Look at him. His name is Leo. His story is getting lots of traction on the internet, and it’s raised some painful personal memories, along with a few hackles.
The story is about a father, Samuel Forrest (from Armenia) who, upon finding out his newborn son had Down Syndrome (DS for short), and that his wife would divorce him if he kept the child, did the very best thing a parent could do. He kept the baby boy and is working hard to make a life for him.
As always happens with women, the mother is being portrayed as the villain in the story. A hard hearted monster undeserving of love. Fathers, more often than mothers, abandon their children, so let’s not get carried away. This woman delivered this baby in a hospital and was following advice of doctors/nurses. She didn’t have the baby and kill it. She’s not a monster.
It’s not what we do here; but it appears the customs in that part of the world is to encourage parents of DS children NOT to take them home. Add to this that this woman had just gone through the trauma and physical demands of bringing a baby into the world who wasn’t “perfect”. You can’t get much lower than that. Can you imagine, c’mon ladies, how overwhelmed, stunned by the turn her life has taken, and fearful she might have been? Can you not allow for that?
Let me tell you, that shock of “not perfect” will rock your world like nothing else.
In my own family, a similar story played out, but it was in the late 1960s, before DS kids were cool, before society was so accepting of differences. Before those children were encouraged to contribute and achieve. One of my mother’s sisters, a wonderful, loving woman, who wanted this baby so very much, who had tried for so long to have it was shocked and devastated when she learned the news about her own newborn. It broke her heart, and her husband, (unlike the father in the story) was not thrilled or supportive.
She said flat-out, she was not taking “that baby” home.
Not because she didn’t love him. Not because she wasn’t ready to sacrifice or spend. But it was going to be a tough road, having to face down the looks, the comments that people would make about her less than perfect child. She was so afraid she couldn’t think straight. This was supposed to be a joyful time and it was terrible. The news rocked her.
On top of all the insecurity and adjustments of being a first time mom, my aunt had the added burden of special needs during a time when information, education and medical thinking were not at all what they are today. When society had no tolerance for kids who were different. When people stared and pointed. Where kids were mean. And this child would always need so much. It was (and is) a very overwhelming thing to face — a lifetime of care with no day off. No break. And (even today) the desperate need for the toughest skin ever.
That’s a daunting prospect.
So before everyone rushes to judge this DS baby’s mother, put yourself in her shoes. Imagine how it feels, how overwhelmed you are, how unsure and fearful you might be, how physically and mentally exhausted you are. It’s easy to make pronouncements over here, comfortably settled behind our keyboards, in a place where differences aren’t supposed to matter.
Please just stop and think, mothers especially, about what this woman must be going through. Supporting the father is fine, but let’s be careful not to vilify the mother as we do it.
€ Maybe she’s afraid she can’t do right by him.
€ Maybe she’s got no support — no one to tell her she CAN do this.
€ Maybe this husband isn’t the saint we’re seeing, maybe she knows something about him the rest of us don’t.
So cut her some slack. Save your censure for the backward ways of her country, for the uncaring attitude of the doctors and nurses at that (non-American) hospital. But leave this woman alone. After all, life has been cruel enough already, without you all piling on.
And yes, mother and baby went home on the same day. John lived happily with his loving mother and father into his early twenties, the victim of an inoperable (back then) heart defect. He had his own room, toys, Christmases and fun. He attended school and took pleasure in life. He loved chocolate ice cream and chicken noodle soup. He was a part of my childhood I’ll never forget.