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Wife divorces husband who won't abandon son with Down syndrome

By JohnThomas Didymus     Feb 6, 2015 in Internet
Yerevan - A woman, who gave birth to a son with Down syndrome, filed for divorce from her husband because she wanted to abandon the baby but her husband refused. She wanted to abandon the baby because she thought keeping him would bring "shame" to her family.
Samuel Forrest, a freelance business contractor, is from Auckland in New Zealand, while his wife Ruzan Badalyan, is Armenian. Forrest and his wife live in Armenia where they gave birth to Leo with Down syndrome on Jan. 21.
Forrest told ABC News that only hours after his wife of 18 months gave birth and learned that her baby has Down syndrome she decided to abandon the baby. She gave her husband who wanted to keep the baby an ultimatum to choose between her and the baby.
In Armenian culture, children with Down syndrome are thought to bring shame on a family. Many Armenian women who give birth to babies with Down syndrome arrange to have them adopted by institutions.
Forrest said that after his wife gave birth at a hospital in Armenia, the pediatrician in charge at first did not allow him to see his wife and the newborn.
"This pediatrician walks out of the room with a little bundle - that was Leo. She had his face covered up and hospital authorities wouldn't let me see him or my wife. When the doctor came out, he said 'there’s a real problem with your son.'"
The doctors and nurses took him into a room where he saw his son. They told him the newborn child has Down syndrome.
"When I walked into the room they all turned to me and said 'Leo has Down syndrome,'" Forrest said.
He admitted he was shocked when he first learned his newborn son has Down syndrome. But it never occurred to him that he should abandon the child, although the doctors told him he was free to exercise an option to give up the child.
"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 was shocked to see his wife's reaction when he carried the baby to meet her in her hospital room. She would not touch or even look at the baby because of the Armenian cultural attitude that children with such disability bring "shame" upon the family.
She insisted she could not keep the baby and made it clear to her husband that if he wanted to keep the baby she would file for divorce.
"I got the ultimatum right then. She told me if I kept him then we would get a divorce."
Forrest, who said he was previously unaware of the practice in Armenia, explained the situation: "What happens when a baby like this is born here, they will tell you that you don’t have to keep them. My wife had already decided, so all of this was done behind my back."
He told his wife he would keep the child, and one week later she filed for divorce.
Commenting on his wife's reaction, Forrest said, "It's not what I want. I didn't even have a chance to speak with her privately about it."
But having made up his mind to keep the baby, he decided to bring him back to his native New Zealand where he believes he would have love and support. But being a man of modest means, he realized he would need help. So he decided to set up a GoFundMe page, titled "Bring Leo Home," to raise funds for his son.
"This really came out of the blue for me. I don’t have a lot," he said. "I have very little in fact. The goal is to raise enough for a year so I can get a part-time job so Leo doesn't have to be in daycare and I can help care for him. He's lost a lot in two weeks. It'd be different if he had his mommy."
But the reaction from the Internet has exceeded the young father's expectations. He was able to raise more than $100,000 online in the first 24 hours. Now he says he plans to use any excess money he raises to campaign for disabled children and their parents in Armenia and to help fund programs and charities that support parents with disabled children.
ABC News reports that the hospital in Armenia where Leo was born has not commented on the matter. But Leo's Armenian mother Badalyan, admitted she gave birth to a child with Down syndrome and that she has left her husband who is keeping the child.
But, according to ABC News, she did not elaborate further.
Mirror Online reports that people have contacted Badalyan on social media and expressed disapproval of her action.
"Cannot believe anyone would do something so terrible to their newborn son and wonderful husband. Absolutely sick," one person said.
"Instead of being his mother and loving Leo you decide to give him away... You are sick," another person wrote.
But meanwhile, donations continue pouring in for Leo and his father. The GoFundMe page has raised over $350,000.
The young father said he was stunned by the scale of the response.
Samuel Forrest: Twitter
Samuel Forrest: Twitter
"Leo and I found out in the wee hours of the morning that we had crossed our target. He is a lucky guy to have the support of thousands of friends around the world," Forrest told ABC News.
He thanked people who donated, tweeting, "Thanks everyone - we are stunned beyond words at the incredible support and love you've shown."
He said, "We’d also like to share the surplus funds with the only orphanage in Armenia that regularly takes abandoned Down syndrome babies as well as other organizations that can help these children."
You may donate to Leo here.
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