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Tell Me About It | by Carolyn Hax

What's really wrong here is treatment of pregnant sister

Apologize to pregnant sister

for your childish behavior

Q: My older sister lives in France and is married to a French guy. She is five months pregnant. Recently when she was visiting me and when we went out to dinner she ordered a glass of wine! I told her I was shocked that she would endanger her baby that way and she said her doctor told her it was okay to have a glass of wine twice a week.

I told her it didn't matter what her doctor told her; everyone knows you don't drink when you're pregnant, right? I can't believe that even a French doctor would be okay with this, and I think she's being terribly selfish. I called our mom and asked her what she thought and she agreed with me. Now my sister is mad at both of us and says this kind of thing is exactly why she moved out of the country. I don't know how this turned into such a big deal. I just wanted her to know that what she is doing is WRONG. Help!

New York

A: We are NOT going to debate the wisdom here of a glass of wine while pregnant. That is for pregnant women and their obstetricians to discuss. Period.

We are going to talk about your relationship with your sister — for the sake of which you need to start apologizing. While I happen to be of the why-even-go-there? camp when it comes to alcohol and pregnancy, there are indeed doctors who counsel moderation as your sister described.

And yet you shouted your sister down, accused her of endangering her baby, and then called your mother (!) to tell on her. Look at the way you stated your case: "Everyone knows you don't drink when you're pregnant, right?"

Well, is it right? Or not? If you're going to challenge someone's judgment that stridently, on such a loaded issue as the quality of her mothering, then it's essential that you have more than "everybody knows" to inform your opinion.

So, first, either butt out or inform your opinion. If you come across the same sources I used, you will see that there isn't a uniform opinion out there. There are cautions, certainly, and those cautions are more than enough for a lot of moms to choose to abstain. But there are also differing schools of thought. Among people who study this for a living.

Second, learn when and how to wield said opinion. "I don't know how this turned into such a big deal. I just wanted her to know (she) is WRONG"? Hello, this "turned into such a big deal" because you're refusing to consider you may be wrong. Instead you're hiding behind an absolute, cornering your sister and leaving no room for discussion. That leaves her two choices: to say yes, you're right, you know better than my doctor and I do — or to kiss the ground when her plane lands in France.

Next time, either voice your concerns in a respectful way — "Obviously, you know what you're doing, but I always thought alcohol was dangerous" — or bite your tongue. Latter preferred.

This time, be an adult, admit to your sister that you were out of line, and mean it.


What's really wrong here is treatment of pregnant sister

05/25/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:38pm]
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