New Zealander Samuel Forrest was like any normal dad after hearing his son cry for the first time. He felt overwhelmed by joy and happiness that only a parent knows.
He was waiting outside the hospital room in Armenia where his wife had just given birth on January 21. Then a nurse came out holding his baby but a blanket covered the boy’s face.
“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’.”
He was made to follow the doctor and the nurses into a room where he was told his son had Down’s Syndrome. Forrest said that at first he had “a few moments of shock.”
After that passed however Forrest was able to hold his son for the first time and his love blossomed instantly. He walked into his Armenian wife’s hospital room with his new born son Leo in his hands.
He was given the ultimatum right there:
“She told me if I kept him then we would get a divorce.”
Forrest was asked by the Armenian staff if he still wanted to keep his son which seemed like a strange question to guy who originally comes from Auckland in New Zealand’s north Island.
“What happens when a baby like this is born here, they will tell you that you don’t have to keep them,” he said.
“My wife had already decided, so all of this was done behind my back.”
Forrest never had any doubt he’d want to keep his son despite his wife’s threats.
The couple have since filed for divorce and Forrest plans to move with Leo back to New Zealand.
“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’s 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.”
To help him and his son settle back in New Zealand, Forrest set up a GoFundMe page titled “Bring Leo Home.”
“This really came out of the blue for me,” he 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 now the promised funds on the GoFund me page have exceeded Forrest’s expectations. It has also made enough money to somehow help address the issue of abandoned children born with disabilities in Armenia.
On the page there’s also a “Note about Armenia” that explains attitudes in the small nation.
“In this tiny, landlocked country renowned for its’ hospitality, scores of babies are abandoned each year, for reasons ranging from physical or intellectual disabilities and minor ‘imperfections’. This practice of abandoning children due to disabilities is unfortunately widespread throughout Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, resulting from a culture which refused to accept human defects. Health professionals estimate that 98 per cent of all Down Syndrome babies born in Armenia are abandoned, every year. These abandoned babies are often placed in squalid orphanages, where they live and die, rejected and forgotten by society”.