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Colorado turned me into a stay-at-home mom

Thirteen years ago – after two armed students killed 12 kids and a teacher at Columbine High School – I decided to ditch my journalism career and become a full-time mom.

At the time, my first daughter was 2 ½ months old. My husband, a photographer for The Miami Herald, was sent to Colorado to cover the heartbreaking aftermath. I fully intended to join him back in the newsroom after my three-month maternity leave ended. But alone, distressed and uncertain, I sunk into doubt when I read about the school massacre, particularly one detailed account of the shooters tormenting a girl cowering under a school library desk as they executed teenagers around her.

Looking at my newborn daughter sleeping near me, I began to wonder how much time I would have with her before a horrible tragedy like this might snatch her from my life.

That feeling of powerlessness and early parental fear came rushing back Friday, when police say James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 58 others at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., just 17 miles from Columbine. The youngest victim was Veronica Moser-Sullivan, age 6.

As a new mom more than a decade ago, I was already fretting about childhood separation anxiety and abusive caretakers caught on nanny cams when Columbine became the violent last straw that broke my workaholic, feminist back.

I had vowed to return to work to demonstrate to my daughter that women can indeed have it all. Instead, all I wanted was her all the time. Who knew when it could end?

It wasn't an entirely rationale decision, but I've discovered that having children is a lot like religion – the facts will only get you so far before your heart has to take over.

I was lucky. It was a different economy back then. My husband's pay wasn't in a downward spiral like it is today. We moved into a smaller house and struggled on one salary, supplemented by my freelance writing. It was lonesome. Getting uninterrupted time to speak with anybody on the phone or even read a magazine article was impossible. My working friends stopped coming around and calling. One female co-worker told me I had let her and every other woman in the newsroom down with my decision. There were days when I couldn't afford to put 5 bucks in my gas tank so I could take a drive.

Yet I don't regret for a minute what I did. And I don't judge other moms about their decisions. Like many of them, I doubt I'd even have the luxury of choice in today's tough financial times. (Having it all? Let's talk about having enough money to pay the bills first.)

As a parent, I advocate stricter gun laws so we can prevent mass shootings like the two that now darken Colorado's history and the lives of those who lost loved ones. Until then, I treasure the moments I have with my kids and silently plead with time -- and that mad man toting an AR-15 with a 100-round magazine -- not to take them away.