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As told to Leah Gebber

With all the endless ways we destroy things with hate — marriages, communities, schools—you’d think that love would be the simplest thing in the world.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

I’ve read of mothers who have a hard time loving their newborns. These tiny scraps of life are placed in their arms and they look down and don’t see a part of themselves. They see a stranger. Or, their baby grows and looks like their mother or their great-aunt and they cannot overcome that slight aversion by association. Or they are forced to give their child a name that they don’t like and after that, it all goes downhill, never are they able to form a strong connection with that child.
I did name my children after my choivos, the relatives whose names I had to use. And my children did have some interesting family resemblances. But the minute they were placed in my arms, I knew a love so fierce that something choked inside me. And I knew I would do anything for that child.
It was pure and strong, that love. And now I look back and wonder, just when did it all go wrong? And more, how can something as beautiful as love be corrupted and tainted and fuel pain and misfortune?
Chayala, my youngest child, was born when I was already 41; I’d had my last child at 34, so Chayala was long-awaited and prayed for. It almost felt like my first pregnancy, all the way back when I was 19 and married only a few months. There was the same sense of growing wonder, the same over-focus on every twinge and discomfort. My due date was like a mental block, beyond which life as we knew it didn’t, couldn’t exist. When people talked about the summer or even exchanged recipes for cheese delicacies in anticipation of Shavuos, I looked at them blankly. For I was due on Lag B’omer, and there my calendar ended. I allowed the pregnancy to consume my mind even as it took over my body.

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