A woman said she dedicated more than four decades of her life looking after her son, who needed constant care. While she confessed she loved him immensely, what she admitted next was shocking and brought her to the center of a media storm.
A parent's love for their children is pure, selfless, and never-ending. A child knows that no matter what happens in their life, they can always go back to their moms and dads and feel safe in their loving and comforting presence.
But sometimes, parents might be unable to express the emotional phases they endure in assuming responsibility for their kids. The story we're sharing today sheds light on a parent's dilemma and their choice to be vocal about the many challenges they faced in their journey.
Gillian Relf. | Source: YouTube.com/Loose Women
Gillian and Roy Relf from Kent, England, were childhood sweethearts. Eventually, the couple decided to spend their lives together and married when Gillian was 19 and Roy was 20. Almost a year later, they welcomed their first child together — a baby boy, Andrew.
After embracing parenthood for the first time, the Relfs were eager to welcome another bundle of joy and looked forward to completing their family. Their heartfelt wishes came true when Gillian fell pregnant with her second baby.
However, there was something that pinched Gillian about her pregnancy. She couldn't pinpoint whether it was her sixth sense or motherly instincts, but she strongly felt something was wrong with her baby.
WELCOMING HER SON
According to Gillian, there were no antenatal scans or blood tests at the time that could detect abnormalities. Moreover, she said the doctors and midwives insisted she was hysterical and declined to perform an amniocentesis.
Over the years, she said she enjoyed beautiful moments with her son, but part of her worried about his future and how he would cope with life after she and her husband were gone.
The then-22-year-old Gillian said she was told that a healthy and young mother like her had relatively low risks of having a baby with Down syndrome. One Sunday in 1967, at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, Gillian and Relf welcomed their second child, a son named Stephen.
A SHOCKING DISCOVERY
Three days later, Gillian recalled looking at her baby boy in his cot; he had small, almond-shaped eyes, a flat nose, and one crease on the palm of his hands. She gasped and told her mother what she had noticed — Stephen had Down syndrome.
But her mother told her she was sure he didn't. Per Gillian, everyone, including the doctors and health visitors, didn't mention anything to her for nearly seven months, and she kept convincing herself that everything was okay.
When Stephen fell ill that summer and Gillian took him to the hospital, she overheard a pediatrician refer to him as "Down's syndrome baby." She said she knew she had been right all along, and at that moment, her world turned upside down.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY
So many questions raced through Gillian's mind that she said she couldn't answer. The Kent resident noted that her life changed drastically that day, and while she knew people expected her to accept her son's condition, part of her felt otherwise. She expressed:
"While I do love my son, and am fiercely protective of him, I know our lives would have been happier and far less complicated if he had never been born. I do wish I'd had an abortion. I wish it every day."
The mother-of-two also mentioned that had Stephen not been born, she would have gone on to have another baby and had a normal family life where her older son would have the comfort, and not the responsibility, of a sibling after she and her husband were gone.
A MOTHER'S STRUGGLES
In an interview on the program "Loose Women" in 2014, Gillian revealed that looking after Stephen, who struggled to speak and function in the modern world, brought immense stress and heartache for her and her family. She added:
"My son can't talk. He has to use sign language. Nobody can understand what he's saying. Having a Downs child has had an extensive impact on our life. We've not been able to go and do an awful lot of things, we've missed family parties."
Gillian recalled that she felt physical pain when she saw her friends' toddlers reach milestones while her son behaved like a baby. She said that Stephen didn't walk until he was five and could only communicate through sign language.
The distraught mom shared that when her son fell ill, he gave her no indication of what was wrong with him, and working out his needs was a constant struggle that nobody understood. Gillian said she was also admitted to a hospital after a nervous breakdown.
While she struggled with emotional baggage and added guilt, Gillian noted that Stephen was offered a permanent residential place at a nearby hospital in Kent. The mother confessed she felt relieved that despite her own mental struggles, her son would be taken care of.
RESPONDING TO THE CRITICS
The mother said she understood why people were hurt by her comments and noted that she had faced massive criticism and backlash all her life. But she said she wished to speak up about the difficulties she faced as a parent. Further, she stated:
"I'd challenge any one of them to walk a mile in the shoes of mothers like me, saddled for life as I am, with a needy, difficult, exasperating child who will never grow up, before they judge us."
Gillian revealed that her marriage also suffered, and she and Roy became depressed. She recalled an instance when her son moved out of the hospital and couldn't stop crying. Later, he was diagnosed with a hereditary condition called hemolytic anemia.
A MOTHER'S FEARS AND CONCERNS
The doctors told the Relfs their son needed an operation to remove his spleen, or he wouldn't survive. Per Gillian, Stephen spent five weeks at Great Ormond Street Hospital recovering. When he turned 11, he came home to live with his family full-time for 18 months.
Gillian noted that she was so occupied with taking care of her younger son that she barely left the house. Since leaving school, he lived in five different local authority houses and visited his parents on weekends.
As of 2014, Gillian said her son lived in sheltered accommodation in Kent with two women who also had Down syndrome. Over the years, she said she enjoyed beautiful moments with her son, but part of her worried about his future and how he would cope with life after she and her husband were gone.
SHARING HER UNFILTERED EMOTIONS
Gillian also confessed she worried for Stephen's safety. She recalled an incident when her 18-year-old son faced physical abuse from a carer at his facility, and she and Roy tried their best to move him to another place.
While celebrating her golden wedding anniversary in 2014 with her husband, Gillian expressed:
"I know this will shock many: this is my son, whom I've loved, nurtured and defended for nearly half a century, but if I could go back in time, I would abort him in an instant. I'm now 69 and Roy is 70, and we'll celebrate our golden wedding anniversary next month."
While chatting with the panel on "Loose Women," Gillian explained why she had considered abortion. She said:
"The reason I said that I would have had an abortion because I wouldn't want a child to suffer the problems Steven had suffered."
What are your thoughts on this mother's story? Do you support her opinion? What would you do if you were in her place? Don't forget to share this story with your family and friends.
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