I needed my husband Dale as I gave birth to our sixth child. So why was he glued to his phone?
By Emily Harris, 38, from Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset
Taking a deep breath, I winced as I felt another agonising contraction ripple through my body. I’d been in labour with my sixth child for 24 hours and I was exhausted.
‘Phew, that was a strong one,’ I gasped, turning to my husband, Dale, 31. ‘It can’t be long now.’
But Dale had barely looked up from his mobile phone screen. ‘Sorry love,’ he shrugged, tapping out a text message. ‘It’s work. It’s really important.’
More important than bringing our sixth baby into the world?
Dale had become so distant, but it hadn’t always been this way. We’d met when he was just 17 and we worked in neighbouring shops at a retail outlet.
I hadn’t realised he was so young but in many ways Dale was very mature and when I asked him out on a date, I knew it was special.
We waited a month before sleeping together but afterwards, our relationship moved quickly. Dale moved in with me and within a year, I was pregnant.
We were both shocked at first but I knew Dale was the man I wanted to have children with. ‘It’s soon,’ Dale said, wrapping me in a hug. ‘But I want to spend the rest of my life with you – so why not start a family?’
I was ecstatic and by the time we married in August 2007 we already had three children, Phoenix, Scarlett and Jerome.
Our wedding was the best day of my life. Everything was perfect and I felt so lucky, I actually cried with happiness.
‘How about a fourth?’ I smiled, cuddling up to Dale on our honeymoon. My new husband grinned back at me.
‘Let’s go for it,’ he said, planting a tender kiss on my lips. Not long later, Blossom, our honeymoon baby came along.
Life with four young kids was tough but Dale and I were a strong team. We’d bought a house and he had a good job with a coffee company.
It often meant that he had to travel and work away from home but I couldn’t complain. I knew he was only doing it to support me and our growing brood.
But when I fell pregnant with our fifth child, Dale was reluctant. ‘I don’t know Emily,’ he said, looking at my already growing bump. ‘Isn’t four enough?’
But there was no way I wasn’t going to continue with the pregnancy and Dale quickly came round to the idea.
When I developed skin cancer and needed an operation on my nose, I felt ugly and unattractive.
I was already huge as my fifth pregnancy progressed but Dale always had a ways of cheering me up and making me feel better.
‘You look beautiful,’ he insisted, lightly kissing my bandaged nose. ‘You know I love you.’
When he presented me with a sweet jar filled with little love notes, I thought my heart would melt.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I read his beautiful messages, where Dale talked about special memories of our life together and what he loved about me.
I love your smile, read one note. I grinned. Dale always had a way of making me smile, even when I was feeling low.
Little Daisy came into the world, and I was besotted with our fifth child. I could have done with an extra pair of hands to help out at home but Dale began working harder than ever.
He rarely got home from work before the kids were in bed and sometimes we wouldn’t hear from him for days when he was off on important work trips.
‘Just a quick phone call or text before bed would mean so much to us,’ I told him. ‘You’re missing out on so much – parents’ evening, school camps, even the kids’ birthdays.’
But Dale simply replied with the same old excuse. ‘I’m doing well at work, it’s really busy. I have to do it,’ he shrugged. ‘Sorry, but you know I love you.’
It was true. Dale did tell me he loved me every day but sometimes I couldn’t shake the feeling that he didn’t want to be at home. That he’d rather be at work than with me and the kids.
But in 2009, I knew that Dale would be working harder than ever – because we learned we were going to be parents for the sixth time.
‘I’ve always liked the idea of having an even number,’ I pulled Dale in for a hug. ‘I don’t want Daisy to be left out.’
Dale wasn’t so sure but I reasoned that as he was working so much, I’d be the one that would take on the lion’s share of the child care anyway.
But that day in October 2009, as I puffed and panted through my sixth labour and our little girl, Izzamy, came into the world, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was up.
Dale was glued to his phone throughout the labour – no surprise there, the thing was practically surgically attached to him as he dealt with pressing work issues – but he seemed different somehow.
He wasn’t as doting as he had been at the births of our other five children and three days later he announced he was leaving – to go to work in London.
‘Wh.. what?’ I stammered. ‘But what about us?’ We’d barely cut the cord, Izzamy was just three days old and it was half-term, so I had my hands full with all five other children too.
But Dale barely flinched. ‘Sorry, something’s come up. It’s important. I really have to go.’
Something didn’t stack up. Dale had booked paternity leave, as he had done with the births of our other children. What was so important that he was leaving us now?
I stood, stunned, as I watched Dale close the door behind him, leaving me holding the baby – literally.
What was he playing at?
Three days later, as Dale was on his way back from London, my phone beeped with a message from him. ‘It was really hard to leave you, but it would have been harder to stay,’ it read.
It didn’t make sense but when I asked him about it he brushed it off. ‘Oh sorry, I meant to send that to you a few days ago, when I left. It must have only just gone through,’ he said matter-of-factly.
But what did he mean, it would have been harder to stay? His words played on my mind so when he left his phone unattended, I decided to take my chance and check his messages.
I felt a sickening knot tighten in my stomach as I uncovered countless messages between Dale and a girl he worked with.
Looking forward to seeing you…xxx one read. Hot tears pricked my eyes as I scrolled back through the texts and stopped when I got to the day I’d given birth.
I felt sick as I opened a message he’d sent her that day. I want you, he told her. I couldn’t believe it. I’d been in labour with our six child. How could he?
Sobbing, I confronted Dale. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘It’s true. I haven’t been at work. I’ve been with her.’
I felt like my heart would break as I gasped through the tears. ‘Were you messaging her when you were in the same room as me? While I was having Izzamy?’
He nodded. ‘Yes. I’m sorry.’
We were both in tears as he told me it would never happen again. He explained that he’d been flattered when she’d shown him some attention and gave in to temptation.
When he agreed to change his job and work from home so he could be there more for me and the kids, I agreed to give Dale another chance.
Despite everything, I loved Dale and we had six children together. Our family was worth fighting for and for four years I believed we could make it work.
I was happy. We were happy… I thought.
But when Dale began working away from home again and I found messages on his laptop to a girl he’d met at work in America, I knew in my heart it was over.
Their messages were intense – they talked of loving each other and sent each other romantic poems.
‘I don’t love you any more,’ Dale shrugged coldly. ‘I haven’t for years. I only told you I did to make you feel better.’
His words hit like heavy punches and in February last year, we split for good. When I said my wedding vows I meant them, but Dale’s moved on.
He rarely sees the kids and I was recently been diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder after what he did.
Being a single mum to six children certainly isn’t easy but I’ve launched a pet sitting and pet walking business, ‘petbuddy’, to support our family.
I’m determined to be an independent woman my six children can be proud of. I won’t let Dale’s betrayal break me.
Dale says: “Honestly, I’m not interested in contributing to her story. It doesn’t matter to me. She can say what she wants to say. Thank you, take care pal.”