Article by Christina Chang
Translated by Mark Wan
Edited by Diana Chang, Andrea Barkley
A three-month-old baby boy, having just had his fill of milk and looking at this brand-new world around him, comfortably slouched in daddy’s embrace, and close by was mommy trying to coax babbling utterances out of him. Ryan and Joyce Wu, newly minted parents, smiled broadly at the infant whose arrival was long overdue. Shafts of sunlight in Northern Californian winter came through the window to cast its spell on the family in the living room, cloaked in warmth and blissfulness.
During the earlier period of their eight years’ marriage, they had tried all manner of things in the hopes of having their child, but to no avail. Having almost given up hope, they decided against more exertion of will and let nature take its course. Then, in February 2020, Joyce found herself pregnant after the couple dedicated the whole month to a vegetarian diet. The baby’s birth last October fulfilled their wish and got the nuclear family off to a good start.
A Long & Strenuous Path to Fruitful Reproduction
Right from the start of their marriage, Ryan & Joyce Wu wanted to have children despite their difficulties. Both worked in Silicon Valley, searching for solutions that still failed to produce the desired result. Even after repeated consultations with doctors of Western medicine and Chinese medicine, they had no luck.
For every annual return to Taiwan, the family visitation always included an excursion to a booming temple for this purpose. Yet, no matter how much incense they burned, their wishful thinking remained wishful thinking, gone with wisps of incense smoke dissipating in the air.
In 2018 Joyce visited a well-known private clinic in Taiwan’s Hsinchu City, prospecting for a chance of pregnancy. After diagnosis, however, the doctors deemed her barren because of her bodily constitution. And the best shot of having offspring was borrowing eggs. Reflecting on what happened that day, she said, after getting out of the clinic, “I couldn’t help but cry out loud on my bus ride back home.” The road to securing offspring seemed so long and strenuous that, no matter how driven she was, there seemed no clear end in sight.
Later, a doctor in Taipei, Taiwan, offered them a test tube experiment through in vitro fertilization. As a trial attempt of the last resort, the couple agreed, and voila! It worked. After returning to Silicon Valley full of hope, Joyce found out, after a few weeks, that the embryo had stopped growing, thus failing to salvage the fetus. And the last chance broke the couple’s hope.
Life often unexpectedly presents itself. Not long after Ryan and Joyce Wu successively decided to go with a vegetarian diet, Joyce found herself pregnant.
A Vegetarian Life: From Intermittent To Fully Committed
The couple attempted a vegetarian lifestyle three years ago but gave up within one month. As Ryan Wu remembered, “An imbalanced diet was the main reason. We went into it thinking that giving up meat was all it took, and it affected our physical condition.” He grinned and said they became “part-time vegetarians,” with one or two meals comprising vegetables.
At the end of 2019, Ryan Wu decided to experiment with a vegan diet again. They participated in the Sutra Performance during the annual Lunar New Year Blessing Ceremony. The process required him to maintain a vegetarian diet and prayers, hoping to take advantage of the occasion to steel himself to go vegan. On the other hand, Joyce Wu was swayed by the fact that Covid-19, a disaster of the century sweeping the entire globe, had probably been caused mainly by humans slaughtering wildlife. Thus she committed to going vegetarian in all her meals, and she wished to do her bit to alleviate the effects of the pandemic.
In February 2020, Joyce found herself pregnant after the couple completed the entire month of a completely vegetarian diet.
At the initial stage of her pregnancy, Joyce continued her complete vegetarian diet. But on one occasion, her careless action of having a bowl of noodle soup mixed with chicken seasoning. It gave rise to bouts of diarrhea. Mixing garlic, onion, or five spices with the herbs would also cause severe nausea. Therefore, in response to the fetus’ reaction to motherly meals, Joyce felt compelled to pursue a vegan diet during the whole process of being an expectant mother. She replaced cow milk with soy or whole grains, onion, and garlic with ginger. With this reasonably strict regimen, the fetus took it all in stride, developing smoothly, and reported to this world early yet after the entire term of 35 weeks.
Weighing over 5 pounds at birth, the infant didn’t need to stay for observation. And after three months of being raised by parents who stuck to a vegan diet, the baby boy caught up in weight standard with the rest of the children of the same age group. This also reminded Joyce of what had been said to her by a friend advocating a vegetarian diet. “Maybe the baby you were expecting awaited your turn to go veggie, which would prepare an auspicious environment for the baby to practice Dharma as well.”
Casting constant doting glances toward the starry-eyed “vegetarian” baby boy slouching in her arms, Joyce beamed with joy in reminiscing about the whole cyclical nature of life. She thought going veggie changed and blessed the lives of their entire family.
Life has its share of ups and downs. This also applies to the difficulty and challenges their dietary journey encountered. Remembering the process of sticking to a completely vegetarian diet, Ryan Wu shared his thoughts. “I want to inform you that it is normal to be on a bumpy road to a vegetarian lifestyle.” Many outside resources also enabled him to stick it out to the end.
Ryan said that upon the assurance of his wife’s pregnancy, he also, for a moment, felt unsure about whether a vegan diet could ensure the pregnancy of a full range of nutritions required. His concern was alleviated last March. Ryan watched a video lecture on a healthy vegan diet conducted by dietitians from Taiwan Tzu Chi Hospital, which provided quite a few practical pieces of advice in life. Both Tzu Chi USA volunteers, Ryan and Joyce, with assistance from many Tzu Chi volunteers, were pleasantly bombarded with diversified information about a vegan lifestyle, Tzu Chi USA’s Very Veggie Movement. During Joyce’s physical re-nourishment period of postpartum confinement, many senior Tzu Chi volunteers cared for her and provided help whenever needed. To top it all off, the domestic helper the couple hired also happened to be a vegan who would coordinate three meals daily.
Well Wishes for a Vegan Lifestyle
After giving birth, Joyce was also concerned about whether or not a vegan diet would enable nourishment for her and her breastfeeding baby. Over the phone across the Pacific pond, her mother offered words of encouragement, “If a vegan diet were good for the fetus, then it would also be good for the baby.”
Joyce’s family in Taiwan is not into a vegan diet, and it’s common for them to have fish and meat as daily staples. However, after the changes, she felt her daughter went through with the vegan diet and a healthy “veggie” baby it purportedly helped to bring into her small family. The mother also started to encourage the rest of the family in Taiwan to eat more vegetables and less meat. In recent years, Joyce’s father battled diabetes and cancer. Her mother helped him recover with a vegetarian diet after the treatment, meanwhile advising the rest of her offspring to follow a healthier way of life through the vegetarian diet.
A vegetarian diet has changed Ryan and Joyce Wu. It helped bring them a healthy “veggie” baby and enabled them to maintain a healthy lifestyle through a vegan diet. Their life of vegetarian pursuit, and the smile of their baby boy basking in the bright winter sunshine, are the manifestations of expectancy, new birth, perseverance, and this family brimming with blessings.