For the last few weeks, I've been watching with everyone else the news unfold in Haiti. My heart goes out to them. One day, when the kids are a tiny bit older, my husband and I have talked about setting me free to do some disaster response work. It is something I could do.
For now, I sit, watch, and pray.
But there is something else going on in my heart - the small knowledge of that awful fear of a serious earthquake. Facing the decisions that a mother has to face in the precious few seconds one has in a shaking building.
Several years ago, - but when I did have four children - , my husband was out of town one week. It was close to 2 AM, and I groggily awoke to a banging noise. The headboard of my bed was banging against the wall. The shutters on our cement house clattered loudly against the windows. It took me only a few seconds to know what was going on - earthquake!
I jumped, grabbed for my glasses without which I am blind, but they had fallen to the floor. I gave up on seeing, and ran wildly to my kid's room. Running through their door in a violently shaking house, I faced the worst decision I ever had to face in my life:
I could only grab two.
I ran into that room knowing that, and my stomach heaved at the decision. My kids sleep deeply, and would not wake even to yelling or shaking. I could only carry two. Should I grab the two on the top bunks and hope the solid metal frames of the bottom give some protection to the two sleeping below? Should I pull the older two to the ground yelling at them, grab the younger, and run hoping the older two might somehow miraculously awake and know to run for the door? Which two? No time to pause.
I did make that decision. I will never tell anyone - absolutely no one - what my decision was. I never want my children to hear what their mom's decision was in that horrible millisecond. But it still haunts me - was it the right one? On what basis did I make that? I feel guilty for that choice.
Thankfully, that decision lasted only half a second. Then came the pounding of my father's footsteps. He had only paused to wake up my mother who had taken a sleeping pill that evening, and then burst into the room and ran for the the other beds. Just then, the shaking stopped. We collapsed against the walls, hearts pounding. It stayed still, so we left the children fairly undisturbed. (They are solid sleepers!)
A quick check of the house showed nothing too serious. Broken glass, things off shelves, and opened cupboard doors. A few cracks in one wall, but it wasn't in the sleeping area, so we cautiously returned to our beds. I did not sleep at all that night. I lay in bed and sweated the weight of that decision. Angry that I was ever put in that position to have to choose. Terrified the earth would shake again. Desperately wanting my husband.
I watch the news these last few weeks and think of all those mothers who had to make that split second decision and live with it for the rest of their lives. My prayers are with them.