"Motherhood makes cowards of all of us."
-The Girl With No Shadow, Joanne Harris
I wrote down this quote because it struck a cord with me. I've never been a risk-taker, or a lover of extreme sports, but I did play co-ed hockey for 5 years before my children were born. I even broke my leg in 3 places, which required 2 surgeries. I consider myself a tough chick.
But now that I'm a mom, I find myself remembering all the times my brother and I called my mom a "worry wort".
In many ways, becoming a mother makes you tougher than you ever thought possible. You give birth. You watch your child struggle knowing it is in his best interest to learn it by himself. You empathize for every mother than has ever lost a child. You punish with the intent to improve behavior (life). You protect your child (both emotionally and physically) more fiercely than you protect yourself. Your own safety or pain avoidance is secondary to theirs. And you hide your own pain from them.
There is something visceral and almost painful in my love for my daughters. They bring out a vulnerability in me that I didn't know existed.
My mother-in-law is also a worrier. We can't leave the house while the dryer is running because my husband was told his whole life that it could start a fire. But the longer I know her, the more I see the logic in all her worries. A house fire nearly changed the course of their lives.
Indeed, from my past experiences and those that aren't mine, but that ramble around in my brain, I come up with my own worries.
Each night before bed, I check on the girls, cover them up, turn off the overhead light (which we leave on at its lowest setting), close their door and then latch the gate at the top of the stairs.
The gate is no longer to prevent them from falling - they have been navigating the stairs without incident for quite some time.
There is a very specific reason for the gate.
It is to prevent them from sleepwalking, unlocking the front door, wandering outside and...
See, I can't even say it out loud. The fears of a mother are buried deep inside, hesitant to be exposed in the light of day.
No, my children have never walked in their sleep (but I did when I was a child). And no, they can't unlock the front door. And we have an alarm system.
But a colleague of mine lost a child in just that way. And I have never forgotten her pain, her vulnerability or her strength.
Nowadays, when I get the inevitable question from friends and former teammates, 'Will you play hockey again?' I say No. When they ask why, my answer is always the same.
Because I have kids now.