Unique is special: Mother rejects newborn son with Down’s syndrome
In a classic case of a he-said-she-said situation, a new father claimed his wife gave him an ultimatum to get rid of his child, while the wife said she did no such thing.
According to ABC News, New Zealand native Samuel Forrest and his Armenian wife Ruzan Badalyan had just given birth to their son Leo when — according to Forrest — the doctors said that Leo had Down’s syndrome.
According to the National Down Syndrome Society, Down syndrome occurs when “an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21.” There are three types of Down syndrome — Trisomy 21, Mosaicism and Translocation. And while these individuals have some aspects in common, such as their low muscle tone and small stature, each individual with Down’s syndrome is unique.
Unique could also be regarded as special, which is why Leo’s situation is so heart-breaking — a condition that makes him so special is ostracizing him.
According to ABC News, after Forrest took his newborn son into his wife’s hospital room, he claimed he was given an ultimatum. Forrest said that his wife told him if he kept his son, she would divorce him.
Unfortunately, children like Leo are looked down upon in Armenian society, according to The Examiner. This was a contributing factor in Badalyan’s decision, and it’s very unfortunate that disabled individuals are regarded as problematic in Armenia.
It’s horrendous that Badalyan’s family was ashamed of Leo, because children are supposed to be the light of a family. His condition should not change anything.
According to The Daily Mail, the couple filed for a divorce a week after Leo was born, and Forrest took to GoFundMe — a platform that allows individuals to raise money for various causes — to collect enough funds to bring his son back to his home of New Zealand.
The page, which is called Bring Leo Home, raised over $100,000 in less than 24 hours.
According to The Daily Mail, Forrest has said he is going to use some of the funds he receives to help parents in Armenia that are raising children with disabilities, as well as sending surplus funds to an orphanage in Armenia that takes in children with Down syndrome.
Forrest’s decision will hopefully shed light on the situation in Armenia. For someone that has lived in a mostly open and accepting society, it is difficult to come to terms with the idea that those individuals who need the most guidance are thrown aside and left to be someone else’s problem; they should not be regarded as a problem, and they should be loved and cared for.
However, Forrest’s ex-wife Badalyan tells a different story.
According to The Daily News, Badalyan claims Forrest took the baby without her knowledge and said they were going to New Zealand without her. Reportedly, Badalyan said she had to make “the most ruthless decision of (her) life” in order to guarantee a better lifestyle for her child.
Badalyan said she knew the inadequate resources in Armenia would make it difficult for a developmentally disable child, such as Leo, to lead a happy lifestyle.
“The first thing that came to my mind after the diagnosis was that I don’t want my child to live in a country where certain stereotypes dominate the lives of people with DS and no opportunities at all,” Badalyan said. “I want him to be involved and well-received in society, an integration that will require years and years for our society to adjust to.”
“Years and years for our society to adjust to” stands out, because it should not take this long. Down’s syndrome — along with other developmental disabilities — are not uncommon.
If there already is an orphanage taking in children with Down’s syndrome, then why isn’t the Armenian government and society doing their part in helping these individuals? I know from experience that those with Down’s syndrome are the kindest individuals in the world.
The way they are being treated in Armenia is despicable. While it may take years for Armenia to obtain the materialistic resources to help these individuals, it shouldn’t take long for them to be accepted into society.
It should be common human nature to help those that are less abled and less fortunate. It seems that Armenia has not reached that level as of yet.
According to ABC News, Badalyan said she spent hours after her son’s birth coming up with the best course of action, and that Forrest did not support her during this time. It is Badalyan’s claim that she never gave her husband the ultimatum he says she gave.
At this point, no one knows what the true story is. One can choose to believe Forrest’s story, or they can choose to believe Badalyan’s.
The most important takeaway from this story should be the plight of Down’s syndrome individuals and the discrimination they face every day due to our society’s standards of normality. If Forrest’s claim holds true, then it was despicable of Badalyan to give up on her son over a disability.
As a mother, she should love her child no matter what.
If Badalyan’s claim holds true, then Forrest should have been supporting his wife during her time of need.
Opinion columnist Trishna Buch is a print journalism senior and may be reached at [email protected].