5 Reasons I would NOT survive

As a historical author, I spend a large amount of my time considering what life was like in nineteenth century America. Consequently, I have a very healthy appreciation for the fact that I was not born during the time about which I write. Today I will explore 5 very real reasons I would not have survived my favorite era:

  1. I’d die socially. I’m just not talented in the game of politics. While I try never to be rude or force my opinion on someone else, I have always had trouble keeping my mouth shut when I witness injustice. Particularly social injustice – a seriously hot topic of the times. There is very little doubt my outspokenness would have landed me on the outs of polite society in no time unless I were lucky enough to be born so high up the social tier as to be permitted to say and do anything I please without serious consequence. (Was there such a height? I think this may be a debatable point.)
  2. I’d die of disease &/or food poisoning. This would actually be a secondary effect of reason number one. Being on the outs of society I probably wouldn’t have access to proper (well, as proper as it got in that time) medical care; nor would I find it easy to get or keep a job, which of course would mean I’d be living in the disease-carrying-bug-infested tenements (probably sharing with other outcasts like myself) and I’d probably be buying the cheapest food I could find (if I didn’t have to dig it out of a rubbish bin), and back then the cheap butchers would sell rotten meat disguised with borax and clothing dye. Yum.

    Potato, anyone? Come on, half of it isn’t even moldy!


  3. I’d die of starvation. I’m a squeamish eater. I admit it. I’m that person. The spoiled, citified American who just doesn’t want to think too much about where her food comes from. If it still has eyes when I first see it, there is no way I’m eating it. I don’t even like handling the raw meat that comes from my supermarket. *shudder* I know. I know. I am ridiculously odd this way, but hey, at least I’m honest about it. I mean, if it really came down to starvation or killing and prepping my own meat… I’d like to think I could do it…without vomiting…but I really, REALLY like that I don’t have to find out. The other part of being a squeamish eater? I’ve read so many stories about bugs invading food stores and how the people would just separate the bugs as best they could and then eat whatever was left… um no. Just no. If a bug is living in it… the bug wins. Let the bug eat it, because I almost certainly won’t. I’d have to be starving. Like, no-food-for-days, not-a-leaf-in-sight, I’m-gonna-die-in-24hrs-if-I-don’t-eat starving before I would even think about eating that.
  4. I’d die of heatstroke. Let me begin by explaining that I went to the high school in the high desert and successfully competed in Track and Field in both high and low desert locations. My first “real” job was a summer job working for the Youth Conservation Corps at Joshua Tree National Monument where we spent most of our time hiking, collecting trash, shoveling, pick-axing, and otherwise working ourselves into a very healthy sweat in the high desert summer sun. Back then I could take the heat and keep on ticking. Not anymore. Since having children, something in my body has changed and I do NOT tolerate heat well at all. Especially if there is any amount of humidity involved. These days I can get heat-sick at the drop of a hat. Digging a garden in New England, harvesting wheat on the great plains, or just scrubbing the laundry over a steaming hot tub of water… any of these could kill me these days.
  5. I’d die in childbirth. I tried for natural childbirth. I really did. I was in active labor for 27 hours with my first child and 63 hours with my second. (Nope. That’s not a typo – ask my doula.) I had no pain meds up until the point when they told me I needed – NEEDED – a cesarean. For BOTH of my first two deliveries. By my third, we had learned that my body just wouldn’t cooperate and we scheduled the cesarean in advance. Had I been delivering in the nineteenth century I (and my eldest son) would most likely not have survived my first delivery. There were, of course, very few doctors, if any, in many parts of the country, even fewer who were capable of performing a life-saving surgery, and don’t even get me started on “childbed fever.”

Thank you, God, for placing me in this place and time.

What about you? Do you think you would have survived nineteenth century America?

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