Countless parents-to-be have said some iteration of the phrase “as long as the baby’s healthy.” But what if it’s not? It’s devastating to find out your child is unhealthy, especially when the entire pregnancy has gone by without any indications of a problem. But these moments are also when the quality of a person is determined. Case in point: The birth of a baby boy with Down syndrome in Armenia, whose parents have now divorced after a dispute over whether he should be kept.

“This pediatrician walks out of the room with a little bundle — that was Leo,” the baby’s father Samuel Forrest told ABC News. “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.’” After following hospital staff into a private room, they told him Leo had Down syndrome.

In a country where education and awareness of Down syndrome isn’t as widespread, hospitals’ policies have followed suit — they give parents the option to give their children away for adoption. Leo’s mother Ruzan Badalyan was onboard with this decision, however, Forrest was not. “They took me in [to] see him and I looked at this guy and I said, ‘he’s beautiful — he’s perfect and I’m absolutely keeping him.”

Forrest said the decision to send Leo out for adoption was made behind is back, explaining why he wasn’t initially allowed to see the child or his mother. But the situation took a turn for the worse when Badalyan threatened Forrest with divorce if he didn’t agree, and he didn’t. A week after Leo’s birth on Jan. 21, she had filed for divorce — she confirmed to ABC News the birth of Leo and her divorce to Forrest, but refused to say anything else.

The divorce left Forrest essentially helpless, and he’s set up a GoFundMe page to try to get him and his son back to New Zealand, where he’s originally from. “His Armenian mother and her family abandoned him at birth,” the GoFundMe page says. “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.” As of Saturday morning, the page has already raised over $450,000.

Down syndrome affects one in 830 newborns, and currently affects about 250,000 people in the U.S. It’s usually caused by a chromosomal abnormality in which each cell in the body has three copies of chromosome 21 rather than two. This abnormality causes a variety of defects, from heart and digestive abnormalities to delayed development and behavioral problems.

Still, it doesn’t really matter how many of these problems a baby is born with. As Forrest’s GoFundMe page shows, there’s support everywhere you look. Moreover, communities are full of both parent groups and organizations that are there to help — the National Down Syndrome Society alone says it has 375 local affiliates throughout the U.S. But most importantly, let’s not forget that babies with Down syndrome will grow into adults with feelings, ideas, and beliefs, too.

Published by Medicaldaily.com