There are two things I remember vividly from visiting my best friend in the hospital after she had her baby. First, we went to visit her as a family, the 4 of us. I made sure to bring her a large container of food because I remember how hungry I felt while my milk was coming in. The appetite is a voracious beast that can hardly be sated.
When we arrived, her husband and his father were there. His dad was holding the baby. All three of them surrounding a new born baby and not a smile between them. It was much the same as when they found out they were pregnant; somber and unnerving. I smiled, said hello, and handed my friend the container of food.
“You’ll be ravenous when your milk comes in, I made sure to bring you this.”
She thanked me for the food, and then she handed the container to her husband and told him to take it home so he could eat it later.
“What will you eat?” I asked her, incredulously.
“I’m not hungry right now.”
“I’m telling you though, you’ll be hungry later.”
“It’s alright, he can have it.”
I don’t get offended by much, but this felt like a right slap in the face. I made that food for her, because she just gave birth and was laid up in a hospital bed, and she had the audacity to hand it over to him because he had been whining to her about how hungry he was.
I also vividly remember just afterward, when his dad got up to leave, he wanted to get a ride home with him. (They didn’t own a car, and relied on us and his father to get around.) He sat on the bed and the two of them had a long, weird, mumbling conversation about how she wanted him to stay but he wanted to leave and go home and eat. As me and my family stood there in the tiny hospital room watching on awkwardly. Her husband kept saying how uncomfortable he was in the room. That’s right, as my friend had just given birth, had her insides pulled out and a baby removed, and had to stay in a dark hospital room with the windows covered up because they were doing renovations, he was uncomfortable and didn’t want to stick around. It was a lot of him whining, and a lot of her placating him and begging him not to leave, but in the end, he took the food I had made for her, and he and his father left. That would be the last time he visited her in the hospital.
Later she told me how much she regretted sending him home with the food because later that night she was starving and there was nothing open at the hospital. When she told me that I was so mad. It was for this very reason that I had brought her the damn food!
The second thing I remember about this time was how often my friend was hospitalized with mastitis. Within a week of getting home, she was hospitalized again. She had left the baby at home with her husband. She called me and told me how tender and full her breasts were. I offered to bring her husband and daughter to the hospital.
She called him and asked him to get ready so that I could come and pick them up. She called me back to let me know he would be ready. At this point, my daughter was 9 months old and I had her with me. I went to their house and rang the door bell. There was no answer. I rang several times. It wasn’t until I was turning to leave that her husband finally answered the door. He was groggy and pulling ear plugs out of his ears. He had been asleep.
“Aren’t you ready to go?”
“No, I’m not going to go.”
“I’m not feeling well. I’m tired.”
What a fucking asshole. Fine.
“Well, is the baby ready at least? Do you have her diaper bag ready?”
“Uh, no. I don’t know what she needs.”
Are you fucking kidding me? What do you think a baby needs?
I went into the house and assembled a diaper bag for the baby and then brought her out to the car. All I could think of was what a fucking selfish moron.
I got to the hospital, and I had to carry one of the babies in a car seat, both diaper bags, the other baby in the stroller, and my purse. It was just ridiculous. Thankfully someone was there to help me carry in the baby in the car seat. I got to my friend’s room and I was pissed. I told her what happened and she was upset. It turns out he hadn’t even been to visit her, and it wasn’t likely that he would.
I hate to think of what would have happened to her nursing relationship if I hadn’t been there to bring her the baby. Her husband certainly didn’t give a shit.
Anyway, this was only one small piece of the larger hole. She spent most of her maternity leave at my place. We cooked together a lot, and spent a lot of time hanging out. It was great. The year went by and then my friend went back to work.
Things in her relationship were the same, or worse. It was at this point that I was really pushing her to leave him. I couldn’t fathom why or how she could stay in that situation. At one point she called and asked me to pick her up because they had gotten into a huge fight. It was late at night and my husband and I were in the middle of a movie. I dropped everything to pick her up, thinking this was the end.
