NEW YORK (ABC NEWS) – When Samuel Forrest of Armenia heard a baby crying from outside his wife’s hospital room, he knew his life was about to change forever.
Not only had he just become a father, but he would soon receive some unexpected news about his newborn son.
“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.’
Forrest went with doctors and nurses into a room where he’d finally have his first chance to meet his son.
“When I walked into the room they all turned to me and said ‘Leo has Down syndrome,” he told ABC News. “I had a few moments of shock.”
After the news sunk in, Forrest held Leo for the first time.
“They took me in see him and I looked at this guy and I said, he’s beautiful — he’s perfect and I’m absolutely keeping him.”
Soon after, Forrest walked into his wife’s hospital room with Leo in his arms.
Her reaction was something he never expected.
“I got the ultimatum right then,” he said. “She told me if I kept him then we would get a divorce.”
The baby’s mom, Ruzan Badalyan, told ABC News that she did have a child with Down syndrome and she had left her husband, who has the child, but she declined to explain anymore to ABC News.
Forrest, who is from Auckland, New Zealand, said he was unaware of the hospital practices in Armenia when it came to children.
“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.”
Despite his wife’s warnings, Forrest said he never had a doubt in his mind that he would keep his son.
One week after Leo’s birth, his mom filed for divorce.
“It’s not what I want,” Forrest said. “I didn’t even have a chance to speak with her in privately about it.”
Forrest, who works as a freelance business contractor, has plans for he and Leo to move back to his native country of New Zealand, where he said they’ll get support from loved ones.
In the meantime, he’s enlisted for some help on his 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.”
Forrest has recently been working with disability awareness groups to share his story in the hopes that parents will become better educated on children with special needs.
“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.”