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Vegan and Pregnant: A controversial topic.
“How do you know when people are vegan? They will tell you.“ This joke is old and it is also wrong. Because even if that might be true for a few, the reality differs from that cliché. Usually, it is not “the vegan”, which blows up with missionary zeal each cosy gathering, rather the opposite is the case. Those who eat a plant-based diet, often hope that their vegan life-style would not be constantly the number one topic of the discussions. During sensitive life phases such as vegan pregnancy or raising children on a vegan diet, friends or family members often become enemies and every meeting turns into a nervous stress test. Find out how to deal with this when you are vegan and pregnant.
Stress Does No One Any Good
Especially not when a woman is expecting a child or a young family already has their hands full with their offspring. But how do you deal with it when grandpa really wants to buy the little one a sausage? The best friend thinks every little indisposition during your pregnancy is caused by your vegan diet? The mother-in-law even accuses you of endangering the welfare of the child?
But I Only Have Good Intentions
If you have heard this phrase before, you have probably heard it so many times that you want to run away screaming. How about you take a step back at this point and look at this statement objectively? Yes, it is annoying, and you cannot listen to it anymore, but as soon as you simply assume to your counterpart that this person doesn’t want to maltreat you, but actually acts with the best of intentions, you can deal with it in a much more relaxed way. If you also adopt a positive attitude towards yourself at the same time, you enter into what transactional analysis calls the “I’m okay, you’re okay” attitude (by Eric Berne). In other words, even if someone’s behavior stresses you out or annoys you, you can realize that you actually like and appreciate the person. This will make the situation less stressful for you.
When Someone Says Yes But Doesn’t Fully Mean It
You have already said yes to a plant-based diet, and you have done so with conviction. On the other hand, there is inevitably a clear “no” to everything that contradicts your conviction. But saying no is one of those things. You don’t want to offend others, hurt them or be hurt yourself: If you say no, you risk that the other person will react with withdrawal or rejection. Supposed peace is not only dearly bought with an insincere yes, but it is also fragile. What’s more, a half-hearted yes is always a bit of a no to yourself – and self-care should be a high priority for an (expectant) mother. So setting boundaries is important for many reasons, takes some courage and can be trained!
Feeling uneasy or even guilty about saying no? Regularly make yourself aware that a no is always a yes – namely to yourself, your needs and your values.
Did they tell you when you were a child, that …
- you are being egoistic?
- the needs of others are more important than your own ones?
- it is impolite, if you do not fulfill other people’s wishes?
- you should be kind and that fighting is always a bad thing?
Then perhaps an old belief is standing in your way. Today, as an adult, you can look at these beliefs from your childhood with a clear eye and ask yourself: Is this really true? You can also make notes about your thoughts and then check them realistically.
Exiting the Conflict Spiral Before It’s Too Late
There has been another bad argument about your vegan lifestyle, and you sit at home crying, wondering how the situation could have escalated so much. Or your best friend breaks off your friendship because she cannot stand to see what you are “doing” to yourself and your child. Even if the conflicts you are dealing with are not as drastic, you may wonder why a discussion got out of hand and if you could have done something differently.
Conflicts do not come out of the blue and usually follow a similar pattern. They start small, then pick up speed and, in the worst case, end with “As of today, we are going our separate ways!” Sometimes a (temporary) relationship breakup is indeed the remedy of choice. But most of the time, it does not have to end that way. If you become aware of how conflicts work and what causes them to escalate, you can take countermeasures – provided you act in time.
Expressing your concern is not a sign of weakness
Again, it is helpful to take a step back and look at what is happening. Is it still about the issue or is it just about being right? Is the tone being struck really the tone in which you want to communicate? What course will the discussion take if heated tempers are given free rein? And perhaps the most important question: Is what is happening here doing me any good? Offering a break in the conversation can be helpful in such a situation – and has nothing to do with “backing down”, on the contrary! “We’re talking our heads off right now, and I’m afraid that bad words will be said that I’ll regret later. Let’s stop talking here, please, and we’ll get back together tomorrow when we’ve calmed down. Is that okay with you?” Yes, it takes a little courage to get out of the spiral, but it is worth it!
It’s Not Always About the Diet
Sometimes the vegan diet is only seemingly the reason for a conflict, for example when it is not about the matter but about the relationship. The psychologist and communication scientist Friedemann Schulz von Thun illuminates this, among other things, in his four-sided model/communication square. It states that every message has a factual, self-revelation, relationship and appeal side. For example, a question asked on the factual side, “What’s that green stuff in the gravy?” may be received by the other person on the relational side, resulting in “Do you have to nag me about my food?” Here it can be helpful to look at how you basically relate to each other. Is the “ear” with which you are listening appropriate? With which “mouth” do you speak to which person?
What Is It Really About?
Even if reactions are surprising or inappropriately violent, it can be worthwhile to take a closer look at what is happening. Is the conflict over food perhaps hiding a completely different, possibly much older problem that has never been resolved? Especially in the parent-child-structure (old) explosives can be hidden. Is it always your parents with whom you come into conflict because of your vegan lifestyle? Do you find your mother’s or father’s comments particularly hurtful, while you tend to stay above things in debates with friends? Then it can be helpful to look closely: What is this really about?
How Do I Tell My Child?
As a vegan mother (or father), it is not only challenges in the conflict with other adults that have to be mastered. At the latest, when the daughter, who was still understanding a moment ago, theatrically explains to you that she is the only poor child in the whole world who is not allowed to eat a burger, increased communicative competence is also required with your own offspring. The good news is that when your child starts to have a mind of her own at around 2 years old – and then wants to assert it – it is bound to be a somewhat stressful time for you. But on the one hand, it will pass and on the other hand, it is an important developmental phase for your offspring.
You can deal with this phase much easier and more relaxed if you keep reminding yourself of one thing. If your children were able to communicate their needs verbally, they would do so – but they simply cannot do it yet. They want to be heard, understood, and taken seriously and they express with the skills they have at that very moment.
Being Calm Is Key
Staying calm until the fit of rage is over will help you more than fighting hard on your part. If you then signal that you can understand how frustrating it is when you do not get what you want, this will help you and your child. Note: While an adult has to take no for an answer, it is important for a child to understand why his or her wish is not being fulfilled (at the moment or in general).
Also for the daughter who misses burgers, explain why your family does things differently than your friends’ families. Important: Do not devalue families with mixed diets, but lay the foundation for tolerance and diversity!
Try different alternatives. If the most delicious vegan burgers are available at home and friends are allowed to join in the meal, the child feels seen and understood.
Vegan and Pregnant – Conclusion
A lot of things are not easy when you are vegan and pregnant. Communicative crises and interpersonal conflicts can be handled in a much more relaxed manner if you act consciously instead of simply reacting. Whether someone can “push your buttons” or you want to engage in a pointless trial of strength with your offspring – or not – is something you can decide for yourself. All you need is a little courage and a lot of practice.
If you are vegan and pregnant or breastfeeding, dietary supplements specifically designed for this purpose can help meet the (increased) nutrient requirements. These should be selected in accordance with the diet and taking into account health parameters.