say that yes, I know you shouldn’t drink Coke and blah blah blah blah blah blahdy blah blah. But after years of being a one-woman Coke-free zone I had a sudden desperate craving for it. And you know it’s Coke. COCA-COLA. Not crystal-meth.
That’s the thing though. Once you’re pregnant, it’s like the rest of the world feels the need to police your pregnancy. So I can’t say I was overly surprised to read this story on BabyCenter about a waiter gone rogue :
Most health experts recommend avoiding alcohol during pregnancy, because there is no clear safe amount. Better to avoid altogether than to risk your baby’s health.
But who is the right person to decide whether a pregnant woman should drink? The woman herself? Her baby’s father? Their health-care professional?
Oh wait. It’s a waiter’s job. Well, at least one waiter thinks it’s her job, as told by a mom-to-be in our community.
BabyCenter Community member preston08 told this story:
“Saturday night my friend, who is visiting from Boston, and I went out to eat. When the server approached the table she wouldn’t look at me. My friend ordered a glass of wine and before the server walked off, I said I would like one as well. She said she can’t serve me. I said, ” my OB says a glass of wine in moderation is ok.”
She replied that she has heard that before and still refused to serve me. I was flabbergasted, embarrassed and downright p*ssed. I ate my meal with my friend and decided not to make a scene. When I got home that night I looked up the law. Essentially she violated my civil rights, and discriminated against me: see section 52 of the Civil Code in California.”
Most women are willing to undertake no risk at all. I on the other hand did take the risk. Knowing that it’s a choice not all moms would make and not all health care professionals advise – I’ll admit here that in my third trimester my OB gave me permission to have one small glass of red wine a week, and I did have a glass on one special occasion.
But this isn’t about acceptable risk. This story is about a waiter refusing to serve a legal adult an alcoholic beverage. Maybe for moral reasons, maybe because of restaurant policy, no way of knowing. But the fact remains that a whole host of problems arise with this refusal, not least because a waiter isn’t a medical professional, and isn’t really in a position to decide by sight who is and who isn’t pregnant.
Let’s also keep in mind that it seems like every year ‘experts’ feed us a different line about whether alcohol is or isn’t safe during pregnancy. This from BJOG – an international journal of obstetrics and gynaecology:
Low and moderate weekly alcohol consumption in early pregnancy is not associated with adverse neuropsychological effects in children aged five, suggests a series of papers published today in BJOG. However, high levels of alcohol per week were linked with a lower attention span among five year olds.
Meanwhile this is the official statement from the AMA (Australian Medical Association):
Alcohol consumed during pregnancy crosses the placenta and can cause complications of pregnancy and damage to the developing foetus, including foetal alcohol syndrome. The risks are greatest with high, frequent alcohol consumption during the first trimester of pregnancy.
As there is no scientific consensus on a threshold below which adverse effects on the foetus do not occur, the best advice for women who are pregnant is to not consume alcohol. The NHMRC guidelines should clearly state that no level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy can be guaranteed to be safe for the foetus.
So what do you think? Did you or would you drink alcohol during your pregnancy? Would you ever reprimand a mother-to-be if you saw them drinking? If you’ve been pregnant, did anyone every tell you off for the choices you made?