“It was a happy time for Meg’s, Clinton Parker, and Sandy Dawkins. Both were new moms to baby boys, adorable little bundles of joy with their whole lives in front of them. Those lives were forever changed, however, after an unforgivable mix-up at the hospital, and after the truth was finally revealed, one of the boys came forward with a gut-wrenching admission
It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood movie, but this was as real as it gets. For two years, neither Sandy nor Megs had any idea that the kids they’d loved and cherished weren’t actually the ones they’d given birth to.
That news eventually came out in 1991. As you can imagine, this came as a huge shock to the two moms. Just like that, their lives had been turned upside down in the most unexpected of ways. Still, as crazy as it all was, few people could have predicted the highs and lows that would follow over the years to come, and Sandy and Megs had to deal with the consequences of someone else’s huge error.
Both had been patients at Nigel Hospital outside Johannesburg, South Africa, and they had delivered their babies at almost the same time. Oddly enough, though, no other children were born at the hospital that day. That meant little Gavin and Robin and their moms may have had the maternity ward to themselves. Surely, there couldn’t be any mix-ups with just two babies to care for. Well, on that day in February 1989, a simple mistake did happen, and it set some shocking events in motion.
During an interview with 60 Minutes Australia, a teenage Robin explained what had happened, and considering the seriousness of the situation, he spoke surprisingly matter-of-factly. “The tags were switched at birth, they didn’t mock us immediately, and we went home with the wrong mothers,” he admitted in 2004.
No boy, so off they went. Megs and Gavin returned to her home in Peter Maritzburg, South Africa, while Sandy and Robin stayed in Johannesburg. Without realizing it, the moms were now more than 300 miles away from their birth sons. But that isn’t the only thing to consider here. You see, Megs and Sandy’s lives were almost opposites. In one way, Sandy didn’t have much money, meaning Robin ultimately grew up in poverty. Megs, on the other hand, was a lot more financially secure. She didn’t have to worry so much about providing for Gavin.
Either way, the moms raised their kids as best they could until that huge bombshell was dropped in 1991. Megs had found herself in a paternity dispute with a guy who claimed to be Gavin’s dad. Naturally, a DNA test was ordered to clear up the issue once and for all. But when the results came back, the pair discovered that neither of them was biologically related to Gavin. If Megs hadn’t actually given birth to Gavin, who was his mother, and where was her son in all this?
Staff at Nigel Hospital frantically examined their files to figure out what had happened, and it didn’t take long for them to shine a light on the jaw-dropping truth. How did the two women respond to this insane news? Well, Megs gave her take on it in the 60 Minutes Australia back in the 1990s. The interviewer behind the camera bluntly asked Megs, “You didn’t reject him or anything?” “Not at all, I think you can’t reject a child that you’ve been so close to for two years,” she replied.
Her focus then shifted to the swamp, she said, “You see, initially, I think you protect the one you’ve got, you know, the first few days of shock, then the curiosity comes, ‘Well, hold on a second, it’s not as easy as that, where’s my baby?’” And Sandy gave a vivid description of her initial response, “And it was like somebody electrocuted me, I went hysterical immediately because, I mean, you get told that the child you’ve been looking after for the last 20 months is not yours, it belongs to somebody else.”
But now that everyone knew the truth, what was going to happen with the boys? Would Megs and Sandy switch them again so that they could be with their birth sons? To say it was a massive dilemma is quite an understatement. Choices don’t tend to come much harder. In the end, Megs and Sandy refused to exchange their babies. Instead, the moms continued to raise them as if they were their own biological children. But the two families did connect with each other once they’d had time to get their heads around the news, and Gavin and Robin became like siblings.
The two boys reflected on their relationship while talking to 60 Minutes Australia in 2000. Robin said, “I was looking forward to because, like, having a brother would have been, like, so cool. Then I met Kev, who was, like, cool. We do things together.” He also made it clear that he was happy with the arrangement as it was. “We have to miss them sometimes, but at least we know each other, and even if we weren’t sure, I don’t think we would have had a good time because we like brothers to each other.”
Would it last? In a word, no. Four years later, the Australian show caught up with Robin again. By this time, he was a teenager, and his opinion of growing up without his birth mom had completely changed. “It’s not easy, um, I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. It’s difficult,” and as Robin spoke honestly to the cameras, he made a heartbreaking confession. Robin told the program, “If I’ve ever wanted anything, I’ve had to work towards it. I’ve never just had it come towards me. I’m not saying I’ve never had anything. What I’m saying is, I’ve had to get things myself.”
Kevin gets things easy. You could sense the resentment. Megs touched on this during her appearance on the show as well, but she also had something else on her mind. It was all about her decision to keep Gavin, and it made for very tough listening.
