A man who was switched at birth admits that he resented his mother for not swapping him back when the error was discovered, causing him to grow up poor while the other child grew up rich.
Robin and Gavin were accidentally handed to the wrong mothers by a nurse at Nigel Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa. They were the only two babies born on that day in February 1989.
This meant that Robin was raised by single mum Sandy Dawkins who was struggling to get by on the outskirts of the city while Gavin grew up with wealthier parent Megs Clinton Parker in Pietermaritzburg.
The mistake was discovered two years later when a disagreement over Gavin’s rightful father led to a DNA test that showed that Megs was not his birth mother, as reported by The Mirror.
Hospital records confirmed that Robin, who was growing up with Sandy as his mum, was Megs’ biological child.
When faced with swapping their birth sons back, Megs and Sandy chose to keep the children they had raised since birth.
Gavin (left) Robin (right)
Speaking at the time the discovery was made, one of the parents told 60 Minutes Australia: “You can’t reject a child that you’ve been so close to for two years.
“Initially I think you protect the one you’ve got. The first few days are shock, then the curiosity comes. Where’s my baby?”
The boys’ mothers embraced one another like sisters after discovering the mistake in 1991 but chose not to swap the boys back.
The boys grew up 500km apart in very different environments and referred to each other as brothers.
But Robin has since admitted that he wishes his biological mother fought to switch him back.
Robin as an adult
Speaking at age 15, he said he had “difficulty accepting the situation” and misses his mother Megs “awfully a lot” who he speaks to daily on the phone.
He said life with Sandy was “not easy” and that he resented Gavin who does “get things easy.”
“If I’ve ever wanted something, I’ve had to work towards it. I’ve never just had it come towards me,” he added.
At the time, Gavin, who grew up with rich parents, described being “happy” with the life he was accidentally given and that he did not feel sorry for Robin.
He said: “Saying I thank my lucky stars every day would be wrong but at the same time I was given a life which I’ve now lived and I’m still living and I don’t regret anything.”
But, with time, Megs missed her biological son and encouraged him to move halfway across the country to her home with Gavin in 2004. Robin did, leaving Sandy without a child.
This didn’t go down well with Sandy and she called Megs out at the time, saying: “I just want to know she’s really happy with what she’s achieved.
“I mean she’s ruined people’s lives, there’s just no other way to look at it… she’s ruined mine for starters.”
Megs said she “could understand that” and would have been “devastated” if the same thing happened to her, but added: “I’m not sending him back because she’s sore.
“I’m not going to be sorry because I won. I’m damn glad I won.”
But the image of one happy family soon started to breakdown because of Robin’s attitude to his new school and Megs’ high expectations of him, turning the house into a “war zone”.
Robin said the high pressure environment turned “me into a dragon”.
“It’s not who I am,” he said.
“It was like I was in a bottle and the lid was closed… For me to try and change in two, three years to suit Meg or to keep her happy, I tried and I thought I could do it, but I couldn’t.”
At 18, Robin dropped out of school and hit the road, moving to Louis Trichardt in northern South Africa where he found a job building safari rigs.
The move devastated Megs, breaking apart the already fractious family.
“When he left, I almost died. I can’t tell how it hurts, because I worked so hard for it and I wanted it so much. Then when it failed, it never occurred to me that it failed,” she said.
“When you wanted all the right things for all the right reasons but they just didn’t fit into place.
“When he left, I just stopped living for a while.”
Meanwhile Gavin said the sudden abandonment made him want to “kill” Robin.
“It’s the fact that he hurt Megs. I mean she felt extremely betrayed and really hurt when he walked out,” he said.
“She had given him a home for three to four years, she was looking after him, providing for him. And he walked out just throwing everything back at us.”
Years later, the family have finally reunited with Robin, his wife Liesel and their son James, and are starting to rebuild their relationship.
And Robin now says he understands why Megs and Sandy chose not to swap the babies back.
“If I was to find out he (his son James) wasn’t mine, there’s no way I’d give him back,” Robin said.
“I would make the decision that I’m not getting to know the other child because what I’ve got is good and keep it that way.
“I wouldn’t want him to know, I would keep it a secret and just leave it that way.”