My Mostly Vegan Pregnancy

June 30, 2013 § 1 Comment

That little blue plus sign – what a magical thing! Our whole world changed in an instant as we waited for it to appear and confirm our hunch that we were expecting. We didn’t have to wait long – I was “very” pregnant as the Doctor later told me – so when I did take the test, that little blue plus sign showed up immediately. Literally, there was no waiting. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Finding out we were pregnant was the most wonderful moment in my life up until that point.

I reveled in that joy all of ten minutes before going into panic mode. I tend to be a worry wart – something I hope to not pass along to my daughter! The questions came pouring in. Would I make a good mother? How was I going to juggle work and baby? What kind of pregnancy would I have? And so on…

Then there was the question of growing this baby – ensuring she got all the nutrients needed to develop into a perfect little being. I’d been following a mostly vegan diet for about a year at that point. I felt healthier than ever – despite many scoffs and concerns. But could I stay vegan and be pregnant? Was it possible to grow a perfectly healthy baby and cling to this new lifestyle I now valued so much? I was prepared to do my research and give it my best effort. I’m happy to report that despite the many eye rolls, concerns, and some just flat out rude remarks, I came to find the answer was not only yes it was possible to be vegan and pregnant, but I believe it to be a wonderful way to experience pregnancy with full vitality.

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Newly pregnant

That being said, I should preface that while I strive to be vegan, I am not 100% vegan. I occasionally eat fish (maybe once a month) and sometimes dairy/egg products (in baked goods when eating out). Additionally I took a fish based DHA supplement at the end of my pregnancy – more on that later. So, I realize I can’t claim to have had a 100% vegan pregnancy – but this is my experience and I wanted to share in hopes that it helps someone like me out there looking for information. I was desperate for information those first few weeks. Silly me, I thought you find out your pregnant and you go to see the OBGYN. But turns out they won’t see you until about 8 weeks – so I had a few weeks to kill. I spent those weeks engrossed in online research. I’d never loved google so much. I read all kinds of blogs and forums on being vegan and pregnant – and was surprised at the lack of information out there. So this is my way of giving back – sharing my experience in hopes that it helps someone.

I did not have an OBGYN when we got pregnant. So first thing was to find a provider – I wasn’t sure if I wanted an OB or a midwife so I did my homework and looked around. I got a few recommendations and set out to meet them. I was concerned about what the provider was going to think of my vegan lifestyle and if I’d find someone to support me. In the end, I chose a midwife who was extremely supportive of my vegan pregnancy and encouraged me every step of the way.

I’d already been tracking my progress in this new lifestyle before getting pregnant. I had my blood drawn several times to check that I was not lacking in any area – which I wasn’t. So, I knew I was starting off on the right foot. By the time I went to see my midwife, the morning sickness had really sunk in. I had read somewhere that vegans do not get morning sickness – but I was not so fortunate – that morning sickness is actually the body ridding itself of what it doesn’t need. For me, this was totally untrue! I had absolutely no non-vegan products my first trimester and I was so nauseous all the time! There was nothing “morning” about it.

I existed solely on bagels and bread for about six weeks. I would literally go pick up a dozen bagels every few days and eat them for every single meal. I couldn’t stomach anything, couldn’t stand the slightest smell in the kitchen resulting in us eating out at every single meal, and couldn’t swallow a pre-natal vitamin without gagging. To make matters worse I was losing weight. I was really worried I was off to a bad start but my midwife assured me to just eat whatever I could keep down and not to worry too much about it. The first trimester was all about survival – just get through it! I had no choice but to trust her.

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19 weeks pregnant and found out it’s a girl!

Everyone kept saying the morning sickness would pass at 12 weeks. For me, it didn’t pass until around week 18. Slowly but surely, I was able to introduce a few more foods. One week I couldn’t get enough salad – but all I wanted was lettuce and cucumber with dressing. Then there were two weeks where all I wanted was a bagel sandwich with hummus and veggies. Again my midwife assured me, whatever sounded good to just eat it. I wondered if I would crave non-vegan food as I heard this was common. I did have one week where I thought I would lose it if I didn’t get a cheese pizza. All I could think about was an ooey gooey cheesey pizza. Day and night I was obsessed with cheese pizza. Everyone told me to go for it, that I deserved it. But, I decided not to cave. The week passed and I never craved a cheese pizza again.

