The coffee meeting is an essential part of business and networking, but for many pregnant women, especially women who haven’t announced their pregnancy yet, it can bring undue stress. Skipping your morning joe can feel like you’re screaming, I’m pregnant, and you don’t know it! Or worse—I’m pregnant, and *now* you know it because I ordered peppermint tea instead of an Americano.
Trust us: People are not usually that observant (unless you really are screaming). But if they do cotton on, there are simple ways to redirect or shut down the conversation. Remember, you don’t have to talk about anything until you’re ready.
What to order during a coffee meeting
There are so many caffeine alternatives at coffee shops these days. Here are just a few examples.
Ask the barista which ones are caffeine free, or if you don’t want to raise suspicion by asking, pick a safe option like peppermint or citrus.
Hot apple cider
The sugar content in this drink is high, but boy, is its caffeine level low—as in zero.
Steamed milk and cinnamon
Yes, you’re essentially drinking the top of a latte. Yes, that’s akin to eating muffin tops instead of entire muffins.
Hot water and lemon
It’s simple, yet refreshing. And it’s easy to pass this one off as a bit of a sore throat because, well, it’s hot water and lemon.
Your choice: Hot chocolate and decaf coffee
You can have some caffeine when you’re pregnant. (Talk to your doctor.) So sipping on drinks like decaf coffee and hot chocolate, which have trace amounts, might be just fine.
Pro tip: Scout the seasonal options
Many coffee shops offer cream-based seasonal drinks that are caffeine free—think Starbucks’ Cinnamon Dolce Crème. Ask the barista to tell you about their seasonal options, and pass off your order as trying something new.
Extra pro tip: Sip slowly
Maybe you don’t want to risk anyone saying anything about your order. Order coffee anyway and sip it slowly. If it’s in a to-go cup, no one will know you’ve barely touched it.
Read more: How to Deal with Morning Sickness at Work
What to say if someone comments on your order
Lucky you, an observant cohort noticed you switched your order or thought ordering steamed milk with cinnamon was just plain odd (it’s delicious, actually). You shouldn’t have to explain yourself to anyone, but given the circumstances, you might feel pressured to fess up. Let’s talk about ways to politely avoid your coworker asking the barista to write “Paula and baby” on your cup.
You don’t have to lie—but we won’t tell if you do. Still, an easier way to excuse yourself out of this conversation is to base your response on something truthful.
Say you have an upset stomach in the morning because of morning sickness: I’m feeling a bit under the weather so I thought the tea would be soothing.
Or you’ve given up caffeine for your pregnancy: I recently gave up caffeine actually! Waking up is terrible without it (ha!) but I feel so much more focused once I get through those early hours.
Or you just wanted what you ordered: Apple cider sounded so good! Impossible to resist on a day like this.
Then change the subject. Zim, zam, topic is dead. If your coffee mate presses for more with something like, Are you sure there’s not something you’re not telling me?, know that they’re obnoxious, then laugh and make a joke of it: Yes! That you’re paying!
Alternatives to the coffee meeting
All of the above can be avoided with a little creativity—or that sipping pro tip. Any business meeting location can be swapped, if only you suggest it. When someone asks you to coffee, say you’re off caffeine, but would love to get ice cream. Or tell them you’d rather meet over lunch so you also have time to catch up on their life outside work. Or, if you’re really trying to get those pregnancy steps in, suggest a walking meeting instead.