I never would have guessed my happy engagement to Mitchell Leff would ever wind up as a salacious news story in a few newspapers including The New York Post and The New York Daily News. Then again, if you've read my story, you know there's a lot that's transpired in the last few months I never would have guessed. Because some of what's been reported is completely false, I'm writing this article now, to tell my story. Maybe it is fun for the media to sensationalize this story, but this is my life and future -- and now my child's life and future -- and so I really want to clear up the misinformation out there.
1. Mitchell Leff was my fiance who I was living with when I got pregnant through IVF. In some articles, Mitchell is described as my "married boyfriend." Totally false. Mitchell told me he had been broken up with his wife in Great Neck (who he always referred to as his "ex-wife") for about a year and a half when I first met him - and that New York divorces take a while - which they do. (The author of EAT, PRAY, LOVE writes about this in her book - detailing the serious relationship she had while waiting for her N.Y. divorce to finalize.) When I met Mitch, he'd been living in a separate apartment - a 1 bedroom in Great Neck - which I saw. Indeed, Mitch and his ex-wife were very busy working out "the last of the financials" for their divorce. Mitch showed me letters from her lawyer to his lawyer -- debating who keeps the house, who benefits from his real estate investments, etc. (which I still have). Mitchell and his ex-wife were very much not a couple for a long time when he asked me to marry him.
It's truly important to make it clear: Mitchell's bailing on our baby had nothing to do with his ex-wife and their incomplete filing for divorce. Mitch did not go back to his wife. (In fact On Oct. 26th they became legally officially divorced.)The only "reason" Mitch claimed he was bailing was because 12 days after our IVF, 12 hours after he learned I was pregnant, Mitchell told me he wasn't sure he wanted to start raising kids again. I was shocked - for many reasons. Not only did Mitch pay $28,000 to do IVF with his sperm to have a child with me, Mitch even handwrote me a few poems about his excitement to have children with me- which I still have! For example, one began: "For the mother to be. Nothing could prepare your heart to open like this!"
Then I found evidence in my laptop that he was cheating on me on a dating site - under the name CITYBOY2002 - which means he wasn't only cheating on me while I was pregnant - but most likely his ex-wife when he was married - as he was fully married in 2002. Plus the user photo he used to meet women on the dating site turned out to be a photo of himself in his marital home he took with the camera in his apple computer.
When I spoke with Mitch about the profile, he immediately promised me he'd remove his profile and focus on us. He claimed he was just in fear about the baby -- which was obviously surprising to hear, since he'd paid $28,000 to get me pregnant via IVF -- and gone with me to the fertility clinic - in total about 10 times. Then Mitch began telling me he was spending Saturday nights with his 18 year old daughter. I had trouble believing this, knowing he had been on a dating site. Next thing I knew, Mitch wrote to a friend on the dating site -from a hidden profile! Meaning? Mitch had lied about removing his profile. He was still up and dating while I was pregnant with his child - using a hidden profile. Eventually Mitch left - refusing to answer phonecalls, emails, texts. I cannot describe the extreme of my pain - coming back from a romantic vacation in Paris -- with my supposedly loving/devoted fiance -- who'd just done IVF with me - finding out I was pregnant in my 40's from the IVF which Mitchell had pursued with me - then discovering Mitchell was living a double life - cheating on me - then experiencing being abandoned by Mitchell - my fiance - while I am pregnant with his child - with Mitch refusing to even talk about anything - not even with me and his therapist Elyse. Later, after he left, I realized that my laptop which Mitch was using to log onto dating sites was one he had used before we did the insemination in December - which means Mitch was cheating on me before the insemination.
2. While getting to know Mitchell, I asked all the right questions -- and Mitchell not only gave all the right answers, he did all the right actions to show me he meant what he said. He said he wanted to marry me and have my baby, then performed the actions of someone who wanted to marry me and have my baby. He gave me an engagement ring, proposing marriage to me in a very romantic way at the Soho House. He showed the ring first to the waitresses there - and asked them to bring champagne. He got down on a knee and read me some poems he'd written out on some cards to me - which I still have. He played me some romantic music (Leon Russel's lyrics "I love you in a place where theres no space and time") on his ipod. Then he asked me to marry him. I said yes. The waitresses all applauded. Mitch immediately called his mother to tell her. She got on the phone with me - and asked me if the ring fit. I answered, "I don't care if it's too big or too little, I'll lose weight or gain weight! I love your son." Next, we celebrated our engagment in person with our families. His sister sent me a very sweet engagement card - which I still have. His mom and father celebrated our engagement at a dinner - and we laughed about how my mom would be jealous that we celebrated with Mitch's parents first. Mitch sweetly commented, "You can tell your mom we will celebrate the birth of our baby with her before we do with my parents." Then Mitch and his parents starting talking about baby names - and Mitch lovingly suggested naming our baby after my father who had passed - suggesting if the baby were to be a girl, we should call her Ruby. Yes, Mitch and I were very much a happy couple moving forward with starting a family - with his parents excited about our future alongside us. After that first dinner, Mitch's mom and I wound up adoring each other. We became Facebook friends. I still have warm emails she sent me. I wrote about our happy, romantic engagement on Oprah's site.
