I truly didn’t intend to be such a slacker. I can not believe it’s been months since my last blog post. The honest reality is that life became overwhelming for me very quickly! I am now 6 months pregnant with our first child. I spent the first few months being terrified about what this meant to our comfortable, fantastic, adventurous life. I have since come to grips with the idea of being the coolest vegan mom on the planet and I’m feeling quite excited about greeting our baby Morris in January It is for these reasons that I have been MIA from hungry herbivores online and in my outreach events. Now that my head is screwed back on straight (at least for today) I decided to put together a vegan pregnancy survival guide for other women that may experience a similar situation in life.
Lesson 1: Most People Don’t Know Squat About Being Vegan and Pregnant
Not only did I have to manage my business, pre-med school, all day (notice, not just morning) sickness, extreme fatigue, and an overall feeling of crappiness, I also had to find a way to deal with all the unexpected questions (and unfortunately judgments) that came from friends and acquaintances. When I first started telling people I was pregnant several people asked me these same two questions:
In the beginning I was so surprised (and a bit offended) that I would respond with a rant about how eating meat at any time in your life is not a good idea and how I really dislike seeing dogs that come into the rescue system because their humans have a baby. Then I realized that people didn’t want to hear me get on a soap box. To them these were realistic questions and ones they would ponder. They have not been questions in my mind. I have not and will not begin eating animal products and we have no intention of giving up any of our dogs even the pit bulls!
What I found to be the most effective response to these offending questions is silence. It seems so simple but in the end it gave me the most gratification. I think people tend to blurt out whatever thoughts come to their mind without considering how the other person might receive those messages. By responding to their questions with silence you give them a minute to think that over and they realize on their own that their question was either stupid or offensive or that they had no business asking it in the first place. It has actually become quite comical to me to see how people stammer over their own foolishness once they realize that these questions are inappropriate for a vegan that has spent a good part of her adult life rescuing dogs.
Lesson 2: Become Knowledgeable About Eating A Healthy Pregnancy Diet
Very soon in my pregnancy, it was imperative that I become even more knowledgeable than I already was about vegan nutrition and what that means for a healthy pregnancy diet. My biggest lessons came from a conversation with a nutritionist. I am really fortunate (thank you daddy Morris) to have great health insurance that provides me access to a nurse, nutritionist and counselor any time I need it during my pregnancy. One of my first conversations was with the nutritionist. I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility to consider that the foods I put into my body (or don’t put into my body) are now not only affecting my health but the health of my baby. After a mini pregnancy breakdown (translation … tears), I got straight to work on menus for a healthy pregnancy diet.
The nutritionist was very cool and overall told me that I eat healthier than 90% of the people that she talks to but I did have some things to learn such as get enough protein, take more calcium, and never ever forget your prenatal vitamin. Once I mastered these pregnancy eating survival tips, which took several weeks in the beginning, I felt confident and secure that our baby was receiving all the proper nutrition it needed to grow up healthy and strong. For inquiring minds that want to know, I will write more specific tips on a vegan pregnancy diet in an upcoming post.
Lesson 3: Prepare Yourself for the Medical Community (that might not be prepared for you)
Unfortunately most of the medical community doesn’t know much about nutrition. Doctors are typically only taught a minimal amount about nutrition during medical school and it follows the classic model of calories in and calories out. I recently attended an informational session for a doctor of osteopathic medicine program – which you would think might be more in tuned to nutrition – but they were not. Their refreshments ALL contained animal products except for the bottled water. So don’t assume that your doctor knows about vegan nutrition or that he/she even supports a vegan diet.
Selecting an OBGYN: First you will need a doctor to help you thorough the crazy body drama to be experienced during pregnancy. It is 100% acceptable to shop for a OBGYN just like you shop for a comfortable pair of vegan shoes. This is a person who will share in some of the most intimate moments of your life. So shop till you drop and don’t stop until you find a doctor that supports your pregnancy diet choices and understands why you’re vegan.
Selecting a Pediatrician: Just like the OBGYNs, many pediatricians are also lacking in nutritional training (in my opinion of course). The same rules for choosing an OBGYN apply when choosing a doctor for your baby. Even further than nutritional support, you will need a pediatrician that understands and supports your vaccination philosophies. I was completely shocked at the recommended vaccination schedule for children. I know I didn’t have many of these vaccines until I was well into college. Furthermore, many vaccinations are cultivated in eggs or have utilized animals in ways vegans would deem inappropriate. We have not yet decided on how we will handle this with our infant but I feel certain that the pediatrician we choose will need to be flexible in creating a modified schedule that we feel comfortable with.
Selecting a Hospital: Pick a hospital, if you can, that has dairy alternatives for your meals and also for your baby’s formula. This may seem silly but it was a major concern for me! If I have to be in labor 20+ hours without anything to eat, I’m going to be starving once the whole ordeal is finally over. We toured one of our local hospitals, Banner Gateway Medical Center, and I was really impressed with their menu that contained a few animal-free dishes as well as their willingness to accommodate my request for non-animal-derived baby formula should we need it. If your hospital does not provide animal-free foods for you and dairy-free formula options for your baby, plan to bring a cooler with everything you will need during those first few hours after the baby is born. Once you have a few hours to adjust to your physical trauma and a crying infant, your partner can leave to pick up food, formula, etc. for the rest of your stay.
Lesson 4: It’s Nobody’s Business What/How You Decide to Feed Your Kid
Once people get past their judgments about how you treat yourself and what kinds of food you eat. They will inevitably dive into what you’re going to feed your kid. Now I admit, I may not be the typical pregnant woman. I’m not oohing an ahhing over every baby I see. And I certainly don’t want to talk to everybody and their mother about how much weight I’ve gained or whether or not I’m going to breastfeed our kid. I mean, seriously, when did my breasts become the center of public discussion? I’m not really sure how that becomes acceptable to anybody other than those you choose to discuss it with and the baby’s father. Nevertheless, inquiring minds want to know. I am still in a “shock” state when people ask me about this so unfortunately I don’t have any good advice to give yet … maybe soon. All I know is that what and how we decide to feed our child is our choice. It will be provided with the best quality foods and we will make sure it’s nutritional needs are met.
Wrapping Up on Having a Healthy Vegan Pregnancy
The bottom line for any pregnant woman is that before the baby is even born, you will realize that this little bundle of cells is already changing you life. From wreaking havoc on your body to clouding your mind, he or she is reminding you that biological instincts still reign supreme despite all our modern conveniences. Take care of yourself, take care of your partner, thicken your skin to the nosy people in your life and don’t forget your vegan prenatal vitamins! If you do that, you’re bound to have a great pregnancy and, hopefully, a healthy baby.