Once upon a time, I fantasized about what maternity leave would be like. Like so many others, I naively thought it was going be an extended staycation. I now cringe at my foolishness.
My plans for this 3 month ‘vacation’ included watching Netflix all day and binge reading the half dozen books on my Kindle. I would use the baby’s nap time to accomplish tasks that I never had the free time to do before: I’d finally get around to perfecting winged eyeliner, making gourmet meals in my crock pot, and learning how to use Photoshop! Try to contain your hysterical laughter, fellow parents.
Did I ever think that maternity leave would include living in my college age brother-in-law’s bedroom with my husband, an infant, and a dog? NO. No, I did not. Suffice to say, the reality of life these days has fallen far short of the expectations.
Shit really hit the fan a little over a month ago, when Brendan was doing laundry one night and he noticed that the bag of dog food (which we keep next to the dryer) had a hole in it, spilling food onto the floor. Upon further investigation, the hole appeared to have been chewed. His exact words were, “I don’t want to freak you out, but I think we might have a mouse.” Mind you, he was leaving for Cabo the following morning for a friend’s wedding and would be out of town for 4 days– leaving me at home with one colicky baby, one hyperactive dog, and now possibly a mouse. I was officially freaked out.
Over the following days, mice were the last thing on my mind. Clare’s colic was horrid and all through the house, not a creature was sleeping, not even a mouse. I now understand why sleep deprivation is a form of torture; if you want to meet your worst self, listening to an inconsolable baby wail into the wee hours of the morning will really bring it out.
My Aunt Lorraine was in town to meet Clare, and that Saturday she and I were getting ready to sit down for dinner when there was a scratching noise in the wall. She heard it as well, so I knew I wasn’t having exhaustion induced hallucinations.
Brendan got home late Sunday night, and I reported that I had definitely heard something in the wall while he was away. He bought mousetraps on Monday and we baited them with dog food and left them out. The next morning, we found that the rodent(s) had eaten the bait off of the traps, but nothing had been caught. We re-baited the traps with peanut butter on Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning, nothing had been caught in the traps, but I noticed that there was a partially eaten apple on the countertop, and fiberglass insulation scattered on the kitchen floor. I realized that this mouse was out of our league, and I called a pest company.
The exterminator came over and took one look at the apple and told me that we did not, in fact have mice. For half a second, I had a small sliver of hope that this was all a big misunderstanding before the crushing realization set in: rats. We had f*cking rats.
He saw my look of utter panic and terror and told me not to worry, that they would set traps and this would all be taken care of shortly. Our beautiful, historic home had not-so-beautiful, historic foundation and the rat had worked its way in through a crack. The exterminator assured me that if the crack was sealed up, they would catch the rodent and all would be well again.
While I am generally not inclined to hysteria, I told Brendan that we needed to move. He talked me off the ledge, and we decided to wait it out. The next day, I found a partially eaten banana in the kitchen. The exterminator came back out, and informed me that he had caught a “good sized rat” in the crawl space. “Oh good,” I thought, “Problem solved!”
A few days later, we found another half-eaten banana. Problem not solved.
I called the pest company (again) and they came out (again), and explained that rats are intelligent animals and that catching them takes time. No shit, I thought. These jerks circumvented no less than 6 traps on their nightly route to snack on my organic fruit!
Once again, we debated whether we should leave the house, and we decided once again to wait it out. Clare was still crying at all hours of the day and night, and I didn’t want to impose on family or friends. We hadn’t seen any evidence of rats upstairs, so I spent a few days hiding out in our bedroom with Clare.
The final straw came one afternoon when I was vacuuming and I moved the Pack N Play in our living room and found rat poop behind it. OH HELL NO. I texted Brendan and updated him, and we agreed to spend a few days at his parents’ house until this got worked out. That was two and a half weeks ago, and we are still here.
Since that time, these asshole rats have chewed a hole through our living room floor into the crawl space. We pointed a motion detecting security camera at the hole, and on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving we checked the recordings to see an overturned trap on top of the hole. I called the pest company and when they went over, they found a still-alive rat dangling through the floor. In their attempts to remove the rat, they opened the trap and the damn thing escaped into our basement. We are dealing with the Tom & Jerry of rodents, and the Elmer Fudd of exterminators.
On Monday of this week, they called to tell me that another one was caught in our upstairs bathroom. “That’s the good news,” he said. “The bad news is that it bled out on your bathroom floor.”
While all of this has been going down, we made the executive decision that there was no way in hell that we’d ever be able to move back home, so we started looking at houses. We found one in my parent’s backyard- literally- and we are in the process of buying it. As of now, we are tentatively closing around New Years.
Did I ever think that I would move back to Upper St. Clair or be backyard neighbors with my parents? Once again, NOPE.
Its been a few days since we’ve had any rat-related activity at the house, so I am hoping that the problem has been eradicated. Unfortunately, homeowner insurance doesn’t cover any of the damage so we are going to be on the hook for replacing the carpet, repairing the floor, and having the entire house professionally cleaned before we can put it on the market. I’m praying that someone will fall in love with the charm and character of the house, and overlook the previous rodent problem.
I’m a mess of emotions right now. Stressed out over the prospect of having to spend my last month of maternity leave packing and unpacking all of our belongings. Nervous about having two mortgages until we can sell our old house. Excited to be moving in to our forever home, albeit a few years earlier than we had planned. Sad that we won’t get to put up our 10 foot Christmas tree one last time, or celebrate Clare’s first Christmas at home.
Through all of this, we’ve managed to find the humor in the situation. There is nothing quite like late night googling “How often do female rats go into heat?” with your spouse, and then laugh-sobbing with when you find out that they can have up to 200 babies a YEAR. It’s like watching a comedy, and then remembering that this movie is your life and it’s actually a horror movie.
The lesson learned here is an obvious one: people and not things make your house a home. If that house burned to the ground right now, there is not one thing that I would miss. Truth be told, if it burned down, it would save us a whole lot of trouble!