From Protester to Parent
The following article was written by former PETA staffer, animal rights activist, and vegan mother Lauren Rainbow.
When I found out that I was pregnant, it dawned on me that life as I knew it would never be the same. At the time, I was working for PETA in Norfolk, Virginia, and was heavily involved in animal rights—both in my career and in my spare time. At night, I would lie awake and wonder and worry about all the changes that awaited my partner and me. Is this the end of my “give it all you’ve got” activism? Is my child going to be made fun of for having tofu scramble in his or her lunchbox instead of the typical meat or cheese sandwich? Do I really know enough about nutrition to raise a healthy vegan child from conception to adulthood? This last question seemed to be on many other people’s minds as well, and sometimes it was relayed to me in the form of an actual question; other times it was a slightly raised eyebrow that spoke volumes. Either way, it was the hot question for a while: “Is she still going to do that vegan thing?”
Although it was challenged, my commitment to a cruelty-free diet and lifestyle was never dented by another person’s fears. I’m sure that I wasn’t the first vegan woman to have an obstetrician tell me, “This diet probably wouldn’t be the best way to go,” or get lectured on the importance of iron during pregnancy. I hope that I’m not the last vegan woman to stay true to my beliefs by shopping around for a supportive doctor and midwife who wouldn’t pressure me to eat animal-derived products during pregnancy.
As my pregnancy advanced, I learned that we were having a boy, a very big boy. Every time that I went to see my midwife, I looked forward to her measuring my huge belly with a surprised “Yup, he’s still huge.” It was like proof to everyone that I was not only eating well enough to grow a healthy, normal-size baby but also growing a prizewinner in there. Danny was born on September 16, 2009, and weighed in at 9 pounds, 11 ounces. (And I gave birth without drugs. Sorry, I just have to throw that in. I earned it.)
The birth of my son has taught me so many things about myself and my beliefs. My conviction that following a vegan lifestyle is the best way for me to live is now stronger than ever, and it’s the only way we want to raise our son. I found that I could stay true to my values and resist conventional pressures, and it feels great. A little time spent doing some research on proper nutrition during pregnancy, infancy, and childhood is all that’s needed. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and PETA both have wonderful resources on their websites about vegan nutrition. Danny is now my sidekick at all the demonstrations in town, whether it’s protesting the circus, BP, or the meat industry. He continues to grow and thrive, and I think that gives people close to me a reason to pause and at least consider their opinions about eating a vegan diet.
There will be challenges in the future, but I’m sure that they won’t be anything that we can’t take in stride and work out as a family. Now when my pediatrician cautiously asks about checking Danny’s blood levels for iron, vitamin B, and calcium, I say, “Go for it.” And at the rate my son is growing, I doubt that anyone is going to be making fun of what’s in his lunchbox. My partner and I want our son to be healthy and happy and have an appreciation for all life—we’re starting him out by living that commitment every day.