When my husband and I discovered we were expecting our first child last October, I had been a vegan for nearly two years. While my reasons for adopting a vegan diet were health-related, and not due to any ethical or moral stances, I declared to all who would listen that I planned to stick with veganism throughout my pregnancy.
I made that grand statement a mere five weeks into my pregnancy – around the same time I boasted to close girlfriends that I’d not experienced even an inkling of any morning sickness. As I pictured myself in the coming months, glowing from good food and exercise, I remember thinking that this was going to be a breeze.
Fast forward four weeks – three and a half of which had been invaded by an all-consuming need to vomit during my waking hours, that even carried over into my dreams. During those rare occasions when I could eat, all I wanted was tomatoes on crackers lathered in salt. Vegan or not, meat, dairy and eggs would have been out of the question anyway. “At least I’m sticking to my guns,” I’d thought, “even if it isn’t exactly how I planned it.”
However, everything changed on that last Sunday of October. We were on our way back to Melbourne after a short holiday in Noosa. As we began driving back to Brisbane airport, that all too familiar need to examine the contents of my stomach reared its ugly head.
My husband stopped the car and pulled out some pre-made tomato crackers. I thanked him by violently vomiting all over the side of the car. “What’s going to make you feel better?” he desperately asked. And out of nowhere, before I could even think about it, the words came tumbling out of my mouth. “A Junior Burger.”
With blood shot eyes, hair a tatty mess and my puke-stained clothes, I can only imagine how I looked, possibly like a reincarnation of Linda Blair in that infamous scene from the Exorcist. In all honesty, my head may even have done a 360. I remember blurting it out again, this time demanding it. “A junior burger! NOW” Something told my husband not to question me. He simply bundled me into the car and pulled into the first McDonalds we came across.
I could not remember the last time I’d chowed down on a Macca’s hamburger – I’d stopped eating McDonalds long before I turned vegan. But I do remember how good that first bite was. The saltiness, the texture, the bun, the sauce…and the meat. Oh the glorious meatiness of the meat. That meat pattie was the best thing I’d eaten in forever, so much so, I let myself go into a burger stupor, knocking back burger after burger. When I finally battered the demon inside with beef and buns, my husband, slightly bemused, pointed out I’d knocked back five Junior Burgers in under 20 minutes.
If you can believe it, I was in a state of both contentment and shock. I mean for the first time in ages, I was able to look at an item of food and not feel sick. Yet devouring a bunch of burgers from the Golden Arches left me feeling slightly at odds with myself.
Over the next few weeks, the cravings for Junior Burgers grew stronger, with the occasional lasagne, chocolate Yogo or packet of Cheezels thrown in for good measure. The morning sickness was taking its toll on me as I developed a bad bout of bronchitis, so I was not about to question the only thing that brought pure joy into my life. In rare moments of clarity, I did wonder if these relatively crazy and left wing cravings were a result of my diet lacking in something, but as my doctor pointed out, tests taken just prior to and 10-weeks into my pregnancy indicated my bloods were firing on all cylinders.
And, as I enter my 34th week, I can report that not much has changed over the last few months. While the morning sickness magically disappeared as soon as I hit 18-weeks, my insatiable appetite for Junior Burger did not – and neither did the smallest of niggles in the back of my mind that perhaps by giving into my cravings and not “toughing it out”, as one vegan website phrased it, I had failed myself and my baby somehow.
So when Natalie Portman announced last week that her vegan diet had given way to the cravings she was experiencing as a result of her pregnancy, I breathed a sigh of relief. If Ms. Portman, Oscar-winning actress with millions in her bank account to spend on chefs, dieticians, nutritionists and health professionals, couldn’t keep up a vegan diet during pregnancy, then how was a mere mortal like myself expected to? And really, as long as your pregnancy is progressing well, and both you and your baby are healthy, that’s all that matters.
Junior Burger any one?