As we are nearing the one year anniversary of losing Silver and also are now in the midst of Veganuary 2019 I thought it was only appropriate to share my personal story of transitioning to a vegan lifestyle and the direct link it has with baby loss.
You might be asking yourself if you do know me how this can be possible when I have been vegan for two years yet lost Silver not quite a year ago. Let me explain. Despite referring to myself as vegan from the moment my diet changed in 2017 I would say I was actually more “plant-based”. The term plant-based refers to dietary choices made in which you do not consume any animal products. This includes meat, fish, eggs, milk and honey or any product made from these “ingredients” such as cheese.
For quite some time I still purchased products I knew were tested on animals, despite claiming to be vegan and an animal lover. I bought hair dye I knew was tested on animals yet I was so impatient to die my hair that I prioritised myself. I was plant-based and not vegan.
You might still be wondering what this has to do with baby loss, and I promise you, I do have a point to make. I can also guarantee throughout this blog I don’t want to come across as “militant” or preaching and hopefully I won’t come across as crazy either! I might include some facts you may find uncomfortable to read but I am simply being honest and also sharing my own personal experience and journey.
Let me first explain why we even changed to a plant-based diet. For a good few years I had attempted many times and failed at transitioning to a vegan diet to help my sleep disorder idiopathic hypersomnia. This was particularly hard when we were meat eaters and I was going at it solo. I didn’t have enough knowledge and felt hungry, cranky and restricted. The most I could manage was about five days.
Going vegetarian first was a big help, especially since Fabian also went vegetarian with me after starting to really dislike the taste of meat. We got used to reading labels and soon discovered a lot of vegan foods too. We still ate cheese but more often than not every meal at home we cooked was vegan.
I am pleased to say I had a very healthy vegetarian pregnancy with our little boy Beau. There was however one complication. I had a dark line down my fingernail which gradually got darker through the pregnancy. When Beau was nine weeks old, I had to have a nail bed biopsy performed to determine if it was skin cancer. This was a terrifying experience for me and despite it coming back as hormonal changes and nothing to worry about it made me very anxious about cancer. This is when I started to do my research and really consider trying the vegan diet again but with more determination than ever.
“Casein, which makes up 87% of cow’s milk protein, is the most significant carcinogen we consume” Dr. T. Colin Campbell
Through research I found it to be an extremely healthy dietary choice when done properly, with meals planned out well there were no worries of any deficiencies. I found that dairy, meat and egg products were known carcinogens which were also linked with clogged arteries, heart disease and other serious illnesses such as diabetes, arthritis and alzheimer’s. There are specific cancers directly linked with the consumption of these products and this scared me. Suddenly as we faced weaning Beau and introducing food, I realised I couldn’t face feeding him something I knew was harmful. I knew how much I had struggled in the past and there were of course foods I didn’t want to give up but I also knew it wasn’t fair to expect Beau to follow a diet I couldn’t commit to myself.
“In nine separate studies, the strongest and most consistent dietary factor linked with prostate cancer was high consumption of milk or dairy products” Dr. Walter Willett
Me and Fabian both decided to partake in Veganuary 2017, commencing on the third. The plan was to actually go vegan for the month and once the month was over, I would go back to all my leftover chocolate from Christmas and finish eating it! I honestly didn’t think it was going to be something we would stick to long term. Fabian absolutely loved it. He’s a trained chef but had lost his passion for cooking. Preparing all these new exciting meals from scratch really sparked his interest in food again. It was also so much easier this time with each other’s support and a much better knowledge of what products we could still enjoy! This was also the time when we started weaning Beau as he was just under six months old, he took to it really well with fruit and veg purees and eventually we transitioned to baby led weaning. I did also continue to breastfeed him until he was fourteen months old!
This is where baby loss does start to come into the story a little bit. Not only did doing Veganuary help provide us with recipes and nutritional advice but I also gained a lot of knowledge on where exactly our food does come from. It seems silly but when we drink cows’ milk we sometimes don’t think about the prior process. I know many people who still presume cows naturally produce milk and are unaware of the fact the cow actually has to be pregnant first. But if we are milking the cow and taking that milk for our own, what do you think happens to the baby?
As I was a breastfeeding mum at the time this is the main fact I learnt that really gave me the motivation to stay plant based and avoid all animal products. The calves are taken away from their mums, sometimes directly after birth and the milk is stolen from them. Male calves are surplus to use and so they are either killed shortly after birth or sent to farms to cramped conditions to be “made into” veal. I would imagine a lot of parents within the baby loss community don’t need me to go into more detail as to why this is wrong and no doubt can see how awful this practise is.
