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Answer for The Kind Mama book! First let me say what I wonderful idea this is because of all the misinformation floating out there for moms today. I am actually focusing the target market of my health coaching business to help women give themselves and their growing babies the best nutrition possible – a superhero diet! I absolutely believe a vegan diet helped me become pregnant. It only took one month to conceive my son. I definitely had to deal with naysayers, including my family. They supported me, but were still concerned about him being too small and not getting enough nutrients. He was born a healthy 9.9lbs and is thriving as a 16-month-old vegan. Not enough protein? I don’t think so! I am still nursing in the morning and at night, only subbing vegan milks. He eats a superhero-based diet and has not yet been sick! I felt amazing throughout my 9 months pregnant and with each blood test and ultrasound, my doctors began to realize how my diet was only affecting my son positively. Oh, and did I mention how quickly I lost the baby weight? Another bonus! I know by following The Kind Diet I prepared my body to be the ultimate home for a growing baby. Thank you as always, Alicia!
Of course I had people asking all kinds of questions. I gained 25 pounds and had a beautiful healthy 7'11 pound baby girl 18 months ago and since I get constant emails and messages form mom's asking advice. I felt like I was the first person to have a vegan baby or something. Some people acted that way. I felt confident because I had been vegan myself for so many years and I had done my research.
Of course I had people asking all kinds of questions. I gained 25 pounds and had a beautiful healthy 7'11 pound baby girl 18 months ago and since I get constant emails and messages from mom's asking advice. I felt like I was the first person to have a vegan baby or something. Some people acted that way. I felt confident because I had been vegan myself for so many years and I had done my research.
I think most people knew not to give me a hard time about being vegan during my pregnancy. I was fit, joyful, and visibly thriving. Both my whole-foods vegan diet and Prenatal Yoga classes made significant contributions to my happiness during my pregnancy.
My husband’s mother had friends who expressed their concern about my being vegan and she stood by me, declaring her trust in my choices. Even today (our vegan daughter is six), she quells her naysaying friends by telling them that Olivia is the healthiest person she knows (at six, she's never had an antibiotic or an earache and rarely gets colds!) and eats more vegetables and healthy foods than most adults. It’s a gift to have a mother-in-law who is so supportive of our vegan lifestyle.
I shared this story...I was munching some veg blueberry pancakes when a paleo diet devotee suggested that vegans would not be strong enough to do well at crossfit. Shocked, but excited for any chance to prove that veganism rocks, I agreed to go that week. For anyone who's unfamiliar with the workouts, they are a series of 4-5 exercises (like pushups, burpees, jumps, etc) followed by a brief (1/4 mile in this case) run. The series is repeated four times and is timed. I don't know why I was ever worried because I killed it. I finished way ahead of the seven women and before six of eight men. Those paleo lovers got beat by two vegans that day because though I didn't yet know, I was two weeks pregnant at the time.
Any naysayers were generally (a) concerned with my daughters health which I (try to) graciously appreciate and (b) uninformed which gives me a great chance to show what a healthy, positive, peaceful, wonderful diet/ lifestyle veganism is.
Fortunately, my ob/gyn is a vegetarian and had no qualms about me remaining vegan during the pregnancy as long as I was careful. My parents and my in-laws inquired about my pregnancy diet, but hearing that the md was fine with it was good enough for them. The only person who mattered and expressed concern was my acupuncturist and in recent appointments, she has admitted that I am doing better than she expected.
My back-up plan, if absolutely necessary for my physical or mental well-being, is to hook up with some of my friends who raise their own chickens eggs. This back-up plan alleviates the outside pressure of not being allowed to "fail". While I don't anticipate this happening, knowing I have a plan b puts me at ease.
On my first visit to the doctor I took a list of the supplements I was taking and it was really funny to go over it with him. I explained what each one was for and he put a check or an x by it. At the end he only had one check (folic acid, duh) and the rest x's. He prescribed me a prenatal that had fish oil which of course I never filled. I did modify the amount of supplements I was taking but on the next visit when he asked if I was taking the prenatal I told him I was not and why. He then changed the prescription to a pprenatal that had olive oil instead of fish oil but since I used olive oil in my food as well as flax oil, flax seeds and chia seeds I again opted to continue taking my own prenatal Rainbow Light. We joked through the rest of my pregnancy about what I was and was not taking, him never really having faith that I knew best but not challenging me. At the end when I had only gained 13 pounds he told me to eat ice cream every night before bed. Again I went against his wishes but did eat some soy or rice cream and even though I did not gain any more weight I was happy to follow those orders. Whens I told him I wanted to try for my second child at age 44 he said stop taking all supplements except a multi and folic acid and try every two or three days. We laughed as he knew I would do things my way again.
