Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. An edited transcript of this week's chat is below. (Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Read Prudie's Slate columns here.)
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon. Let's get to it.
Q. Dilemma Over Becoming a Single Parent: I am a 29-year-old professional. I married my boyfriend of eight years last year, and I believed my life was absolutely perfect. Suddenly, my life was turned upside down when my husband was killed in an unfortunate accident almost a month ago. I was still trying to deal with this huge loss when I recently learned that I am pregnant with his child! This has presented me with an odd dilemma. I am contemplating abortion because I don't think I can handle being a single parent in such a circumstance. I don't know whether I can deal with a child after my loss. I'm trying hard but I am unsure about how long it will be before I am past this rough phase in my life. I don't know if I will be able to take care of a young child in such an emotionally fragile state. Moreover, I am afraid that this child will constantly remind me of my husband and pain me even more. Another guilty thought is that I may never find a partner willing to accept me with my baby, and I'll stay alone through the rest of my life. This is a shallow thought, yet it is a nagging fear. Yet on the other hand, it is my child I'm talking about. I do not want to regret the abortion. And I do not want to regret getting rid of this special common link I have with my late husband. Do you have any thoughts that might help me with my decision and might reassure me?
A:I'm so sorry for your loss, and the issues you're dealing with are profound. All your thoughts and fears are perfectly understandable, but at this time you need the comfort and support both of people who know and love you, and people who understand what you are facing. This organization, Young Widow, was founded by a woman in your situation—pregnant and dealing with the sudden death of her husband—and the group offers online support. Talking to people who have faced raising a child alone after the loss of a spouse will help you sort through what would be ahead.
I hope your family and your late husband's family would also be able to rally around you. Ideally, the potential grandparents would be able to help you with the raising of your baby. Of course your child will remind you of your husband. That will be both painful and sweet, and I can almost guarantee that the joy of seeing part of your husband in your offspring would outweigh the pain. I also understand your fear that being a single mother would make you less appealing to potential partners. But any man who would turn away from you because of your situation is a man you don't want anyway. I have known several women in your situation and they married wonderful men who became fathers to their fatherless children, and went on to expand their families. You're in mourning so the world is understandably foreboding. Please reach out to people who can help you see that you and your child would not be alone, but that there would be a circle around of people who care.
Q. Ending a Friendship: I stopped speaking to a very close friend of mine four or five months ago. It had become very difficult to deal with her. She's dealt with depression for years, but over the past few, she's not been seeing a therapist and she's been relying too heavily on me. I made it clear to her that I couldn't help her, and then when she persisted to seek my attention, I cut her off. At the time, I thought it would be a temporary thing and I'd cool down, but I still can't see myself forgiving her. The problem is that we have been friends since middle school, and we have a lot of friends in common. How do I explain to them that they cannot invite both her and me to things anymore? I don't want to keep turning down invitations just in case my old friend shows up. How do I not make myself look like the villain here? And is it necessary that I communicate my current intentions to her? She hasn't tried to contact me, but I want to make sure she realizes this situation is definitely permanent.
A: It's one thing for you to end a friendship. It's another for you to expect that everyone else in your circle will also end their friendship with your depressed former friend. You're entitled to say to your friend that you can no longer substitute for the professional help she needs. It's another to insist that you'll never be in the same room with her again. Just because you don't want to act as her therapist doesn't mean you can't be glad to see her out and about. I don't know how you avoid being the villain if you plan to announce, "Janine's clinical depression started driving me around the bend. So if any of you want to hang out with me, you need to blackball her."
Q. Surrogacy: My best friend has been told she is infertile. She has tried every single medically available route to become pregnant and has failed at every turn. She and I are both devastated because I know she will be an excellent mother. She already fosters children from difficult homes and I am amazed at the love and patience she demonstrates. I want to now explore the option of carrying a child for her (one that is not biologically mine). When I tentatively brought this up with my husband, however, he freaked out and said absolutely not. He likes my friend and feels sad for her but he thinks surrogacy is going too far. We, by the way, already have two children and don't plan on having any more. I want him to support me in this decision but a part of me wants to say "it's my body, my way." Who gets to decide here?
A: You sound like a generous, caring friend. Any yes, it's your body. But a decision to carry a child for someone else is one that would affect your entire family. Your husband had a powerful, visceral, negative reaction. That's fair enough, and you should respect that. You should also be able to say that you understand his instinctive response, but you'd appreciate if he'd do you the favor of at least talking this through with you. But if he insists your being a surrogate would be profoundly disturbing to him and you went ahead, it would be with the knowledge that you are putting your friend's needs above your husband's (ungenerous, but understandable) desires.
You are not the only potential surrogate, and surrogacy is not her only way to become a mother. But if this is the route your friend wants to go, it sounds as if the best thing you can do is to be a sounding board and a source of emotional support.
Q. Relationships: Taste in Music: I've met an amazing guy, and things have been going extremely well. The problem? Completely different tastes in music. If I have to listen to any more songs with synth I might go nuts, and he doesn't particularly care for my (admittedly) whiny millennial crap. Help?