As the Cyclist Turns: Brooklyn Edition

 

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This is my first installment of As the Cyclist Turns but probably not my last!

Like all work day mornings, I dropped the girls off at school and hopped on my bike to ride to work. Commuting by bike is a crazy endeavor in NYC and as I’ve learned over the past year, there is no shortage of insanity on the roads. This morning, I was taking the normal route when I noticed another rider salmoning (going the wrong way) up the bike lane. This is not out of the ordinary in Brooklyn because many people don’t understand how the bike lanes work. As I got closer to the rider, I noticed he was riding erratically and yelling at the cyclists riding past. As he got closer to me he began screaming at me to get out of the way and as he passed he spit in my face. Now spit is probably the most disgusting substance in existence and my kryptonite. It makes me crumple into fits of emotion and this was no exception, as soon as this happened I stopped. I needed to gather myself and figure out what the hell had just happened. I turned around to see where he went and saw him trying to run other riders off the road. My husband was behind me and something about him made Mr. Crazy jump off of his bike. He dropped his bike, started chasing and punching after my husband and screaming about “white fuckers”. When he couldn’t take out his aggression on a person he began kicking and punching a parked car, leaving huge dents. We didn’t stick around to see what happened next because clearly this person was looking to hurt someone.

We took off and headed to work. When I got to my office I called the local precinct to give them a description because I’m sure this man will strike again. Anyway, here’s a brief description in case you come into contact. Tread lightly, he is volatile.

Caucasian Male, early to mid-thirties, 5’11, stocky build, tan, curly brown hair, baggy t-shirt and basketball shorts and he is riding a mountain bike around the Greenpoint area. If you see this guy, watch the F out!

Let’s just hope he gets help.

 

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Twenty Minutes

I’m giving a talk tomorrow on Gentle Parenting. I’ve been doing so much research over the past few weeks so that I can cover a wide array of topics but also so I don’t sound like a total ass! When I was going over my research I came across a little piece I wrote 2 years ago (let me wipe the tears now). It encompasses my relationship with Adeline in just a few words, and I love it. After an entire day of insanity, as a mother, all I needed was Twenty Minutes of her to erase all of the bad!

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Twenty-Minutes – 2013

My youngest is three and at her most challenging age thus far. Most days are spent wheeling and dealing, compromising, crying, splitting up fights, yelling, threatening and at some point one of us (usually me) in a room thinking up our next move. Not all days are this intense but it seems more and more lately. I have been through the 3s before with my oldest and I remember feeling discouraged, angry, guilty and frustrated but either my patience has diminished or this child is part devil!

I hate fighting with her but there are times when we need to leave the house, wear clothes, eat food, not spit on the carpet, not rip drawings off the wall, not punch her sister, stay out of traffic and keep her screaming to a low roar. I try communicating with her; help her understand her frustration but some days we just go to proverbial blows. I put in the time with parenting books and philosophies, which are valuable and have helped with so many problems but what they do not supply me with is the ability to not lose my shit after the four-thousandth loogie she has hawked on the floor. So, I just try and remember she is three, she will not always be three and things will get better (even though some days feel like eternity).

The other thing I rely on is bedtime; sometimes I count down the hours until I can finally have a moment of silence and sanity. Bedtime of course is no easy task. It is so bittersweet with the refusal to brush teeth, her refusal to stop screaming or jumping on the bed but the moment she finally gives in is heavenly! The twenty-minutes it takes for her to fall into a deep sleep feels like the most rejuvenating twenty-minutes of life and I live for it. She crawls into bed, rolls over and says “mommy hold me.” I curl up next to her tiny, warm, silent body and take it all in. Those twenty-minutes are magic for our relationship. She has the comfort and security of her mother and I get to recharge and remind myself that these days are fleeting, and to try and enjoy them. No matter how hard the day has been, those twenty-minutes make it all ok, make each day worth it and nothing heals my broken day like those minutes right before she falls asleep!

Gentle Parenting Talk, Friday, November 6, 9-10

A wonderful business that helps provide childcare and workspace, is having a series of talks, one in which I’m involved in. The Workaround will be hosting me and a discussion on gentle parenting. I would not call myself the master of gentle parenting and positive discipline but I’ve had my hands in many groups/organizations that focus on just that thing. The focus of the talk will be to help parents understand behavior and how better to guide children and help with frustrations. These are lasting techniques that can help create an environment of communication that will have long term results!

