True confession: I judge books by their cover.
I was in the diet section at Barnes and Noble when Skinny Bitch caught my eye. It was small and cute and I loved the conversational tone of the jacket. I swiped my card at the checkout counter and hungrily read it as soon as I got home. A couple of pages in…I realized I’d been duped. This wasn’t a book about skinny bitches at all. It was about becoming a vegan! I rolled my eyes hard, but I kept reading. And started believing. I finished Skinny Bitch and ran out to buy Skinny Bitch in the Kitch (with a catchy title like that, how could I not?).
Gross! Ick! Tofu! Seaweed! Twigs! Leaves! Seeds!
Ok, so maybe I’m exaggerating the scavenging, I mean shopping list a little bit, but you get the idea. I didn’t know what half of the stuff was, where to buy it, or how to use it. When I was lost and confused in the three total aisles of Whole Foods—Agave Nectar? Coconut Oil? Quinoa?—I could have really used a going-vegan doula. (Yes, I realize you don’t have to be vegan to eat these things…and while coconut oil and quinoa are all the rage right now, eight years ago…WF was the only place to pick up these bad boys.) I know she would have provided me with all the informational support I wanted, giving me practical examples of when Wannabe-Butter Spread (not margarine…something far more elusive and expensive) would and would not work.
(Spoiler alert: It’s cake. It doesn’t work in cake.)
She would have helped me find nutritional yeast and would likely have told me about how I could use it to make things taste cheesy-ish. And when they didn’t taste cheesy or ish at all, she would have reminded me that I was making the choices that I thought were best.
When I told my raised-on-a-farm mom that I was no longer consuming animal products, my doula would have been there to support me 100%. She would have helped facilitate a respectful conversation about food choices, making sure my mom knew my decision to no longer consume meat did not mean she had to give up bacon. And later that summer, when I would frantically text her about how to survive 5 baseball parks in 7 days with no brats, she would have picked me up and assured me I. Could. Do. This. Besides, beer and peanuts are perfectly fine on their own.
She would have held my hair AND puke bucket while I sat on the toilet, certain I was dying. She wouldn’t have said “I told you so” when I admitted I didn’t have the waiter “hold the cheese” on my southwestern salad this time. She wouldn’t have smugly reminded me that I said I wasn’t going to consume cow’s milk…you know, since I wasn’t a baby cow. And she never, ever would have mentioned the smell.
Then, six months later, when I just couldn’t hold out any longer…she wouldn’t talk me out of a middle-of-the-night-run to Chili Time for goetta. She would have listened. She would have empowered me to make the choices that were best for me…even if those choices were different than what I said I wanted from the start. Even if they were different than the choices she would make. And best of all, she wouldn’t judge me. She wouldn’t call me fickle. Or indecisive. Or an animal-killer. She certainly wouldn’t call me out on eating at Chili Time (what would have impressed me most of all).
She would have supported me—wholly—on my journey to vegan and back. And you know what? I bet she would have been the biggest meat eater of them all. If there had been a We Love Meat club in high school, she would probably have been their president. But I would never have known.
Because doulas (even the going-vegan variety) keep their personal beliefs personal. They support their clients’ goals, whatever they are, however they may change. They provide more information if you want it (she probably already knew agave nectar was worse than sugar, but you know I wasn’t hearing it), and are there for you even for middle-of-the-night, should-I-eat-this emergencies.
Of course I managed just fine…but what a difference a going-vegan doula would have made!
At least now I know my way around a Whole Foods.