We stayed up late talking about the fight, how unhappy she was, we talked about how maybe now was the time to finally leave.
The next day she went back to him. I wanted to scream.
Over the next few years I really struggled with my relationship with her. I could never understand why (and still don’t to this day) she stayed as long as she did. I thought she was weak and disgusting for letting herself stay in a situation that was draining all her energy, that was draining her soul. I was so mad at her for not taking a stand in her own life. Every question I asked her resulted with an “I don’t know” answer. They never had sex, and nothing ever changed, she never changed. I talked about this over and over with my husband, until he finally told me that I was no better than her because I didn’t do anything about it. He said I needed to make a choice: stop being her friend, or be her friend and stop talking about her situation.
I very nearly ended our friendship over it. What stopped me? Hope. I had hope that she might still grow as a person. I had hope that maybe somewhere, deep, deep, deep down she might have some sense of self-preservation. Also, I loved her. She’s my best friend, and I didn’t think it was fair of me to give up on her.
It wasn’t long after this that my friend called me and told me that she found her husband passed out on the floor of the laundry room one morning. She had gone downstairs to see why he hadn’t come up to bed. She told me that his arm was bent at an awkward angle and she was terrified he had broken it. It turns out he had just been really drunk and passed out.
I think she knew he was an alcoholic long before she was ever able to admit it out loud to me.
They went to therapy a couple of times to try and fix things, but I never understood why. It usually happened when she was at her wits end and on the brink of leaving him. He would go, put in some effort for a week or two, then they would fall back into the same pattern of misery. I always wondered what they were trying to save. I mean, shouldn’t there be something there to start with? Mutual love and respect? Something good to work from? What was ever good? In all the years I’ve known her, I’ve never seen her truly happy. When she tells me about how he proposed, and their wedding it makes me cringe. He proposed in her car, outside his dad’s apartment after a coughing fit.
“Ugh, before I die, will you marry me?”
Gross. Not to mention, she told me that he only proposed to her because she was going to college the next month and didn’t want her to meet someone else when she was there. It was the same with the way he told her that he loved her. They were at the mall and my husband and his friends were there. They stopped by and introduced themselves and then carried on their way.
“I love you.” He told her, jealously.
Then she planned her wedding while working three jobs and going to school full-time and all he had to do was show up. He even told me once, in one of our rare conversations, that he put the ring on her finger so his job was done.
Honest to goodness, who the fuck is this guy? He even told me that he didn’t want to change, ever, and he didn’t want to try and be a better person because then he wouldn’t be himself. This guy was seriously unbelievable, and to top it off, becoming an alcoholic.
It wasn’t until very recently though, that she told me about the wine she used to have in her basement and how it had disappeared. When we first met, she worked at a wine store, and she had cases of wine. I guess at some point she went to get a nice bottle she had put aside and found that all her wine was gone. He drank all her wine. At the time she was more upset that he hadn’t asked than she was about it all being gone. The hardest part for me is that she didn’t even notice. How do you not notice that your partner is (becoming?) an alcoholic?
This is indicative of her whole life, really. She lives with her head in the sand, willfully oblivious to all the signs going on around her. Then she’s surprised when something happens, like it happened out of nowhere. I am happy to say though, that since she made the original decision to leave, she’s grown tremendously as a person. She’s really opened up to self reflection and is learning about herself in ways I never thought she could. I’m so proud of her.
Anyway, a year or so ago, my best friend and her husband got into a fight about his drinking and she told him to leave. I was so surprised that she did it, if only she could have the resolve to stick with the decision! Alas, it was not to be. He promised to go to AA, therapy, whatever it took. She believed him (again) and she let him move back in.
On the day she left, my husband and I had been arguing a bit, and had just talked things out. We were walking in the park and enjoying the nice day when I got a text from her. (You can read the specifics of it over at her blog here.)
She told me she had left her house. Then specified she had fled in terror of her life. I told her to come to our place, and we had a bed available for her and her daughter.
