I Was Cheated On While Pregnant, & It’s More Complicated Than You Think
"Delete these, sis, and take some solo shots." "If the media is right, kick him to the curb." "Can y'all just stay single and stay away from these types of guys? WTH is wrong with you all?" This is just a sampling of comments on Khloé Kardashian's Instagram photos of her with her boyfriend and the father of her unborn child, Tristan Thompson. When news leaked that Thompson had allegedly been cheating on Kardashian during her pregnancy, commenters were out to let her know exactly what they thought she should do — leave. But while being cheated on while pregnant is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, that doesn't mean the decision to leave your cheating S.O. is any easier. In fact, pregnancy makes it a hell of a lot harder to throw your hands up and say, "I'm done."
I was five months pregnant with my daughter when I found out my ex-husband was seeing someone else. It was devastating. That's a short way to describe it, but it's a loaded word that encompasses everything I was feeling. Pregnancy is supposed to be the most joyous time of your life (even with the hemorrhoids). You're supposed to be in awe of your ability to grow another human being. You're supposed to be counting the kicks with your partner every night as you lay in bed. You're supposed to be dreaming about the future and what your family will look like.
Instead, in one night of snooping through our phone records, all of my visions came crashing down. I was either going to be a single mother, or a mother who turned away every time she saw her husband with his phone out. I was either going to leave behind two stepchildren I loved like my own and lose the family I had been working so hard for the past four years, or I was going to be a shell of my former self. I was either going to let go and forge my own happiness and life for the sake of my daughter and me, or I was going to stick around and "work it out." There was truly no easy answer.
It wasn't just my own thought process that went into overdrive — it was my ex-husband's, too. When I confronted him about the nights he disappeared from our house or the daily phone calls he was making to an old flame, he gaslighted me: I was crazy. I never trusted him. I was hormonal. It was just a coincidence that his best friend's number happened to be the same "old number" as an ex-girlfriend. Why was I always fabricating problems? Why was I always snooping through phone records? Why was I causing issues?
When it happens to you, you blame yourself.
I remember going to bed that night, apologizing to him for what I "had done." Looking back, of course I shouldn't have. I should've left that night instead of waiting until my daughter was 2 months old and I'd officially had enough. But I can't blame that version of me — that woman who was feeling baby kicks all day and waking up with breast milk soaked through her shirt. Who was desperately trying to keep her "happy" family intact.
The Daily Mail and TMZ have each published videos of Thompson reportedly kissing women who aren't Khloé. "Where's Khloe? Tristan Thompson Caught On Camera Locking Lips With Mystery Woman" crowed The Daily Mail. This was enough for the laymen of the internet to come to a conclusion, but hard evidence doesn't necessarily make it easier to decide how to respond when it happens to you. I can't blame Khloé Kardashian if she refuses to believe the rumors. If she looks at the surveillance videos and cries, but tries to convince herself that some excuse Tristan makes up is right. That it's not him in the video, it was a publicity stunt, those women came on to him and he led them into hotels to make them leave him alone — I can't blame her.
When it happens to you, you blame yourself. You tell yourself that it was because you got "fat" and pregnant. You wonder if you were so focused on the baby you forgot to pay attention to him. You think about all those nights you fell asleep early during the first trimester instead of making time to have sex with your S.O. You assume that he's scared of being a father, that you pressured him too much to be a good dad, that your family is too much for him. You think this is some kind of karma you were due to receive.
You do everything except blame him for his actions. And then you're going to have to fight like hell to convince everyone he's still a good guy.
It's what I did. It's what millions of women who are cheated on while pregnant do. Being pregnant means being vulnerable. It brings every worry and fear you've ever had about yourself to the surface. Are you going to be good enough? Are you going to know what to do? Are you going to bounce back into your size 8 jeans and go to the mom groups and make your S.O. dinner and cook your own baby food and breastfeed? Are you, are you, are you?
And now you have to wonder if you're going to keep your man. If you're going to believe him when he says he just "needed someone to talk to." If you're going to spend every moment he's not with you wondering where he is, what he's doing, who he's with. If you're going to be chill when you're home alone with a 2-week-old baby and he says he's going out for a drink with his friends — friends you've never heard of. If you're going to push yourself to put on make-up every morning, even after you were up every two hours to breastfeed your baby, so that you can look "put together" enough for him when he comes home to work.
You have to wonder if you're going to make it work.
And the pregnant woman dealing with revelations of betrayal is, of course, making decisions about her wellbeing as well as that of her fetus — because there are measurable effects. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that women with higher levels of stress hormones at birth experienced delayed lactation. A paper published in the Journal of Perinatal Education looked at stalled labors as they related to stress — called emotional dystocia — specifically in terms of how to help pregnant women who had been widowed in 9/11 cope with the trauma and grief, to minimize the potential effects on infant birth weight and brain development, and maternal wellbeing. The author noted that stress studies had focused on men up until 2000, and that the female response to stress is very different than the classic "fight or flight" response — "women respond to stress with a pattern called 'tend and befriend,'" Debra Pascali-Bonaro, the author, wrote. Sound familiar?
Being cheated on, at any time, is hard enough, but being cheated on while pregnant is pure hell.
What I did is not always the right answer for everyone. There was a defining moment for me, a moment that made everything click in my brain. He was not the one, he was never going to be the one, it was just me and my daughter against the world. When my family and friends found out, they cheered. "How could you stay with him so long? Why didn't you leave when you were pregnant? Why did you put up with his sh*t?"
I don't have an easy answer for that and Khloé probably doesn't either. Blaming her for Tristan's alleged actions is wrong. Blaming her if she stays with him is wrong, too. Being cheated on, at any time, is hard enough, but being cheated on while pregnant is pure hell; I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. Turning it around on the pregnant woman, how it's her job to keep her S.O. happy or how she should leave him in the dust with no questions asked, takes the blame right off the person who deserves it.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.