My only red flag: Mitch told me he didn't want me to meet his kids yet or let them know we were engaged - because he wanted to work out the last of the financials with his ex-wife in the divorce - and thought that things would go more smoothly if his ex-wife didn't know Mitch was engaged. Another red flag - when we double dated with Mitch's friends, he told me he didn't want the wives to know we were engaged- because they knew his ex-wife, and didn't want them to tell her. But Mitch explained he'd told the husbands. He asked me not to wear the engagement ring at a double-date dinner, so the wife wouldn't see it. I asked some divorced friends about this at the time, and they didn't think it was so bad - because they agreed with Mitch that his ex-wife might get tougher on the financials if she knew Mitch was eager to get married. Frankly, at the time, it did bug me a little. But everytime I pushed Mitch to tell his kids and more of his friends that we were engaged, Mitch told me, "Relax - I'm doing fertility treatment with you. I wouldn't be having a baby with you if I wasn't fully committed to you." Well, I now see the fact that he hid our engagement from his kids and the wives of his friends as a major red flag - and it makes me sick to my stomach. But meanwhile at the time Mitch asked me to marry him, I felt very engaged - because we were celebrating our engagement with his mom and dad and sister and her husband - and all of my friends and family. Plus, Mitch and I were not only talking the talk of marriage, we were moving forward -- with him moving into my Manhattan apartment. He lived with me as his primary residence. He got a garage space for his car in my building. He got a Verizon landline phone under his name in my apartment, because he wanted his own separate number for his work calls. Because Mitchell moved into the apartment I owned, and I was paying maintenance, he suggested he pay to renovate my place, so when we had our child (which Mitchell constantly talked about enthusiastically wanting - as mentioned -even handwriting me a few poems about his excitement to have a child with me- which I still have) my apartment would be workable for a family of three. To me, these family friendly home renovations Mitchell funded and the poems he handwrote me were yet more symbols of his longterm commitment to a family.
It's important to make it clear: We were having no fights or conflicts in our relationship before the successful pregnancy. Indeed, Mitchell told me if I'd abort, he'd stay engaged with me. His only reason he ever expressed for wanting me to abort was that he suddenly realized he did not want to become a father again at age 51.
Here is an email I wrote to Mitch - to encourage him to try to explore his new fear about the baby in couples therapy with me - because MItchell had told me he needed to be in Great Neck "to be alone" to think about the pregnancy - and swore he wasn't (to quote him) "doing anything." I kept telling him in a warm and empathic way I wanted to try to understand what was going on - and suggested we go to a couple's counselor. As you can see below, I communicated with him with warmth and empathy - even during this challenging time.
I want us to have theee best most loving relationship -- a happy home full of love, laughter, peace, great communication, support, empathy, fun, adventure, sensuality, warmth - and then some. :)
We need more open and intimate conversations.
We need a therapist to help empower us to be theeee most loving and intimate and open.
Think about it.
You did not hear me when I told you how you need to "focus on all the stuff you have to look forward to our future."
You didnt hear me/ understand this perspective until your therapist Elyse said it to you - an outside person other than me.
We need someone else to talk to us - so I dont take on the therapist role.
I am your fiance and lover and best friend.
We need someone else to help empower us - so I can remain your fiance and lover and best friend.
I am calling a couples therapist - who is a cognitive therapist - here's some stuff from her site. I will make a session plan for her for either Thursday or Friday.
I love you.
Here is the email Mitch wrote me back - refusing to see a couples therapist together- insisting he needed to see a therapist alone - because we weren't having problems as a couple.
Hi Sweetie I did hear you when you told me to "focus on the baby and all the good things to look forward to in our future".
Elyse told me that I have other illusions that are keeping me from that focus.
That I am so overwhelmed, that I can't see the forest for the trees.
