Coffee is the magical dark liquid that a majority of the population lives and run on. For some, coffee is life’s necessity and without it, withdrawal symptoms can wreck havoc on their lives.
Whilst pregnant with my daughter, I gave up coffee altogether. It was a cold turkey kind of cut off that turned me into a grouchy zombie for a good two weeks.
Is coffee safe to drink whilst pregnant? Most likely. Would I be able to keep within the recommended maximum 200mg of caffeine? Unlikely.
I’m the kind of person that needed to have a cup every other hour. It was an unconscious addiction that also gave me an excuse to go to the office’s kitchen and take a 5 minute break. Working in IT also meant that there’s a culture and expectation for coffee consumption.
For a good 7 months, I didn’t drink coffee.
I could lie and tell you that without the caffeine, I had the best mental clarity in my life, that I didn’t crave the bitter taste of coffee nor did I miss the impact it had on my day. No. Being pregnant and without coffee is one of the worst combinations.
But for the sake of my unborn child, I abstained and lived on hot chocolate and a maximum of 2 cups of tea instead.
2 weeks after giving birth to Hailey, it hit me that what I eat will still be passed onto her through breast milk. I wanted to cry as it meant the possibility of continuing my coffee abstinence for at least another year. The last thing I needed after not getting any sleep was a wired infant.
After talking to the midwife, I was reassured that only a little bit would be passed through the milk and if I kept within reasonable levels, it shouldn’t affect the child at all. At that point, I probably thought “f*ck it” and had the other half go buy me a cup of mochaccino.
It was at least 14 days since I last slept because I’ve been up all night letting my little spawn suck every bit of remaining energy from my body, the caffeine burst certainly perked me out of my misery. After that first cup, I wanted another and I knew from experience that after that one, another cup would follow.
So I made a decision. I decided that I will only have one cup of coffee a day and that I will enjoy it without worry, fear, distractions or anything that could lessen the experience of it.
And it changed me.
Drinking that one cup of coffee became an exercise in mindfulness — a meditative act that gave me the time to wake up and set my intentions for the day.
I could never meditate. The act of closing my eyes, emptying my brain and focusing on my breath in the morning would just put me back to sleep. But with that cup of coffee in my hands, I could feel the heat radiate from the mug and into my fingers. I could feel every sip, every tingle that slowly woke me up from my two lots of three hour stint sleeps. I could feel my mind gently coming back to life as the pure bliss of silence and darkness of daybreak marked another turn of the earth.
Having only one cup of coffee a day meant that I had only one chance to enjoy the bitter sweet taste, the initial hit of sugar and caffeine. It forced me to slow down, to focus and to be in the present of taste, scent and sensations — things that I haven’t really focused on before.
After several days, these things began to translate into the rest of my day. I began to notice my child more, the house, the trees, the kitchen, the food I cooked and everything else in between. My mind became more focused and less cluttered with thoughts. When it all started to become a bit too much, I would always remember that first cup of coffee and re-focus my mind.
Being present is important. It keeps us rooted in our current situation and to deal with it as it comes rather than expend our energy on worrying. It’s all mental clutter that bogs down our brain and drain our bodies.
The act of purposefully having only one cup of coffee gave me a sense of achievement and started my day with calmness and sense of invincibility — that nothing could ruin this moment or the rest of my day.
Drinking that one cup became my refuge and healer from the financial, mental and physical stresses that I faced on a daily basis. I became less stressed and less panicky about the little things.
My sleep improved and I started to wake up on cue as my baby required rather than just meandering around the house worrying when she’ll wake up for food.
I changed the way I drank my coffee and it changed the way I reacted and lived life. I was no longer consuming for the sake of caffeine but rather for the mindfulness and clarity. The act of drinking is now with intention and reason and it woke me up more than the copious amounts I used to drink before my pregnancy.
Am I still reliant on coffee? Most likely. But in a different manner.
Everyone has their thing that focuses their mind and sets the tone for their day. Mine is now coffee. I am no longer reliant on coffee to stay awake but rather to be awake. My one cup in the morning now sets the tone for the rest of the day. From the act of purposefully brewing it, to sitting down, to staring at the swirling brown liquid, to tasting the bitter sweet nectar — I am now fully focused and present on a daily basis.