How I talked about alcohol and pregnancy in my new relationship

Starting a new relationship is one of life’s wonderfully exciting things. When we get into a new relationship we feel over the moon with happiness. There are so many possibilities that lie before us and we begin dreaming about what our life will be like with that person.

Yet, new relationships can be nerve racking as we try to work out how to work together as a couple and navigate those ‘big topics’ that come up. Sooner or later you realise that some serious discussions need to be had about your future together – and if your values and morals can fit together.

Having these big discussions can be exciting and scary and challenging all at the same time. They might include discussion about living together, marriage, and (possibly the biggest one) having children. Having discussions about children is an important step in any relationship, but how often do we think about our parenting values and what sort of role models we want to be?

When I started a new relationship, in February 2020, I was 28 years old and had been single for two years. I felt I was ready to commit to a new relationship; I had put a lot of time into thinking about what I wanted and I wasn’t going to settle for anything less. Children were definitely part of my future. Luckily my new partner also very much wanted kids. Phew, thank goodness we were on the same page.

At that time, I’d been working with NOFASD Australia for a few months and had been learning more and more about FASD. One thing that stuck in my head was the need to stop drinking alcohol before trying to conceive, because harm can occur to the fetus even during those first few weeks before we know we’re pregnant. By abstaining from alcohol before my partner and I start trying to conceive, I can prevent my baby being harmed by alcohol.

I had committed to abstaining from alcohol before conceiving because I want the best for my baby, and I want to be a good role model. Yet I was unsure how to have this conversation with my new partner. I had no idea how he would take this information or if he would be on board with it. How should I bring it up? What if he didn’t believe what the research was telling us? (I’ve heard that before) And if he didn’t agree with my stance, what would this mean for our relationship?

I knew this was going to one of those big discussions. And I was really unsure how this was going to go.

I was armed with statistics and information from working with NOFASD.  The conversation between my partner and I actually came up naturally when I started talking about some of this information.  I told my partner about the harms that can occur as a result of alcohol exposure during pregnancy – such as FASD, the lifelong disability which can include impairments in memory, executive functioning, motor skills, emotion regulation and thinking processes. My partner was just as shocked as I was. He had never heard of FASD (just like I hadn’t before I started working with NOFASD) and he was shocked at the harm that can occur when a fetus is exposed to alcohol.

It seemed like we were on the same page, so I began to exhale a little. But I hadn’t yet told him about my decision to stop drinking before we started trying to conceive.

I told him that approximately 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, and that because most women in Australia consume alcohol, about the same percentage might be exposed to alcohol before knowing they are pregnant. I told him that I don’t want this to happen when we have kids, and the only way to make sure no harm is done is to abstain from alcohol before we could become pregnant.

Thank goodness he was in total agreeance. And to my surprise he said he would stop drinking alcohol too, because he wanted to make it as easy as possible for me to abstain from alcohol.

They were probably some of the sweetest words I have ever heard.

 

My message, to both men and women entering a new relationship, is to learn as much as you can about the risks of drinking alcohol before conception and during pregnancy. We so often hear the questions “can I have a glass of wine pregnant?” and “Is it safe to drink alcohol when we’re trying for a baby?” Read the research, decide what you want to do, and have an open discussion. At the end of the day, who can argue with statistics? Don’t we all want what’s best for our children?

When the time is right, I hope you can decide together to not consume alcohol while trying to conceive. I hope you feel confident and capable about having this big discussion with your partner. And I hope that by having this discussion, you build a really strong foundation for your relationship so you can tackle all your years of parenting as the best team a child could ask for.

Visit the NOFASD Australia website for information to help you prepare for this discussion. You may be interested in our tips for saying no to alcohol, or to read about a couple who planned an alcohol-free pregnancy.

 

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