Saturday, September 15, 2001

Published September 15, 2001
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

I became a mother almost five years ago. I had always heard that motherhood didn't come with an owner's manual. I knew that no matter how many books I read or how many children I tended, there are some things a woman never knows until she has children of her own.

The most significant of my epiphanies would have to be my new capacity to love. My husband and I had been married a little over a year when our first child was born. As young as our marriage was, I found myself still holding my spouse at arm's length emotionally. Enter a tiny stranger who managed to win me over with my first touch. It was my love for my son that taught me how to allow my husband completely into my heart.

But the growth of my heart did not end there. As I anxiously awaited the birth of baby number two, I wondered, like many moms, how I could possibly fully love more than one. And I learned, as many have, that more children do not tax a mother's heart as I had thought. A mother's heart grows larger. As my body cradles baby number four, I am reminded of that truth.

My next surprise came in the form of almost constant worry. I remember watching a movie long ago in which a neurotic mother actually smacks her baby daughter to make sure she is still breathing. I've not gone quite that far, but I have found myself gazing down at my sleeping children and worrying their lives away in my mind. What if she gets hit by a car? What if he becomes involved in drugs? What if they stop loving me?

These little lessons dwarf in comparison to the biggest surprise of my motherhood. I call it the "Mother Lion Response." I first experiences it when an upset 1-year-old grew tired of his mom doting on my baby and struck my son on the head with his plastic toy. If I could have roared, I would have. I wanted to pick the offending child up and throw him through a wall. The emotion overwhelmed me.

All of the above emotions came into play again this morning, Tuesday, as I watched, in horror, thje destruction our country suffered at the hands of faceless cowards. As I looked into the frightened eyes of my children, I felt an outpouring of love for these little innocents. The worry came quickly behind as I wondered how I could ever survive losing them to a terrorist attack like this one.

And then the lion in me began to growl. How dare they? How DARE they? No, and I mean no one, comes into my country and puts my children in danger. I would like to have five minutes alone with the person responsible for this devastation. Watrching my kids learn about pure evil in the world made all of this very personal for me. I'd like to make it personal for him.

There is no doubt in my mind of the wholly positive effect my growing capacity to love has had on me. Conversely, I know the danger of constant worry and try diligently to rein in my what-if thinking. But the mother lion in me is something I'm not sure I'm ready to either embrace or disown. Her visciousness scares me, but her strength inspires.

I know the war over my inner animal is something I will have to fight over time. As I learn more about her purpose and her pitfalls, I just might be able to finally feel the one emotion that remains so elusive.