An Armenian woman, who garnered international attention after she reportedly left her husband for choosing not to abandon their newborn baby with Down syndrome, has denied her husband’s allegations and backed up her decision to leave.
The story of Samuel Forrest, a New Zealand native, sent shockwaves throughout social media when it surfaced earlier this week. According to Forrest, his wife left him after forcing him to choose between her and their newborn son, Leo, who was born with Down syndrome. The father said the reason for his wife’s painful ultimatum, which was given only moments after Leo was born, was because she felt that having a baby with Down syndrome would “bring shame” to their family.
In response to the shocking allegations against his wife, Forrest garnered support from around the globe, with many contributing financially to help the new father and his child move back to New Zealand from Armenia, where they lived with the mother, Ruzan Badalyan. A fundraising page set up by a friend has, so far, raised nearly $500,000.
In the wake of the worldwide controversy, Badalyan issued a lengthy statement defending her actions and attempting to set the record straight. She says that she and her husband agreed that New Zealand was the best place for the child to be raised.
“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 of her native Armenia. “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. I saw the evasive looks of the doctors, my relatives' tear-stained faces, received calls of condolences and realised that only a move to a country with such standards as New Zealand would entitle my son to a decent life.”
The mother said that while she was overjoyed to have finally brought a child into the world, she felt immense pain over the devastating diagnosis.
“21 January was the happiest day for me, as I finally gave birth to my long-awaited son,” she said. “Our son was born at 6.30 in the morning and I remember alarmed faces around and the doctors' worried looks. I woke hours after anaesthesia. My first question was about the whereabouts of my child. I remember the sad faces of my relatives and the doctors and the diagnosis that sounded like a verdict: 'Your child was born with Down's Syndrome'.
“One can never imagine my feelings at that moment. Hardly had I recovered from the first shock, when the doctor approached me and told me to voice my decision whether I was going to keep Leo or not. I had to make the most ruthless decision in my life within several hours,” she continued.
In her statement, Badalyan also denied Forrest’s claim that she left because she felt her son would bring shame upon their family. She said she has made numerous attempts to contact her husband to no avail.
“I tried several times to communicate but he never tried to listen me and to find common solutions. The only response was the accusation from his part,” Badalyan’s statement read. “Sam has never suggested joining him and bringing up the child together in his country. Neither did he tell me anything on the day we filed for divorce.”