Samuel Forrest is a proud father of newborn Leo, but when the doctors told him that the baby has Down Syndrome, his wife gave him an ultimatum: let the hospital terminate the baby or you're getting a divorce.
In Armenia, that's just how things are done as having a child with a disability is seen as a shame on the family. Forrest, being from New Zealand, didn't understand the seriousness of such a situation and is now divorced from the mother of his new baby as he seeks refuge back to his home country to care for the boy.
At first, Samuel was excited to see his new baby, all wrapped up in the arms of the pediatrician as she walked out of the delivery room. But when the doctors wouldn't let Samuel see the baby, he began to get worried.
"This pediatrician walks out of the room with a little bundle -- that was Leo," Forrest said. "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 allowed Samuel to see and hold his son while they gave him the news that little Leo has Down Syndrome. But the doctors were a bit confused because they had already been given the authority to terminate the baby from the mother. In fact, if Samuel hadn't met them on the way out of the delivery room, he may not have ever had the chance to see his son, and Leo would not have had the chance at life that he has now.
But when Samuel walked back in to see his Armenian wife, Ruzan Badalyan, she was shocked. "I got the ultimatum right then," Samuel said. "She told me if I kept him then we would get a divorce."
Badalyan spoke out for the first time yesterday about the situation, confirming that she did divorce Forrest and she is the mother of Leo, but she wouldn't elaborate any further on why she gave her husband the ultimatum.
Forrest has started a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe to help raise money to get he and Leo back to New Zealand for proper support from Forrest's family.
"This really came out of the blue for me," Samuel said. "I don't have a lot, 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."
As of the time of this writing, Forrest's original $60k goal has been shattered as the total approaches $340k. In an update on the crowdfunding page, Samuel says that he is "stunned beyond words at the incredible support and love" that has been shown to Leo.
But that's not even the best part. As Forrest became aware of the practice in Armenia of killing newborn babies with disabilities, he has become an activist with disability awareness groups to help share his story and make the world aware of these types of practices.
"After what I've been through with Leo, I'm not going to sit back and watch babies be sent to orphanages," he said. "As a child with Down syndrome, that becomes somewhat of a label. If we can get around this label, we'll see that they're normal. They're a little different from us, but they're still normal.
"They all have niches and I want to work hard to find out where Leo's special. This little guy is great."