Why Lisa pays pounds 25 a week to keep her husband's love child.
She had been married to her husband, Ryan, for six years and had been desperately trying for a baby.
Christina Fletcher, the woman on the line, had no such difficulty. She told a half-asleep Lisa she was Ryan's lover and that she was 18 weeks pregnant - with HIS child.
The news sent Lisa reeling. But it was Christina's turn to be shocked when Lisa suggested she have custody of the baby...
I WAS at college, studying four A-levels and planning to train as a teacher.
I had a part-time job as a nightclub cashier, and I'd just moved into my own flat. I had ambitions, independence and a future.
I was just getting to know Ryan Hopper, too. He was 24 and worked on HMS Lancaster as a chef.
We first met in January, 1995, at a Plymouth nightclub. He was the sort of man you could stare at for hours. And my friend Lucy Paton and I did as soon as he walked through the door.
I was secretly hoping he liked the look of me and that he'd ask for a dance. He didn't, so I said, "Hello".
We danced to a slow record, he kissed me and lifted me up into the air. I thought he was wonderful - so smooth and sophisticated.
I was thrilled when afterwards he escorted Lucy and me back to my flat. He came in for coffee and promised to call next day.
I remember being relieved that he wore no wedding ring. But, just in case, I asked him if he had a girlfriend. He told me he hadn't.
The next day I introduced him to my mum, who happened to call round. She seemed wary and later said she didn't like the look of him. I wish I had listened to her.
We began seeing each other, and he gave me his ship's phone number. He told me he'd never had a serious relationship and talked as though I was part of his future and this was to be something long-term.
We'd been going out four months when I was appalled to discover I was pregnant.
I'd been on the Pill, but I'd had irritable bowel syndrome which had made it ineffective. I was distraught.
Ryan was wonderful. When I told him, he said he'd always wanted a child. "Don't have an abortion," he said. "I'll be there for you and the baby."
I knew a baby would make life difficult, but with Ryan's support, I thought I'd cope.
At first, despite feeling ill and exhausted, I did. I continued to go to college and see Ryan.
He'd stroke my stomach and say: "I love you and what's growing inside you." Though he never said it, I hoped he'd marry me.
Mum, however, was suspicious of him. "Why isn't he moving in with you and doing more?" she'd ask.
I'd defend him, saying he couldn't be there all the time because of his job. I didn't question it when he said he had to go away or had duties and couldn't see me.
I was 18 weeks pregnant when I got my second big shock. "You're understanding," friends of Ryan's told me. "About what?" I asked.
"His wife!" they said.
"What wife? He's not married," I replied, desperately telling myself they'd got it wrong.
They hadn't. That evening, I tackled Ryan and he confessed straight away.
I felt an idiot.
He said he was sorry and wanted to hug me, but I couldn't bear to be near him. He told me he'd always be there for me. But, for me, everything had changed. I would never have gone out with a married man.
I asked him if his wife knew about me. He said she didn't. I couldn't get her out of my head. I wanted to know what she was called, what she looked like, what she did.
I asked if he had children. He said no. They'd been trying for a child but had been unsuccessful. I found myself wondering how my pregnancy would make his wife feel.
He told me that he was torn between the two of us. "I love my wife, but I love you too." I couldn't believe his nerve. As far as I was concerned, it was over.
A few days later, friends took me out to a club to try to cheer me up - and there was Ryan with another girl.
I tried hard not to cry. But I was so upset that I rang his wife Lisa on the number he'd given me strictly for emergencies.
I thought she had a right to know what her husband had been up to. I didn't want her to get a letter from the Child Support Agency out of the blue. This way, she'd have time to prepare herself.
I was surprised how calm she was. She wanted to know how long I'd been seeing Ryan. She said she didn't blame me. She seemed more concerned about the other woman he'd met in the nightclub. She was also worried how her parents would take it. I gave her my phone number and name and she asked me not to tell Ryan.
A couple of days later, she rang back and said Ryan had admitted everything. She wanted to meet - so we did.
Straight away, she wanted to know all about me - how I'd met Ryan, if I'd known about her.
She told me she'd forgiven Ryan and still loved him. Then she said: "Aren't you going to get an abortion?" I told her that I loved my baby and that I didn't believe in abortions.
"Suppose we went for custody of your baby," she said. "How would you feel about that?" I told her I'd never consider giving my baby to my lover's wife.
