Sunday, May 10, 2009

The only thing worse than love is hate

This past Tuesday was an important day in the life of our little family. It was the first night our daughter, Leyla Fern, spent without her mother. I travel alone from time to time, and stay out late making music at least night a week, but not Karley, my wife: she has always been there for the girl. Always. Every night.

Until Tuesday night. It was not a good night for little Leyla. Wednesday was worse. She came home early from school on Wednesday, and I kept her home again on Thursday. She had a stomach ache and was vomiting, though she had no fever and I couldn't think of anything she had eaten that might have triggered an illness.

On Thursday afternoon she saw her doctor. He couldn't diagnose anything. We started wondering if maybe the girl was so shook up to be left without her mother that she was sick with sadness.

"I want Mommy," she said, a lot.

The little girl loves her daddy too, and she is a kind and respectful little person. She didn't act out, and she often told me she loved me this week. It's weird to say, but she did her best not to hurt my feelings, to make it clear that I shouldn't take it personally. But she really missed her mommy and she wanted her mommy back.

Leyla was asleep when Karley finally came home Thursday evening. Karley joined the girl on the crouch and cradled her. When Leyla drifted into consciousness briefly enough to register her mother's presence, this comfortable smile slowly spread across her face. Then she drifted back into sleep.

The little girl was not instantly well in the morning. At the moment we are awaiting the results of bloodwork, and I must admit the possibility that this story may not in the end be a motherlove story. This story could take a different turn. But I do think the shock of separation from her mother affected the little girl physically, and it is taking some time for those physical affects to disappear completely.

My aunt Dorothy cared for her mother, my grandmother Pansy Fern Sans Souci, until the day she died. They had a very close bond, one of the closest I have ever seen between two people. Dorothy explained to me one day that she had been a difficult pregnancy and birth for her mother, and that the more difficult it is to bear a child, the tighter the bond once the child is born. It is the children who almost kill us who are closest to us while we are alive.

Karley really suffered when she was pregnant with Leyla. We had been through miscarraiges before, and it looked for a long time like this could be another. Karley spent most of her term in the hospital, unable to eat or even drink without vomiting. She was fed through a vein with some goop that looked like wallpaper paste.

I slept on the windowledge at New York University Hospital, wondering if at the end of all this I might be alone. Would our baby die? Would the pregnancy kill my wife? I would get up on the cold windowledge, walk to the subway, take the subway to Queens, drive to Long Island, work all day as a journalist, wondering if our lives would be joined by new life, or by death.

It occurred to me this week, when our daughter couldn't even hold down water in the absence of her mother, that she was showing the same symptoms her mother went through during the pregnancy. Bearing Leyla almost killed Karley, and being without her mother looked to be almost that hard on the little girl.

Karley and Leyla are so very fortunate to have one another. I would say I envy their bond, but I really don't - it's terrifying enough, this burden of love I carry, which I know is not equal in depth or intensity to the love they share. We are all so very fortunate to have another.

Love is terrible. The only thing worse than love is hate. I love you, Leyla. I love you, Karley. Happy Mother's Day.

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