Wednesday, July 23, 2008


We’ve had two severe thunderstorms in the last 12 hours – the types where lightening rains down and colors the sky white, where the cracks and crashes are so loud and thunderous they feel they are coming through the walls.

The first storm was in the middle of the night. I feared River would wake up and I waited to hear his cry. When I didn’t, I was still tempted to wake him and bring him into the safety of our bed, to bring our family together to face the danger. I didn’t do it because I was the only one awake and it was only me that was feeling afraid.

This afternoon a similarly sharp storm appeared – strong enough that I unplugged the computers and turned off most electrical devices. Our babysitter stood with River by the open doorway, watching the rain pour down and the lightening flash and crackle. Yes, it was severe she agreed, and yes, the lightening felt very close by. But I was clearly more uncomfortable than she was. I wanted to protect my baby somehow, but didn’t know how.

These fairly mild events make me think back to our flight last month on a small plane from David to Panama City, Panama. We weren’t supposed to be going to Panama City. But our flight from David to San Jose was canceled and they rerouted us through Panama City.

It was rainy season in Panama and we got caught in a thunderstorm. I saw bunches of clouds outside the window, an endless puff of grey. Lightening crackled and brightened the view from the windows. I tried not to think about it until our plane dropped – straight down and suddenly. Then it did it again. By the time it happened a third time, passengers were screaming and I even let out a sound of alarm.

All the while, I held a sleeping baby in my arms. I tried not to pass my nervousness on to him, while I simultaneously gripped him as tightly as I could without waking him. All of a sudden I realized that without any restraint, he’d be the first to fly up and hit and the ceiling. I realized that in such moments, I want nothing more than to be with the people I love. At the same time, I would have removed River from there in an instant to take him away from the threat. Unfortunately, I was powerless to do so. I thought about the parents with small children who were on the planes attacked on 9/11 and how utterly terrified and powerless they must have been. Getting yourself into a bad situation is one thing. Bringing your child into danger, no matter how inadvertently, is another.

All this is to say that becoming a mother has affected my fear quotient. It’s made me more afraid than I used to be. I don’t want to do anything too stupid myself because I don’t want River to grow up without a mother. I’m sure he’d be fine. I’m sure he’d win over the hearts of whoever was in his life. But I don’t think any other woman could love him in the same way I do. For that reason, I want to be there for him. And of course, while I want to expose him to life and adventure, I don’t want to put him in harm’s way.

My husband applauds my newfound caution, saying that I wasn’t careful enough in the past. Yet, when I return from vacation telling him I was more careful than usual, yet I had a serious rafting accident and terrifying flights, he thinks I still have a way to go.

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