Parents

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.

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  • Heather commented on August 10, 2010 at 11:35 am

    thanks for sharing!!

  • Karli Manson commented on August 10, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    Aww, I’m so happy to hear that. I plan to raise my future children vegan as well :)

  • Tiffany commented on August 10, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Such a great story. Thank you for sharing! There is a lot of pressure day to day for vegans from society, family, etc. I can only imagine how much that was amplified by your pregnancy. Danny is adorable.

  • Sarah Harrison commented on August 10, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Stunning Rainbow!!! You’re such an inspiration!!

  • gretchen commented on August 10, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Great for you! I am raising two happy healthy vegan boys :) (also no pain meds)…and ur right..we earned the right to say that!!

  • Kimberly commented on August 10, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Awesome post. Thank you!

  • Jennifer commented on August 10, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Awesome!!! I’m not at all surprised and am glad you’ve shared your experiences!

  • Janet Mersinidis commented on August 10, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Terrific story…and that baby looks beautiful!!!

  • Dave commented on August 10, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Brilliant! :D

  • Emily M commented on August 10, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m not planning on having a child anytime soon, but people still ask me about my plans on raising my children on a cruelty-free diet. It’s great to hear about your success with it.

  • Tania commented on August 10, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Thanks for Sharing!
    About 6 moths ago, when I started finding out about the barbaric ways of the meat/dairy industry I decided to become vegan. It’s no easy task because 23 an a half years of being a “meat eater”, wasn’t just going to go away. So one of the first things that came to mind was, Is this Vegan lifestyle going to be forever? What if I have kids, then what? Is all this going to change? I’ve always wonder that up until now. Thank You sooo much Lauren you have just answer all the questions I have asked my self these past 6 months. My commitment is forever!

  • Stef commented on August 10, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    love it! I am a 4 year vegan and my 16 month old is a super healthy child and vegan to boot! She eats WAY better than most of her little friends who frequently dine on chickern fingers, nuggets, hotdogs, yuck!

  • Ron Decker commented on August 10, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Sarah, I have to say… that being health-wise and stable against all odds, because we live in a world of “un-knowledgeables” about “good” health is amazing… I PRAISE you for your intellectual stamina.. and bringing a healthy boy into this world.

    We live in an environment of anti-biotically nurtured cows, and whatever else our past generations have survived on, and by the way.. may I mention all of the “cows…” that are still at the feeding stalls of McDonalds, etc., giving birth to “birth defects, due to unhealthy food intake… Sarah, you are a true example of good health… keep it up.

    Ron Decker

    So, therefore, I praise you again…

  • Jen commented on August 10, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    aw im pregnant too and having a boy! im still vegeterian, and have a lot to learn on feeding a child a vegeterian/vegan diet.

  • Maricela commented on August 10, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Thank you so much, knowing there are other strong vegan mothers succeeding in raising vegan children gives me hope. (mom of an almost 2 y/o vegan toddler)

  • Jean d'Arc commented on August 10, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    I admire and respect you Lauren, may your compassion and thoughtfulness be rewarded with a lifetime of health and happiness to you and your family.

  • Aubrey commented on August 10, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    It was so great to read your story! I’m hoping to become pregnant within the next year and am soooo tired of people questioning raising a baby/child vegan. Knowing what we know about meat and dairy, I can’t imagine giving it to my child. It makes me sick to even conceive of it. Homework, right! Congrats on your healthy baby boy and on sticking to your guns.

  • Matt Grunwald commented on August 10, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    You are doing a wonderful thing for your child and showing people that it’s okay to think intelligently about what they do and what they pass on.

  • TW commented on August 10, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Wonderful story, thank you ! Our 2 year old son has been as vegan as possible since conception, is growing like a weed, and my wife had an excellent pregnancy. Lots of nutritional yeast sprinkled on many foods is definitely one of the secrets, as it is delicious and loaded with so many important vitamins & minerals :-)
    If you haven’t yet, you should post your story on the Vegan Outreach “Real Vegan Children” page.

  • Amy Roberts commented on August 10, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Fantastic news! So good to hear someone standing up for what they believe in!

  • Patricia commented on August 11, 2010 at 12:18 am

    You are awesome–awesome and inspiring story–I love it! Thank you for sharing.

  • Leslie commented on August 11, 2010 at 12:39 am

    I went through the same experiences with the pregancy and birth of my son. I felt a lot of pressure from health professionals and some family members to include animal products in my diet to ensure a healthy child. My son is almost 4 years old, has been vegan since conception, and is healthy, strong and intelligent. Gone are the days of the stigma that vegetarians are “pale and weak”.

