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!

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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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The Elvis Sandwich – Elevated

October 10, 2012 § 2 Comments

Welcome to Day 10 of Vegan MOFO. Today I finally have a recipe for you! Well, not as much a recipe as much an assembly – regardless it’s a winner. I’m calling it The Elvis – Elevated! Here’s why.

I was a bit surprised to learn when I googled “the Elvis sandwich” to learn that it usually is made with bacon! Yuck! This isn’t the Elvis I recall. For many years I’ve enjoyed the vegetarian version – bread, peanut butter, and banana. It’s hard to imagine it being any better but I just may have elevated the Elvis today.

I’m a big peanut butter fan. I never liked deli meats growing up (again, I think I was always meant to be vegetarian or vegan!) so my mom packed me many peanut butter sandwiches as a kid. Sometimes she’d switch it up and add marshmallows for something a little different. I don’t recall when I started adding bananas to my sandwich, but I’ve been eating the PB and banana sandwich for years.

Being such a peanut butter fan, a few friends have warned me about having too many peanuts while pregnant. Apparently it can lead to the peanut allergy some kids have. Then I read somewhere else that having nuts every day can increase your child’s chance for asthma. I don’t know if I’m buying that or the peanut butter myth – but I figure I might as well try and not have peanut butter every single day as I’d been doing. So I’ve been switching it up with almond butter here and there.

The other day I was at Whole Foods and saw Justin’s chocolate hazelnut spread. I’m a big Nutella fan thanks to spending a week in Italy. As Nutella isn’t vegan, I haven’t touched the stuff in over a year. But Justin’s chocolate hazelnut spread looked promising. So I decided to pony up the $10 for the jar and indulge.

Did I make a wise investment? Yes. Yes I did! The first night I tried my new goody slathered on hot toast. Mmmm. Instantly I was taken back to that week at the little Italian B&B – mornings of croissants, crusty baguettes, Nutella, and espresso. Justin’s doesn’t have quite the same rich hazelnutty flavor as I remember Nutella having – but it does have a deeply rich chocolate flavor with just a hint of nuttiness. Every few bites offers a little course salt too for a delicious surprise.

Today I figured, why stop there? Let’s take the Elvis to new hights. Toast some hearty bread, slather on the chocolate hazelnut spread, and banana slices. For a pregnant woman, this is pretty much as good as it gets.

Learn more about Vegan MOFO and follow my favorite recipes from other bloggers here.

Vegan MOFO: End of Week 1

October 7, 2012 § 2 Comments

Today is Day 7 of Vegan MOFO. I’m so glad I decided to jump in this year. I remember watching last year and thinking it was just amazing. It is great fun to be a part of – plus I’m learning about all sorts of tips, tricks, and discovering new fabulous vegan bloggers. What’s not to like?

I’ve been keeping tabs on the Vegan MOFO blogroll and pinning what catches my eye on my Vegan MOFO Pinterest board. Hah, you can tell this is a pregnant woman pinning away – it’s all pancakes and cookies and such. But I’m not complaining. Leave it to me to still not be able to eat a vegetable but find all this chocolate appealing – go figure.

One of the best things about Vegan MOFO is learning about all these vegan bloggers out there that I’ve never seen before. Here’s a few that have caught my eye.

Wandering Ladle – As I scrolled through the Vegan MOFO blogroll, the posts from Wandering Ladle nearly jumped off the screen. The photography on this site is absolutely gorgeous. Everything looks amazing – and as she’s posted lots of chocolate this week, I’m a happy camper 🙂

Vegan Culinary Crusade – I was in heaven from Lisa’s first post. She invited her readers into Vegan MOFO with an imaginary B&B and she has not disappointed. She has been posting the most amazing breakfast items. The only downside is that this B&B is imaginary. If it was real, I’d be there tomorrow!

Carrie on Vegan – Carrie’s overnight oats caught my eye and what I got when I visited her blog was much more than a healthy breakfast option. Carrie has thyroid cancer and is about to undergo surgery. Her posts are so honest and inspiring. Please head over to her blog, read her story, and wish her well!

