Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What Have I Done?!

I may have done something really stupid.

I have an old friend named Pat - a friend that I am very fond of but who also drives me crazy. When I first met her at university, I was deeply impressed. I had actually never met anyone so clever, so deeply intellectual, so assertive and so clear in what she wanted. And she is still all those things.

At the age of 42 years old, she has decided that the right man is never going to turn up. She's had a few relationships, but the men all seemed to be pretty hopeless, so I can see why it didn't work out. And she has gone to a sperm donor clinic and got pregnant by herself.

I know. Doing it the hard way. But I think, in her position, with no good man in sight, I would have done the same thing. I know what it feels like to think that you will never have a child if it is the one thing you ever wanted to do. For me, it felt like death. They might as well have told me that I would die the following day because, frankly, I didn't see the point of going through all those long, barren years I would have left to live with no child.

Anyway, since Pat got pregnant, she has become estranged from her own family. It turns out that she was sexually abused by a neighbour when she was young and that her family, who found about it, did nothing at the time and nothing since. The fact is, she doesn't trust them to help her at a time when she is feeling vulnerable. She doesn't want to be around them herself and she definitely doesn't want them around her baby.

I listened to the whole story and thought about how horrible it would be to have a baby alone. I thought of my long labour, and how much worse it would have been without my Big Dude and my mum with me. I thought about those early weeks with a new baby when I wondered if I had made the worst mistake of my life. And I felt that I just couldn't leave Pat to do it all alone.

Somehow I found myself volunteering to have her at our place from late in the pregnancy through to the first weeks after the baby is born.

For a while there, I was very happy with the plan, thinking about how nice it would be, two old friends together with our babies. I even stopped brooding about my stupid job and reflected cheerfully on how their flexibility about my hours will hep us during that period. I was deeply moved when she said "Oh, I'm so grateful. You are the only person I really feel safe with".

But now, I am waking up to the reality of what I have committed to. I don't really like having house guests for longer than a week and this could be up to three months. Not to mention that extra house guest who will cry during the night, want to be fed every few hours and need its bottom wiped.

And of course, I am remembering the thousand little incidents of petty irritations with Pat over the years - she's so brilliant intellectually and yet so impractical about simple things. She can never admit that she's wrong about anything. She is already conducting running battles with her obstetrician over the handling of her diabetes. Also, she's very disorganised. She runs late all the time, she makes huge messes, she starts complicated projects and never finishes them - I'm very structured and that kind of thing gets on my nerves.

She won't be here until mid-July and already I can't decide whether I am excited about the whole project or dreading it.

Fuck. What have I done?!


Blogger Finished Last said...

Just really prepare yourself for what lies ahead and try to see past the actions to the person who means the best by them. You might want to invest in some sort of soundproofing so you can wander off into a room by yourself and yell scream and curse when it all gets to be too much.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Trueself said...

Having often rented rooms to some interesting characters (I'm a sucker for helping those in need) I would have the following suggestions:

1) Make sure all parties are clear about expectations ahead of time. If there are certain "house rules" that you consider inviolate make sure she knows them.

2) If the stay gets to feeling a little too open-ended, sit down and come up with an "exit strategy" with her. This talk doesn't have to be adversarial but can be done in a very helpful way to the person who needs to leave.

3) Keep reminding yourself that the situation is temporary, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, it is difficult sharing space, but when you know the end is in sight (even if way off on the horizon) it can make you feel better.

9:02 AM  
Blogger FTN said...

Wow, you do have the gift of hospitality, my friend Emily.

Good advice here from FL and Trueself. I'd recommend not worrying yourself about it too much for the next few months... Worry and anxiety aren't going to help the situation, since you've already committed yourself to it. Come up with a plan and try to remember the positives that you mentioned.

I grew up in a house that always had guests and "people who needed a place to stay." Some for a few nights, some for a year. And yes, it can try your patience. But dealing with people who are occasionally irritating builds character, right?

Right? :-)

2:02 PM  
Blogger LBP said...

Wow. I'd say you've really stepped in it.

Good luck. You'll need it I'm afraid. Wow.

2:53 PM  
Blogger C-Marie said...

Ouch, Emily.... with a kind heart there can be lots to bear. I agree with Finished last and trueself... it doesn't have to be a nightmare.
Best of luck with that but you still have some time with out the worry.

4:05 PM  
Blogger Fusion said...

Your kindness will be rewarded in time i'm sure, and as trueself said, be in mind it is only temporary. Two summers ago I had four young adults, my wife and I, and two dogs and a cat living in a 1024 square foot house. But by september, it was just me and my wife. I can't tell you how many times I kept saying "it's only for a short time, breathe"

It truly was a nice gesture Emily, and hopefully your friend will appreciate it.

Good luck!

10:06 PM  
Blogger Marguaritte said...

I don't have much advice, just sympathy. One of my aunts lived with us both times she had her children, the first time after my other aunt basically called to say "If you don't let her come to your house, I will have to get divorced!" because her husband was so unhappy with the situation.

It was not fun either time but we survived without any major family incidents and I am super-close to those cousins of mine because I helped changed their diapers for years. :)

At least you have some time to prepare. I wish you all the best!

7:15 AM  
Blogger Tajalude said...

You're certainly more generous than I am... perhaps baby nostalgia got the better of you? Hang in there... she obviously needs some support. You're a good friend.

5:49 PM  
Blogger Tajalude said...

Oh, and how is the back doing??

5:50 PM  
Blogger aphron said...

Hang on! It's going to be a bumpy ride. Confronting her about your misgivings is the best course of action, but it is also the hardest. Either you two will be the best of buds or the worst of enemies.

You have my sympathy.

5:52 AM  
Blogger ccinnkeeper said...

You have done a wonderful thing opening up your home to your friend and her baby. It sounds like she needs that and I think, if you prepare, you can both come out of it unscathed. You should definitely talk to her about expectations, assign her a few chores around the house for as long as she can do them/as soon as she can get back to them and make it clear that you are not going to be her maid.

One thing I picked up from your description of her, it sounds like she may have ADD. The combination of bright/disorganized/starting but not finishing projects sounds just like me. Do a little research on this before she arrives; there's a treasure-trove of information on how to work with ADD rather than against it.

I wish you both luck.

11:12 AM  
Blogger oldbear said...

Hi Emily, I guess tht if you are going to have challenging experience in yuor future, it might as weel be from doing something out of Love and compassioN!


8:50 AM  

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