In April 2011 I started following a vegan diet. While I had been a pseudo-vegetarian for about half of my life, the decision to become Vegan was not always on my mind. Then I read “The Kind Diet” by Alicia Silverstone’s and I decided that I was ready to make a slow transition. About two days into my ”slow transition” I ate Mac & cheese and I felt really crappy afterwards; right then and there I decided to jump head first into a diet free of dairy and animal by-products.
My husband and I had frequent conversations about whether we thought I would always manage to maintain this lifestyle. He is incredibly supportive and has defended me many times when friends, family members, and others have questioned my choice of lifestyle (and it is a lifestyle). He would always say “I think you will probably always be vegan, you make it look so easy. The only time it might be difficult for you is when you are pregnant because you don’t know what your body will want.” This was of course before we had a baby.
In March 2012, about a year into being vegan, I found out I was pregnant. I am the oldest of 4 girls and the oldest grandchild on both sides of my family (also the only one married); I had been married for 2.5 years and we had been asked many times when we would be starting a family. Everyone had baby fever and my uterus was the cure.
We told our families the news on St. Patrick’s Day. After much joy and excitement, including my mother almost jumping over the kitchen table to hug me and my grandmother hyperventilating (seriously, we almost had to get her a paper bag to breath into) everyone had one question “Are you going to stay vegan while you are pregnant.” Everyone asked me this question in one way or another. Some people were even kind enough to insist that it would be impossible.
My response was always “That is the plan. I don’t know what will happen or if I will want or need anything in particular that isn’t vegan. I am going to talk to my doctor.”
So, we talked to the doctor; It was very important to me that I had an OB who did not immediately tell me that I had to change the way I was living. Reactions like that are so often fueled by ignorance rather than science or medical knowledge. He told me that his only concern would really be calcium and that I can just take a calcium supplement and he would monitor it.
I succeeded. I followed a vegan diet throughout the entirety of my pregnancy. I never once even had the urge to falter. Actually, I managed to not really have any cravings at all while I was pregnant. I drank more juice than I had before and occasionally wanted cereal or a bagel but the desire for those things came and went. As you can see from the pictures, I was just a regular pregnant lady nothing was different about me because I didn’t eat meat or dairy.
So, what does it mean to be vegan:
Vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, do not use other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products. (from http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/vegan.htm)
There are definitely variations to veganism. I am a strict dietary vegan. I do not eat meat (yes, fish is meat) or consume products that contain animal by-products including eggs, milk, cheese, rennet and whey, just to name a few. You honestly wouldn’t believe what is in the foods we eat.
I try my best to live a truly vegan lifestyle but that can get expensive. Living a vegan lifestyle means also avoiding wearing, using, and buying things that are made from animal hair, skin and by-products. When I made the transition I didn’t go throwing everything in my life away, that is just wasteful. However, my family knows not to buy me leather and I do not wear fur or other clothing made from animals. I do have a pair of leather boots and a wool coat that I had before I was vegan; I will wear them until they have exceeded their limits. I always try to buy products that were not tested on animals (i.e. Cruelty-free) and when I can I buy vegan friendly products. They can sometimes be hard to find and are usually expensive. I try, very hard, to live vegan.
Now, the question is “Will you raise your daughter as a vegan?”
My husband is not vegan but he supports my lifestyle. We have had discussions about what we will and won’t be allowing our little one as she grows (I will certainly blog about that as it continues). She already uses soy formula as a supplement to breast milk but what about when it is time to explore solids? We are continuing our research on the topic. She most likely won’t be vegan but I will be encouraging healthy eating by focusing on the use of leafy greens and grains in her diet. I do plan on avoiding milk by the glass in her diet and I think my husband is on board with that. I want her to eat as little meat as possible and if we can minimize dairy that would be great.
In the end I will do whatever is best for her. Whatever keeps her healthy. And I plan to lead by example; I will continue to eat vegetables, grains and beans and hopefully she will want to do what Mommy does!
Do you follow a particular lifestyle or diet? Was it difficult during pregnancy? I would love to hear about your special pregnancy experience!