Megs said, “The advice is that you can’t put a child from a good environment and put them in a bad one. And I know that sounds dreadful. You don’t take a child of an environment and put them in a worse environment. And I don’t think Gavin would have survived.” Megs tearfully added, “By letting Gavin stay on, basically, I sacrificed Robin, didn’t I? But I think he survived, and he’s a lovely boy. But I knew he’d be resentful. I knew that, and I don’t blame him.”
He’s right. Gavin was a little less compassionate, though. He flat out denied feeling any sympathy for Robin’s situation. Things weren’t looking good for the two families’ relationship, and without beating around the bush, more turmoil was on the way. At least there was a small period of calm in the middle. In fact, it seemed for a while as though Robin had finally reached a positive turning point.
In 2004, Megs convinced Robin to say goodbye to his life with Sandy and travel to Peter Maritzburg. After 15 years, her boy was finally living under her roof. Here’s the problem, though. Gavin didn’t go to Sandy; he stayed in Peter Maritzburg, leaving his birth mother with an empty nest. Unsurprisingly, Sandy was crushed by what happened, and she knew exactly who to blame. She told 60 Minutes Australia in 2007, “I just want to know she’s very happy with what she’s achieved. You know, I mean, she’s ruined people’s lives.”
There’s just another way to look at it, whose lives she’s ruined, man. For starters, how did Megs respond to that? Well, she expressed some empathy for Sandy before going in for the kill. “I can understand that if it was me, I’d, I’d be devastated, but I’m not sending him back because she saw I’m not going to be sorry because I won. I’m damn glad I won.” Megs’ win ultimately came at a huge cost.
Once Robin got settled in Peter Maritzburg, he started at a brand new school. But while Megs demanded a lot from her teenage son, he just couldn’t live up to her standards in or out of class. Robin and Megs’ relationship started to crumble, and the mom would even go on to describe her home as a war zone. But she offered her side of the argument while talking to 60 Minutes Australia in 2012. “I know that my expectations were probably too high, and having had the contact with him, I understood that he knew what we expected from him.”
She was also unafraid to admit that mistakes had been made. Megs told the program, “And I had to think, and he wasn’t ready for it. He expected too much too soon, but I wasn’t wanting it for me. I wanted it for him.” Robin also explained himself, saying, “When I’m constantly under pressure, you’re going to turn me into a dragon. It’s not who I am. It was like I was in a bottle and the lid was closed.”
So that brings us to the next twist in this incredible story. “For me to try and change in two, three years, to suit me or to keep her happy, I couldn’t. I tried and I thought I could do it, but I couldn’t.” With Megs and Robin’s relationship on the rocks, the teenager abandoned his studies and left Peter Maritzburg, traveling north to the town of Louis Trichardt. He was 18 by then, meaning no one could really stop him. Robin bagged himself a job and seemed happy enough, but the same couldn’t be said for the people he’d left behind.
Rage and utter devastation filled Megs’ house as she and Gavin assessed the breakdown of their family. The anger and bitterness came from Gavin’s end. He was furious that Robin had just abandoned Megs. He felt that his brother had shown no appreciation for what his mom had done for him.
As for Megs, she was heartbroken. “But when he left, I almost died because I fell so hard for it, and I wanted it so much when it failed,” Megs tearfully told 60 Minutes Australia. It was a far cry from her earlier defiance. “It occurred to me it would fail and you wanted all the right things for the right reasons, but they just didn’t fit into place. I just stopped living for a while.”
That’s tough enough to listen to, let alone to go through, but Robin’s devastating departure didn’t spell the end of this unbelievable tale. Yup, there’s still more to come, including another big twist. After he left Megs, Robin met a girl named Liesel. They began dating and eventually married, but something had prompted them to tie the knot.
Yes, Liesel was pregnant, meaning Megs would be a grandma. Robin and his wife later welcomed two sons, and now that he was a parent himself, Robin admitted that his perspective on the baby swap situation had changed. He could finally grasp the impossible choice both Sandy and Megs had faced.
Then the dad turned his attention to baby James. “If I have to find that he’s not mine, there’s no ways I’ll give him back,” he told 60 Minutes Australia. Robin continued, “I would make a decision of 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 just keep it a secret and just leave it that way.”
When those comments were related to Megs, however, she said that her son would have been worse off if she’d taken that approach. Anyway, despite all the difficulties they’d gone through together, Robin did find his way back to Megs and Gavin. The catalyst? His little bundle of joy. Sadly, the situation with Sandy was much different.
By that stage, she was no longer in contact with any of them, and Megs reflected on the reconciliation while holding her grandson. “I think we’ve realized from it that there’s nothing more important than family. Too true,” she said to 60 Minutes Australia. “It doesn’t matter about the differences; families stick together. They don’t let little issues get that big. We should never have allowed it to get that big.”