“Can you imagine thinking we only have 15 minutes to live? I wouldn’t do anything but hold our child,” I said to my husband as news of the Hawaii emergency alert played in the background.
“No,” he responded. “But that’s the world we live in now, I guess.”
The world we live in now.
When my daughter was born nearly four years ago, she was born into a world that, as imperfect as it is, felt hopeful. At the very least, not nuclear.
Flash forward a few short years and my husband and I are making emergency preparedness plans and ordering potassium iodide in bulk. Let me be clear, we’re not prone to catastrophizing.
But now? We’re terrified.
As parents, the stakes feel so much higher. The world feels much heavier. And the sense hopeful optimism into which our child was born, feels a bit distant to our current reality.
In the videos that show families in Hawaii abandoning their belongings on the beach and running toward shelter, the panic is palpable. In those images, I see myself – and every mother who has lived through a period of terror or uncertainty.
I see the mothers of the Great Depression and the current crises in Yemen, Somalia and Venezuela – desperate to feed their children. Willing to starve themselves so their children can eat, forced to beg for scraps.
I see the mothers of sons sent to fight in wars. Sleepless and fraught with concern over whether or not their children will return home. Coming to terms with terror and the long wait that wars bring.
I see the mothers of every school shooting – waiting to hear whether or not their child is safe. Lined up behind barricades, unable to comfort their scared children – or worse.
I see the mothers who are victim to conflicts they didn’t start, in the countries they call home. Never knowing when a bomb may drop on their city. Their lives reduced to rubble. Loading their children onto a boat that barely floats en route to a land that doesn’t welcome them.
I see the mothers with children lost to violence. Awakened in the middle of the night by a banging on the door – nothing but heartache and injustice on the other side.
I see all the mothers who have ever felt desperate to protect their children, in circumstances far out of their control. Willing to do whatever it takes.
Until now, my life has been one of extreme privilege and security. I’ve always felt safe. So this newfound undercurrent of global anxiety has left me humbled and ashamed by my lack of empathy for all the mothers who have ever felt this way. My heart aches for the mothers whose hopelessness extends far beyond the 38 minutes it took for the “all-clear” in Hawaii.
Unfortunately, as much as I’d love to wake up every day feeling as if I can control the world, keep my daughter safe, and comfort every hurting mother, that’s not the world we live in now – nor has it ever been.
Throughout history, mothers have persevered through uncertainty, terror, heartache, and fear. And that, fellow moms, is what gives me hope right now.