Like most Americans, I started many of my days with a caffeine ritual. For years, it was black tea. Earl Grey. English Breakfast. It varied. Sometimes it was coffee. And then, sometimes it was coffee again. But no matter what it was, my day was guaranteed to start with some sort of caffeine. Until I got pregnant.
I won't lie, it was rather easy to cut caffeine out, as in those first few weeks of pregnancy I had little appetite for anything but dry toast. But I was worried because caffeine was so vital to my life. Or, so I thought. I believed that without the caffeine I'd lack the energy and focus to get through my day. I believed it was an important element to "keeping regular" — if you know what I mean. I'd spent so many years with daily caffeine, I wasn't really sure how to live without it. I was downright scared. I mean, it was part of my identity. After all, our morning beverage of choice says a lot about who we are. I am definitely not a power smoothie in the morning kinda gal. Wave a shot of wheatgrass under my nose before 11 am and you might wind up wearing it. I'll just say this as bluntly as I can: Do not even think about passing me a yerba mate gourd first thing in the morning (unless I'm in Paraguay).
I've heard about withdrawal from caffeine–headaches, moodiness–and I was terrified of contending with those effects as well as the pregnancy. But a cold-turkey stop yielded no messy detox. No moodiness (other than the pregnancy-related moods) and, the best part: my energy and digestion showed no dip in performance without the caffeine, even while growing a human. I kept waiting…but no painful breakup effects occurred. Hmmhph.
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When my midwife told me it was okay to ingest small amounts of caffeine (no more than a single cup of coffee in a day), I was elated. While I wasn't a huge coffee drinker to begin with, I did miss the tea. So, I tried. A light oolong, a cup of Earl Grey. But I just couldn't enjoy it much. I knew there was little risk to my unborn daughter, but it was more in knowing that I was already at an advantage–I'd pretty much already quit. Why turn back?
While there has been research linking coffee and tea consumption to a number of health benefits, there are certainly known downsides to caffeine, particularly if you regularly consume it. Caffeine stresses the adrenals, causes insomnia, makes us jittery and irritated. Some people notice stomach upset (if I drink green tea on an empty stomach I feel nauseated), muscle tremors and mood swings. Oh, and it may bring an early death.
Caffeine-heads (you know who you are) really are prone to anxiety and irritability. I see it now. The fast talking. Constantly scrolling through iPhones or looking past me in a conversation for something more interesting to fixate on. It makes me feel like a lab rat in an experiment. I'm in the control group watching the other rat hit the caffeine lever… I don't think I was ever that addicted to it that it made me crack out like that, but I certainly don't want to end up that way. Not now. Not as a mommy.
For me personally, caffeine was a crutch. And the worst part about it was
that I didn't even need it in the first place. I only thought I did.
While I still eat chocolate regularly (it contains small amounts of
caffeine), and I'm sure I'll enjoy a cup of caffeinated tea or coffee
again, I'm really enjoying being caffeine-free. It's one less thing to
worry about in the mornings (as if having a 4-month-old baby isn't
enough). It gives me flexibility in my morning routine, although I still
usually opt for something warm and liquid. But it can be a decaf tea,
an herbal tea or sometimes even hot cocoa. But more than that, I know it's just me that has the energy, me that has proper digestion. And that's reassuring as I age. No, I don't need caffeine. And I lived to tell about it.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger