A British mother penned a controversial column for the Daily Mail, admitting that she wishes she’d aborted her son — born with Down syndrome — if she was given the option.
“So difficult has it been that I can honestly say I wish he hadn't been born,” Relf, who’s son Stephen is 47 years old, said.
“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.”
Relf’s column went on to explain that she and her husband, Roy, were childhood sweethearts who married when she was 19. They had a son, Andrew, followed by Stephen. When Stephen was born, Relf said she knew immediately that something was wrong.
“‘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,” she wrote.
Her mother insisted that the baby was OK, but it was ultimately revealed that he had Down syndrome.
“Questions I couldn't answer raced through my mind: Had I caused his disability? How terrible would his life be? What impact would it have on his brother Andrew, then only 2? How on earth would Roy and I cope?” she said.
“That was the day normal life ended for Roy, Andrew and me.”
She recalled a meeting with her son’s doctor, who said he needed surgery on his spleen or else he’d “go to sleep and never wake up.”
“Looking back, I believe the doctor was guiding us towards allowing our son to pass away naturally, but we were not much more than children ourselves, in our mid-20's, and didn't understand then what he was trying to do for us,” she said.
“I wish we had — it would have spared us all a great deal of pain. Instead he had the operation and spent five weeks at Great Ormond Street Hospital recovering, with me at his bedside as often as possible.”
Relf said that while she loves and “fiercely” protects her son, she believes her life would have been happier and “far less complicated” had she aborted Stephen.
“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,” she wrote.
Her son Andrew, she wrote, will ultimately bear the responsibility of raising Stephen when she and her husband are gone — something she feels “terribly guilty” about.
“Years ago, I was so worried about history repeating itself that Andrew, Roy and I went for genetic [counseling] at Guy's Hospital in London and found Stephen was just ‘bad luck,’” she said.
“I say 'bad luck,' but that's the greatest understatement that anyone can imagine. And so I appeal to every mother-to-be out there, facing the knowledge that they may bring a child like Stephen into this world. Read my story and do what is right for you and your family.”
After the column was published, Relf explained her reasoning for speaking out about her controversial opinion.
“There was a lady in the paper who had had an abortion after finding out she was expecting a Downs baby,” she said. “I wanted to let her know she had done the right thing. I was at the other end."