I won’t get into the specifics of what happened, as she has it detailed on her blog, but she asked what I thought about the whole thing.
I was relieved when she showed up at the park. The distressed look on her face giving way to sobs as she walked up and hugged me harder than she ever has before. I’ve rarely seen her cry, and for her to be sobbing in my embrace was nothing short of a miracle. It must have been really bad for her to be crying. I told her she was more than welcome to spend the night, and for as long as she needed at our place. My worst fear was that she would go back. How she could even think of going back was beyond me. I think part of her would have, too, if the entire house hadn’t been in ruins.
And over the following weeks I watched her go through a separation. I must admit, even though I have wanted her to leave him for years, it was still a harrowing experience. She took me to the house after he destroyed it, and showed me the carnage. It was overwhelming and disgusting. Everything that she owned in that house had been smashed.
The worst part was the bedroom. I don’t even understand the kind of strength and rage it would have taken to destroy a good quality wooden bed the way he did. The closet doors were ripped off the tracks and full of holes from either punching or from drawer-throwing.
I helped her clean up the mess, his fucking mess, after weeks of asking him to do it. He would claim, “it’s too hard for me to be there, I feel too guilty.” As you should, asshole. At the beginning, when she would speak to him on the phone, she still sounded like she was placating him; always placating him. My husband told me that had perfected the art of complacently placating him while simultaneously sounding like she doesn’t give a shit. I suppose she’s had years to perfect it.
She asked me one day if I was happy that she was getting divorced. How do you answer a question like that? I mean, yes I am completely happy that she has dropped his sorry drunken ass and will be able to move on to better pastures. But watching her go through it, watching the way he takes advantage of her, talks so disrespectfully to her, drains their bank account so she can’t pay the bills, is very hard. He calls her and tells her that he never wants to see her or their daughter again. Then turns around and gets upset if they don’t call him for their daughter to say goodnight. The worst part is hearing him accuse her of being a whore. He demands to know who she’s been seeing, accuses her of having seen someone on the side for years. Personally, I believe he’s undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, but I’m not a doctor. He makes me sick.
He told her that he was going to go to rehab for her. She explained to him that they were no longer together and that he should be doing it for himself, or if for no other reason than their daughter. He said no, because she was his whole world. He was also very unimpressed that the lady at the rehab center told him that he may suffer withdrawal symptoms that would be similar to the flu.
“Fuck that, I’m not getting sick. I’m just going to grab myself some drinks before I go in there.”
Then what is the fucking point? He has no friends, and the only other person who can stand his company is their daughter. I even wonder how his dad can stand living with him.
I can’t believe my friend put up with it for so long. His tirade of abuse and slurs directed at her is fucking disgusting. I wouldn’t even treat my worst enemy with the enmity that he has for her.
“You’ve just been waiting for a chance to leave me!” Yeah, because she needed to wait until you got drunk and destroyed the house before she left. If she was seeing someone, she could have left much earlier. That’s the part that scares me the most; If he hadn’t trashed the house and instilled the fear of God in her, how much longer would she have stayed? I have no doubt that she would still be with him. She’s the kind of person that hates change so much that it would take a huge, metaphorical slap to the psyche, (drunk husband trashing the house!) something that would override all her carefully erected barriers of denial to knock some sense into her.
However, I’ve also watched her personal growth through this experience and I’m so proud of her. She’s not afraid to stand up to him anymore, and she’s been more assertive with him. It’s heartening. She’s getting to know herself, confronting herself on a base level and discovering all the nuances of why she lives a life of denial and passivity.
I’m excited for what the future holds for her. She gets to start from scratch, rebuild herself into the better person she wants to be, and rebuild her life. I’m excited for this new phase of her life, and although I know she’s desperately afraid, I have confidence in her and her ability to grow as a person. I’m glad I’m her friend, and I’m glad I get to be right by her side while she goes through this terrible yet exciting experience. I’ll be there to hold her hand every step of the way and I hope she knows that.
I love you, Friend.