"We've got a stable relationship - we could give the baby a good home," she said. "If you've got a stable relationship what am I doing here?" I replied.
She told me she'd been trying for a baby too, but could never keep it. That made me feel terribly guilty - I'm sure that's what she intended.
She seemed very jealous of me and my unborn child, and I could understand why.
When she realised that I didn't want to give my baby up, she suggested a financial arrangement.
She wanted to pay me pounds 25 a week out of their joint bank account, if I didn't name Ryan as the father.
I did feel sorry for her. It didn't seem fair that she should suffer - she had done nothing wrong. It was Ryan who was the rat.
Lisa came round to see me a few times after that. We even went to the Citizens' Advice Bureau together to ask about the Child Support Agency.She even stayed with a friend round the corner to be near for two weeks. She was obviously very interested in my pregnancy.
When she moved back home, she phoned and wrote to me.
"I would prefer to keep in contact until things are sorted out," she told me in one letter. "Write to me if you have any problems." Clearly, she wanted to keep in touch. In her situation, I'd have wanted as little contact as possible. I didn't have a smooth pregnancy. I had to leave college and move back home. I ended up fat, covered in red stretch marks on my stomach, thighs, knees and bottom. I felt terrible.
Katie-May was born on November 21, 1995 at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth. I loved her straight away. She was so small and helpless - only 6lb 11oz.
Despite all he'd done, I sent Ryan a photo of her when she was two days old. Lisa wrote back to say thank you. Ryan didn't ring and he's never seen her.
Together they've paid over pounds 200 into my account. But I hve informed the CSA - Katie-May's needs must come first.
I love my baby, but I have many regrets. I regret I'm not at university. I regret relying on the Pill, and not making Ryan wear a condom. I regret not listening to my mum. Most of all I regret meeting Ryan.
He's ruined my life. And it's a tragedy for Lisa, too. Everyone has lost out - except Ryan.
The worst thing is Katie-May won't have a father. Her mum's story Ryan Hopper was vain and thought he was Mr Wonderful, says Christina's mum, 49-year-old Sheila Fletcher.
"But I was shocked he was married and Christina was very distraught. She was in love with him, but would never have gone out with a married man.
"A baby was the last thing she wanted and, though I love Katie-May, she's changed our lives forever." The wife's story
The phone rang at 2.30am. I picked it up sleepily and heard the voice say: "You don't know me, but my name's Christina. I thought I'd better call you because I'm 18 weeks pregnant with your husband's baby."
I spent that night pacing the floor until daylight. Hearing from a woman I didn't know existed was bad enough. But the news she'd just given me made it almost unbearable. I didn't know what to say to her, so I told her I would call her back. When my husband came home on a weekend's leave next day, I confronted him. Head bowed, Ryan admitted that what the woman had said was true. He'd met her in a nightclub and seen her two or three times.
I didn't ask him the details - I didn't want to know.
The fact that she was pregnant really didn't bother me. I was far more annoyed that Ryan could have been stupid enough to sleep with a stranger without using a condom.
And it was cruelly timed. Ryan and I had been trying for a child for six years, and that February I had conceived at last. But days later I miscarried.
I had to sort things out with Christina. I met her in Plymouth, expecting to see someone drop-dead gorgeous, but she was a real plain Jane. Part of me wanted to reach out and grab her by the throat, but I stayed calm.
I've heard she says I asked for custody of the child, but I didn't.
I tried to persuade her not to contact the Child Support Agency and wrote offering her pounds 25 a week - an offer she took up for nine weeks after Katie- May was born in November.
Christina has since contacted the CSA, and Ryan has accepted financial responsibility for the baby. But even if Ryan has to pay for her for the rest of his life, we have no interest in this baby.
Christina sent us a photograph of Katie-May, but we ripped it up and put it in the bin.'
I was very upset when I had another miscarriage three months ago. But Ryan and I are back on track and I've forgiven him.
We're going to try again - hopefully, one day we'll have our own bundle of joy. And I know that Ryan will be a devoted dad. A ruined life: The husband's story
When Christina told me she was pregnant I was deeply shocked, because my wife and I had been trying for kids for so long.
It's wrecked my family life, and though my wife has been very understanding and has stood by me, her family and my family haven't.
I regret having met Christina. I don't know why I went out with her. I only saw her about three times.
\ But I and my wife will get through this. I've never seen the baby and I don't want to.
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Jun 5, 1996|
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