I'm sorry to know that you're getting some flack from people who don't understand that vegetarian and vegan diets can be the healthiest options, even for pregnant women. It can be frustrating. My dad's family used to raise Black Angus cattle, so when I became a vegetarian as a kid, I'm sure everyone thought it was just a phase. Then when I was pregnant, of course I got the inevitable questions (and even guilt trips!) - worries about the baby's development, how to raise a vegetarian child, etc. I'm sure you've heard it all too! The fact is that a lot of the non-veg folks are just misinformed, under the impression that humans need meat to function - but obviously that's absolutely not true. Some of them are nicer about it than others, of course - obviously the people you're close to know your reasons for being a vegetarian or vegan, and anyone else, well... you really don't owe them an explanation. You can always just say that you're taking very good care of yourself and the baby is in great shape, and thanks for their concern. Just try to keep in mind that it comes from a good place, and focus on that aspect - it makes it easier!
P.S. If you're curious to know what the long-term results are... my daughter was raised vegetarian and has never so much as tasted meat, nor does she want to. She's about to be 20 and almost never gets sick. I knew vegetarian lifestyles were healthy, but it has been truly amazing to watch her grow up and miraculously avoid so many of the problems (childhood illnesses, skin breakouts, weight issues) that most people think are just a standard part of American life. She is proof that kids can and do thrive on nutrient-rich whole foods. Good luck - you are doing great!
Chalupa, thank you so much for your kind words. By reading all these posts, I just feel better that we are all in the same boat and it's wonderful to have a strong team of vegan women to stand behind me! I agree with everything you say and it is just amazing to hear that your daughter is 20 and still thriving! As someone who was sick all the time growing up, I envy her and know it's about what we put IN our bodies because I have only caught about 2 colds since being vegan which is MUCH different than before! I think I stated above how my son is never sick and I am incredibly happy about that! Thanks to all and let's stay strong together! God bless.
Wow, thanks, Jessica! I just saw your comments and really appreciate the kind words. Again, I'm sorry for the hassle you've been through - it's the last thing you need when you're pregnant. Especially now though, with all these new brands of vegetarian food, plus co-ops, Whole Foods, Central Market, etc. - you'll have a lot of amazing options for your kids. Best of all, they will know from day 1 that living by conscience, being an honorable and compassionate person - those things still matter in this world. It's a mindset that will make a difference not just in their eating habits but across the board throughout their lives, and it will have such a positive effect on others too. What a gift!
It's interesting how you mentioned that you're healthier since going vegan - I've had the same experience. Though I've been a vegetarian since I was quite young, the vegan thing started only in these last few months... i.e. the second I found out that dairy cows aren't treated like pets. (That must sound so ridiculous, but I honestly thought they and the egg-laying chickens were well-treated.) I can't support that on any level, and the reward for listening to my conscience has been how much better I feel. I wish I'd known this years ago!
Thanks for your encouragement about my daughter too - I try not to brag, but she's phenomenal. Ok, I'm bragging, forgive me - she not only looks great (i.e. the way a girl her age naturally should appear, since she avoided exposure to all those crazy hormones in milk and meat that speed everything up), but she has never so much as tried on makeup (not that there's anything wrong with it - I'm totally a mascara girl). I just love that she feels secure enough in her appearance that she just doesn't think she needs it. She graduated h.s. a year early and though she's won't turn 20 for a couple of mos. yet, she's already a junior at an Ivy League university. And she saves turtles from the road. ;) (Thank you for indulging my boasting!) There's no greater joy to watch your children become amazing adults, and the lessons you're teaching them via the lifestyle you've chosen will have a lot to do with that. Congratulations to you and your husband/wife/partner for making such beautiful choices!
Wishing you continued success! You've got a huge community of support here and I know great things are in store for each of you!