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The Mother Accused Of Abandoning Her Disabled Baby Has Shared Her Side Of The Story

Ruzan Badalyan has denied her husband's claims that she was ashamed of her newborn baby, who has Down Syndrome, or that she forced her husband to choose between his wife and his son.

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This week the story went viral of a father who claimed he was forced by his wife to choose between their marriage and keeping their baby, Leo, who was born with Down Syndrome on 21 January.

Samuel Forrest

The father, Samuel Forrest, told ABC News that his wife had given him an ultimatum: “She told me if I kept him, then we would get a divorce." He said he thought his son was "perfect", and decided to try to raise enough money to take the baby with him to New Zealand.

Leo's mother, Ruzan Badalyan, has now shared her side of the story on Facebook, claiming that she gave her husband no such ultimatum, but rather made a painful decision that her baby would be better cared for in New Zealand:

As a mother who has faced this severe situation, being in the hospital under stress and depression, experiencing enormous pressure from every side, not finding any support from my husband's part on any possibilities of giving a child decent life in Armenia, I faced two options: to take care of the child on my own in Armenia, or to abandon my maternal instincts and extend the baby an opportunity to enjoy a decent life with his father in New Zealand. I went for the second option.

It is not clear based on their contrasting stories whether Forrest offered, or if it were even possible, for Badalyan to join him in New Zealand – nor how or when the pair came to the decision to divorce.

She says her decision was a painful one inspired by difficult economic circumstances and a social stigma in Armenia surrounding disability:

I understood that in Armenia, where is no extensive social infrastructure to help children with developmental disabilities, no governmental support, with the continuous hard economic situation in the country, with the possibility of renewed war with our hostile neighbour [Azerbaijan] – with whom the fragile cease-fire seems to be deteriorating over time – always looming in the background, with my salary of $180 being partly supported by my sister and living in my mother's place and having no other income, as my husband did not work, I would not be able to raise my child with special needs.

Badalyan told the Armenian news agency Armenpress that she had had "all the examinations" to screen for Down Syndrome during her pregnancy, but that "no problem" had been identified.

Leo and his father have received an outpouring of support, raising over AUS$470,000 (£225,000) from nearly 16,000 donors on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe to pay for Leo's care in New Zealand.

According to a statement on the campaign's website, the money will be used to resettle Leo and his father in New Zealand, where his extended family will help support the pair, with some money also going to "fund facilities and programs" that support children with disabilities in Armenia, as well as to "the only orphanage in Armenia that regularly takes abandoned Down Syndrome babies".
Facebook: ruzan.badalyan.7

According to a statement on the campaign's website, the money will be used to resettle Leo and his father in New Zealand, where his extended family will help support the pair, with some money also going to "fund facilities and programs" that support children with disabilities in Armenia, as well as to "the only orphanage in Armenia that regularly takes abandoned Down Syndrome babies".

Badalyan's full statement describes the day of Leo's birth, saying it was her husband who left her "in the hardest moment" of her life:

21 January was the happiest day for me, as I finally gave birth to my long-awaited son. Our son was born at 6.30 in the morning and I remember alarmed faces around and 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 a Down 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. 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. 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. This fact was not disputed by my spouse either, who occasionally claims in his articles that the baby can't afford the life he deserves in Armenia.

Thus, I spent the hours after Leo's birth trying to collect my will and decide on the best destiny for the kid. Everyone in our family realised that the baby's interests should be placed first and only his move to another country could remedy the situation, something that Sam himself also accepted.

I understood that in Armenia, where is no extensive social infrastructure to help children with developmental disabilities, no governmental support, with the continuous hard economic situation in the country, with the possibility of renewed war with our hostile neighbour--with whom the fragile cease-fire seems to be deteriorating over time--always looming in the background, with my salary of 180$ being partly supported by my sister and living in my mother's place and having no other income, as my husband did not work, I would not be able to raise my child with special needs.

In Armenia every child is loved and respected and family is a high value, but in this country children with special needs do require special attention, huge financial resources and dedication.

In the hardest moment of my life when my husband should be next to me and support and help to take the right decision, I could not find any support from his side. After that incident, he left the hospital notifying me hours later that he was taking the kid with him, that he is going to leave the country for New Zealand and I do not have anything to do with the situation. Without giving me any option and trying to find with me any solution in this hardest situation, he started to circulate the story on every possible platform without even trying to give me a voice accusing that I put him an ultimatum marriage or the baby, which is absolutely not true. 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.

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. The only thing he kept saying was that he didn't want us to separate, whereas my question what we should do always remained unanswered.

As a mother who has faced this severe situation, being in the hospital under stress and depression, experiencing enormous pressure from every side, not finding any support from my husband's part on any possibilities of giving a child decent life in Armenia, I faced two options: to take care of the child on my own in Armenia, or to abandon my maternal instincts and extend the baby an opportunity to enjoy a decent life with his father in New Zealand. I went for the second option.

Her story contrasts Forrest's claim on the crowdfunding site that Leo's mother was only concerned with bringing shame on the family:

His Armenian mother and her family abandoned him at birth. His father, a New Zealander, was no longer welcome in the family home because he wanted to 'keep' Leo. The mother refused to even look at or touch the newborn for fear of getting attached in a society where defects are not accepted, often bringing shame on the family involved.

In yet another twist in the heartbreaking and now very public dispute between parents in the wake of Leo's birth, Forrest told The Mirror Saturday that he "forgives" and "adores" his wife, and even hopes for a potential reunion.

"I haven't said anything bad about my wife," Forrest told The Mirror. "I don't hold anything against Ruzan. I wanted this personal responsibility and I've assumed it for Leo and she's also made her own decisions...I am fully sympathetic about the societal pressures and issues with the culture. There are many factors that come into play."Since Forrest went public with their story, people have been sharing their disgust with Badalyan on social media.
gofundme.com

"I haven't said anything bad about my wife," Forrest told The Mirror. "I don't hold anything against Ruzan. I wanted this personal responsibility and I've assumed it for Leo and she's also made her own decisions...I am fully sympathetic about the societal pressures and issues with the culture. There are many factors that come into play."

Since Forrest went public with their story, people have been sharing their disgust with Badalyan on social media.

BuzzFeed News asked Ruzan Badalyan about the circumstances surrounding her divorce. She did not give a specific answer:

I would not like to comment on how we came to that decision as it is very personal. I can say only that there is an issue of misunderstanding and cultural difference from his side.

She also denied her husband's claim that he was told he was no longer welcome in her family home:

I did not tell him such things but I can assume that this is the vision that he created for himself.

Badalyan also said that "at this moment" she does not intend to move to New Zealand.