The solids journey for any new parent is tumultuous. The mess, the gag reflex, the weight gains and losses, the fear of nuts, the list goes on.
For a vegetarian parent, there is the additional unknown of meat.
I've been a vegetarian for 23 years, so the idea of providing meat to my baby was something I instantly avoided.
Life as a vegetarian means fielding a myriad of unimaginative questions. Have you always been a vegetarian? No. Do you miss meat? No. Why are you a vegetarian? Is it because of the ethical side? Not originally, but yes these days the ethics play a large role. Do you mind if I eat meat in front of you? Of course not!
Surprisingly, whether or not I would raise children as vegetarians has always been a common question.
I never planned on raising my future children as vegetarians but, when the time came, the thought of feeding meat to my baby was a challenge.
To give my pure, and perfect, baby something made of flesh horrified me. Heck, when he would drink out of his bottle he even looked like a little lamb gazing back up at me.
I found myself instinctively avoiding meat in cooking for my son. Apple, pumpkin and lentil puree; sure. Stewed apple, and sweet potato - easy. Rice cereal? No brainer! Three months into the solids journey, when my baby was nine months old, we discovered my son was allergic to dairy. It was then that I came to a crossroads.
I had automatically given any form of meat a wide berth when cooking for my child. I favoured chickpeas and lentils as supplements for meat based protein, green vegetables for iron, and zinc. But now, given my son's allergies, my decision was less clear. If my son couldn't have dairy (and later we discovered wheat, eggs or nuts), he would have to eat meat. Denying another food group with the elimination of so many already seemed unfair.
We began our new journey with the least opposing type of meat I could think of, namely apricot chicken.
The smell of meat lingering on my precious baby as he nestled into me after lunch was enough to make my gag reflex get going. But I took solace in knowing my baby was being given the right nutrition, and food groups he needs to grow and flourish.
My husband (when home) is constantly asked to try a meat dish I have cooked for our son. When he is not home, I have found myself trying the meat myself. Fun fact: even if you have not eaten meat in over 20 years, it still tastes the same as you vaguely remember.
The joy of watching your child grow and develop starts with feeding your child.
As a mother whose child was adverse to eating for many months, likely due to the undiagnosed allergies, seeing my child eat a chicken patty or meatballs brings me pleasure, regardless of my own personal beliefs.
The only thing I fear now, is diplomatically explaining when he is older why people eat the animals we learn about in books.