February 6th, 2015
A New Zealand father was served divorce papers by his wife after he refused to give up his newborn son who was just diagnosed with Down syndrome.
Samuel Forrest’s son, Leo, was born on January 21 in an Armenian hospital. Upon his arrival, the doctors alerted Forrest to a “problem” with his son.
Doctors diagnosed Leo with Down syndrome, which initially shocked Forrest. However, upon holding his new son, the new father fell in love.
“They took me in to see him and I looked at this guy and I said, he’s beautiful –he’s perfect, and I’m absolutely keeping him,” Forrest said.
Forrest’s wife, Ruzan Badalyan, did not agree with him.
Due to Leo’s diagnosis, Badalyan told Forrest she would divorce him if he did not give up the child.
“I got the ultimatum right then,” he said. “She told me if I kept him then we would get a divorce.”
Armenia still lacks awareness about disabled persons: children are sometimes given to orphanages or boarding schools at birth. Forrest was unaware of Armenian hospital practices.
“When a baby is born that has an obvious difference, the child is most likely going to be abandoned at the hospital, left to the orphanage,” Hopscotch Adoptions director Robin Sizemore told the Huffington Post.
“My wife had already decided,” said Forrest, “so all of this was done behind my back.”
Badalyan has spoken to ABC News, only stating that she did give birth to a child with Down syndrome and that she has left her husband; she declined to give any further information.
Forrest has enlisted help via a GoFundMe page titled “Bring Leo Home.” He intends to move home to Auckland, New Zealand to raise his son in a society that better understands people with disabilities.
By Friday, Forrest has raised $321,329, which is more than five times his original goal of $60,000.
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