Come by and check it out!talkabout!

She Started It All!

kissingThe evening in question happened some time in January 2008. The Laning couple had just spent a weekend away from each other doing their various social justice work. Mr. Laning had been involved in an action in D.C. with Witness Against Torture, where he was arrested for protesting at the Supreme Court. Ms. Laning was engaging in her first nonviolence workshop with Alternative to Violence Project, where she spent a weekend with ex-gang members in the Bronx. It was one of those rewarding, transformative weekends where you view the world differently. Apparently, we viewed the world so differently we decided to make a baby, our first!

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The pregnancy was normal and miserable (I quickly discovered I hated pregnancy). I was working full time, puking part time and growing a gigantic baby. I didn’t really have any pregnant friends or family around, and so I sought out my own community. I joined a yahoo group and arranged pregnancy meet ups after work. The meet ups quickly turned into pregnant ladies complaining about pregnancy and stuffing their faces; basically perfect! It was a great way to meet people and talk about things my husband didn’t understand! I didn’t know much about pregnancy and labor, and so I researched the hell out of everything. I had not been exposed to much about births other than my mother who had two c-sections, and my sister who had two hospital births. I did not know anything about midwives, natural birth or home birth but knew I wanted something different from what I had heard. I remember the first time I watched the Business of Being Born and bawled every time a baby was born. Actually, I watched births on youtube constantly and read birth stories like crazy. I was obsessed with this world and knew I wanted it. I contacted my insurance company and they falsely told me they would not cover a home birth. I did what I thought was the second best option and went to a midwife practice at Beth Israel.

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The midwives at Beth Israel were nice and I particularly liked one. She was British and really open to any of my alternative ways of laboring. She was brutally honest about the hospital and informed me that many of the practices at the hospital were archaic. I tried to ignore this as much as possible because I wanted to believe in my ability to force my needs and wants when it came to labor. As my pregnancy progressed, it became clear that I was going to give birth to a 10lb baby. This was a concern for my midwife because she claimed the hospital frowned against vaginal births and big babies. Around my due date (the first week of October) she intervened and swept my membranes. I agreed to this because I was worried if my labor didn’t get started, they were going to force me into surgery. This was not a healthy mindset for a full term pregnancy.

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The morning of October 4, 2008 I woke up giant, pregnant and leaky. I couldn’t really distinguish between the type of leaky I was feeling and the normal type of leaky. So, I used the bathroom, ate some breakfast and waited to find out what would happen. The leaking kept happening and seemed heavy enough I called the midwife. She asked some questions and then told me to wait 24 hours before heading into the hospital. She explained that if I were to go into the hospital now, they would either send me home or strap me to a machine. So I waited, wet and uncomfortable. I was not feeling any pains other than braxton hicks, waited my 24 hours and I headed into the hospital. They checked me and said I was at most 1cm dilated and no contractions. They tested my leak and claimed it was urine. I had no faith in these people from that moment because it was clear to me that my leak was not urine. Anyway, they sent me home angry, worried and very uncomfortable.

The following morning, Monday, October 6 I went in for post-date, fetal testing. I was leaking like crazy (towels in my pants crazy) and very irritated. The testing went fine, my fluid was good and my baby was healthy. I headed to the midwife, pulled down my pants and she freaked! Not only was I leaking like crazy but now there was meconium, or newborn baby poo. This was a red flag because it was obvious there had been fluid leaking for two days and the baby may be in trouble. Before she sent me to the hospital to be admitted, she told me to stop and eat before because they would not allow me to eat during labor. She also told me to sneak in gatorade because I would need it. I followed orders, worried and scared.

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I arrived to the hospital and they immediately started a pitocin drip, strapped on a baby monitor, laid me on my back and told me not to get up. Until this point, I had not felt any real contractions and so when the pit contractions hit, I was overwhelmed. The contractions were strong and constant but I remained strong and refused medication. This process went on for 7-10 hours and with each hour they would increase my dosage. At around this point the contractions were coming every few minutes and hitting me so hard I cried. I could not get up and walk off the pain, or get on my hands and knees. Everything they told me to do felt opposite to what my body was telling me. I completely lost connection to the baby and could not do anything but focus on fear and pain. Around hour 10 I finally gave into their suggestions for drugs and got an epidural. Not only was the pain too intense but I was not progressing; having only reached 3 cm at this point. Also, I had a fever and could not keep up with the demands of consciousness.

