Samuel Forrest, a new father from Armenia, decided to keep his newborn son Leo in spite of a Down syndrome diagnosis and a tragic divorce.

Armenia allows parents to give up a child with a disability at birth. The child is then sent to an orphanage.

“What happens when a baby like this is born here, they will tell you that you don’t have to keep them,” Forrest said.

The medical staff at the hospital wouldn’t let Forrest see his new baby right away.

“This pediatrician walks out of the room with a little bundle — that was Leo,” Forrest said. “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.’”

When Forrest finally got to see and hold his son, he was in a for a major surprise.

“When I walked into the room they all turned to me and said ‘Leo has Down syndrome,’” he said. “I had a few moments of shock….[then] I looked at this guy and I said, he’s beautiful — he’s perfect and I’m absolutely keeping him.”

According to Forrest, his wife felt very differently when he went to see her. “I got the ultimatum right then,” he said. “She told me if I kept him then we would get a divorce.”

A week after her son’s birth, Forrest’s wife filed for divorce.

“It’s not what I want,” Forrest said. “I didn’t even have a chance to speak with her privately about it.”

Forrest, a business contractor, plans to move to his native New Zealand with his son and raise him with help from family.

He is also getting involved with disability awareness groups. “After what I’ve been through with Leo, I’m not going to sit back and watch babies be sent to orphanages,” he said. “As a child with Down syndrome, that becomes somewhat of a label. If we can get around this label, we’ll see that they’re normal. They’re a little different from us, but they’re still normal.

“They all have niches and I want to work hard to find out where Leo’s special. This little guy is great.”

Besides writing, R. McKinley loves reading (especially historical fiction and science books), playing piano and flute, being involved in politics and community, working out, enjoying nature, and hanging out with four wonderful cats.