Guest Post by Samantha Martin
As a vegan, I have become accustomed to the usual line of inquiries that follow from meat-eaters; where do I get my protein, where do I grocery shop, what do I eat at restaurants? These are questions that I am used to, and honestly, I don’t mind answering since it is an opportunity to educate someone on a plant-based lifestyle.
Then I got pregnant, and the same people I have had these conversations with, along with a new set of people curious about a vegan pregnancy, started asking the same questions all over again. Where do these questions stem from? Concern. I can appreciate that so many people were concerned for my unborn child’s health, but each question was dripping with worry and judgment.
What’s the hardest part of having a vegan pregnancy? What’s the hardest part of raising a vegan child? It is not finding enough protein, or calcium, or iron, or B12. No, nutrients are not the hardest part of a vegan diet. It is not figuring out what to eat and having to cook everything from scratch, it is not grocery shopping or eating out. It is not craving meat or cheese during a pregnancy, or having friends point out non-vegan food you used to eat and ask how badly you want to eat it (the answer was not at all, pregnancy doesn’t change your ethics). The hardest part is judgement and pity. Judgment on my decision as a parent to make my household plant-based, and pity on my kids who can’t have regular ice-cream and birthday cake at parties.
In addition to the run-of-the-mill questions I get as a vegan, now as a parent I had to be ready to defend myself against medical professionals. I remember re-reading all the nutritional information I researched before I had my first baby, because I was headed to her pediatrician appointment. I was prepared to fire back all the numbers and how I would satisfy those needs without meat and dairy. I was anxious, nervous, and beyond prepared.
The funny thing is, a vegan diet works quite well with pregnancy. Almost everything you should not eat is an animal product. And the main category of food that can cause problems for your baby through breastmilk? Dairy. The evidence of what animal food product does to our body is clearly there since it is suggested to avoid these foods while pregnant and nursing.
But that doesn’t seem to matter. Society and the media have created a backlash to the vegan lifestyle. We see articles of babies dying of malnutrition and the headline blames a vegan diet, we see studies funded by the dairy industry telling us that our kids need cow’s milk. All the while, parents of clearly healthy vegan babies are being scolded in the comments section on Facebook and questioned in real life.
The backlash creates a pressure on vegans to be ready to answer any question, memorize all the nutritional content of everything you eat, and read every label on your vegan food to know what it is made of, because someone will ask you.
The judgment is not fair, the shaming is not fair, the pressure is not fair. There should be praise for parents who actually educate themselves in nutrition and want to fuel their pregnant bodies and the bodies of their kids with the best food they can. My friends shouldn’t have to defend me to people I don’t even know because they discover my toddler is vegan. I shouldn’t have to deal with questions of concern because I chose to have two vegan pregnancies. And I surely do not need to be judged by anyone who doesn’t know where to get protein from besides meat.
More About Samantha
Samantha Marie Martin is a law school grad and a stay-at-home mom of two gorgeous vegan girls from Bartlett, IL. One night in 2013 Samantha watched Vegucated on Netflix and went vegan cold turkey the next day. Her life goal is to open a farm sanctuary and raise her kids around animals who have been given a second chance at life.