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Ebola and Other Things That Keep Me Up at Night

Photograph by Getty Images

OK, I admit it — I've become slightly obsessed with Ebola. My finger hovers over my phone screen as I will myself not to type that letter that I know my history will recognize. But I can't.

I track updates like I'm single-handedly going to take over the CDC's misguided efforts and I forward my husband links to articles with headlines like, "Why The World Is Probably Ending" or "Ebola — The End of Times?"

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I alternate between total panic and trying to talk myself down in recognizing that right now, in all likelihood, I am more in danger of dying on my way to pick my daughter up from preschool than I am of contracting Ebola and bleeding to death in our storage shed. (The self-imposed quarantine plan I have made my husband agree to should I exhibit any symptoms. I can't be infecting my children!)

And perhaps my fear of Ebola is a bit irrational, although I'm surely not alone in that irrational fear, but I think it also points to a deeper truth about my fears as a mother.

Because when it comes right down to it, there are no guarantees in life.

From the moment we become mothers and parents, we start to learn to live with a divided heart.

I've also been a bit of a worrier. (The famous story in our family goes that I worried so much as a child that my mom tried to snap me out of it by telling me I'd get an ulcer, and then of course, she found me crying on the floor out of fear I would get an ulcer.) But something changed in me when I became a mother.

Every child on the news became mine, every mother's heartbreak became my own — every fear and scare and hurt and worry swirled around in my mind until I wondered if we ever should have had children in the first place.

Because when we have children, we open ourselves up to a love so intense that it feels intermingled with pain. The thought of anything happening to our children startles with an intensity that can take your breath away and leave a bone-chilling ache.

The thought makes me want to rush over to all of my children, sweep them in my arms, and hide away forever where we will be safe.

If only such a place existed.

From the moment we become mothers and parents, we start to learn to live with a divided heart — a heart that must be, at all, times on caution and on guard, ever vigilant to protect the ones we love more than ourselves, and yet also open to the wonderment, the love and the laughter that makes life worth living in the first place.

No amount of worry provides me any guarantees against a life that simply isn't perfect.

I'm still trying to learn how to live with that heart, the heart of a mother. I don't want to be the mother huddled up in my house, tracking Ebola alerts on her phone and shutting life out. But, let's be honest, I also don't want to die of Ebola.

I know there will always be moments like this in my life as a mom, moments when I can't sleep at night and have to wake my husband up so I can simply have the comfort of the only other person in the world who loves my kids as much as me. I know that I will always worry and that no amount of worry provides me any guarantees against a life that simply isn't perfect.

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So, right now, I will just keep on, trying to tame the fear with the love, and the pain with the beauty. I will keep hugging my kids every chance I can get and I will never fail to tuck them in for another day spent happy and healthy. I will never pass over an article on Facebook about another mother who has lost her baby, because that's really my baby too. And most of all, I will appreciate the big and small of today, while I can.

And if anyone needs me (especially the CDC), we'll most likely be having a play date in the shed.

Just in case.

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