A Mother’s Vulnerability

I am ashamed to admit that it wasn’t until this weekend, when I finally had a few moments alone, that I logged online and learned about the extent of the disaster in Japan.  We do not have cable, and we are rarely in the car, so NPR, which used to be my source for news, isn’t a regular part of my day anymore.  I feel embarrassed at how out of touch I am, how wrapped up in “baby world” I have become.

As I caught up on the situation in Japan, I felt a wave of compassion, fear and vulnerability.  Natural disasters have always been troubling, and in the past few years, I feel that we have witnessed far more than ever before…hurricanes, tsunamis, floods…it can often feel as though the end is near.  But now, as a mother, I find myself much more affected by this most recent natural disaster, not to mention the terrifying man-made nuclear disaster unfolding.

There is something about having a tiny baby, so helpless and dependent, that makes me feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility.  What if disaster were to strike close to home?  I have no doubt that I would give my life without a second thought to protect my child, but what if I couldn’t save him?  I think of the mothers in Japan who witnessed their children being swept away…and there was nothing they could do.

I hadn’t prepared myself for this side of motherhood.  I believe it is called vulnerability.  The world can seem like such a scary place when you have an infant in your care.  I will never forget the first walk I took when I got home from the hospital.  I was wearing my little one, just a few days old, in a sling, and walking with my mom to our local library, four blocks away from home.  It was the scariest walk of my life.  Every passing car seamed to pose a threat- what if they lost control at the wheel and veered onto the sidewalk?  The bus that churned out thick black smoke seemed like a horrible disaster- what if that smoke made its way into my baby’s pure lungs?  Every person that we passed was viewed with suspicion- what if they tried to snatch my baby from me?

For so much of our lives, we only have to worry about keeping ourselves safe.  When you give birth, you are suddenly responsible for keeping someone else safe, and what a great responsibility that is.  My solution to accepting this responsibility?  I take a deep breath every morning before I walk into the nursery, and I remind myself that I am doing my best to keep him safe and out of harms way, and to show him that the world is not a scary place, but a beautiful place- and that is all that I can do.

My heart goes out to everyone in Japan… but especially the mothers.  I can only imagine how painfully vulnerable they must feel as they try to keep their children safe.

5 thoughts on “A Mother’s Vulnerability

  1. J

    Thanks for this. My due date is in two weeks, so I've been thinking about this a lot, especially after seeing the devastation in Japan. It's unimaginable, but I think your way of thinking about day to day life is a good one.

  2. Short, Sweet Season

    Your words could have come straight from my mouth; I feel the exact same way. I watch the news in Japan and think of the mothers who soothe and comfort their children's coughs, tears, and discomfort in the midst of that terrible chaos and loss.

  3. michele

    my oldest is 11 … born 18 months before 9.11. i have felt this vulnerability of which you speak on many, many occasions since his arrival. his sister was born only three months after the tsunami in sri lanka, which further increased my anxiety. i felt exactly the same as you – a sudden and heart-wrenching empathy for the mothers who couldn't get to their children, who couldn't hang on to their children, who had to choose which child to help. truth is, we can't control anything. there is a higher power in charge of who stays and who goes, and our job is to make the world as lovely a place as we can in the time we are given on it. it's hard to be a parent and yet let go of that control, but what is, is. what will be, will be. and living in anxiety isn't living at all. even though “anxiety” is actually the first rule of motherhood. welcome to the club. ;o)


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