And last but not least, here is a very helpful post on oil-free baking. Something I haven’t tried, but with these tips, I may give it a go.

To learn more about Vegan Month of Food, click here. Looking forward to Week #2!

The Great Soy Debate

October 5, 2012 § 4 Comments

It’s Day 5 of Vegan MOFO. I had to skip yesterday due to crazy pregnancy fatigue. But I’m back, and today we’re talking soy.

I remember my mom coming home one day many years ago with soy milk – she’d seen some show (probably Oprah or Dr. Oz) professing its various health benefits and insisted we give it a try. Naturally she bought the chocolate flavor to ease us in. I gave it a try — yuck! I didn’t like it at all. I’ve never been able to catch on to soy milk. I just really don’t care for the flavor. I much prefer – and enjoy – almond milk. My one exception is a soy chai latte which I love! (BTW as I can’t visit Starbucks anymore, I’m loving the Bolthouse farms one as it has only 24 mg of caffeine and is GMO free!)

Source: kidmissile on Flickr

Fast forward a few years – I was first trying a vegan diet due to my friend who was battling breast cancer. She’d warned me against eating soy. I’ll never forget her one day saying in annoyance, “Everything gives you cancer.” It’s probably true to some extent. By the time we consider our food, beauty products, cleaning supplies, furniture, etc. everything probably really does give you cancer. But still, I’d heard way too many controversial things about soy so I wasn’t about to start eating tofu on a regular basis.

I’ve really been pondering the soy question lately. After a year of eating vegan – sometimes a little tofu or edamame or soy cheese is nice for some variety, not to mention it can sometimes be the only option when dining out. But more importantly I’ve been wondering about soy because of my baby (that still feels so strange to say 🙂 ). If you want a non-dairy formula – soy is your only option. I’m still really surprised at this and curious why. I have every intention of breastfeeding but also want to be aware of my options in the event that I can’t – or get sick, or my travel schedule doesn’t allow for it, etc. Having to rely on soy formula as a back-up really has me nervous.

But tonight I’m feeling better. I was reading this article detailing the myths of soy. While I have more reading to do, I was pleased to see that it debunks many of these myths. In the end it says that like anything, soy should be consumed in moderation and in the least processed form possible.

So, do you eat soy? Does it worry you? Have you used soy formula? Curious to hear your stance on the great soy debate.

Click here to learn more about Vegan MOFO and all the great blogging participants. Also check out my Vegan MOFO Pinterest board for great finds.

Vegan Dining Out: Asian Love

October 3, 2012 § 6 Comments

Today’s Day 3 of Vegan MOFO. My roller coaster of food aversions continues. I found out I was pregnant 10 weeks ago and in that time I’ve not been able to make a single meal at home (unless we’re calling toast and cereal a meal – which it has been for me almost every day). Eating out as a vegan occasionally is usually no problemo. But average twice a day every day for 10 weeks and factor in food aversions and you’ve got a mess. Both my hubby and I are so sick and tired of eating out. But until the smell of cooked, well anything, doesn’t throw me over the edge, I guess this trend will continue.

Under normal circumstances I love eating asian flavored dishes. It’s easy to find veggie options in Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, etc. You do have to watch out for hidden fish sauce, but if you ask the right questions and know what to order it usually isn’t a problem. And I’ve found I can almost always get a stir-fry of veggies or tofu in any of the above without fish sauce. One note: even when things are labeled vegetarian, it is worth confirming that the stock is vegetarian. Some places label their soups as vegetarian because there isn’t fish or meat flesh even though the stock is made from fish or meat. Many places will make the veggie based stock to order if you just ask and confirm what you are looking for.

While driving home tonight I pondered what we would eat. I just can’t bring myself to eat another Panera sandwich or Jason’s Deli salad which has been the dynamic duo for the past few weeks. At the last minute I thought sushi! Now, of course I wasn’t eating sushi. But I knew I could get the udon noodle soup at Seito Sushi– a filling slightly spicy broth with thick comforting noodles and tempura veggies on the side (it’s served with shrimp but I ask for extra veg instead). I’ve ordered this many times and have confirmed with the chef that the soup does not contain fish stock and the tempura doesn’t have any egg or dairy binder. While I only took a few bites of the veg – cooked veggies just still aren’t working for me – the soup was warming and delicious and sure did hit the spot.