Once the epidural was in, I relaxed and slept. I felt nothing and after 7 more hours in “labor” I began to throw up and I felt her drop. She was in the birth canal and I felt it. It was the only thing I had felt in the second half of labor and I knew it was time to push. I started pushing regardless of who was around, I knew she was ready to come. The midwife and nurse came in to check on things and agreed it was time to go. The baby was doing well and I had enough strength in me to push her out. After I had been pushing for 10-15 minutes a bunch of people came into my room. They claimed because of my fever the baby was in distress and they were worried about infection. They tried to give me a fever reducer but since I was pushing, the medication did not stay in (this is what happens when they try to administer medication to a pregnant woman who is pushing a baby out). So the doctor came in and made a decision, “Ms. Laning, if you don’t push this baby out in 10 mins, we are taking her out.”

It was at this moment that I gave up. I knew there was no way she was coming out now because my body shut down. It went into flight mode and they wheeled me into the O.R. I don’t remember much about my surgery other than feeling cold, exhausted and high. A couple of times I remember them adding more meds because I could feel them cutting me, and I was shaking on the bed. I knew they were done when I heard her cry and it was magic. I wanted her so badly but my body wasn’t able to have her. I felt some comfort knowing her dad could take care of her and that she was healthy (the cry was intense)!

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They brought her over to me and immediately I felt differently. Yes, I was totally out of it but I was so happy to see her, to hold her, to have her in my life. It wasn’t perfect but she certainly was. It wasn’t much later that I passed out and they wheeled me into recovery. Dad had to make a choice between his wife and child, which I know was hard. She needed him more than me but it was the first time he had to chose someone over me.

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I woke up in recovery alone, high, sore and scared. I was in a room with a bunch of empty beds and I yelled out. A nurse came to me and I told her I wanted my baby (it was more of a demand). They wheeled me into the NICU to see her. She was staying in the NICU because they believed she may have an infection from the meconium or my fever. She was huge, 9 lbs 6.8 oz,  20.5 inches and looked like she could eat the other babies (my little sumo)! They had all kinds of wires and machines attached to her, they were giving her antibiotics and pricking her foot every hour to test for infection. It was not something I handled well. This was really our first meeting because I barely remembered the first. She opened her eyes and looked deeply into my soul. She knew my voice immediately and calmed down, it was truly a magical moment. They allowed me to nurse her for a few minutes but made me give her up way too soon.

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From the moment of our first meeting, I fought every second to get her out of that hospital. They bullied me into giving her formula, claiming my milk had not come in. I was producing colostrum (liquid gold) and that was all she needed but I agreed to the formula because they told me they would let her out of the NICU. The formula they gave her distended her stomach and she threw up everywhere. Once I finally got her back I went to see the lactation consultant who became a quick ally. Everything she said made sense to me and was in opposition to what the other nurses were saying. She taught me a lot about nursing and was the one positive thing (other than Emma) that came out of that place. We played the game as best we could so we could get out and after three days they released us. I had never been so relieved as the moment I walked out of that place and was able to take my baby home.

emma home

We adjusted to life as a new family poorly. Emma refused anything but me, and I struggled to deal with my birth. I cried a lot in the beginning and so did she. A wave of anxiety hit me so hard that I could barely function on the inside. My mom stayed with me for a couple of weeks which really helped with recovery but nothing could have ever prepared me for the emotions that hit after her birth. It was so hard to recover physically and emotionally while trying to care for a newborn. I didn’t let any of it stop me from doing my job and she was cared for very well but we struggled. Emma never slept (and didn’t until she was 3), she nursed all day and night and freaked if I put her down. I know now that all of this was related to birth trauma and we both felt very insecure without each other. I tried to go back to work when she was 9 weeks old and it didn’t last because I cried every day for a month and quit. We eventually figured it all out but those first few months were rough.