I need to unclog my mind and not think of all the ramifications of the future. That it will all take care of itself.
I have a divorce that I need to finish. The lawyers don't help. It is in their interest to let it drag on. This preys on my mind as well.
I have much to do to get this done with. I need to stay on top of it. Maybe switch lawyers.
My mind is really not functioning properly.
I need direction. I am working on it.
Please let Elyse guide me.
Again, Mitch insisted he had no problems with me and our relationship. He kept telling me he loved me - but just needed time "alone to think." Unfortunately as I later figured out - all during this time Mitch left me alone and pregnant, he was not alone. He was up and active on a dating site. And as I later figured out, MItchell was even cheating on me on that dating site all through our engagement and IVF process. .
People want to know how can a self-help author get conned? I'm both embarrassed and stumped. But in the end I'm a self help book author, not a psychic, and there truly were no obvious red flags prior to our pregnancy. (Many smart people were fooled by Madoff too.)
As a self help book author, I'm right now very aware of doing what I can to bounce back from this challenge as a strong, happy, wiser, forward facing woman. I'm doing this by focusing on finding the lessons to be learned, surrounding myself with loving friends and family, being aware of having gratitude for the miracle of being pregnant in my 40's, and trying to find forgiveness for Mitchell... and myself.
3. I did not get pregnant by accident -- as some people are incorrectly commenting on some online articles. I'm in my 40's, and due to fertility issues, Mitchell and I had to pursue the complicated and expensive process of IVF.
To me, when Mitchell enthusiastically paid $28,000.00 in cash for IVF treatments, and enthusiastically used his sperm, I saw it as another huge symbol of his commitment to family. Plus Mitchell went to the fertility clinic with me about 10 times in four months -- was poked and prodded, had his blood tested and his semen analyzed. He filled out many papers, signed his signature upon them all. On Nov. 27th Mitchell gave his semen to the clinic. On December 3, the day of the insemination, Mitchell lovingly held my hand -- and spoke about how excited he was to take our child to the zoo, teach our child to ski, show our child the world. After the procedure Mitchell paid for each of us to have one year gym memberships, spending close to four grand in cash to invest in our year ahead at the gym (receipts I have kept as it's more proof of how he saw us moving forward!).
The only reason I bring up all of Mitchell's cash payments is because they're all symbols of his longterm commitment. Mitchell was putting his money where his mouth was -- making purchases which were investing in our future.
4. There were no red flags before my pregnancy and far too many afterwards. At 8 p.m. on December 14 we found out I was pregnant. On December 15 at 8 am Mitchell for the first time told me he thought he was too old to be a dad and was satisfied with having already raised two kids --and thereby didn't want another child.
This news was shocking. Make that SHOCKING. Mitchell had done IVF with me a mere 12 days before. How could a man change his mind in 12 days? It made no sense, especially since Mitchell had never once in all his 10 visits to the fertility clinic -- never, ever, ever once -- expressed anything less than extreme enthusiasm for wanting a child with me.
Again - the shock and hurt became even more intense after discovering Mitch up and active on a dating site - through one of my laptops he had used.
Why did Mitchell bother to do IVF in the first place if he had any doubts at all about wanting more kids? Why did he never mention his doubts to me? Was Mitchell simply gambling with my uterus, betting $28,000.00 that at my age I wouldn't get pregnant? Did he simply tell me he wanted a baby because he knew that was the only way I'd enter into a relationship with him and have sex with him? Was it because I told him on our second date I only wanted to get involved with a man who wanted a family with me. Was it possible? It sounds crazy, but could it be that Mitchell was simply viewing the $28,000 he shelled out for IVF as the fee for making sure I'd sleep with him -- hoping the IVF wouldn't pay off? I know that sounds far-fetched, but this whole situation is bizarre. My body is not a science experiment.
The last time I saw Mitch, he hugged me and told me he was sorry - he did not mean to hurt me. He promised he'd absolutely pay for my pregnancy related medical bills and the family-friendly home renovations in our apartment we were living in together -- which he started -- and which he could afford easily - but would monetarily challenge me. Basically, Mitch started the home renovations (I have receipts in his name for what he started) - then left them in mid-stream. It's inappropriate for Mitch to start a project and then walk -- leaving me in a home which is not livable for 1 person -- let alone a family -- especially when these are renovations Mitch can afford to finish and I cannot. Especially since Mitch abandoned me out of nowhere to be a single mother - not leaving me time in advance to save up money for this new reality. Indeed, he even told me to turn down 2 jobs while I was with him - because he wanted to support me during pregnancy - acknowledging how my being pregnant in my late 40's would be a difficult time for me to work. As to the pregnancy -- once you purposefully get your fiance pregnant, you can't just ignore it and the medical treatments and costs that are necessary for the baby. Once the child exists, you need to care for it. Unfortunately- and to my astonishment -- when I contacted Mitch a few days later about these monetary loose ends, he refused to return calls, emails or texts.
