Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Our Road to Forgiveness, Vegetarian Style

A while back, my husband and I attempted to adopt a ten-month-old baby boy. We were told at the outset about our son's background. How his birth mother had taken drugs and drank alcohol and that it had effected the baby. We didn't have much time to make up our minds whether we wanted to adopt this baby or not. We didn't need much time, however, because we wanted him from the moment we were told about him.

As Christians and vegetarians, we were certain that everything would work out, and we were so excited when we went to pick him up. He was so beautiful and small for his size. We were told he was tiny because of the mom's drinking and drug usage, but it didn't upset us. We were in love, and we were so happy we finally were a family with a child.

That night when we returned home with our son we couldn't wait to show him off to everyone we knew. We took him to the neighbors and to our health food store, where the owner gave us a surprise baby shower and offered us gifts from the store's shelves.

We always had the backing of the vegetarian community here and had even received a loan from a health organization to help us with home study, so we were well prepared to go down the road to raising our son. Prepared, that is, until questions started pouring in about our son's slow growth, how were we feeding him, and whether we still were vegetarians. The questions seemed odd, at least to us. We just let them blow over. We thought the people asking the questions would be satisfied with our answers, but to our surprise they were more concerned than we could have imagined. And it did not stop there.

Someone who felt we were not feeding our son properly reported us to our local child protection authorities. We never had thought that this would ever happen to us. One Sunday, during midday services, two policemen and two welfare workers entered our church looking for us. But we had left church early that day to attend a meeting out of town--something we rarely do. When we returned, our neighbors told us that policemen had been to our home looking for us, knocking on doors and windows. Our neighbors were heading out to search for us and warn us about what was happening. We are blessed with good neighbors. They never thought we had done anything wrong, and we hadn't.

When we returned home, we found out what had happened. We called a witness from church to be with us, and we put our son down for his nap. What happened next is not to be believed. The authorities came and strip-searched our baby and searched our home without a warrant. Then they took our son away without listening to anything we said or even looking at our son's medical records, which we tried to show them. We were taken to court two days later, where the adoption agency turned against us, despite the fact they knew the truth. Our son was taken and given to a nonvegetarian family to raise.

We learned that in order to live again, we would have to forgive. It wasn't easy to see the people who initiated the investigation being with their children, loving them, hugging them, seeing them at Easter and Christmas and in the plays at church, saying their speeches, and pretending nothing had happened. We had to forgive them. The adoption agency, the state workers, and everyone involved, we had to forgive them all. Forgiveness helped us move on with life. We feel sorry for the people who did this; they need prayer and help.

We discovered that our experience drew us closer than ever before. We know that there is a child somewhere out there for us to adopt and love and raise vegan. We were vegetarian when this started; we now are vegan. We have found out that we are not the only family this has happened to, and we are sad about that. We have talked to several families who have gone through situations similar to ours, and we have tried to guide them though the maze. We never thought this could happen in America--but it could and did.

We found out that in order to go on with life, one must forgive, because not forgiving causes illness and much sadness. We grew tired of feeling sad, and we knew that as long as we held on to anger and blame, we could never truly be happy. So we let it go, and now we are happier than ever. We are confident that one day we will hold another child to love and raise as our own.

Shirley D.

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