In theory, trying to conceive, also known as TTC, should be fun. Often, this process involves sex, (which I love) and the excitement of potentially creating a life (which is mind-altering). In my reality, the TTC experience has been a bumpy ride. See, when you're trying to get pregnant you parse apart everything in your life. You take inventory to see who you are, what kind of mom you think you'll be, and you see your body in a whole different way. And, in the end, trying to conceive made me face my abusive relationship with alcohol.
There. I've said it. I don't feel better.
I grew up in a time when the dangers of drinking were well-publicized; I even did a book report on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and the spectrum of abnormalities drinking when pregnant can have on your baby's health. So, it wasn't "news" to me that when I was planning to have a kid, I'd have to stop boozing. That was easier said than done, however, and the difficulty I faced made me feel tremendous shame. I felt inadequate as a potential mother and as a woman. I felt like a jack hole of a person because I was annoyed that I'd have to give up drinking to get pregnant. I also grew up at a time when feminism taught me that it was important to put my needs first. But what about my need for alcohol? That didn't count, and I knew it. I wasn't happy about it, but I was also kind of tired of feeling ashamed for drinking all the time.
To be a good mom, I've decided I need to fully love and accept myself first. When I confronted my abusive relationship with alcohol I realized that all the things I was drinking to forget were worth remembering, because I could handle them. I also realized that alcohol wasn't fixing me; in fact, it was making my life harder. From hangovers to public embarrassment, to dangerous situations with men and sex, drinking made it difficult for me to take care of myself the way I needed to. I knew that if I couldn't take care of myself, I was not going to be able to take care of my baby. So, though this might not be your typical TTC story, but it's mine and in the end I'm grateful that TTC made me realize the following things:
I Had To Stop Drinking
Well, duh. Doctors, friends, parents, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are crystal clear on this one. According to the CDC, there is no safe amount of alcohol to drink when pregnant. That includes wine. That includes beer. That includes light beer. All research indicates that the sooner a woman TTC stops drinking, the safer her baby will be.
It Was Really Hard To Stop Drinking
Here's the dilemma. Knowing the above, why was it difficult for me to kick my habit? Because addiction comes in all forms, and even if you are a binge drinker like me, that's a hard habit to break. Addiction convinced me that I needed alcohol to "take the edge off."
I Kept Trying To Make Excuses To Imbibe, Just A Little
I would tell myself, well so-and-so drank during her pregnancy, and her child is a bonafide genius. Still, I wasn't getting pregnant, which made me feel like a failure. And, like a lot of women, to cope with failure I had a glass of wine.
I Realized That When I Didn't Drink, A Lot Of Other Behaviors Went Out The Window
Along my TTC journey, I managed periods of sobriety. I would feel good about my body, exercise, drink green juice, and feel proud of myself for acting like someone who gave a sh*t about her health. Therapy, meetings, and sober friends were incredibly helpful when I was drying out. I realized that when I stopped drinking, I stopped putting myself in risky situations. With a clear head, I was able to regulate a lot of the previous behaviors that had caused me harm.
I'd Quit, But Then Start Again To Deal With TTC Stress
But why wasn't I getting pregnant?
I read a book by Rebecca Fett who has a degree in molecular biotechnology and biochemistry, and experience performing genetic research. In It Starts With The Egg, Fett wrote that women over 30 who consumed more than seven alcoholic drinks per week were more than twice as likely to report infertility.
So I was doing this to myself. I gave into despair, and because alcohol had been an easy fix for me in the past, I reached for the bottle again and even though I was armed with this information.
I Got Scared I Wasn't "Mom Material"
I've wanted to be a mom, well, for as long as I can remember, but I started doubting myself. If I couldn't "fix myself" without drinking, so was I even mom material?
Thanks to therapy, I learned that no one is ever "cured." And likewise, when you're in the mindset that you need to be "fixed," you're not thinking about yourself in a positive light. In fact, I was setting myself up for failure by thinking I was damaged goods, despite my maternal desires.
OK. I was ready to believe in myself. Because if I didn't, who would?
I Started Finding Other Ways To Deal With Stress, And They Worked
You know that buzz you get from the first sip of champagne? You can get that feeling of euphoria from doing other activities that activate the release of dopamine in your brain. I was shocked to discover that I could feel good about myself without drinking.
The first time I went to a social event sober, I ate an entire box of chocolate truffles on the way over (addiction is a b*tch). But you know what? I dealt with my social anxiety like a rockstar, and without booze. I was doing this and it felt amazing.
I'm A Work-In-Progress, But I Value Health And Right Now, That's A Priority
My journey isn't over yet but, man, I'm in a much better place than when I started TTC a year ago. I thank the universe for letting the chips fall where they may because the truth is, I wasn't in a place to be a healthy mom until I was able to confront my abuse of alcohol. Alcohol had never ruined my life, but it played too keen a role. Only in its absence can I see that.