By about week 20, I started to feel really good. I had found my appetite and was able to eat all kinds of fruits, vegetables, beans and grains. I did my best to eat a varied diet. I still wasn’t able to swallow my prenatal vitamins very often so all nutrition was coming from food. I was beyond that awful first trimester exhaustion, finally getting into prenatal yoga, and overall feeling very good. I started getting regular massages and chiropractic adjustments which I know contributed to my overall feeling of well being and greatly reduced any back and hip pain I was experiencing. I had finally found my pregnancy “glow” which had been absent with all that morning sickness and I was just so happy!

healthy vegan pregnancy

28 Weeks

Before I knew it, we were in the third trimester. I was finally able to swallow vitamins so I did supplement in the last trimester with raw vegan prenatal vitamins and a fish based DHA. There’s a lot of mixed information about DHA and while there is a plant based version, that is one area that I just didn’t feel 100% confident so I chose the animal version.

I was finally getting big but everyone kept commenting on my figure and how great I looked. More importantly, I felt great! I was almost entirely off of caffeine, not too tired, still doing yoga, never had any swelling and overall just felt amazing. I was working towards a natural birth with a hypnobirthing instructor and feeling very confident. I was eating these frosties every day and anything else that would get my body ready for the biggest job of its life!

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34 Weeks

This incredible feeling lasted up until the very last day. I’d heard from so many moms that being pregnant was so hard – that at the end you’re just ready to get that baby out! But for me that just wasn’t the case. Even though I couldn’t wait to meet my little girl – I really didn’t mind being pregnant at all. She did come 11 days early, but I was in no rush to get her out!

All in all, I gained a healthy 25 pounds. I’m confident my mostly vegan diet kept me in optimum shape so that I could enjoy my pregnancy. Many people would comment on how small I was and it worried me a little bit – but my midwife assured me how great both my little girl and I were doing. With each checkup, my faith in a plant based diet was renewed. I never had a single issue throughout my pregnancy. My stats were always perfect. With every checkup my midwife would comment on how well I was doing and how healthy I was.

I was so confident that just as I had a beautiful, easy pregnancy, I would have a beautiful, easy labor. I felt amazing up until the last day and was blessed with a quick, natural birth. While I did have a few surprises in the labor that didn’t go as planned (which I may or may not share at a later date), I was able to deliver her naturally and without medication just as I had intended.

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My last belly photo – 8 days before she arrived!

Most importantly – my beautiful baby girl was born perfectly healthy. She was a tiny little thing at 5 lbs. 12 oz. I was quite surprised as I am not petite by any means. She was skinny and long at 19 inches. They told me in the hospital that I may need to supplement since she was so small – but I was pleased that didn’t happen. She latched immediately and ate like a champ. Fortunately, supply has been no issue. She just kept eating and gaining weight to everyone’s delight. Three months later she has more than doubled in size, exceeding the recommended weight gain.

In the hospital the nurses kept commenting on how alert and strong she was. People seemed to be genuinely impressed. And at every doctors appointment since, people are always commenting on how strong and alert she is.

In the end, I’m happy to say I had a wonderful pregnancy. Being in optimum health throughout my pregnancy not only allowed me to grow and deliver a perfectly healthy baby – but we got to enjoy every minute of it too. I was adamant about a drug-free delivery and was blessed to be able to pull through despite some difficulties. And, nock on wood, breast-feeding and supply has not been an issue. While I can’t say with 100% confidence this is all due to eating a mostly vegan diet, I’m confident it did positively impact both me and my baby. And should I get pregnant again, I’ll remain vegan and be confident that it will produce another healthy baby just as this pregnancy did.

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Back to Work – White Beans Two Ways

June 9, 2013 § 6 Comments

It’s Sunday. The last day of my maternity leave – well, technically Friday was but you get my drift. Tomorrow a new adventure begins. It’s hard to believe 3 months have already passed.

I had high hopes for my leave – hah, naive hopes at that! Sure, I wanted to bond with my daughter and relish in all things baby – that goes without saying. But I also thought I’d have time to read, organize my house (finally clean out those drawers that have been eyeing me for years), cook and blog about all kinds of new delicious vegan treats, join some mommy groups, and last but not least – exercise. Well, none of the latter happened! I did get to relish in all things baby – but as for the other stuff, forget about it! To be fair, I did clean out one drawer (woo hoo!) and I was able to blog once – but as for any other dreams I had about maternity leave, they were delusions. Had I told any moms about my plans, they would have silently rolled their eyes – and rightfully so!