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We went to therapy together to deal with my anxiety and we healed together. She was a very perceptive and wise baby, and she taught me many things about being a mother. We adored each other and she completely transformed me. I never expected to accept my birth because I was just so angry but I learned to appreciate her birth. Now that so many years have passed, the exact emotions leading up to surgery are a little fuzzy. I can really only see images about the experience and I think that is good. Trauma is emotionally and physically draining, and if I were to continue to carry those intense feelings with me forever, I would not function properly. I have had to let go of those feelings in order to be a happier person and a better mother. It is not an easy task but time has definitely been my friend. Aside from having time on my side to heal, I have also begun looking at my hospital experience in a whole new way. I am not saying I look back and think “that was a good thing, the doctors sure knew what they were doing” but I can look back now and see so much life, Emma’s life. Emma’s life changed my life forever and I cannot thank her enough. Actually, each day I should say that to both of my children but rarely do. When I look back at my birth with Emma, I now see only her life and how it makes everything better. Without Emma, life would be meaningless, without Emma, we would not be a family.

I retell Emma her birth story on her birthday every year, partially because she asks and partially because it is amazing.  When I started retelling her story, I had to chose my words carefully. I was pissed about my section but how could I possibly make Emma feel like her entrance into this world was devastating. My birth experience was not her fault and she should in no way feel the weight of that. I started telling Emma that her birth can be explained by her stubbornness, assuredness and attachment to me. These have been her strongest traits since birth! She has such an intense personality and it actually makes sense to me that she was a difficult birth! When I tell her story or think about her birth, I think about how hard it was and how Emma and I shared this truly difficult experience but it was what forged our relationship. We were tested as mother and daughter, we prevailed as mother and daughter, and our love is way bigger than any crappy birth story!

Happy 7 years to the girl who made me a mother. I get to hang out with you and be in your life, and I cannot think of anything better. You drive me crazy with your moodiness, sarcasm and intensity but you balance this with your empathy, kindness, and desire to do good. You are a complex creature who feels beyond your years, and ability but it is these things that draw people to you. Each year you get stronger and I see you being able to handle this gift, and I know the world is going to benefit immensely from it!

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Birthday Wishes to the only man in my house, in my house!

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39 years ago my man was born, and if he knew I was writing this he would totally hate it! Well, too bad because today I’m going to honor your birth baby! Join me on a wild ride of pics and gushyness to celebrate this guy!

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I met Jason in 1998, just a wee lad of 21 years old. He was driving a beat up Jetta, played in a punk band, was attending art school, painted and had an attitude I couldn’t resist. I pretty much hated him at first because I thought he was pompous, rude and solipsistic but I was intimidated and really, really attracted to him! We fought endlessly for that first week until we finally gave in and I moved in (which is totally my style, not his)!

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Our lives have changed so much since we met 17 years ago including moving to Brooklyn, having two babies, moving to California, moving back to Brooklyn and getting crazy old! One thing that has not changed is his desire for knowledge and his quest for adventure, it is probably one of his most attractive qualities. Over the years he has played music, played sports, written for blogs, joined social justice movements, painted, biked, hiked, backpacked, fished, surfed, husbanded and fathered. I’ve often referred to him as a Renaissance man (or a polymath) because I’ve always been amazed at what he can do. I used to compete with him but after losing almost everything, every time, I gave up and decided to be his groupie instead!

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Life with a man this talented and smart can be difficult (can you imagine the ego) but it is never boring. He keeps me on my toes, pushes me forward and challenges me to no end. I see so much of him in our children which freaks me out and excites me at the same time. Emma has that annoying habit of being good at everything she tries, and the desire to be good at everything she tries. She has endless talent and the personality that forces her into the dark side when things don’t go well. Adeline is very internal and has so much imagination and creativity. She is musically gifted and has great comic timing (which definitely came from dad) but she struggles to be social in new situations. I imagine both of these girls going far in life because they have his drive, his smarts, his good looks, his adventurous spirit and his humor.

