For Samuel Forrest, the birth of his son meant the end of his marriage. According to ABC News, Forrest and his wife welcomed a baby boy last month, at which point they discovered that little Leo had Down syndrome. That made no difference to Forrest — but his wife was another story.
"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 told ABC of his son, who was born in Armenia.
His wife, Ruzan Badalyan, had a different reaction. Forrest claims she gave him a choice: her or their newborn child. "I got the ultimatum," he said. "She told me if I kept him then we would get a divorce."
True to her word, Badalyan filed for divorce a week after Leo's birth. "It's not what I want," Forrest told ABC. "I didn't even have a chance to speak with her in privately about it."
According to Forrest's GoFundMe page — which he started to raise money to take Leo back to his native New Zealand — "scores of babies are abandoned each year [in Armenia], for reasons ranging from physical or intellectual disabilities [to] minor 'imperfections.'"
"What happens when a baby like this is born here [is], they will tell you that you don't have to keep them," Forrest told ABC News. "My wife had already decided, so all of this was done behind my back."
Badalyan, for her part, confirmed to ABC that she had had a child with Down syndrome and left her husband. She declined to comment further.
Now a single parent, Forrest has raised more than $413,000 via GoFundMe, which will go toward securing "better living conditions in Auckland, and to give Leo higher quality opportunities when it comes to education." He plans to share some of the "surplus funds" with an orphanage in Armenia that takes in abandoned babies with Down syndrome.
"[For] 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," he told ABC. "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."