Mom Regrets Not Aborting Son With Down Syndrome: I Would’ve Killed Him if I Could

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 23, 2014   |   12:01PM   |   London, England

For the second time in two weeks, a mother has given a shocking and heartbreaking interview in which she admits she would have taken the life of her disabled son in an abortion if she had it to do all over again.

Gillian Relf, 69, regrets having her son, Stephen, who is 47, because he has Down syndrome and requires constant and daily care. She worries about what will happen to her son when she dies.

stephenrelfRelf starts with an embarrassing anecdote about how her son refused to sit in his seat on an airplane as they prepared to leave London for a family trip to Greece.

The pilot had been very patient but, after an hour of the plane waiting on the Tarmac at Heathrow, with my son Stephen refusing to get up off the floor, sit in his seat and buckle up, our bags were removed from the hold and he was carried off the flight, my husband Roy and I walking, hot-cheeked and humiliated, behind.

Our family holiday to Greece would not be going ahead, after all.

And no, Stephen was not an obstreperous toddler when this happened. He was 45 years old. This embarrassing scene happened two years ago and the episode is just one of the many challenges we have faced since Stephen, our second child, was born with Down’s Syndrome.

“So difficult has it been that I can honestly say I wish he hadn’t been born,” Relf continues. “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.”

Relf recalls how when she and her teenage sweetheart-future husband considered having a family, they wished for a perfect baby.

We were childhood sweethearts and married when I was just 19 and he was 20. I sailed through my first pregnancy with Andrew a year later, and both of us were really looking forward to a second baby to complete our family.

There were no antenatal scans or blood test to detect abnormalities in those days and although I had a sixth sense, call it mother’s intuition, that there was something wrong with my baby, the doctors and midwives insisted I was being hysterical and refused to perform an amniocentesis (where cells are taken from the amniotic fluid and tested). A healthy 22-year-old, with a thriving baby, I was considered very low risk to have a Down’s baby.

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FML-JGL-RELF-221014-8Stephen came into the world one Sunday in January 1967 at the Kent & Canterbury Hospital.

The following Wednesday, I looked at him in his cot: his small, almond-shaped eyes, broad, flat nose and the one crease on the palms of his hands.

‘He’s a mongol, isn’t he?’ I gasped to my mother. It sounds shocking now but that was how we used to describe people with Down’s Syndrome in those days.

Relf eventually got confirmation from doctors months later that he son indeed had Down syndrome. Them for a second time in the article, she admits she wish she had killed him in an abortion.

Perhaps you’d expect me to say that, over time, I grew to accept my son’s disability. That now, looking back on that day 47 years later, none of us could imagine life without him, and that I’m grateful I was never given the option to abort.

However, you’d be wrong. Because, 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.

If he had not been born, I’d have probably gone on to have another baby, we would have had a normal family life and Andrew would have the comfort, rather than the responsibility, of a sibling, after we’re gone.

Sadly, just last week, another mother of a son with disabilities said she too wished she had aborted.

In a heartbreaking article in the Daily Mail, Jill and Iain Kelly admit that if they had known that their five-year-old son, Dylan, would be disabled they would’ve had an abortion.

Jill told the Daily Mail, “I love my son. He’s changed our lives. But if I’d known everything that Dylan would have to go through, and will have to go through, there’s no doubt in my mind that, given the correct information, I would have asked for a termination. I’m adamant about that. And it makes me feel guilty just saying it because Dylan is my world. I love him, he’s an amazing little boy.”