  • Pintu commented on August 11, 2010 at 5:12 am

    This should be inspiring to all! Thank you :)

  • Stefanie commented on August 11, 2010 at 10:28 am

    I am a vegetarian that doesn’t drink milk or eat eggs and I delivered healthy twin girls (one of them with no drugs/the other was breech). People gave me a hard time with my diet but my girls are healthy and remain that way:) Congratz to you!

  • Misha commented on August 11, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Thanks for sharing! You are an inspiration!

  • Wendy commented on August 11, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Great Story !
    Keep up the good work !

  • Jordan commented on August 12, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    I am vegan, but i am definetly going to raise my kids at least vegetarian. I hope that they do the same with their kids, and that their kids do the same with therir kids. :) Thank you this is such an insperation!

  • serena commented on August 12, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    you rock!!

  • Shelly commented on August 13, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Go Lauren! You are an incredible activist and mom. And I can personally testify that Danny is the cutest baby ever!

  • Magda commented on August 18, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Thanks Sarah! This article is going to my boyfriend’s “to read” things! and I told him, no kids unless they will be vegans from the start! Literally,that’s how important it is to me.

  • JS commented on August 21, 2010 at 6:56 am

    Now I wonder, what if your son WILL be made fun of because what he has in his lunchbox? I went to public school with lots of muslims in my class, and I was bullied because of eating pork. What will you do if your son will be made fun of? Keep feeding him non-animal foods and let him continue to be bullied or throw your beliefs to the side (during school hours at least), feed him biological meat and stop the bullying as soon as it starts? After reading these types of stories, that is what I always wonder about.

  • Stacie Stark commented on August 21, 2010 at 11:53 am

    I always find it strange that some people think you can’t be an activist and a good parent at the same time. I have found that I have not had to give up one for the other. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story.

  • Laura commented on August 30, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Sarah,
    I was out in MD and found a very supportive pediatrician. He said my son was the healthiest child he ever saw. I would suggest looking for a pediatrician that won’t fight you. It’s not worth it. If you look for an East Indian or other non-American doctor that is USED to seeing veg diets, that might be a better route. FYI-I’ve been vegan 23 years and my son has been vegan all his life (8 years). He’s incredibly healthy and so am I. I’m heading into my next vegan pregnancy at 38 y.o.
    I do recommend one thing that we like which is the vegan Omega Swirl with DHA. I think it’s valuable unless your child eats a lot of spirulina or chlorella.

    Best!
    Laura

  • Niran commented on August 30, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Lovely write up!

  • Jess Barnett commented on August 30, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    This is so inspiring! Thanks for sharing!

  • Adrianne commented on August 30, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. As a woman and a vegan, I often think about how I would like to raise children and how choices that I make will affect them. I think it’s inspiring that you stayed true to your beliefs while also giving birth to and raising a beautiful little boy. Congratulations!

  • Dani commented on August 30, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Props for a natural birth, so inspiring. Your son is so lucky to have a mom like you. :)

  • Kat commented on August 30, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Great story, thanks!

  • Andreia commented on August 30, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Wonderful story! We need more and more people like you. Thanks.

  • Christina Whiskhands commented on August 30, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Excellent read and mad props for not caving and settling for a doctor and midwife who were against your choices. Knowing many happy, healthy and bright from-conception vegan kids, I have faith that Danny will be no different. (I just hope you don’t encounter some of the difficulties they did, like pre-schools who wouldn’t allow a lunch brought from home, etc.)

  • Maja commented on August 30, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Thank. You.

  • Sarah commented on August 30, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    As a person who has type 1 diabetes since age 5 and is a vegan, I can certainly understand the pain you had to endure with certain professionals. Remember that on average vegans live 7 years longer than non-vegans. Why? Because we eat zero cholestoral. Why do nutritionists often push diabetics to eat meat. Because they are too lazy to research a well rounded vegan diet and just want to give everyone the same diet. A good nutritionist will work with you, not against you, I have learned. A good nutritionists will remember things like we can sprinkle almonds on our cereal with soy milk for extra protein in a breakfast meal. Do not accept substandard peopl in the medical field who cannot think outside the have a deck of cards size of meat in your sandwich for lunch.

  • Breanna commented on August 30, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    That is soo inspiring! I am going to raise a vegan child too! It is the best way I believe! thanx for sharing your truth!

  • helen commented on August 31, 2010 at 8:04 am

    Im due to drop my first any day now (due thursday) and found this a great article as I have needed to calm my fears about raising an animal friendly child on many occasion throughout my pregnancy. People keep telling me it’s not the way to go, but it’s been that way for 9 months inside me so surely it can’t be that bad?! nice work thank you! xx

  • Cernunnas commented on September 2, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    WAY TO GO! :D