Infidelity: Learning to Let Go

How I had a baby, lost a husband and found my inner superhero

The ending of my story is much better than the beginning, which starts when I “left” my husband while nine months pregnant. “Left” is a euphemism for two girlfriends coming over to my house in San Francisco and packing up as much stuff as possible into their minivans while my then-husband sat in the corner, vacillating between incredulous indignity that I would have the audacity to read his private emails on his secret blackberry and complete panic that his wife and baby were walking out the door. Meanwhile, the day was hot, the baby was kicking and I had no patience for his mood swings, especially after he told me only a few weeks earlier that he wasn’t sure he could do the whole baby birth thing. “Maybe you should find a new coach,” was exactly what he had said which I soon learned was code for “I’m having an affair.”

So there I was, two weeks later, in labor at my sister Stephanie’s house in the suburbs of Chicago. The pain started around 1:30 a.m. and by the time my sister Casey and sister-in-law Jen arrived, the pain was pretty intense. By then, the sun was on the verge of rising and Steph had already finished packing my hospital bags and making sure the car seat was ready. We were laying on the couch eating Krispy Kreme donuts, Starbucks scones and decaf, non-fat lattes from Caribou. Never mind the fact that it was Yom Kippur, I was in labor and we were going to eat! I remember the scene so vividly. I was wearing my Gap maternity wraparound sweater, a pair of grey Mama over Miami sweatpants and a superhero cape that was presented to me earlier that morning by my sisters. It’s not exactly the cute little pregnant gal image I had imagined for myself -- you know the one where I am an adorable nine months pregnant mama, wearing tight jeans and a T-shirt that says ‘What’s Kickin,’ sporting this season’s best accessory, a faithful husband.

My soon to be “ex” arrived from the airport around noon looking tanned and well-rested but his color soon drained when the gravity of what was happening dawned over him. “Oh my G-d,” he whispered. “My wife is having a baby.” Casey, Stephanie and Jen shot him the Vulcan death stare. “Here,” Stephanie said, handing “ex” a notepad and stopwatch. “Start timing the contractions.” Of course, Stephanie was timing them as well, but I think she wanted to give “ex” something to do. “I’m driving my wife to the hospital,” he said, to no one in particular. “She and I need some time to talk.” (Because nothing says “good time to talk” then a drive to the hospital when contractions are ten minutes apart). Stephanie acquiesced but added, “We’ll be following, so don’t take any shortcuts.” Game on!

By the time we got to the hospital, it was 4 p.m. and I was begging for an epidural and some Valium. The Valium was for “ex” who was driving me crazy. Why couldn’t we talk about something normal like names or nursery colors? He just kept going on and on about how sorry he was for what he had done, which according to him was nothing more than an innocent flirtation that got misconstrued and by the way, I really shouldn’t have read his email and why in the hell was I wearing a superhero cape? It wasn’t age appropriate and made me look like a crazy person.

I ended up asking my sisters to stay in the waiting room while “ex” acted as a “coach” in the delivery room. He was more like a cheerleader than a coach and not necessarily a good cheerleader as I am pretty sure he muttered the word “gross” when the baby crowned, but I was glad our son had his father there when he took his first breath. And in the end, I learned to let go. Not enough to get back together with him. I’m not a fool (or “crazy person.”) But I forgave him enough to forgive and move on. It must have been the cape.

Beth Engelman is an iVoice on iVillage, mother of a five-year-old boy and is the co-founder of Follow her on Twitter (@momonashoe). This blog first appeared on

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