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One Year Later: Dad Who Refused To Give Up Son With Down Syndrome Speaks Out

| by Kathryn Schroeder
Samuel Forrest and LeoSamuel Forrest and Leo

A father who chose to keep his newborn son with Down syndrome over his wife does not regret his decision a year later.

In January 2015, Ruzan Badalyan gave birth to a boy in her home country of Armenia, ABC News reported. When it was discovered her son had Down syndrome, she gave her husband Samuel Forrest an ultimatum: put the child in an orphanage, or she would leave.

Forrest decided to keep his son, whom he named Leo, and Badalyan filed for divorce. She and her family disowned the child.

After a successful crowdfunding campaign that raised more than $500,000, Forrest was able to take Leo to his native country of New Zealand, where they would have family support.

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Shortly after, Badalyan had a change of heart and decided she wanted to be with her husband and Leo.

She told Auckland Now that the money “doesn’t matter for me” and it belongs to her son. She said she came back because she missed her child.

Upon her return, Forrest said he wanted “people to realize she's a really good person,” according to Auckland Now.

Forrest explains more about how Badalyan came to be a part of Leo’s life in an interview with ABC News.

“It was pretty clear that the main things were cultural and huge pressure," he said. "About three-and-half weeks later, Ruzan got in touch with me through a friend and we ended up having a candid conversation through Skype. I finally agreed to meet her and she held little Leo for the first time.”

“Before this, she had no idea what Down syndrome really was, or that there was hope,” he added. “The doctors had told her Leo would never learn to walk, or talk or feed himself.”

The couple and Leo now live together in New Zealand.

“[Leo’s] generally a very happy kid,” Forrest told ABC News. “He’s got a sense of humor ... in many ways he’s not really different than a lot of other children. He’s got a lot of challenges but to bring out the best of him you have to work with him differently than you would do another child.”

Forrest says his wife has “adapted to Leo’s therapy programs and she’s turned out to be a wonderful mother.”

Leo undergoes physical and intellectual development therapies. He is crawling, can push buttons, is able to say “dad,” and tries to say “mom.”

“At first I was very, very scared because I didn’t know what Down syndrome was like,” Badalyan told ABC News. "Doctors said he would be like a vegetable."

“I love him very much,” she added. “One year ago, I couldn’t imagine life with him and now, I can’t really imagine my life without him. He’s changed me so much. I can say I’m a different person now.”

Sources: ABC News, Auckland Now / Photo credit: ABC News