GREEN GENES: Aimee, Nigel & Airlia
Who are you? Aimee, 28. Nigel, 29. Airlia, 2.
Length of veganism: 1 year.
Tell us about your journey to veganism:
Prior to transitioning to veganism, I had been vegetarian for around 4 or 5 years. Animal liberation was something that had been on my mind from a very young age. I remember making the correlation between what was on my plate, and the animals I loved so dearly as a child. I think my first attempt at vegetarianism was around age 8, then again at 12 and 16. Without the support of my family or the correct nutritional information I became anaemic, so eventually fell back into old habits and started eating meat again.
It wasn't until I was my early 20’s that I felt I could truly commit to this journey. The film Earthlings was a big turning point for me, I was 22 so thought I knew a lot – but I had no idea. During the film I was sickened, full of self–loathing and desperately wanted to look away – but didn’t. This was the moment that I decided to stop consuming our furry, feathered and scaly siblings. Following that it was 4 years until I made the connection with dairy and eggs, particularly after giving birth to my daughter. Through breastfeeding Airlia, I realised that a mother cow must have to be pregnant to lactate (so obvious now, right?). This thought fueled me to look further into the system and with the help of some friends and great resources I began the transition to veganism. It is ongoing, and sometimes I do slip up – not going to lie. I think we need to break the image of veganism being fanatical and rigid – it is ok to regress as long as we take it as an opportunity for learning and growth.
What do you believe to be the benefits of living a vegan lifestyle?
For me it was a like opening a door to the lies I had been told as a member of this society – realising that the systems we believe in and follow blindly are most often built on lies and greed. By not eating the animals that I professed to love I became closer to them, I feel more accepted by them and nature as a whole – as though we are now – finally – on the same side. Aside from this I also feel the immense health benefits, my energy is through the roof and my love for cooking has grown exponentially as I experiment almost daily with different recipes.
How did you go throughout your pregnancy?
Unfortunately I was not yet vegan during pregnancy, I was vegetarian so ate the rare bit of cheese or chocolate. Though as a vegetarian I was told to eat meat, and that without a doubt I would lack iron and needed to start “at least eating fish”. One doctor even told me to eat veal bone stew if I couldn't stomach a straight up piece of meat. Finally I had my levels checked and as it turned out my iron was at an above average level, higher than that of meat–eating women. Through my next pregnancy I will be vegan and I don’t doubt that my iron levels will remain sound and my baby as strong, astute and healthy as Airlia has been from birth!
Did/do you have any rituals or ways to ground yourself during pregnancy?
I was blessed to have a very calm pregnancy and birth, my main form of grounding was to take my time. I would lay on my side in bed for an extra fifteen minutes every morning and just touch Airlia through my belly and sing to her or talk to her about anything, everything. I would also write letters. I did this probably to settle any fears I had with myself, I would write to Airlia and tell her what kind of mother I was going to try and be, the things we would do, see and experience together. I would promise to surround her with love and fun and that she would always know how loved she is. I made this promise to her every single day of my pregnancy, which was almost like a meditation.
Why did you choose to raise your child/children vegan?
I want the best for Airlia. I want to give her the voice and the options that so many children don’t have. I want her to have the gift of unbiased information… I want to support her health and development through nutrition and help her to evolve into a healthy, interested, curious and open–minded little girl, who questions the world around her. And mostly I want to nurture her natural state of unconditional love toward all beings. This is something innate to children that we as adults often lose and then condition out of kids due to fear.
How did people react to your decision?
I get a lot of quizzical looks and questions, which I’m totally fine with; it just gives me an opportunity to share my point of view. There have been a lot of fear–based comments with no real substance and I’m ok with that because I would probably feel the same in their shoes. People’s ignorance, or even just difference of opinion, doesn’t offend or upset me. It’s an opportunity to learn about others, which helps us to learn about ourselves.
Tell us about your birthing experience:
My birthing experience was wonderful. I laboured for around 6 hours at home – 4 of those hours on my own and the last few with my partner. I had no fear around birth itself, my only fear was being hospitalised or medicated unnecessarily. After many hours of labouring by ourselves my partner took me to hospital where I was told I was in transition and Airlia was coming right then and there – no delivery room, no hospital gown, no doctors and still in my dress I gave birth to Airlia 100% naturally upon 20 minutes of our arrival. They placed her on my chest where she latched onto my breast immediately and the bond was instantaneous and immense. Next time I would like to birth at home as I have nothing but confidence and pride in my body and ability to birth unassisted.
Do you have any plans for schooling years? (non-vegan friends, parents, teachers etc.)
As it stands we will be home–schooling Airlia for at least the first few years of her school life as we will be travelling (that is the plan) however I already believe that Airlia will want to go to school. She is so social and craves connections with other kids so we will cross that bridge when we get to it. In terms of non–vegan friends, teachers etc, I would talk to them openly about our life choices. I am not rigid in the sense that if there were slip–ups (eg: someone gives her a cupcake at a party or she eats something we don't usually have at home) I would not let this be the end of the world. There is no shame in slip–ups and I want to make sure she knows this.
Can you recommend any resources for raising vegan children?
The internet! It’s such a wonderful resource, and the recipes are absolutely abundant. Also Instagram has become a beautiful community for like minded connections, I have made great friends this way who have made me feel supported every step of the way.
Are there any vegans mums that have supported you through your journey?
Unfortunately I have no vegan mum friends in my immediate area however Instagram has been a wonderful space and I’ve made some life long connections through it. @zenailurophile (Emma, featured on the cover of TLS: Issue 02) was a wonderful support through my decision to become vegan, she recommended some resources including “The Greatest Speech You’ll Ever Hear” by Gary Yourofsky which really gave me the slap in the face that I needed. Also @erinashleigh (Erin, our second Green Genes profile which you can read HERE) Erin is a beautiful vegan soul that inspires me daily with her kindness and passion. @motherfungus Katie and her beautiful family, Sophie @aunaturelle, Beau @phoenixology, Cassidy @gaiachild, Shae @saturnseastar, and the list goes on and on but these are just a few of my daily inspirations.
In what ways has veganism changed your life:
Almost too many too list. I feel like making this transition was truly the first big step (after child birth) toward connecting with my true self. After years of almost floundering through life unsure of why I felt unsettled, making this connection was like lifting the lid to Pandora’s box. It has helped me to become healthier, passionate, more involved in social issues, aware of the world, more interested in cooking and nutrition, it has fuelled my longing for oneness with nature and reiterated humility and gratitude. I am forever grateful for every morsel of food I put into my mouth and the opportunity I have to provide food for my daughter. It has made me realise just how blessed I am and that has transmuted into love and kindness. It has helped me strive to be a better person every single day.
Advice for families planning on raising vegan children:
Follow your instinct, don’t listen to the fear, find like–minded people, ask for help. Attune to your child self and be true to her – children have so much wisdom that gets lost along the way if you can tune back into that frequency, planning to raise your child vegan will come naturally. <3
To follow Aimee & her beautiful family, click HERE.