Here is part of a long email I sent to Mitch after he left. As you can see I wrote it warmly. I did not write in a way which would give him reason to refuse to answer emails, phonecalls and texts.
I hope you've been having a peaceful few days, enjoying the fluffy snowy weather.
As we keep saying, let us both be kind and compassionate to each other.
I am going to choose to reframe everything in its best light - which means seeing you in your best light as a good man who is filled with fear and confusion. And I am also choosing to view these circumstances as an ASSIGNMENT-- to become better at forgiveness, compassion, letting go, and growing into a stronger person.
With this in mind, at this point, we just need to close up some loose ends....so we can both move forward as cleanly and peacefully as possible - as swiftly as possible.
I have shown the whole long email to friends. They all agree I handled the situation with surprising empathy - considering I'd just been abandoned by my fiance while I was pregnant with his child - a man who had been cheating on me while doing IVF. To me it's incredibly shocking that Mitchell at this point refused to answer my email - or any phonecalls or texts -- and stuck me with construction bills for the apartment - construction which he'd started - because he's far wealthier - and he could afford it easily, but for me it would be a monetary crisis - especially since Mitch had told me turn doing two paying jobs when I was pregnant - so I had no incoming income and a baby on the way with no "single mom savings" because I never planned to be a single mom.
5. I didn't want to file a Complaint. I tried many times to contact Mitch - with warmth. I wrote and called Mitch expressing how I didn't want us to "downward spiral" -- reminding him we were going to be in each other's lives in some way for the next 18 years, and so I wanted to us maintain at the very least a warm friendship for the sake of our child - who'd want to have a warm relationship with his biological father. Mitch refused to answer any of my many calls or emails. I very much tried to settle this amicably - but Mitch continued to refuse any contact -- and the many medical bills and pregnancy related bills and construction bills which Mitch could easily afford and had suggested we start etc -- all of this kept pouring in. I even showed Mitch the Complaint before we filed - and expressed in many emails how I didn't want to file it - pleading with him to call me so we could resolve everything without lawyers - suggesting we talk with a therapist together about how to handle all of this. Again - Mitch chose not to respond. The pain was incredible on so many levels - to be so completely abandoned by the man I loved - who I believed loved me - while I was pregnant with his baby. I didn't want to be mistreated/victimized. I am a strong, empowered woman and I wanted to be treated fairly/appropriately-- and I was surprised by Mitchell's ultimate total abandonment.
Basically - it's not just bad that Mitchell abandoned me - his pregnant fiance - who he purposefully got pregnant - it's how he abandoned me - by completely stonewalling me. I sent Mitchell in total close to 50 emails attempting to create a warm friendship - telling him how I didn't want us to downward spiral - and offering to talk with a therapist together. Mitch did not answer one of these emails - nor any of my phonecalls or texts. He just vanished. Truly, it's not right to leave your pregnant fiance - but it's far worst how Mitch just completely vanished.
I also did not want this to go public. After I filed the Complaint, I found out the hard way that journalists like to troll the courthouse looking for newly filed cases they think will make interesting news stories. Two separate journalists I did not know (one from the NYPost, one from The NYDaily News) recognized my name from my books - and called my lawyer to write me up. I turned down both of them. It didn't matter I didn't want to go public. They both wrote up the articles without my interview -- using information from the Complaint I filed. Some of what they wrote was completely incorrect. In particular, some of the unfortunate information about Mitchell which they described was only revealed to me at the very end of our relationship, not the beginning. At a certain point I decided to call the journalists to attempt to correct the misinformation - then decided to also correct it all here. But I never chose to go public in the media with this.
My reason for writing this post here is to further correct the misinformation and/or lack of full clarity within those 2 articles those journalists wrote up without my permission - which I cannot get them to remove from the internet.
EPILOGUE: I'm happy to share that while I was pregnant, I met a wonderful man who lives a few blocks away from me. He was there at the hospital for my C Section, celebrating the birth of my son, and we're all still happily together. I am facing happily forward.
Follow Karen Salmansohn on Twitter: www.twitter.com/notsalmon