It should've been the happiest day of their lives.
When Samuel Forrest was told his wife, Ruzan Badalyan, had given birth to a son, the New Zealand native was overjoyed, but when that son was presented to Forrest covered by a blanket and being carried by a somber-faced nurse, he knew something was wrong. The baby, named Leo, was born with Down Syndrome.
For Forrest, the fact that his baby boy came into the world with an extra chromosome didn't matter all that much, but for Leo's mother and the staff at the hospital in Armenia, where he was born, Leo's condition came with a certain stigma. Doctors soon approached Forrest and his wife with the option of giving up little Leo, one that caused a riff in the couple's relationship.
"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 said. But for his wife, the decision wasn't so easy. Forrest said, "I got the ultimatum right then. She told me if I kept him then we would get a divorce."
Badalyan explained her decision in a post on Facebook:
I faced two options: to take care of the child on my own in Armenia, or to abandon my maternal instincts and extend the baby an opportunity to enjoy a decent life with his father in New Zealand. I went for the second option.
Wanting to give his son a better chance at a normal life, Forrest set up an online fundraising page at GoFundMe, aimed at collecting funds so the new father could move the baby back to New Zealand and care for him. In only 10 days, the page raised $280,000, donated by thousands of people and far surpassing Forrest's goal of $60,000. Forrest says he plans to use use the extra money to help others in a similar situation:
We will use some of the money you've given to fund facilities and programs here in Armenia that will support future parents to keep their kids despite all disabilities, and to help better care for the special ones who end up away from their Mom & Dad. 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 organisations that can help these children – thanks to your support we can start to make a difference already.
Via The Huffington Post