Mother Spent 47 Years Caring for Son, Wished ‘Every Day’ That He’d Never Been Born

5 minutes, 50 seconds Read

One United Kingdom woman confessed to spending more than 40 years of her life focused on being a caregiver to her son. As much as she loved him completely, the honesty she spoke about him became controversial.Parents are generally expected to be people who love their children purely, unconditionally, and forever. Children are meant to know that their parents would have them covered no matter what, and theirs is a safe and loving space.

However, the way society expects things to go isn’t how they truly play out, with parents sometimes dying without confessing the emotional turmoil they undergo with their children. The following story aims to give a voice to parents who’ve struggled in silence.

Meet the Relfs
Roy and his wife, Gillian Relf, from Kent, England, are a couple who fell in love from childhood. When Gillian was 19 and her long-term boyfriend was a year older, the pair chose to tie the knot. Nearly a year later, the couple welcomed their son, Andrew.The duo welcomed the role of first-time parents and were anxious to welcome a second child to round off their family. Gillian and Roy didn’t have to hope for long because soon enough, she was pregnant for the second time.

However, something about her second pregnancy unnerved Gillian. Sadly, it was only her motherly instincts or her sixth sense, and she couldn’t explain it but knew something was very wrong with her baby.

Welcoming Her Son
Because antenatal scans or blood tests hadn’t been available in 1966: the year of Gillian’s pregnancy, detecting abnormalities was impossible. Moreso, the doctors and midwives she spoke to were adamant she was hysterical and refused 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.At the time, the 22-year-old was made to believe that being young and healthy lowered her low risks of having a baby with Down syndrome. In January 1967, Gillian and Roy welcomed their second son, Stephen, at the Canterbury Hospital in Kent.

A Shocking Discovery
When Gillian recalled looking at baby Stephen safely in his cot three days after his birth, she noticed his flat nose, small almond-shaped eyes, and one crease on the palm of his hands. The mother of two was stunned and reported these features to her mother, telling the parent that her grandchild had Down syndrome.

However, the grandparent brushed her daughter’s concerns aside. Health visitors, doctors, and everyone around didn’t say anything about the child’s possible condition for almost seven months, so Gillian kept trying to convince herself that all was well.However, one day, the little boy got sick, and she took him to get checked and overheard a pediatrician address Stephen as the “Down’s syndrome baby,” but in its old offensive term. As relieved as Roy’s wife was that she’d been right all along, little did she know that she was in for a ride.

The Other Side of the Story
Gillian was stung by many questions that she didn’t have answers to. However, that day, her life changed immensely, and although she knew society expected complete acceptance of Stephen’s condition, part of her didn’t feel that way, with her stating:

“While I do love my son and am fiercely protective of him.”

Roy’s wife continued revealing she is certain if she’d known their lives could’ve been less complicated and happier if Stephen hadn’t been born, “I do wish I’d had an abortion,” a wish she held daily.

Roy’s wife also confessed that if her second son hadn’t been born, she would’ve had another baby and, ultimately, a normal family life. It also meant Stephen’s older brother wouldn’t be saddled with the responsibility of a sibling after Gillian and her husband were gone.

A Mother’s Struggles
In 2014’s “Loose Women” interview, Gillian admitted that looking after Stephen brought overwhelming stress and heartache for her and her family. The mother to the son, who had difficulty speaking and functioning in the world, 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.”

Feeling physical pain when witnessing her friends’ children reaching various milestones while Stephen still behaved like a baby left Gillian in pain. He was already five when he finally learned to walk, and the only way he communicated was through sign language.When he got sick once, the distraught mother recalled how there’d been no sign that something was wrong with him. She constantly had to figure out what he needed because no one understood him. At one point, the struggling mother was admitted to a hospital for having a nervous breakdown.Guilt overwhelmed her as she battled the emotional baggage she was carrying. Roy’s son got an offer for permanent residency placement at a nearby hospital. Gillian confessed that it gave her relief in spite of her own mental health struggles, knowing her son would be taken care of.

Responding to the Critics
Stephen’s mother understood the hurt some people felt by the honesty of her comments, noting that she’d faced massive criticism and backlash throughout. However, speaking up about the struggles she’s gone through as a parent was important to her, as 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.”

Sadly, she wasn’t the only one who suffered as her marriage faced heartache as the pair battled depression. There was an incident when Stephen moved home from the hospital and wouldn’t stop crying. He was later diagnosed with hemolytic anemia, a hereditary condition.

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. Stephen’s mother revealed that her son was at Great Ormond Street Hospital for five weeks recovering. When he turned 11, he came home to live with his family full-time for 18 months, with his mother saying:

“They were the longest 18 months of our lives.”

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.

Similar Posts