It’s July 14th again.
I’ve been thinking about July 14th more than usual lately, which is at least one hundred times per day for the past two decades. Two decades. It’s surreal to me.
Every July 14th, I sit down to write. I’ve never missed one. Sometimes I write in a journal, keeping my pain and grief to myself. Other times, I write an article that is just a little too personal to make me feel utterly comfortable publishing. But I still do.
I both love and hate July 14th anniversaries. Each one has its different milestone, or rather, a representation of them. This particular July 14th is incredibly hard as it marks a somewhat monumental milestone. A milestone I started thinking about 21 years ago when I found out that I was pregnant.
I was 19.
Today is Jonathon’s birthday. It’s one of those milestone birthdays, too; his 21st.
He’s my son.
I don’t get the chance to talk about Jonathon often. A lot of people don’t even know he exists. It’s not from a lack of desire to talk about him, mind you. Sometimes that’s all I want to do.
But unfortunately, the fact is, there’s no polite way to tell someone about your baby who died. There isn’t. You can’t talk about your pregnancy experience either because that leads to questions about the baby who died.
Losing a baby is hard. Not talking about that baby ever again is torture.
Jonathon was full term, but there were complications. He was stillborn, born three days after his father’s birthday. I found out about his death the night before during an ultrasound.
Doctors advised me to have an emergency delivery the night I found out. I was very ill; my son had died the day before. But I left the hospital that night anyway. I never slept. Instead, I spent the night grieving for the child I had dreamt about, planned for, and loved for nine months.
I returned to the hospital the next morning to give birth to my dead son, utterly and so very wholly broken.
For the first few years after Jonathon died, I tried talking about him. But it was awkward and uncomfortable for everyone involved. Trust me; no one is comfortable talking about it. Hospitals aren’t equipped to deal with them either, and parents of stillborn children are left to fumble their way through a devastating time with little advice or support.
My son is gone, and with him went my motherhood. Gone. Erased. Like it never existed.
I know what it is like to create life, carry it, and the pain of childbirth, yet I’m never called a mother because my son never lived outside my womb.
I never had an opportunity to mother my child; it’s true. But I am a mother.
Motherhood & Veganism
Many years later, I learned about the animals in our industrialized food system, and I couldn’t help but make the connection between my loss of motherhood with theirs.
Billions of female animals are exploited for their reproductive capabilities every single year. Mothers are imprisoned, manipulated, tortured, and eventually slaughtered for human profit. Their children are either forced back into the cycle of (ab)use or immediately killed for merely being the wrong sex.
Whenever I think about the exploitation of non-human mothers, I immediately think of the dairy industry and its never-ending cycle of forced pregnancies.
Cows carry their young for nine months, building their children’s biological bond long before giving birth. They have deep maternal instincts, yet newborn calves are taken from their mothers within hours of delivery, causing extreme distress for both. Cows will go to great lengths to protect their children, some even hiding their newborns from farmers in the hopes of keeping their family together.
As a mother, I can tell you that the loss of my child is one of the most painful experiences that I will ever endure. The deep, ragged grief stays with you as the years go by, each milestone more bittersweet than the last.
I never stop wondering about my son.
Whose looks would he have? Would he be short like me or taller like his father? Would his hair curl like mine? Would he choose veganism too? Most importantly, would he have been happy?
I’ll never know.
For the past few years, I’ve been writing about motherhood & veganism; I’ve done so from a mother’s viewpoint.
First, in this post, Don’t Take the Babies. In it, I compare the loss of my child to that of a non-human animal- noting that both are painfully the same:
I imagine that cows, chickens, pigs, horses, birds, deer, raccoons, squirrels, and any animal who creates life, brings it into this world, would feel the same [as me] if they lost a child. I imagine that their grief is as painful as mine. And like me, I doubt that these mothers ever forget their children no matter how many years pass.
I continue Jonathon’s story in; We Don’t Need to Be the Same to Care:
These animals create families. I have little doubt that they care for each other, not that I need that affirmation to care about their interests. We don’t have to be the same as non-humans to care about them as individuals. We only have to care.
And from last year’s article, Loss is Universal:
The dairy industry employs some of the most heinous crimes against mothers in our industrialized food system. And yet, most people have positive feelings about consuming animal-based dairy products. They are shocked to learn how milk is actually produced, and about its direct connection to the veal industry. Simply put, there can be no dairy industry without the suffering of mothers and their children.
My motherhood was erased when Jonathon died, much like the way we erase the motherhood of animals. We pretend it doesn’t exist because it’s easier than acknowledging the fact that we are taking babies away from their mothers.
The pain of loss is universal and not limited to species. Neither is grief.
It’s time we make the connection.
Learn How the Dairy Industry is Bad for Mothers
Please learn more about how the dairy industry exploits mothers by visiting this Guide to Dairy-Free Living.
Quitting dairy has never been easier, and this guide has it all.
From gourmet cheeses to creamy milk made from nuts, vegan choices are abundant. I’ve put together a shopping guide to help point you in the right direction. And, if you’re interested in making non-dairy milk products at home, well, I’ve got you covered there, too.
You can do it, dump the dairy.
Let me show you how.