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June 1998
Being a Vegetarian Parent
The Satya Interview with Jed and Susan Civic


Jed and Susan Civic have two children, Aaron and Rebecca. We featured Susan’s first pregnancy in Satya three years ago. They are the authors of The Vegetarian Traveler and producers of Susan’s Gourmet Snacks (Tel.: 718-263-6524). They are vegans and homeschoolers who live in Queens.

Susan Civic
Q: What was your second pregnancy like?

A: I had some concern during my first pregnancy, because it was something that was new to me, and I really didn’t have any experience with it. I felt that there was very little information out there on being a vegan and pregnant, or being a vegan and having children. There was one book by Dr. Michael Klaper [see Resouces] which was practically my Bible, because it was really the only book on vegan pregnancies. There were a couple of books about vegetarians and being pregnant, but they included dairy products. With the second pregnancy, having had the experience and having been vegan for a longer period of time, I realized that there was nothing for me to worry about. All my nutritional requirements were being met. I also used a pregnancy multi-vitamin, which gives you your usual daily dose of vitamins plus extra calcium and folic acid which are needed by women when they’re pregnant. Both of my children are very healthy, very happy children.

Q: Did you have any cravings?
A: Just chocolate, in my second pregnancy. I would eat normally, maybe a little bit more, but that’s normal when you’re pregnant because you’re eating for two. In my second pregnancy I was a lot more tired than my first pregnancy for some reason, but then again every pregnancy is different. Maybe it was because I was also a mother at that point, and had an older child to worry about. I couldn’t just sit down and relax and take a nap any time I wanted to. I wouldn’t say that my diet was any kind of hindrance at all. I don’t think it made my children unhealthy. I think it had a better effect, really, in terms of them not being sick. I didn’t have any morning sickness or anything either time. Maybe that’s also because of the diet, not having any dairy products.

Q: You didn’t crave meat?
A: No, I had no cravings for anything like that. In fact I’ve heard a lot of people who aren’t vegetarians, including my mother, tell me that when they became pregnant they had an abhorrence for meat. Maybe that’s the body saying, "No, that’s not healthy."

Q: What was the response of the doctor you saw in your pregnancies?
A: I had the same doctor throughout the first and second pregnancy, and in the second birth I used a midwife who was a vegetarian herself, and familiar with the vegan diet. Her basic feeling was that it was probably a lot healthier for me being vegetarian anyway and I’d probably be eating a lot less junk food than other people who are not vegetarian. At least she knew that I was eating a diet high in fiber and high in fresh fruits and vegetables and grains and stuff like that. She examined me every time and every time my blood tests were healthy, my blood pressure was perfect. You can’t argue with a healthy person.

Jed Civic
Q: How do you raise your kid a vegan in a meat-eating world?

A: What we do is try to ease the problems of being vegans in the outside world by doing things like preparing our own food to take with us when we are socializing with non-vegans. For instance, if there is a birthday party, we would bring our own cake, so that Aaron doesn’t feel like he’s missing out on anything when it comes to eating. He’ll have his own.

Q: Has he expressed curiosity about meat?
A: The only time he’s questioned certain things—and remember, he’s only three and a half years old—is when we go over to my in-laws. He’ll sit at the dinner table while they’re eating chicken, and we’re eating our plant-based food, and he may say something like, "What’s that?" And I say to him, "Chicken. We don’t eat chickens. Chickens are our friends." He enjoys what we eat. I think he may start running into more difficulties the more curious he gets. We’re going to have to show him that we don’t eat animals and what animals go through to get on the dinner plate.

Q: Don’t you think that might be counter-productive in that he might rebel against your values?
A: I’m hoping to avoid that. If we associate ourselves and Aaron develops his friends as vegetarians and vegans and home schoolers, he will not have that curiosity because he’s associating with like-minded people. Like the situation in India, for instance, where people grow up without meat, and there’s no curiosity because that’s the way the culture is.

Q: It’s still quite a small group and not all home-schoolers are vegetarian and not all vegetarians are home-schoolers. It’s going to be hard to find a subset of all those people, right?
A: I agree with you for the most part. What I am discovering is that some of the home-schoolers are vegetarians. We’re trying to develop closer ties with them, but you’re right: home-schoolers are home-schoolers and vegetarians are vegetarians. It’s a fine line we have to walk, but if there’s a will there’s a way. We’re going to do it.

Q: Aren’t you trying to inculcate your values in your kids? What about their own choice?
A: His or her own choice will come. They’re too young right now to make rational decisions, but when they’re old enough they’ll make they’re own decisions. We’ll do the best we can to influence them the way we see fit. But when the time comes they’ll decide and we won’t have any regrets. We don’t think that we are imposing our beliefs on them. This is the way we live our lives and it’s our freedom of choice to raise a family the way we see fit. If someone wants to raise their kids eating meat, that’s up to them. We’re as individual or non-individual as anybody else. We don’t see an issue with that.


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