Confessions of a Pregnant Wine Writer 

Just how much wine can one safely consume during pregnancy? That depends on how much you listen to the Sanctimommies.

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This discovery led to two depressing thoughts. The first was that professionally, I'm a bit of a fraud. I don't refer to myself as a wine critic and would never claim to be a wine expert, but as it turned out, I'm not even a wine writer — I'm simply a wine drinker who writes. The second depressing thought was that I'd have to wait a month for my next glass of wine.

May & June: First Do No Harm

The occasion of that next glass was a decadent dinner at San Francisco's One Market restaurant with Peter and four friends, all of whom are doctors. I eagerly anticipated this dinner — not just because I was inhaling food by that point or because I love those friends and never get to see them. I was excited because they are doctors who love wine, and because one of them is an ob-gyn and another was pregnant at the time. And I happened to know, from Pregnant Doc's first pregnancy, that she takes a dim view of the medical establishment's party line on the topic that I was very much hoping we'd discuss.

Sure enough, drinking and pregnancy was just about all we discussed for the first hour or so of the meal. Everyone assembled thought that Dr. T's one-glass-a-month guideline was extreme, although the ob-gyn in the group was much less strident than the others on the topic. She said that when the issue comes up with her patients, she tells them about the differing guidelines — abstinence here in the United States, a more relaxed view in parts of Europe, etc. Having presented all that (conflicting) advice to her patients, she then says, essentially, "You're a smart person, use your best judgment." And I guess that's what Dr. T had been trying to do. She'd told me what she knows is bad for the fetus, and what she would do if she were pregnant, but she'd stopped short of calling any of that advice. The difference was that Ob-Gyn Friend had left me feeling empowered to trust my instincts. It didn't hurt that across the table from me, Pregnant Doc seemed to be enjoying her glass of wine, and she'd already had a daiquiri.

Just then, Pregnant Doc's husband spoke up. "Look, there is no better-tested drug in the history of civilization than alcohol," he said. "There's this misguided idea that if a lot of something is really bad for you, then a little bit of the same thing is probably a little bad for you. And that just has no basis in fact."

Side note: When I told Pregnant Doc's husband that I was writing this article, he e-mailed me an Anatole France quote he found pertinent to the topic:

"If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing."

July & August: The Home Glass

Once I was firmly in my third trimester, I decided that it was okay to have a small glass of wine once a week, and I started to do this on Saturday nights.

In early August, I had the first of the weekly doctor's visits that would continue until I had the baby. Dr. T was booked, and the doctor I saw instead was one that my cousin and another close friend had raved about. I immediately understood why: She seemed both extremely knowledgeable and totally down to earth, and she patiently listened to every question I asked. When I told her that the due date wasn't the best timing because of my husband's profession — September 3rd is often when harvest starts, and that means twelve-hour days and weekend work for Peter — her response was surprising. "Wow — your husband's a winemaker? I hope you've been drinking during your pregnancy!"

I knew better than to consider this advice. By then, I actually wasn't sure that OBs give advice anymore, so litigious is our society in general and so lawsuit-plagued is their specialization in particular. No, this doctor was just being a human being, expressing her hope that an activity that had presumably brought us joy as a couple pre-pregnancy had not been driven out of our lives by medical scaremongering.

Or at least that's how I chose interpret it.

The next day, Peter and I spent what felt like a lifetime at Babies"R"Us, and by evening, I was frazzled and exhausted. But I was also feeling emboldened by the previous day's doctor visit, so when I poured myself my Saturday glass of wine that night, it was not small. Instead, it was what a friend and I like to call a "home glass" — so named because you are unlikely to get a pour this generous anywhere but at home, when you yourself are doing the pouring. I'm not going to say it was a third of a bottle, because that just sounds obscene. But four ounces it wasn't.

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