You could say that in my younger days I was a bit of a drinker. I may or may not have gotten into bars underage, and I may or may not have hung out with much older dudes in popular but shitty Midwestern bar bands (who were total creeps for hanging out with 17-year-olds, right?).
In fact, you could say that once I reached 21, drinking alcohol was no big deal. And it continued to be no big deal for most of my 20s. I went through periods of drinking probably-too-heavily and periods of drinking hardly ever. My tolerance for alcohol was consistently pretty high; this is not something I am proud of, because in retrospect, ow, my poor liver.
The last time I drank heavily also happened to be my last day as a smoker (July 1, 2003). I was so hung over from drinking tons of Soju and chain smoking with friends at a bar in Koreatown that I felt like I had eaten the contents of an ashtray.
Long story short: I quit smoking, started paying attention to my eating habits, and stopped drinking alcohol for a year.
And then I got pregnant. While some doctors say drinking in moderation while pregnant is just fine, I was the kind of pregnant lady who quit coffee cold turkey the minute I found out I was pregnant; and I was way too paranoid about fetuses and alcohol to consume even a drop.
After Oliver was born, I breastfed for a year. During that year I consumed maybe one glass of wine and half a Guinness*, total.
Since then, I am a total lightweight. Where once I could have three cocktails in an evening and feel pretty good, now I am totally buzzed after half a glass of wine. Part of this has to do with me not drinking often or much in one sitting, and part of it has to do with a greater awareness of my body -- I am just more in tune with how I feel when I drink.
There are definite advantages to this increased sensitivity to alcohol: for one, going out for a cocktail with friends is super cheap, which is awesome. I have a pretty strict personal limit of two drinks,and that helps keep the bill down.
The disadvantage is in how absolutely horrible I can feel the next morning, without even getting drunk the evening before. Often, if I do decide to have a second glass of wine with dinner, or a second beer on a Sunday afternoon at the pub, I end up with a raging headache -- even if I guzzle water and eat plenty of food.
Could this be because now that I am (almost, technically) in my late 30s, my body less efficiently processes alcohol? Yes, probably. Is it because I didn’t drink alcohol for a few years? Maybe that, too.
I choose to blame it on pregnancy, though. After all, after I became pregnant, my digestive system was never the same. I still have weird issues with wheat and dairy that I did not have prior to getting knocked up. I cannot enjoy ice cream as regularly as I would like, unless I just plan on (overshare alert!) locking myself in the bedroom to fart in peace for two hours afterward.
After all, pregnancy made my feet grow half a size and changed my hips forever. Why not my liver? This is why our moms drank white wine spritzers, probably.
So there you go, future pregnant ladies: Enjoy your boozing now, because your body may not be able to handle it very well later.
People who have been pregnant: Do you find that you get straight up drunk after half a glass of Chardonnay, or is your liver working juuuust fine?
* Fun fact, maybe: Guinness is supposed to help increase lactation. According to my former neighbor, an 80-something Cuban woman named Hortencia, the Cuban drink called malta does the same thing but is non-alcoholic.
You can count the number of drinks Somer has had in the past year by looking at her Twitter: @somersherwood