A Beer Lover's Pregnancy, Part VI: The Smell of Beer • Hop Culture
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3.31.17

A Beer Lover’s Pregnancy, Part VI: The Smell of Beer

A heightened sense of smell during pregnancy makes even the most pleasurable experiences intolerable.

Written by Caroline Southen

Image by Courtney Bruch

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In May of 2013, Rob and I went on our first date at Trina’s Starlite Lounge in Cambridge, MA. It was a haphazard attempt to engaged in honest and straightforward conversation over drinks. I was moving to New Hampshire at the end of the month and he was moving to San Francisco at the end of the summer. I ordered one of my favorite beers (Fluffy White Rabbits, made by Pretty Things, which is unfortunately no longer available), forgetting that it was often served in a tall glass with a thin stem. Embarrassed to appear as a high maintenance beer drinker, I swore I wasn’t. I think he believed me, but I made sure my next two beers put that notion to rest.

We talked until close. After walking me to my bike, he leaned in to kiss my cheek, but I intercepted him with the real thing. Since then, we have lived in three cities together and have acquired just as many pets. This May, our scruffy gang will welcome a new member. Big Snack is due four years and three days after our first date at Trina’s.

Twice, we’ve driven across the country, stopping for beer and adventures along the way. We seek inspiration in books and on mountain tops and share the same affinity for the occasional lazy day on the couch. In addition to clicking in all the right romantic ways, Rob and I are also on the same page when it comes to personal hygiene and cleanliness standards. We forget to brush our teeth more often than we should, we frequently go one too many days without showering, and, to be blunt, we are both gassier than average. But we’re on the same page. We get each other and it’s tolerable. That’s love right there, a recipe for a happy marriage. But when I got pregnant, the tectonic plates shifted. During the sixth week of my pregnancy, I began to experience a heightened sense of smell, accompanied by a persistent nausea that would end up lasting nine weeks.

During the worst bouts of smell sensitivity, I switched to fragrance free deodorant and laundry detergent, I wouldn’t sit on our new couch because of the “new couch smell,” and I couldn’t be within twenty feet of a banana.

While it’s very common for pregnant women to experience this, the actual scientific causes behind smell sensitivity remain relatively unclear. The majority of doctors attribute it to increased hormone levels, specifically estrogen and hCG, which also happens to be the explanation for all of the other weird stuff that happens during pregnancy (like rapid nail and hair growth, the loosening of the pelvic muscles, and all those pesky unexplainable emotional meltdowns). During the worst bouts of smell sensitivity, I switched to fragrance free deodorant and laundry detergent, I wouldn’t sit on our new couch because of the “new couch smell,” and I couldn’t be within twenty feet of a banana. Despite my constant adjustments, I found myself upset and offended by different smells on a daily basis. Smells were inescapable and challenged the way Rob and I were accustomed to living together. No longer did I have a tolerance for his bad breath, his Old Spice scented armpits, or his beer burps.

Beer and wine smelled entirely repulsive, which made abstaining from alcohol a breeze. But that didn’t change Rob’s drinking habits. He would sit down on the couch with a resiny IPA and I’d have to scoot over to avoid the smells that arose every time he took a sip. Some nights, he would get into bed without brushing his teeth after having a drink or two. His stale booze breath absolutely repulsed me more than anything else. The good old days quickly faded into the past with my declaration of a new house rule: none shall enter the sheets without brushing of the teeths.

This timeline holds true for most pregnant women, but some unlucky ones (bless their resilient hearts) experience these symptoms for their entire pregnancies.

Luckily, my gag reflex and smell sensitivity diminished right around week 14, practically to the point of normal. This timeline holds true for most pregnant women, but some unlucky ones (bless their resilient hearts) experience these symptoms for their entire pregnancies. While out for dinner, I now encourage Rob to get a certain beer so that I can stick my nose in it to enjoy the ephemeral pleasure of a smooth porter on a cold, rainy November evening. As my sense of smell and palate return to normal, the desire to drink again creeps back into my daily life. The pregnancy rules of consumption dictate a staunch ‘no drinking’ policy, but how much harm can a sip or two do? But before my smells turn into sips, I have some research to do.