February 6, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Here’s one uplifting story about a New Zealander, Samuel Forrest, whose Armenian wife gave birth recently to their baby son (Yahoo, 2/4/15). It turns out the boy has Down syndrome. It also turns out that, in Armenia, where the birth took place, parents are given the option of simply giving a Down syndrome baby to the state at birth, no questions asked.
Strange as that is, Forrest’s wife chose it immediately, but Forrest had no doubt about his choice.
"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 followed doctors and nurses into a room where he'd finally get to meet his baby.
"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 had sunk in, Forrest held Leo for the very 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."
I’ve talked to many fathers who’ve told me that, when they first saw their newborn, the reality of fatherhood and the attachment to the child were immediate. Forrest’s words echo those of countless fathers across the ages. That biochemical bonding of father to child is far from completely understood by science, but much work is being done and I’m confident that far greater understanding of the father-child bond is not far away.
But of course mother-child bonding is at least as powerful and profound, but little Leo’s mother either didn’t experience it or ignored it completely.
Soon Forrest walked into his wife's hospital room with Leo in his arms.
Her reaction was unlike one he ever expected.
"I got the ultimatum right then," he said. "She told me if I kept him then we would get a divorce."
Attempts to reach the hospital for comment weren't immediately successful. The baby's mother, Ruzan Badalyan, told ABC News that she did have a child with Down syndrome and she has left her husband, who has the child, but she declined to elaborate...
"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 hold onto his son.
One week after his birth, Leo's 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."
So Forrest and his son are headed back to New Zealand.
Forrest, who works as a freelance business contractor, has plans for he and Leo to move to his native country of New Zealand where he said they'll receive 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."
Wait a minute. Doesn’t Armenia have laws requiring divorced parents to support their children? Badalyan has divorced Forrest, but wasn’t there an order of child support? How is it that she can simply walk away from a child she helped create?
Knowing nothing of Armenian family law, I don’t have the answers to those questions, but I’d be interested to know what they are. Forrest is intending to rely on friends, loved ones and “the kindness of strangers” to help him care for and support his son. But what about the boy’s mother?
Whatever the case, this father’s absolute devotion to his child is a delight to see. The ties that bind parents to children are surely the most powerful we have.
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#Downsyndrome, #Armenia, #sharedparenting, #father-childbond, #childabandonment, #NewZealand