The moment Samuel Forrest of Armenia heard a baby crying in front of his wife’s hospital room, he knew his life would change forever.
He quickly became a father and discovered some unexpected details about his new child.
Forrest recalls that the pediatrician brought Leo out of the room. “Because my wife had covered his face, the medical staff would not allow me to see him or my wife.” The doctor came out and said, “Your boy has a significant problem.”
Forrest went into the room with the medical staff where he would finally meet his child.
When I entered the room, they turned to me and stated, “Leo has Down syndrome,” he recalls.
“I momentarily felt shocked.”
After the news had time to sink in, Forrest held Leo for the first time.
“He’s wonderful; he’s perfect; I’m keeping him,” I said after they took me to see him.
Forrest soon entered his wife’s hospital room with Leo in his arms.
He had never imagined what she would say.
He continued, “I got the ultimatum right away. She told me we would get divorced if I kept him.”
The hospital could not be reached to request comment when first contacted. The baby’s mother, Ruzan Badalyan, revealed to ABC News that she had a child with Down syndrome and that she and the child’s father had separated, but she did not provide any other information.
Forrest, who is from Auckland, New Zealand, asserted that he knew nothing about the practices used in Armenian children’s hospitals.
When a child like this is born here, they will let you know that you are not required to keep them, he said. “My wife had already decided, therefore everything was done behind my back.”
Forrest claimed he was determined that he would defend his son against his wife’s recommendations.
After Leo’s birth, his mother filed for divorce.
“It’s not something I want,” Forrest said. “I didn’t even have a chance to have a private conversation with her about it,”
Leo will be moving with Forrest, a self-employed business contractor, to New Zealand, where he says they will have family’s support.
On his “Bring Leo Home” GoFundMe page, he has since requested help.
“This definitely came out of the blue for me,” he remarked.
“I have very little—in fact, I have nothing at all. To be able to get a part-time job and take care of Leo without having to put him in daycare, I need to make enough money to last a year.” He has lost a lot of weight in just two weeks. It would be different if he had his mother.
Forrest has recently begun working with organizations that promote disability awareness to share his story in an effort to inform parents about kids with special needs.
After what I’ve been through with Leo, he vowed, “I’m not going to sit back and watch babies being thrown into orphanages.” When a kid is born with Down syndrome, they are given a label. If we can get past this classification, we’ll be able to see that they are normal. They are normal even though they are little different from us.
“Each of them has a strength, and I’m going to do my best to figure out what makes Leo great. I love this little kid.”