Sunday, June 25, 2006

It has started

The unsolicited advice, that is. And it's already making me paranoid.

Rob and I spent last night visiting a couple of his old friends. Their second child was born three days ago, and we brought them dinner as admission to The Newborn Show. Mama and Papa both seemed glad to have the company, and as we talked about moving and home improvement and families, it came up that Rob and I are planning to start our family in about six months.

That's when the advice started: this hospital, that school, definitely don't move there, and, "Are you a vegetarian?" Mama asks, narrowing her eyes at my plate.


"Well, I just ask because if you want to get pregnant...blahblahblahblah-really bad idea-blahblahblah-enough protein-blahblah-make sure you're not anemic-blahblahblah-the problem with leafy green vegetables like spinach-blahblahblahblah-most people rely on soy, which is terrible if you're trying to get pregnant..."

I kept quiet, biting the insides of my cheeks, listening to this lecture about how babies of vegetarian mothers fail to thrive, and how I would be ruining my children's teeth if I didn't add dairy to my diet while I was pregnant, and how, on a vegetarian diet, I had a snowball's chance in hell of getting enough protein for a growing baby. I tried to remember that although Mama had worked with doctors, she herself was not a doctor or a nutritionist. I tried to remember that many people are biased against vegetarian diets for any number of reasons. Still, I couldn't help feeling scared.

I started to wonder if she was right. While I had read lots of very positive-sounding information on the Internet about pregnancy nutrition for vegans, I also remembered that the Internet can be a giant holding tank for crap. After all, if I could use WebMD to diagnose myself with prostate cancer, how could I be sure that any of what I had read in my preliminary pregnancy-nutrition research was worthwhile?

But this afternoon, while scouring the Internet for more information on vegetarian nutrition, and scanning through the local library's on-line catalog for anything even remotely relevant, I forced myself to put my fear on hold. I could easily see how an expectant mother might be driven crazy with all of the information and advice she received - especially the unsolicited advice. If I couldn't find a way of filtering the information I received, I was going to trap myself under all of the confusion and doubt. I might start to feel like I couldn't trust anything I heard or read.

I reminded myself: You are not the first woman who has wanted to remain a vegetarian before, during and after her pregnancy. It can be done, and done healthfully.

Gut-level wisdom that I need to remember throughout this process: you are not the first. Hell, even if I were the first, that would be all the more reason learn as much about my health as possible, and gather information for myself.

And that's the first bit of advice I'm going to follow.



Mom101 said...

Welcome (almost) to mamahood, mamabloggerdom, and the world of unwanted mama advice. If I can give you one more bit of unwanted advice, it's to learn to smile politely and nod. The advice never stops coming. Not from your parents, your postman, the lady down the block with no children but many cats. Ah well, at least you have us to commiserate with.

Honored to find myself on your blogroll.

Liesl said...

I popped over from Mom-101.. ..

Unwanted advice comes with the territory of pregnancy and parentdom. Most of what people will tell you is not true. Even the OB's and pedis will give you some wrong advice. Particularly when it comes to nutrition.

Chances are as a vegetarian you know more about healthy nutrition than most doctors and first-time parents. I'm vegetarian, too, and got lots of bad advice on nutrition - most people seem to feel that if protein doesn't come from meat it doesn't count as protein. Do what makes sense to you, and ignore well-meaning advice, or else come up with some good lines...

"I'm saving my child from mercury poisoning, or mad cow prions, or bovine growth hormone, or what the toxin du jour is..."

Check out _The Family Nutrition Book_ by William Sears. Lots of well-thought out points, and he's on board with the whole vegetarian and pregnant, and raising vegetarian kids thing.

I'm enjoying your writing - I'll be sure to stop back :)

sunshine scribe said...

Another vegetarian hear sent over by Mom 101. I too get lots of advice and funny looks from people who don't get it. My inlaws can't believe I am still alive and don't eat meat!

I had a very health pregnancy, baby who thrived and remarkable boy -- all as a vegetarian. I used the Dr. Sears book referenced by the commenter above and the biggest thing I did for myself and my pregnancy (and post pregnancy) was to see a Naturopathic Doctor regularly to ensure I was doing everything I needed to and supplmenting where I wasn't. It made alllllll the difference for me.

My son was raised a vegan until he was 2 and then my husband (a hard core carnivore) introduced meat into his diet. Now, at 5 he chooses to eat vegetarian about 90% of the time and I am careful that he gets all the protein he needs. He is healthy and bright and wonderful.

Wishing you lots of luck with this.

motherhooduncensored said...

You'll be fine! I was a vegan for years and a vege too - not while I was preggo - but there are soooo many options now it's very easy.

My mom was a vege with me back in the 70s and I'm fine. Brain still in tact and I have all limbs and appendages :)

Mom at Work said...

Also here via Mom-101. I'm not a vegan or a vege, but I craved soy throughout my pregnancy. And my large little guy failed to thrive on my meat-laden milk. So I guess I'm handing out the unsolicited advice of every person and every preganacy is different. Some carnivores crave soy and don't produce enough milk. I bet some vegans do, too. But most vigilant moms do OK. I feel confident you'll do great. Kids need love (and the worry of someone who would worry) more than they need meat.

Baby In Broad said...

Why is mom/mommy/mama-blogger advice always so positive, while advice from well-meaning friends and family is not?

Anyway, thank you all for the encouragement. I appreciate it, and I will check out Dr. Sears' book.

Liesl said...

Hehe. Just my guess, but I suspect a lot of moms blog in order to find support we're not getting irl from other moms. There's a huge amount of competitive parenting out there, so you may run into a lot of advice to do things a certain way or else risk disaster. A lot of it is about anxiety on the part of other moms and not about anythng you are doing, right or wrong.

As for family, sometimes it's about people not knowing current pregnancy/childcare guidelines. And in your friend's defense, she may be very, very tired, very, very anxious, and not thinking about how her words sound to you. Those first few months (years??) can be rough.

I just thought of a couple more places to go for info. One would be to a La Leche League meeting, since they tend towards the crunchy and I'm sure you'd find some veggie/vegan moms there, and references for like-minded OB's midwives, pedis, etc.

The other place is a Yahoo group on parenting. It's AP-based, but not to the extreme. There are several vegetarian families there, and the group is about support, not telling you what you're doing wrong:

Hope that helps a bit :)

Peter said...

*pfft* to people saying veggie babies fail to thrive. Here is our veggie baby story for the record... Amelia was born at 8lbs 1oz and has steadily gained weight keeping her in the 75th percentile. Her height has been in the 95th percentile since birth also. Mom has been a log time vegetarian (since 9 years old) and vegan for the past 10 years. We dealt with all sorts of meddling regarding Amelia's health that ceased when it was clear that she is an extremely healthy baby. Ward off the unwanted advice the best you can and rest assured knowing that your vegetarian baby will be beautiful and healthy.

*warning* picture of starving veggie baby to follow!

Melissa said...

No, the unsolicited advice never stops. A noncommital "That's a good point," or "I'll look into that," or "thank you for your concern," sometimes helps.

And now, for some semi-solicited advce! I read Sharon Yntema's "Vegetarian Pregnancy" when I was pregnant with my first; there's a revised edition now. Actually, it looks like "Vegetarian Pregnancy" turns up a whole list of books at amazon, any one of which I'm sure would be reassuring.