Monday, October 20, 2008

Chemical Water

The advice and concern evoked from others when you are pregnant is always interesting. But I think being pregnant away from the country you grew up in makes it all the more fun!

I've gotten in trouble with students, friends, and other teachers for everything from bending over to pick up a dropped pencil, to moving a small classroom desk, to standing instead of taking a seat offered to me, and more. The most interesting lately though has been the concern over what I drink/don't drink.

Eric and I were with a group of 6 other Brasilians the other day at a gathering we were invited to. Not knowing what all would be available to drink and knowing that it would be a several hour affair, I took two large water bottles with a Crystal Light type of drink that I had mixed up. I usually just drink water at home, but water has to be ice cold for me to drink it. I do much better consuming liquids I carry with me if it has some sort of flavor.

Throughout the day I was repeatedly offered beer and wine and each time I declined the offer (mind you now that everyone here knows I prego.) Several times someone would go to grab the beer sitting somewhere in my vicinity, but first check to make sure it wasn't mine therefore ensuring that it was indeed their glass.

A little later on, they made some coffee. I was offered a cup and politely declined. The hostess then asked if I liked coffee or not. I told her that I enjoy coffee, but now that I was pregnant I had stopped drinking it. She gave me the most dumbfounded look and asked what pregnancy had to do with it. I mentioned that I had tried to cut out all the caffeine from what I drink, since there is some caffeine in plenty of the foods that I occasionally consume, like chocolate. She was still confused and asked everyone else there if they had ever heard of a pregnant woman not drinking coffee. Everyone agreed that was the strangest thing they had ever heard and then requested an explanation as to why I would want to cut out caffeine. As I explained that caffeine increases your heart rate and sometimes your blood pressure and would have the same effect on an unborn baby, everyone just looked at me like I was crazy and said that it must be an 'American thing'.

A bit later someone inquired into what I was drinking from my water bottle. Eric fielded that question for me and as he explained what it was everyone freaked out and couldn't believe that I was drinking "chemical water" while pregnant. And a lecture on how I should only drink natural stuff followed. These were the same people that had offered me Coca-Cola and GuaranĂ¡ all day (not exactly all-natural, you know?), and not to mention the beer and wine (which I guess is natural, but still, um, alcohol!)

More than anything, it made Eric and I giggle that they called it "chemical water". And despite all the conversation being in Portuguese, they actually used the English term "chemical water". I thought it was the strangest thing. But then as I was teaching an English class to one of my individual students, I pulled a bottle of H2OH! out of my bag and took a sip. My student, a guy probably in his upper 40's, totally freaked out and asked what I was doing drinking "chemical water" while pregnant. Common terminology, apparently.

With the controversy I've read about the safety of saccharin, and especially the fact that it crosses the placenta and collects in fetal tissue, I do avoid it like the plague - which is hard sometimes in Brasil since that is generally the sweetener of choice. I'll admit though that I occasionally have something with aspartame in it. But apparently I need to take my "chemical water" habit underground before I really start showing or else I risk giving all the Brasilians I encounter on a daily basis heart attacks!


Anonymous said...

haha this is too funny!! it is soo interesting how other cultures perceive pregnancy and what is right and what is not!

Ray Adkins said...


Brazilians have a strong thing with coffee, we learned that in Sao Paulo is almost an insult to decline coffee in social ocasions.
It is clearly a matter of perception and cultural difference.
You clearly have adapted well to these kind of situations, going underground with your chemical water sounds like the best plan for now ;)


Bru said...

hey Emily, I've never heard of this "chemical water" thing before. That is kinda weird... maybe you could say that you know, you're pregnant so you should drink fresh juice or something instead of having coke. But then again, that's something we should do everyday and not only if we get pregnant. They don't really do any harm to the baby I guess... it is just a matter of trying to be healthier for the baby.
and Ray, it isn't "almost an insult" to decline coffee in SP or anywhere else in Brasil... we do love espressos after a meal, but that's totally up to you generally and whoever told you that or made you feel like you insulted them is an idiot. It is just coffee for 99% of the population, not a personal thing.

Amanda said...

chemical water? bizarre.....

Ray Adkins said...


I understand what you are saying, but perhaps I expressed myself poorly, the "almost an insult" thing was very, very subtle, and we never saw any one refusing coffee.
It wasn't a bad thing at all, we started drinking expresso every chance we got, and started understanding why everybody join in ;)


Lynda said...

Fabbo blog post... interesting how diffrent cultures are into different things - While breastfeeding my first child in Germany I was always thirsty - one day my MIL told my husband that I should not feel I have to save money by drinking the tap water.. that the bottled water was far better for me... mind you, they have some of the cleanest tap water in the world where she lives.

Go have an Irish Coffee.. it will do you good ;)

Cairo Typ0 said...

Stopping by from DLR's blog. It never ceases to amaze me what is considered "okay" in different places around the world. When we told a waitress in Cape Town, SA that we only wanted a half caraffe of wine since we were drinking she honestly didn't understand our issue.

Enjoy your chemical water! I'll have mine with vodka, but then again i'm only drinking for one. :)

AcesHigh said...

hmm, I thought this was very odd.

but then, mineiros ARE odd :)

AcesHigh said...

I mean, I am brazilian and I know several woman who cut on caffeine (as well as any alcoholic beverage, OBVIOUSLY) when they are pregnant.

And the chemical water thing is out of this world.

Thus, it must be some mineiro thing I guess.