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All of my greatest memories have been with this man and I really don’t remember a time he wasn’t there. The beginning of our relationship was just us and for 10 years we got to be selfish, adventurous and wild. The past 7 have been shared with two wonderful people that we created. They have refused us the relationship we once had but from the moment he held his children, he became a more complicated, sensitive and loving person.

jason as dad

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They give him shit constantly and think of him more as a punching bag than a cuddling bag (that’s me) but these girls look to him every day, and see a man who is caring, supportive, fun, smart and badass! May we all remember to tell you this more often, and learn to support you as much as you support us!

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So I leave you with this Jason. May you have a wonderful day and many more kick ass birthdays! We LOVE you!!!

What I’ve Learned at the Age of Grace!

The most exciting part of this blog is the voices from other women component. This blog is about women and would not be complete without women’s voices. Today, I launch you little blog where you will be critiqued, trolled and maybe even loved! I will feature a new lady voice every week and today I’m happy to introduce you to Vicki Davis. She describes herself as a retired office manager, mother of 2 and grandmother of 4. Her hobbies are nature of every kind, hiking, backpacking and water sports. She currently resides in SW Florida! She is also a gifted poet who I spent my entire childhood reading notebook after notebook. Thank you Vicki Davis (aka mom) for sending me such a lovely piece to start the blog! Happy reading!

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I have reached 60 years, or what I like to call the age of grace.  When asked to write a piece for this blog, I thought about writing of all the times I did amazing hikes, backpacking, holding my newborns or my first grandchild but then one of those moments happened. 

Yes, I have climbed great mountains in my life both figuratively and literally. I have known great joy, great sorrow, the hum of daily living from sunrise to sunset or just moving through the motions of survival. 

Today, however, (in my semi-retirement) I went snorkeling in the Gulf of Mexico near Venice, Florida.

At first I went for the exercise and the fun of watching sea birds in flight and if lucky, I would spot a dolphin or two.  While out in the ocean I initially felt only the simple rhythm of my movement in the water. From beneath, I noticed people paddle boarding and saw a silly child hassling a hermit crab before I noticed myself entrenched in seaweed so thick I could barely see. Frustrated, I exited the water for a moment and rested on the beach.

As I sat there, I decided I needed to go back in once more and try to experience the beauty of The Gulf. The water sat there shining like a turquoise stone in the sun and I realized, I had not been looking with the eyes of my heart.

The second time, I felt gratitude for just being able to exist. Love and light sprang up in my soul as a stripped angelfish swam in front of my goggles like it was on the inside. I just giggled. All of this color and peace washed through me and as I swam, several other fish joined in our little troupe. Everything I hadn’t seen before was now in front of me. Brightly colored shells asked to be dove for and picked up. Not wanting anything to be displaced from its home, I inspected each shell carefully to make sure no life was hiding inside.  

I felt so much joy at being alive and a part of this amazing planet. There is so much beautiful nature just waiting to be discovered. When I left the water, my few treasures in hand, I realized that I had discovered something greater than treasure. I had discovered that each moment in life is a gift to be cherished with honor and gratitude!

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Radicals, Marriage, Love, Birth Control, part I.

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My intent with this blog is to spend a great deal of time talking about what happened in U.S. history and how it applies to our world. I find it is important to look back for advice about the world today. History is my resource for understanding where we were as women, how we got to where we are and where we go from here. I am often surprised at how much has changed since 1850, but also surprised at how much has not. We have come a long way since the Victorian age in regards to marriage and reproduction, but it so clear how far we have to go. I often seek advice from the fore-mother of birth control and feminism, Emma Goldman. One might say I have an unhealthy obsession with the woman (even naming my first-born after her), but I’m blow away by her pure badassness! Regardless of how you feel about her politics, it is very clear that she was trying to advance the position of women, and birth control was one of her strongest commitments. There were times she even faced prison for merely mentioning the words birth control, but this did not deter her, and she spoke all over the country in support of a woman’s right to choose how many babies and when.

