Pregnancy police: It's my choice to drink caffeine, not a barista's

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Flat white coffee war

A barista in New Zealand claimed in January that he invented the flat white coffee in 1989 but Sydneysider Alan Preston says he coined the name four years earlier.

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Massive or tiny, exhausted or glowing, waddling or not. I have grown used to the constant comments about my body.

I have done this before. This is my third pregnancy and I have heard it all from family, friends and plenty of strangers. As a mother-to-be, my body and looks have become fair game.

Pregnancy, it seems, is viewed as an out-of-body experience. Comments that would never be uttered to a non-pregnant woman, let alone a man, suddenly become totally acceptable to a woman sporting a baby bump.

"No caffeine for you": my choice of poison was not going to be accepted by this barista.

"No caffeine for you": my choice of poison was not going to be accepted by this barista.

"But pregnancy is amazing" is the defence when feelings are hurt.


But it does not stop with fat jibes. Apparently even decisions are no longer your own when you are expecting.

This week I dared to order a takeaway coffee, a proper espresso complete with caffeine, at one of my local cafes in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

After fasting for more than 12 hours for a series of routine blood tests, I was hungry, tired and perhaps even a little cranky. I had been looking forward to a coffee for hours.

That was until the barista looked at my 27-week bump over his counter and shook his head.

"No," he responded motioning towards my belly. "No caffeine for you".

I thought I misheard. This was a coffee I was a ordering, not a martini.

But clearly my choice of poison was not going to be accepted by this barista despite my looks of horror, panic and then desperation.

Eventually we, or rather he, agreed that my options were a decaffeinated coffee, which frankly wasn't going to cut it, or a flat white so weak my three-old would have mistaken it for a cup of frothed milk best known as a babycino.

Of course, I should have protested or simply walked off but I can only assume I was wracked by mother guilt. My decision to inflict caffeine on my unborn child had been criticised by a stranger.

So, I accepted the weak hot milk option and watched as a minuscule drop of coffee was tipped into an oversized takeaway paper cup. It was a basically a babycino for grown-ups.

I have heard of several incidents of pregnant women being denied alcohol in restaurants and bars and each one has been met with outrage and plenty have gone viral on the internet.

There is widespread research and strong warnings about excessive consumption of alcohol in pregnancy, but many people still rightly accept that it is our decision, and no one else's, if we are to have the odd glass during those long nine months.

Never had I heard the same reaction to caffeine, yet after relaying the experience to my friends via Facebook it seems the pregnancy police are not simply patrolling bars and cafes.

One friend reported that she was denied a soft-serve ice cream while pregnant; another said she was refused service when she tried to buy unpasteurised cheese in a British supermarket.

Just like our bodies, our decisions also become fair game. So, tired and hungry, I walked - or some would say waddled - off from the cafe with my cup of "coffee" disappointed and still cranky.

Disappointed that I was slurping on a cup of warm milk and annoyed that I did not stand up for myself and demand a proper coffee or, more sensibly, take my business elsewhere.

But mother guilt is a powerful thing.

Alexandra Smith is the Herald's education editor.


  • Name and shame the cafe.

    Date and time
    January 26, 2016, 11:34AM
    • Yes, please name the place. It'd be one thing for the guy to suggest you don't have caffeine (which would be weird and annoying enough) but to act as your authority and to decide what type of coffee you're allowed to have? I would have gone mental if I had heard him say that.

      Date and time
      January 26, 2016, 12:15PM
    • Babies are better off not being fed stimulants.

      Date and time
      January 26, 2016, 12:27PM
    • Caffeine is a drug, so I understand this stranger's concern. And what if it had been a large glass of alcohol? The latest evidence shows that even moderate amounts taken during the most critical phases of neural development can produce the disasterous effects of foetal alcohol syndrome.

      Date and time
      January 26, 2016, 12:41PM
    • yes Liz, thanks for stating the obvious... but unless you'd like to deny unborn babies the right to travel in cars too, which is is a far, far greater risk to their health than a flat white, let the mother decide what's okay for her unborn child.

      Date and time
      January 26, 2016, 12:45PM
    • Looking forward to the study that shows one cup of expresso causes ..... (insert guilt condition of your choice)

      Date and time
      January 26, 2016, 12:48PM
    • why? i remember this type of outrage by smoking pregnant mothers 3 or 4 decades ago.
      i'm now also starting to see that a mild anti overweight comments are becoming acceptable, it's a cycle, in time coffee for pregnant mothers will become the norm.

      Victorious Painter
      Date and time
      January 26, 2016, 1:15PM
    • Back up the truck again, so Mother of 2, with one on the way is, wait for it 27 weeks pregnant. Baby is at that point where he/she could be born and with the assistance of modern neonatal intensive care survive and live a full and healthy life. Otherwise Baby will say in utero, fully formed and just lay down more fat and grow. All the scary stories are null and redundant. Baby is fully formed and fattening.

      Who is this part-time Midwife and other time Barista? I want to know his name and refer all my pregnant friends to him for other pregnancy and labour advice. Such a knowledgeable individual and a man too. So wise and experienced in pregnancy and labour.

      Eeeuuuwww Gross
      Date and time
      January 26, 2016, 1:47PM
    • This is revolting if it happened. Would find it easier to believe if the writer included the cafe name. Hate to be cynical, but this has a real 'click-bait', 'generate some online vitriol' feel to it.

      Date and time
      January 26, 2016, 1:50PM
    • I bet this stranger really cares about people!

      We really need to treat these fans of the nanny state with the highest degree of scrutiny. They can be there to lecture you as you treat yourself to a coffee, but will they stick around to help you change the diapers or pay your bills for raising the child? No, of course not! That would require genuine effort as opposed to a few cheap words of belittlement in passing.

      We need to call this for what it is, it's an individual trying to feeling important and empowered by telling others how to live their lives but their genuine concern for the mother or child is negligible.

      Date and time
      January 26, 2016, 2:28PM

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