Sunday, August 5, 2018

Down syndrome stories

Her name is Gillian Relf, and she’s a 69-year-old mother of a 47-year-old son, Stephen. There’s only one problem: Stephen has Down’s Syndrome. And that means that Gillian wishes she had killed him before he was born. How do we know that? Because she’s now written an entire piece about it in The Daily Mail (UK).[]

The piece amounts to a heartbreaking, extraordinarily lengthy description of the difficulty of dealing with a Down’s Syndrome child. And Gillian’s care for her son is certainly heroic. But the notion that inconvenience, difficulty, and strife justify murder is a morally sick one. 

Relf explains:

So difficult has it been that I can honestly say I wish he hadn't been born. 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 states that she loves her son, but her life would have been happier without Stephen:

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. Instead, Stephen - who struggles to speak and function in the modern world - has brought a great deal of stress and heartache into our lives. That is why I want to speak in support of the 92 per cent of women who choose to abort their babies after discovering they have Down's Syndrome. Mothers like Suzanne Treussard who bravely told her story in the Daily Mail two weeks ago. Suzanne, who was offered a termination at 15 weeks, braved a backlash of criticism and vitriol from some readers. But 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. 

But we can judge actions. Hardship and difficulty should be met with unending sympathy; we should care for those who suffer. But the solution is not to end their lives. The same description Relf gives for her son could be given for a wide variety of elderly parents whose children are simply sick of taking care of them, or the families of the terminally ill. Should we just kill those people as well? Once individual happiness trumps the worth of individual lives, eugenics becomes moral. 

Protecting lives like Stephen’s isn’t a matter of lack of sympathy. It’s a matter of basic morality. What makes every life worthy isn’t convenience or potential achievement. It’s the innate value of human life, created in God’s image. We can all weep for Relf and still believe that murdering Stephen would have been a great moral evil.

Meet Britain's most loving family, The Pattersons - who have adopted nine children with Down's Syndrome.

Pam and Gerald Patterson had always known they wanted to help children stuck in the care system - so they began what became a family affair by adopting four kids with Down's - James, now 32, Alice, 28, Molly, 26 and Riley, 10. 

They admit their lives are very different to those of their friends, as they struggle to have as much time for themselves.

But Pam said they wouldn't change anything - and say their children are what 'keeps them active' as their lives are "consumed with taking them here and taking them there."

Incredibly, Pam's brother Roger Bull and his wife Leigh then also adopted two kids with the chromosomal disorder, David and Timothy, who are now 35 and 28, and also foster four-year-old Marie.

Then the latest addition to the ever-growing family is six-year-old Isabel and twin three-year-olds George and Tomas, who also have Down's and were adopted by Roger's daughter Jenny.
The Pattersons went to social services in the 1980s and asked to only adopt children with the condition.

Both had volunteered with kids with Down's and knew that most would-be adopters wouldn't look twice at those with a disability.

Pam, 60, said: "We knew straight away that we would only adopt children with Down's Syndrome.

"It was what I'd always wanted to do.

"Having a family full of children with the condition has made our lives so much richer.
"It's challenging, but it's the route we chose to take.

"We chose knowing that what we're taking on, we're taking on forever."

And touchingly, her husband Gerald, 62, added: "I couldn't have gone for any other disability.

"Straight away we loved them all so much."

The family's incredible link to adoption began in 1984 when Pam's brother Roger, 65, and wife Leigh, 61, decided to adopt a child with Down's.

They took on David at five months old and adopted him in 1984 through social services in Birmingham.

They then went on to have biological daughter Jenny, 33, before adopting Timothy, who has the syndrome, at six-months old in 1990.

Their family was completed by another of their own biological children, Matthew, 23, who is now a part-time carer for his two brothers.

Inspired by her brother, Pam told Gerald she'd also like to adopt a child with Down's and brought seven-month-old James home in 1985.

Then followed 12-week-old Alice in 1989, and Molly, then aged almost three in 1996.

Incredibly - and despite being in their mid 50s - the couple took on another child Riley, then almost three, in 2012.

Before adopting, the couple had their own children, Emma, 38, and Chris, 34, who love their somewhat unusual family set-up.

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