As I said though, I did not go “vegan” straight away even with this knowledge. I did commit to not eating or wearing animals yet at times still turned a blind eye to other suffering such as the abhorrent practises of animal testing on cosmetics and cleaning products. I am however proud to call myself vegan now because I am committed to reduce suffering as much as possible within my means and I now ensure all my cosmetic products are not tested on animals. When finances allow, I also purchase cruelty free cleaning products and I also plan on taking a more eco friendly approach with nappies for our little Leilani who is due any day now!
The reason I am 100% committed to a vegan lifestyle now more than ever is because of the loss I experienced with Silver. I think it is something all loss parents can relate to, the pain of losing a child is completely unbearable. I couldn’t sleep on a night if I knew I was contributing to any baby being taken away from their mum. Did you know that cows pine for their young and cry out for days after their baby is taken away? Some people may say they are just animals but they are so much more. They are sentient beings with a central nervous system. They feel physical pain and also have the capability and intellect to form bonds and relationships. This also means they can experience emotional pain.
Do you remember the first time you knew you had lost someone you loved? I remember the night we were losing Silver and the physical response my body gave when I was first told she was passing away. I screamed, and it felt like a physical pain. I was so physically sick that night and the nurses had to call a different ward to get me medication just so I could be well enough to sit at her bedside. The heartburn pain in my chest was unbearable yet I didn’t want to part from her. It was the worst night of my life. I can’t do that to someone else, human or otherwise.
After Silver passed away I asked family not to drink milk when around me. Even when I explained it to them, I ended up in tears because in my mind I couldn’t understand personally how anyone could justify paying for and encouraging this suffering. I still to this day find it really hard to understand how people who went through the loss of Silver with us can’t put that connection together and realise that they too are contributing to other mums losing their babies. It is such a cruel, heartless and unnecessary industry when there is so many alternative options. There are twenty different types of dairy free milk to choose from so why chose the option that means life and death is meaningless and families are torn apart.
Of course, I also can see it from the other point of view. I was raised in a family where meals were often meat and two veg. I knew nothing different. I claimed my whole life I was an animal lover yet there were animals on my plate. I know a lot of meat eaters who say they don’t like to think about where their food comes from or what they are eating. I was the same, until I realised it was wrong to justify my actions based on taste. I think most people are already vegan at heart and simply need to align their morals with their actions. I don’t hate meat eaters but I dislike it when people turn a blind eye to something they are contributing to. I personally feel comfortable if someone wishes to eat meat around me if they acknowledge where their meat has come from, and by that, I mean they know exactly what happens in that slaughter house.
That’s not to say I recommend watching loads of videos on slaughterhouses. I hadn’t eaten pig in over two years before I even saw what happened to pigs, I just knew I didn’t want to eat a dead animal which was enough for me. They are routinely killed in gas chambers in the UK and their screams are rather disturbing to say the least. Might I also add here that this method is the one the RSPCA approve for their RSPCA assured meats, the charity which are against cruelty to animals… It is worth sourcing knowledge on where your food comes from and what happens to the living animals before making your own decision.
I hope I’m not sounding like a crazy vegan yet, I just get very passionate about something that in my mind seems so obvious but I’m completely aware of how long it took for me to make the connection myself! So I’m not going to ask you to watch any “vegan” films, although there are many to choose from if you did want to. I’ve only ever seen one myself which was Earthlings. If you want to learn more about the health side of a vegan diet, I have two films I highly recommend which have absolutely nothing to do with the animal welfare side so you won’t be bombarded with distressing scenes of slaughter houses.
What The Health: http://www.whatthehealthfilm.com/
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead: http://www.fatsickandnearlydead.com/
These films usually inspire me and help me feel motivated to eat healthier because quite frankly even with a vegan diet there are plenty of junk food options available! Did I mention Oreos, Party Rings and Bourbons are vegan? And if you want to give Veganuary a go then click here, it costs nothing and is a great way to make healthier choices.
Instagram is also fantastic for meal ideas and there are also accounts dedicated to “accidental vegan products”. You would be surprised how many products come out on the market which are not intended to be vegan yet it just so happens the recipe contains no animal products and is suitable, such as Oreo’s etc. I’m not a user of Facebook but I’ve heard there is plenty groups to choose from including local ones where you can find out what local eateries cater. I also advise you look up Joey Carbstrong, Ellen Fisher and Earthling Ed on YouTube who are all inspiring vegans sharing their lifestyle, recipes and activism.
“If animal food is a dominant part of your life, toxicity will be a dominant part of your life as well” Dr. Alan Goldhamer
Any questions and don’t hesitate to send your questions this way. I truly hope I’ve enlightened you a bit on exactly why baby loss has such a direct link with the dairy and meat industry and hopefully if you do feel inspired I’ve given you a few ideas of where to go next!
Until next time