Emma Goldman was born in Russia in the 1860s. She was born into an orthodox Jewish family and was not wanted. Her first mistake was being born a girl and the value of her life (or any female life) was very low. When she wasn’t feeling rejected from her family, she was abused, neglected and confined by the Jewish faith and patriarchal rules. Goldman grew up knowing she was not wanted and had very little options in life despite an overwhelming desire to be a doctor. She did not receive a good education, did not receive encouragement — she rarely received friendship and love. What Goldman did have was a rebellious streak and it allowed her to escape the life her parents planned for her. When she was in her teens, Emma left Russia on a ship to the United States with nothing but an older sister and a potential place to stay in Rochester. She had many hopes about a new, free life in America but quickly found life to be just as oppressive. She found herself in a new country, working long hours in a factory and engaged to a man she did not love and was not sexually attracted to. After years of unhappy marriage, Emma escaped again, this time to New York City. The City started Goldman’s radical career and gave her the freedom she craved. It was an oppressive upbringing, a confining religion, abuse, a loveless marriage and the intense desire to control her life that led Goldman to her unwavering commitment to women’s rights.

Goldman gave speeches all over the country about birth control during the Comstock Law era. In one such speech, “The Social Aspects of Birth Control, April 1916,” she describes the necessity of birth control focusing on four ideas. She starts her speech with the defense of birth control based on population control. She claims that Robert Thomas Malthus, the creator of birth control believed “that the earth is not fertile or rich enough to supply the needs of an excessive race.” Goldman takes it a step further to critique the capitalist agenda by claiming that “the masses of people continue to be poor and the rich grow ever richer, it is not because the earth is lacking in fertility and richness to supply the need even of an excessive race but because the earth is monopolized in the hands of the few to the exclusion of the many.” Her concern was that the growing population would aid the capitalist machine and just create more poor to work in their factories. She spent a lot of time in poor immigrant neighborhoods around NYC and knew their trials well, which led to her second defense of birth control: that “an overworked and underfed vitality cannot reproduce healthy progeny.” Families were too large and therefore overworked, sickly and underfed. There was a large quantity of children who were born sickly as a result of a mother’s malnutrition and therefore if they survived birth, they were condemned to a life of difficulty.

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Goldman’s third defense was related to a woman’s health. Beyond birthing unhealthy children, a woman had many health concerns related to excessive births. Without birth control, a woman would be forced to have children every year unless she refrained from having sex. This would lead to the death of many babies as well as mothers. The burden to birth these babies and then take care of a large family was often too much for the poor health of the mother. According to Dunbar in The Early Victorian Woman, “[h]aving children was attended by the most ghastly risks of infection. It is an unceasing wonder that so many women survived and that families were so large.” The infection Dunbar talks of was related to an unwillingness of the medical world to accept scientific evidence linked to infection and hygiene. It was often dismissed and violently opposed when a doctor would suggest that “puerperal fever was highly contagious, and that washing hands in calcium chloride and changing clothes after leaving a puerperal fever case was likely to be a preventive measure.” Young, poor mothers were not often aware of the risks of delivering in unsanitary conditions and therefore put themselves and their children in danger. The danger of child-birth was not just something the mother and child had to experience but if the mother died, the family would be left to the father. A single parent would not have the monetary and physical resources to care for a large family, even if he were interested.

Goldman’s final defense for birth control was choice: “After all it is woman who is risking her health and sacrificing her youth in the reproduction of the race. Surely she ought to be in a position to decide how many children she should bring into the world, whether they should be brought into the world by the man she loves and because she wants the child, or should be born in hatred and loathing.” Beyond her mental and physical health, Goldman also argues that a woman would never find herself in a new position in society if she were constantly pregnant. She would not be able to work towards an education or a career. She notes that “it is absolute certain that if the average teacher were to become a mother every year, she would soon lose her position,” which will set back her movement into an equal position in society. Her ability to choose will help her find her voice and her passion and it is this that Emma Goldman strove for when she said, “I now and here declare a war upon this system and shall not rest until the path has been cleared for a free motherhood and a healthy, joyous and happy childhood.”

This final defense for birth control is, for me, at the heart of reproductive politics. Choice: being able to decide how many children you want, whether you want children at all, and how they will come into this world! Thanks Emma for being so on top of this 100 years ago!

Thanks Emma

Tune in next week for the continuation of Radicals, Marriage, Love, Birth Control with Voltairine De Cleyre and Margaret Sanger.

*Emma Goldman quotes from April 1916 Speech “The Social Aspects of Birth Control” and you can find the full text here http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/emma-goldman-the-social-aspects-of-birth-control

*Janet Dunbar quotes from The Early Victorian Woman, 1953 and you can find the full text in the library!