Alongside a fresh green salad with ginger dressing (perfect for nausea!) it was an ideal vegan pregnancy dinner.

And if you are in Orlando, here’s a list of some of my other favorite go-to asian restaurants that I know offer vegan options:

  • Thai House of Orlando – this is our staple. The vegetable noodle soup is fantastic. Other favorites are cashew stir-fry and thai basil noodles. They’ll make anything without fish sauce.
  • Pho 88 – great big bowls of vegetarian soup full of tofu and veg or just veg. Also one of the best values in town in my opinion.
  • Lac Viet – request a special order stir-fry or vegetarian soup (note their vegetarian options on the menu include fish sauce so you need to make the special request which they are very accommodating to).
  • Hawkers – this is a vegan’s paradise! Too many vegan items on the menu to even list here.
  • Yum-mi – vegetable spring rolls, tofu bahn mi, and don’t leave without a bubble tea – they usually have both soy and almond milk.
  • Pei Wei – they label vegetarian options. Just be sure to get rice noodles instead of egg. You can do tofu and veg or double veg.
  • Chai Thai – the best ginger dressing in town!

Check out some amazing Vegan MOFO finds on my Vegan Month of Food Pinterest board!

 

Surprise! A Vegan Pregnancy

September 26, 2012 § 4 Comments

Well I’ve hinted in my last few posts that there is good reason I’ve been MIA – there’s been no vegan food exploration or cooking experiments in the Dieguez house the past few months and I’m finally ready to share why. We are pregnant! Fourteen weeks pregnant to be exact. Little Baby Dieguez will be arriving on March 27 and we are so excited we can hardly contain ourselves. Thus, between the constant “morning” sickness (whoever dubbed this term “morning sickness” had no idea what they were talking about) and the unbelievable fatigue, I’ve not been able to find any time to blog – nor has there been any cooking, more on that below. Sarah was nice enough to ask me to participate in her gutsy girl series and just putting that post together nearly wore me out! I’m shocked at how exhausted I’ve been and how much my body is changing – but it is all for good as WE ARE HAVING A BABY!

I found out at 5 weeks. I should have known the week before when I dumped two bottles of wine down the sink exclaiming there was something wrong with them – or when I nearly gagged on my morning coffee – or when I was experiencing extreme fatigue and pregnancy brain! But alas, all these signs eluded me. Needless to say I was a little preoccupied with work and everything else that had been going on.

I was sure I wasn’t pregnant. So sure in fact that when my husband finally convinced me to go to the store to buy a pregnancy test, I wanted to buy the bulk package! They aren’t cheap, so I figured we should stock up. He was pretty confidant though and said, no, buy the two-pack. I swore up and down I wasn’t pregnant and argued how much more economical it was to buy the twenty pack! Hah, glad he was able to persuade me. All it took was one. 🙂 Immediately (not after waiting five seconds as it instructs) that little blue plus sign jumped off the stick. I was floored. I sat in disbelief and sheer joy. At that point it had only been about three months since my dad died. I guess what they say about death and birth is true. To think, we created a little person. There was (and is!) a little baby growing inside me. After all we’d been through, this was just amazing. I took another just to be sure and was delighted when I saw that instant blue plus sign appear again.

Since then it’s been pretty much a whirlwind. I had a rough first trimester. I was nauseous pretty much every minute of every day. Luckily I didn’t literally get sick – just once – ironically the day I turned 12 weeks. I was hopeful at first. I read that vegans don’t get as much morning sickness as the body doesn’t have to expel as many toxins as a non-vegan mom. But that didn’t seem to work in my favor. The nausea hit pretty quick and still lingers. However, perhaps that’s why I never got sick sick, and was just nauseous?

