How in the world are these two categories related? Well, it’s coincidental mostly. It happens that in the last two months I got pregnant and had a miscarriage, and have experienced the struggles of being a vegan in a meat-oriented world through my best friend.
She decided to become vegan a few months ago, after years of vegetarianism. She’s shared with me the experiences and information that led her to make this lifestyle change. She’s also shared with me the awful reality of having to defend your lifestyle within a society that is meat dependent. With this comes a certain odd level of persecution that I can only begin to understand through my experience with gluten intolerance and a medical and scientific community that predominately tells me it’s all in my head. (I’ve tested negative for celiac disease.) She and a coworker of mine saw the documentary Cowspiracy, and I’ve been reminded of the statistics and realities of the agricultural industry and first world overconsumption of meat in both a moral context and a global sustainability context. My company seeks to build to the most sustainable and beautiful structures in the world. We develop, design, build, and then manage highly sustainable multifamily dwellings. Our in-house Green Team, of which I’m a part, has begun analyzing our internal operations to ensure our policies and practices align with our goals and values. With any discussion of environmental sustainability comes a discussion about the impact our eating habits have on global systems.
Personally, I’ve experimented with various dietary habits and am aware of the moral and environmental implications of my meat consumption. I was a vegetarian for a year in 2005 while living with my best friend. However, this was also a year of horrid health as I later discovered I have an intolerance to wheat and cannot digest many legumes. I’m one of those unlucky FODMAP people. This rules out veganism and vegetarianism as options for me. I do best with a diet full of non FODMAP vegetables, citrus fruits, omega 3s, lean meats, and some carbs. I am also horrified by the realities of the agricultural industry and CAFOs. Basically, I’m an animal lover who has to eat animals to live. Yes, I’m aware of the cognitive dissonance in that last sentence. I’ve long thought about taking up hunting and living with the rule “If you can’t kill it, don’t eat it.” I haven’t made that leap yet.
How does this tie into miscarriage? It’s about the realization of the animal within. Nothing makes you realize you are an animal more than birth. Well except maybe death. No one comes back from that, so I can’t tell you which one is more animalistic. I remember when the battery pack on the epidural died while I was in the transition stage of labor with my son. I thought I was going to die, the pain was so bad. I had an out-of-body experience where I saw the panic in my own eyes. The panic of an animal that is about to die. It’s the same look a fish on the line has. Miscarriage was a mini-birth. Mine had to be medically induced as my body refused to acknowledge the death of our child. This time I was not in a hospital bed. I squatted in my own bed, moaning and rocking myself as my mother rubbed my lower back. The labor pains came in waves. I felt the urge to push. I sat on the toilet and UGH out came the placenta and gestational sac. I frantically thrust my hand into the blood filled toilet bowl to rescue the remnant of my daughter. I actually have no idea if she was a girl. She died at four weeks gestation and there wasn’t anything of her left other than the byproducts of birth, a sac and placenta. I later expelled a piece of flesh resembling a chicken liver. Probably part of the placenta. I kept her in a jar in my fridge for three days until I felt ready to bury her in the garden.
That was a Thursday. On Friday night my husband fixed dinner. Chicken legs and salad. I almost threw up. The flesh of the chicken leg reminded me of the placenta flesh, so I couldn’t eat it. We’re all made of the same stuff. It is hard to consume that which reminds you of human. A week later I ate a Trader Joe’s chicken tikka masala dish. The chicken was delicious. Disguised in the sauce, I ate it while pondering why. Highly unlikely it’s a cage free chicken. Not that those labels mean anything, but greenwashing is a post on its own. Disguised in packaging and sauce, divorced from the origin, we eat our meat, resting content in ignorance. Could I eat a lamb if I saw it slaughtered before my eyes? My child’s placenta, no different than the chicken livers I fry.
I love fish. I could eat it every day. My husband loves fishing, so he was delighted when I gave him the green light to go fishing on one condition: bring home the fish you catch. Today he brought home two beautiful trout and fried them up for dinner. He told me that when he cut open one of the fish, he discovered she was female: eggs. Resurgence of the miscarriage. I am full of eggs. We are the same, her and I. This fish will not reproduce again. I ate her, so that I may live and reproduce again. Honestly, it’s the first time I felt any connection to a fish.
I am an animal. My hormones are out of balance as my hcg levels still read “pregnant.” My fickle body is trying to fill the void left by my child. My mind hangs on saying, “NO! She cannot be replaced.” On one hand I rejoice in the primitive manliness my husband exudes from bringing home two trout for dinner. On the other hand, I remember the trout’s eggs, and my failed pregnancy.
Ugh. Maybe it’s easier to be an animal. A fox or eagle or something. Awareness can be such a burden.