Tough Times

27th July 2010

Since having some contact with Anthony’s adoptive parents I have come to understand why they believed I really wanted to surrender him.  I have been honest with them about why Anthony was adopted as I can’t lie about it.  It was a decision that only I could make and I had to be honest not just for myself but for all the other mothers who have been coerced.

When I received the paperwork relevant to me I would have laughed if it hadn’t been so serious.  There was some truth, half truths and blatant lies, none of which came from me.  It was painful to read but I needed to for my own sanity. I had no memory of giving any information to the adoption agency and when I saw the paperwork I knew I hadn’t given any of it.

The lies didn’t stop there.  Just before Christmas 2008 Anthony’s adoptive mother told me that they had received a letter from me.  Apparently I had stated how I would like Anthony to be raised but I never wrote them a letter so I don’t know who did.  I doubt if I ever will find out who wrote the letter.  At a later date she told me they had received three letters that were supposed to be from me.

On the 16th December 2008 our cat, Charlie, unexpectedly died.  She was 13 years old but in relatively good health until a few days before. Charlie wasn’t eating so much and she didn’t want to go far but we put that down to her age.  About 10 pm Charlie started ‘crying’ and her breathing started getting bad so Rick started ringing round vets in the area.  Eventually he managed to get hold of one but instinctively I knew she probably wouldn’t make it to the surgery.  Her eyes were dilated and her paws were cold.  The vet agreed that she probably didn’t have long so suggested keeping Charlie warm.  Rick and Anthony took Bruno and Chyna out for a walk to calm them down. Bouncer, our eldest dog, curled up by my feet as I had Charlie on my lap and Tasha, our kitten was curled up on the back of the chair.  Charlie had been born in front of Bouncer so they were very close. At about 11.15 pm Charlie died in my arms.  I don’t regret letting her die that way as she would never have made it to the vet’s surgery anyway.  It was fitting she was born at home and died at home.  I still miss her being about the place but it’s the good memories that I think about when I think of Charlie.  It’s an anniversary I won’t forget as it was the 9th anniversary of Rick’s mother’s funeral.

Christmas came and went quickly.  We managed to have a few days relaxing which made a pleasant change.  It was the best Christmas we’ve had for a few years.  Anthony even managed to ring his adoptive parents and was pleasant to them.

Within a few days it felt like we hadn’t had any time off.  I wasn’t complaining as I prefer to be busy.  Although the forums we run weren’t very busy at the time there was enough going on to keep me busy.  Rick is more the one for actually talking to people and actively doing things so we work well together.  Anthony was concentrating on the upkeep of our sites but Rick took over doing that after he moved out.

The first couple of months of the year flew by as we were busy with getting our sites as we wanted.  We also had a chat with Anthony to see how serious he was about moving out.  He said he was ready for this to happen so we got him to the council housing department to fill out a form to get on the waiting list.  Rick and I were quietly relieved as it had been stressful having him live with us.  I love Anthony very much, he is my son and part of me, we have so much in common but I don’t like his behaviour.  We have joked in the past that we know when he is lying as his lips move.  Sadly this is very true of Anthony that he constantly lies even about silly things.  I believed Anthony when he told me that he lies because he wants people to think well of him.  Nothing I can say will get through to him that I personally think more of him when he tells the truth.  It makes me feel incredibly sad that he can’t trust me enough to be honest with me.

Other problems have included Anthony not wanting to be part of the family unit or respecting us.  He spent most of his time in his room and only coming out for meals, going to the bathroom, appointments and occasionally going out with us. It was like having a lodger living with us instead of my son.

When Anthony first moved in we had to suffer months of Anthony staying up all or most of the night talking to his friends.  The excuse being that that the friends he was talking to lived out in Canada and the U.S.A. so naturally they were hours behind us.  This subject was a battlefield and occasionally caused arguments as I found it hard to believe that his friends had no respect for us.  It was a choice between him not being honest with them about whom he was living, he didn’t have any respect for our sleep patterns, his friends had no respect or it was a combination of these.  We also had problems with his cleanliness (room and personal), him being lazy generally and treating the place like a hotel.  Whenever we asked Anthony to do anything that was a battle to get him to do what was asked. Anthony also has a bad habit of twisting what has been said in conversations so we are made out to be the bad guys.

Live got really bad late March and early April 2008 as we discovered Anthony was using bottles rather than going to the bathroom.  The excuse being that he didn’t want to disturb us by going to the bathroom.  I couldn’t resist telling him he disturbed us anyway by talking loudly all night so he wouldn’t disturb us by going to the bathroom.  The first time we found out we were furious and even more annoyed when he came out with that line.  The second time I was just disappointed.  It seemed to embarrass him enough to stop doing this and use the bathroom instead.  By this time Anthony wasn’t talking to his friends all night usually ending conversations when I went to bed.  We did have to suffer Anthony slamming doors occasionally if he was up during the night but that was the better option.

My adopted son came home after 23 years and nearly ended my marriage

Millions tuned in to watch EastEnders’ tragic adoption storyline last week. Here, Philippa Hope tells how being reunited with the son she gave away almost ruined her marriage.

A reunion with a long-lost family member may seem like a cause for joy – but things don’t always turn out the way you planned.

When Philippa Hope found the son she’d put up for adoption 23 years earlier, it had a catastrophic impact on her marriage.

Having given up Anthony when she was just a teenager, she’d gone on to marry Rick Hope, 40.

But when Anthony found her, it almost ended their marriage.

“It wasn’t that Rick was unhappy about me finding Anthony, it was just he’d never imagined how jealous it would make him feel,” says Philippa, 47, a charity worker from Whitstable, Kent.

“Once my son and I were reunited, we couldn’t get enough of seeing each other. I know now it was torture for Rick. I felt caught between two men who both meant so much to me.”

