-Essay-

MUNICH — As a rule, women in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy rarely tell everyone that they are expecting a baby. The risk of miscarriage is still too high and the idea of informing complete strangers of the state of your uterus is simply not appealing. There are also very good reasons not to stick to this principle, including the fact that miscarriage is an unnecessary taboo. Still, most women do.

If, like me, you are a woman who drinks, and who has never refused a beer in her life, keeping your pregnancy a secret can quickly become a problem: What do you do when you go out? If I order a coke instead of a beer, it immediately looks suspicious. And even if most people are tactful, discussing my sudden sobriety behind my back, there will always be one who asks "Hey, you pregnant?" This is a situation you have to prepare for.

No alcohol for pregnant women? — Photo: Arno Burqi

In fact, there are many online forums for mothers dealing with the question of "how to simulate alcohol consumption." But the exchange by future mothers on these boards sounds more like training at the German Federal Intelligence Agency than a cozy Sunday night conversation.

Gin and tonic, you can read in one forum, is great for faking it, since you can easily go up to the bar and conspire with the bartender to make you a gin and tonic without the gin. You can also make fake white wine by mixing grape juice and water. If someone asks to try it, just pretend you have a cold, or for maximum effect, herpes. You can then be sure no one will touch your glass — or come near you.

Faking becomes harder with beer. On tap, you can always order an alcohol-free beer in a different glass. But it gets complicated if you order a bottle. You need to resort to the old "toilet trick," switching the beer in the bottle with water or another drink, best with the help of an ally.

Drinking simulations are fun for a little while, because you feel like a secret agent lying to protect her mission: a life.

Supreme discipline is needed for shots: You can switch vodka with water, but what if someone buys a round of Jägermeister? There, big lies can come in handy, like the "I am taking antibiotics" excuse. But careful: It doesn't work if there's a doctor in the house who will proceed to explain that most antibiotics are compatible with alcohol and might want to know more in case of an emergency. The simulated illness must therefore be carefully chosen. The best choice might be severe intestinal infection, since metronidazol really is not compatible with alcohol, writes an expectant mother in the forum. Whether anybody would want to stand next to you at a bar if you're talking about bowel movement, that's another question.

The forum offers better options: "I'm abstaining from alcohol," if the pregnancy starts around Lent; "I'm training for a semi-marathon"; or "I'm driving tonight." For these excuses to work, you need a certain degree of credibility, be sporty, or at least own a car.

The relief of telling the truth

Drinking simulations are fun for a little while, because you feel like a secret agent lying to protect her mission: a life. But eventually, when you can't drink for the third time, you start getting sick of lying to nice people or you just want to enjoy a beer that doesn't taste like carbonated soap. And then, unfortunately, you begin acting like the worst of all mother clichés: You stop going out.

It's not pretty. And what a relief when you can finally tell the truth after 12 weeks. Everyone is happy for you and you get to drink coke, which tastes much better when you drink it with friends. And now you're popular among your friends and colleagues for another reason: You're the designated driver.


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