My husband and I have officially been vegetarian for just over two years. However, that was my third attempt at the dietary change. I remember telling my parents when I was 8 that I wanted to stop eating meat and it lasting for about a day before I gave in. Then, in high school, I tried again and lasted a year. Looking back, I can see why I wasn’t successful in either of those attempts. For one, I lacked knowledge. I was too young at 8 to fully understand the reasoning behind what I was doing. I knew that I loved animals but that was about it. I also lived in a heavily meat-focused house with parents who didn’t completely understand what I was doing. They were skeptical that I would be able to be healthy on a diet lacking in animal protein. This is no fault to them, we live in a blue-collared mining town that is big into outdoor activities, including hunting and fishing, so plant-based eaters and far and few between. So, when they offered one of my favorite meals for supper, I gave in. In high school things lasted longer because I had more independence. I knew how to cook basic meals for myself and made my own money at a part-time job. However, I was an extremely picky eater. People use to make fun of me for being a “vegetarian who doesn’t like vegetables”. I didn’t really like tofu or beans either. I lasted a year on a carb and cheese-heavy diet before I decided this probably wasn’t the best for me. Throughout the remainder of high school and university I felt guilty every time I ate meat. So, at age 23, once I had the proper tools, knowledge, and resources to be successful, I made the change again. This time, I was married, living in my own house, working as a Registered Nurse, and had expanded my pallet quite a bit. I started following a whole bunch of vegan and vegetarian YouTubers, and watched a couple of documentaries on the subject. From about August to November of 2015 I immersed myself in the lifestyle and learned as much as I could. I wanted to change slowly this time to make sure I was doing it correctly. I also wasn’t ready to announce to friends and family yet from fear of failing again.
In November I told my husband that I wanted to make it “official” and start telling people I was vegetarian. I wasn’t sure exactly how he was going to take it. I explained that I didn’t expect him to give up meat too, as I know how much of a personal choice it is. To my surprise, he was so understanding! He realized how important this was to me and saw how much I had been researching the lifestyle. Initially, he said he would stop eating meat at home but would still eat it if we were out at our parents’ houses or at a restaurant. I was more than happy with that. A couple of months went by and he made the decision to go completely vegetarian as well. Over the course of two years we have slowly switched over to mostly all cruelty-free products, and have reduced our dairy consumption significantly. We’re not perfect, but we’ve come a long way.
In August of 2016 I became pregnant. It was a no-brainer that I would have a vegetarian pregnancy, yet a few people did question this, which I don’t understand. It’s not like I was going to give up my values and beliefs because I’m suddenly growing another human. It’s interesting to me how no one questions the mom-to-be indulging in fast-food cravings, but god forbid you avoid eating meat! Just to make myself clear, I’m not saying I never eat processed or junk food either. All I’m saying is that there is a huge lack of understanding when it comes to vegetarian and vegan diets, and how you don’t need meat or animal products to have a healthy pregnancy, to breastfeed, or to raise a healthy child. In May of 2017 we welcomed our beautiful baby boy into the world, weighing in at a whopping 9 lbs 12 oz!
While I’m sure raising our son as vegetarian will have its challenges along the way, I do not think there will be any that we can’t handle. Both concerned family and complete strangers have wondered if he will feel left out as he ages. While I agree that we live in a cruel world and hope he never gets picked on for the food he eats, I do not believe that he will ever miss out on delicious food. They make so many yummy alternatives these days, from fake chicken tenders to amazing veggie burgers and hot dogs, that his choices will hardly be limited. Sure, it will be harder for him to eat off of a menu, and birthday parties may be tougher to navigate, but with a little adaptation I think he will be just fine. I have always said that if he ever decides one day that he wants to try meat, I will let him. However, I will ensure he is educated on where his food comes from, as I feel this is very important.
Lastly, Calvin was born with TEF/EA, a congenital birth defect that has no known cause (and no, it’s not the lack of meat in my diet). As a result, his esophagus will never work as well as that of a regular person and he risks getting food stuck when he eats. As it turns out, the biggest culprits are meat. So while I would have raised him vegetarian either way, this coincidental benefit just makes me feel that much better about my decision.