Pregnancy- My Own True Story
In the summer of 1996, after six months of meditating over
John Robbin's book `Diet for the New America',
my husband and I became vegan. The true tales of loving and intelligent
animals, shocking details of cruel, wasteful, and unhealthy factory
farming, and the heart-piercing argument--"we become what we
eat" all touched us deeply and influenced our decision. Already
vegetarians since birth, we decided to exclude dairy products as well
from our diet. A vegan diet essentially consists of
plant-based foods and excludes all animal products such
as chicken, fish, beef, pork, eggs, honey, and dairy products.
Upon hearing of our seemingly abrupt decision to become
vegan, concerned friends and family asked, "What will you do when
you become pregnant?" "Wouldn't you need extra supplements from
animal products?" Honestly, I didn't have any answers--either for
them or for myself. Fortunately, I stumbled upon Dr. Michael Klaper's book `Pregnancy, Children, and a Vegan Diet'
which gives a thorough analysis of nutrition in a vegan diet. After
reading this book from cover to cover, I was convinced that I would not
give up vegan diet even in pregnancy.
Well, in 1998, I did become pregnant. Although I had great
moral support from my husband, parents, and midwife, I felt quite alone
in my quest of going through a vegan pregnancy. I felt that I needed to
talk to someone who had done this before successfully. All the mainstream
books that I read on pregnancy stressed that vegetarians have to be extra
cautious. The message I derived was "Vegans Beware". Everybody
that I met was concerned that somehow my vegan diet will not be
sufficient for the nutritional needs of my growing baby. Their argument
was seemingly sound "lack of good nutrition can cause birth defects
in a child". Furthermore, if something goes wrong in formative days,
it will be impossible to correct later on. I felt encircled in fears and
apprehensions of people around me, and, perhaps, sadly, adopted their
fears as well. My most haunting nightmare became "What if I had an
abnormal baby, say, with a missing ear or a missing finger or weak
However, instead of sinking in the whirlpool of fears, I
decided to take charge. Re-reading the `Pregnancy, Children, and a Vegan
Diet' assured me that if I ate a wide variety of foods from the vegetable
kingdom, plus some vegan supplements I will have a perfectly healthy and
normal pregnancy. While mistakenly a vegan diet is thought of as a diet
that lacks nutrients in fact exactly the opposite is true. A good vegan
diet has an abundance of all nutrients that our body needs. I ate a
variety of colorful, seasonal fruits and vegetables that gave me plenty
of vitamins and minerals. I ate different legumes and beans with grains
and rice, which fulfilled my needs for protein, carbohydrates, and
fibers. I snacked on nuts, seeds, sprouts, and dry fruits. I drank plenty
of water, fruit juices, and soymilk (fortified with B12). I also took
vegan multivitamins with folic acid. Toward the end of my pregnancy, I
took vegan iron--Floradix.
To be more precise, my usual diet included foods from India.
My typical meal was dal (split toor soup), rice, vegetable curry, chapatis (a flat tortilla-like wheat bread), and
salad. In place of dal, I sometimes ate other
variety of legumes and beans. Often, I made khichadi
with split mung/toor
and rice/cracked wheat. I ate vegetable sandwiches with whole wheat or
sprouted grain bread, taco/burrito, falafel, pita bread with hummus and tabouli--to name just a few. I
made vegan deserts using egg-replacement powder, soymilk, and vegan
margarine. My list here could go on and on. Driven first by fear, and
then by determination, I left no vegan shore untouched. I truly
discovered that delicious and yet nourishing vegan dishes are only
limited by one's imagination.
Two things I had to be careful about were: (a) to avoid
foods with empty calories such as fried foods and certain desserts and
(b) to plan a good protein dish in every meal--especially toward the
latter part of my pregnancy. This is probably true for a non-vegan diet
In addition to a healthful diet, I nourished the baby and
myself by reading good books, by listening to good music, by walking, and
by doing yoga.
After a healthy full term pregnancy and a normal labor at our
home, in 1999, I gave birth to a perfectly normal baby girl. At birth, my
daughter weighed 6 lb. 6 oz. She is now 2 and a half. She began teething
at 8 months, and reached a full set of teeth well before she was 2.
Skeptics chanting "vegans suffer from Calcium deficiency" were
-- once and for all -- silenced. My daughter is truly a vegan child.
Perhaps surprisingly and quite reassuringly, in her entire time on planet
Earth, we have never had to visit a doctor even once!
I went through a very similar second pregnancy, only this
time I took no additional supplements. My second child, a boy, was born
in 2001. My son was also born at our family home. At birth, he weighed 7
lb. 5 oz., and was very healthy as well. He is now 6 months old and is
exclusively on my breast milk, which I have an abundant supply of. As of
today, even my son has not visited a doctor even once...