Regardless, the moment I learned I was pregnant, staying vegan wasn’t even up for discussion. We had already discussed that when the time came, we wanted to try our hardest to raise our children vegan. But I was a little nervous about the pregnancy, as I’d read how some vegans crave meat or don’t like veggies anymore. But I was determined to stay vegan – or as close to vegan as possible. Luckily, for the most part I’ve been able to do that. Unfortunately, with the nausea that set in immediately, food has quickly become my enemy. I developed a sense of smell as strong as our beagle/basset. I could smell food a mile away. The kitchen quickly became off limits. If it required cooking or heating – it wasn’t allowed. At 14 weeks, it hasn’t gotten much better. Thus, there has been no cooking at home. After two solid months of eating out – we are soooo tired of restaurant food. I’m anxious to be able to cook again and miss my once healthy meals.

In terms of being vegan while pregnant, so far it really hasn’t been difficult at all. As I’ve been so nauseous and mostly wanted carbs, there hasn’t been much of an issue. I can’t imagine being nauseous and wanting meat – even when I wasn’t vegan! In the beginning I was really worried about getting enough nutrition. But as my midwife told me, in the first trimester just eat what you can keep down. That eased my concerns. Now that I’m in the second trimester, I’m hoping some of the nausea will subside soon and I can get on a more regular eating plan with healthy choices.

For those of you who may be pregnant and vegan and wanting more details, below is a week by week what I was able to eat and what helped me. I hope it will be of help to you!

Weeks 5 and 6 were just brutal! I lived on nothing more than bagels. My husband would go pick up fresh bagels every single day and I literally had a bagel for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Anything else had me turning green. I leaned that getting hungry made the nausea worse so I snacked on saltines throughout the day. That first week, I did crave chicken noodle soup. I don’t know if it was psychological or what (my mom always made this for me when I was sick) but I did give in and order it out a few times when I couldn’t stand to eat anything else. I just ate the broth and it did help settle my stomach a bit. Strangely, I couldn’t stomach vegetable broth. Like I said, I only did this a handful of times and haven’t wanted it again. By week 6 I was able to add apples, pears and grapes to the mix. Pears were surprisingly appealing and comforting.

Weeks 7 and 8 weren’t a whole lot better but I was able to expand my food preferences slightly. I would get a veg out sandwich from Einstein’s nearly every day for lunch. Somehow I could eat the sandwich but the thought of any other vegetables  was gross. I was able to eat a lot more fruit though and found it to be very comforting – particularly cantaloupe. Strangely, around this time I went through a week where all that sounded good was a cheese pizza. I literally thought I’d die if I didn’t eat it. All I could think about was cheese day and night. I was kind of turning delirious – telling my husband maybe we shouldn’t be vegan. He really didn’t know what to make of the situation. But having not eaten cheese in over a year, and feeling so very nauseous, I was scared to give in and try it. I’m glad I didn’t. The craving went away and I haven’t even thought about cheese again.

Weeks 8 and 9 I was traveling. I found that when I traveled, I felt better. Somehow being on the road helped. I don’t know if it is that you have so much going on you don’t pay as much attention to your stomach or what, but it worked. I’ve heard this from other women too. I was able to eat a little bit better – introducing salads back into my diet. I even managed to eat a few veggie burgers on the road. French fries were also appealing – and I have to admit I gave in! Again, whatever you can eat and keep it down, go for it!

Weeks 10-13 have been getting much better. I’ve been eating lots of salads. I go through phases where I eat one thing over and over. That Einstein’s veg out sandwich – can’t touch it. I think I overdid it. My new obsession is Panera’s Mediterranean Veggie sandwich – no cheese of course. I think I’ve had one almost every day the past three weeks! I also love going to Jason’s Deli and loading up on the salad bar. I’ve learned cold food is my friend. And cereal – cheerios have been amazing! I still can’t eat a cooked vegetable unfortunately. And up until today, haven’t been able to do my smoothies. Today it finally tasted good though and I know that will help me get some good vitamins and minerals. And my sweet tooth finally kicked in. I’d been wondering where it was! I particularly like my dark chocolate covered frozen bananas. I get them from the supermarket and they are a nice, not too indulgent, cold treat at night.

To all the nauseous mommies out there – I hope you find some foods to comfort your stomach and keep you full. And just remember, nausea can be a sign that all is well and working correctly. I reminded myself of that many times!

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