But in the end, none of that matters – even though my drawers remain cluttered and books are left unread, most importantly, I had the fortunate opportunity to be home with our daughter for 3 months. Three months that I will forever treasure. Days on end of lounging around and watching her expressions change from one moment to another. Watching her discover her little self bit by bit – learning to suck her thumb, to smile, to hold on tight to my finger (my favorite). These are days I wouldn’t trade for anything – and it is beyond sad to leave as she is just starting to coo and smile.

And so as I soak in every last moment of this week – I’m filled with mixed emotions. Excited to return to work, to my colleagues, and to my projects – but devastated to leave my daughter. Excited to continue to develop myself and my career so that she will have a strong woman to look up to when she’s older – but scared at what I may be missing out on. I now know the pain that every new working mother feels.

Ironically when I started this blog, one of the things I wanted to share was how to make great, quick meals. As a working woman, this was important. As a working mom – this will be critical! Having a baby is no joke. It’s a 24-7 job. Something I could never have understood before her arrival. And as I wonder how I’ll do this job, and the job I’m paid to do – I rest upon the reassurance that this is doable – that millions of women around the world do this – all in their own way. I’m extremely fortunate to work with many of these women and I’m sure I’ll be relying on them heavily in the coming months as I set out on this adventure.  Not to mention I have THE best husband, so I’m hardly in this alone.

As I prepare myself to return to work, I’m focusing on ways to find balance in the new chaos – particularly when it comes to food. Having a newborn means lots of takeout – and we are SO over takeout! No more we beg! Homecooking is what we need. But that takes time – sometimes lots of time. So I’m looking for quick fix options that pack all the nutrition and flavor needed.

I shamefully have had these Rancho Gordo beans in my pantry for over a year. Anyone who has ordered from them will understand why this is shocking. We spent Memorial Day weekend with one of my best friends in North Carolina. Not only did we get to soak up the most amazing views at her family’s lake house – but we indulged in the most delicious home cooked meals. Watching her work her magic in the kitchen – including a pot of Rancho Gordo black beans – reignited my passion for good quality home cooking and the desire to be just a bit more of a planner. Whenever I want beans, it’s at the moment and I reach for a can. Soaking and slow cooking can seem oh-so-daunting. But it really needn’t be so – and the end product far outshines any old can of beans.

For these two dishes I used Rancho Gordo’s Runner Cannellinni bean. I cooked them in the traditional Rancho Gordo method – soaking all night in a bowl of water, then adding the drained beans to the crock pot with sauteed onion, garlic, and new water. They cooked on high for 5 hours. The resulting bean is huge and buttery – a perfect blank canvas for any pairing. We enjoyed them with spinach the first night and as a tasty salad for leftovers.

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Cannellinni Beans with Sauteed Spinach

This dish is delicious with spinach but would work well with any cooked green – kale, collards, etc. I used one box of fresh organic spinach as that’s what I had on hand but this dish would have been great with several as the spinach cooks down so much. Prepare beans according to package instructions. If using crock pot method – cook beans throughout the day so they’re ready when you get home to make dinner. Pulling this together once beans are cooked takes just minutes! Simply heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add spinach to hot oil and garlic if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Saute spinach until bright green and wilted, about 5 minutes. Add desired amount of beans and a little liquid the beans cooked in. Season dish with salt and pepper and serve with crusty bread broiled with vegan butter.

vegan bean salad, white bean salad, asparagus

Cannellinni Bean Salad with Asparagus

This dish is a cinch to pull together if the beans and asparagus are cooked. I had both on hand as leftovers. While we ate this right after preparing, it would be even better if it sat and marinated for an hour, or overnight.

Prepare beans according to package instructions. Roast asparagus at 400 with coconut or olive oil, salt, and pepper for 30 minutes or until tender and slightly golden on tips. Cut asparagus in one inch strips and set aside. Prepare the dressing in the serving bowl by mixing together the juice of one lemon, equal part olive oil, a few splashes of red wine vinegar, a bunch of chopped parsley, one minced garlic clove, salt, pepper, and a few dashes of red pepper flakes. Add chopped red pepper, onion, the cannellinni beans, and asparagus. Mix and enjoy!

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