Philippa was just 19 when she split with Anthony’s father before finding she was pregnant. “Mum wanted me to put the baby up for adoption,” says Philippa. “I didn’t want to but felt I had to.”

After giving birth in August 1981, Philippa couldn’t bear to look at her son knowing she was going to lose him.

After two days she went to find him in the hospital nursery. “I told him I’d always love him,” says Philippa. Her son was always on her mind but when she met Rick 13 years later, they had a whirlwind romance, marrying after just three months.

Philippa was too ashamed to tell Rick the truth. Until six months later, he learned her secret.

“He was furious that I hadn’t told him, but I explained I had been afraid of losing him,” says Philippa.

Seeing how much Rick longed to be a dad, Philippa wanted to have children with him. But though the couple tried, doctors revealed Rick was infertile.

“I thought I was being punished for giving my baby away,” says Philippa. “We’d discussed adopting but hated the idea that an adopted child may want to go back to their birth parents – just as I hoped my son would return to me.”

Finding they couldn’t have a family, her lost son preyed even more on Philippa’s mind.

She knew that once he turned 18, he’d be permitted to see his adoption file and could start looking for her.

But she heard nothing and started to lose hope. 

After signing up to a genealogy website in August 2004, Philippa was stunned to see someone had entered her details into their family tree and sent off an email asking who it was. “After I’d hit ‘send’ I realised my son’s name was on the tree. An email came back and I started shaking. It was from my son.

“I called out to Rick that I’d found him. He was named Anthony Stebbing and, now 27, he’d spent years searching for me.

“He’d traced his birth dad but things hadn’t worked out. I was pleased he’d been raised in a comfortable home but it was obvious that being adopted had deeply affected him.”

Anthony and Philippa chatted constantly, online and on the phone. Caught up in the excitement, she couldn’t see how her husband felt. For Rick, still hurt by being unable to father children, it re-opened old wounds.

“It was devastating discovering that we couldn’t have kids,” says Rick. “When Anthony came back into her life, I was very jealous. She had something I didn’t – and she seemed to love him more than me.”

A month later, Rick took Philippa to meet Anthony for the first time. “Rick wanted us to have time alone together. I was trembling as I walked up to Anthony. This was the child I’d given away. Now he was a grown man but the bond was still there.

“I felt an intense love for him and we hugged each other tightly. I didn’t want to let go.”

As the pair chatted, Rick kept calling Philippa’s mobile. And when Anthony eventually left and Rick picked Philippa up, he seemed distant.

“I couldn’t understand his mood because I was so happy,” says Philippa. “Then he admitted that he was jealous and felt I’d replaced him.

“I was stunned. I told him Anthony was the son I’d longed for all my life and that he was the husband who had been my life.”

But as her relationship with Anthony blossomed, Rick grew ever more envious.

“Every time I used the computer, Anthony was online, wanting to chat to Philippa,” says Rick. “It felt as if she was having an affair. For years, I’d been the only man in her life and now there was another one.

“I hated being so jealous. The rivalry I felt was tearing our marriage apart.”

When the three of them met to go through papers at a records office a couple of weeks later, the situation only got worse.

“Rick lost sight of us at one point and when he asked a member of staff if they’d seen me, they pointed at me and Anthony, saying I was over there with my boyfriend as we were laughing and holding hands.

Rick marched up saying, ‘People think he’s your lover!’ I was angry and kept hold of Anthony’s hand. With 23 years to catch up on, I just wanted to be with him. I felt the two of them vying for my attention but I wanted to love them both.”

But Rick later did something which proved just how willing he was to accept Anthony into their lives, even though he was feeling sidelined.

“One night,” says Philippa. “I heard him call Anthony and tell him that he loved him because he was part of me.

“He said, ‘You aren’t my son but I’ll love you like one’. It was very emotional and proved a turning point.

“Our reunion could have torn my marriage apart but when Rick accepted Anthony it made our relationship stronger.”

For Rick, coming to terms with sharing his wife was hard but he was determined to do it for the sake of their marriage.

“I didn’t want to lose her and I came to see just how silly my envy was,” says Rick. “By accepting Anthony as part of the woman I love, I could love him, too.”

Five years on, Anthony now lives with the couple and the two men have become friends.

For Anthony, finding his mother has been an incredible experience but he now realises just what an impact that had on Rick.

“I was so self-absorbed, I missed the signals,” he says. “Rick is now the closest I have to a proper father and I value his friendship.”

After their relationship was tested to its limit, Philippa is just grateful that Rick stuck by her.

“Lesser men may have walked but Rick was bigger than that,” she says. “I know it’s still hard. 

“Anthony is a constant reminder that I’ve had a child with another man when I couldn’t have one with Rick.

“I’m so grateful for his understanding and for being my rock.”

The Perils of a Reunion

Joan Allan of helps reunite adoptees with their birth families, after assisting her son, Timothy, 25, find his natural mum in 2002.

She says: “It is normal for a parent to want to spend a lot of time with their birth child where a successful reunion has taken place.

“But it will be hard for partners, who may feel ousted as everyone works out where that extra new person can slot into their lives. The newly-found son or daughter – or birth mother – can end up taking over the established family unit.

“This can be overwhelming and it’s why many reunions fall apart. A reunion won’t normally be the start of a perfect relationship and can lead to many problems. Those involved must be prepared to adapt and show tolerance.”


About Philippa

I am married to Rick and we live in a small town in County Durham. We have two dogs, a cat and two budgies. I am also an adoption survivor. In 1981 my son was born and I was then forced to surrender him. It took 23 years and reunion for my to find out that my son's adoption was legally known as a forced adoption and illegal but social workers got away with it because mothers didn't know their rights.
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