SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association)- Messages of support have been flooding in from our readers today for the father whose wife divorced him when he refused to abandon their baby, Leo, who was born with Down’s syndrome.
Samuel Forrest, from Auckland in New Zealand, told ABC News that his wife filed for divorce when Leo was just one week old – because she feared his disability would bring “shame” on her family.
We wanted to speak to the very people who have been in Samuel’s position, get their take on the story and hear about their own experiences of raising children with Down’s syndrome.
Their responses were truly touching.
1. “We accepted him unconditionally”
Catherine Standlick from Cornwall gave her reaction to the story and told us about her 23-year-old son, Tomas, who has Down’s syndrome.
She said: “What a fantastic daddy Samuel will be. Our fourth child was born with Down Syndrome, which we didn’t know until his birth.
“We accepted him unconditionally. It’s not his fault and he is the most loving, cheeky, sometimes challenging, but mostly rewarding son we could have asked for. He is loved by everyone in his family, he is a blessing to us all.
“It is refreshing to see such innocence, as he knows no different, he just loves being loved and happy in his family.
“Yes, there are behavioural problems sometimes, but to us it’s all part of Tomas. As I said, challenging but rewarding, always.
“At least this little boy, Leo, will know love and happiness in his life – that’s all he needs.”
2. “Hand on heart, I would not change a thing”
Vicky and Paul Malkin-Jones from Chapel St Leonards are mum and dad to beautiful baby boy, Eden, who is nearly seven months old.
At first, Eden’s results from tests for Down’s syndrome in pregnancy came back as ‘low risk’, but when he was born mum Vicky knew instinctively that he had it.
Vicky told Mirror Online: “When Eden was put in my arms, call it a mother’s instinct, but I just knew he had Down’s syndrome, so I requested to see someone.
“When it was confirmed two weeks later, my husband and I sobbed. I guess it was just because it was the unknown, but hand on heart if I knew then what I know now, those tears were wasted. He brings us so much happiness.
“Eden is such a happy little boy – he melts everyone’s hearts. We often get stopped and people say, ‘what a gorgeous, happy boy you have’.
“When I read the story I felt so sad that someone could walk away like that. I would say to the father, ‘what an amazing man’, and tell him to stay strong. That little boy will bring him so much love and happiness always.
“To other parents of children with Down’s syndrome, I would say that special children are sent to special parents. They are blessed.
“Our children will do everything they can, but in their own time, which is even more exciting as you know they have had to work so much harder.
“Here’s a little quote that a close friend gave to us… Why fit in, when you were born to stand out?”
Vicky and Paul have also started the Facebook group, ‘An extra chromosome makes you extra awesome.’
3. “She has taught us so much”
Julie Morrison, from Northern Ireland, said: “We have the most amazing daughter called Rachel. She has taught us so much and opened so many doors.
“Rachel fought to be with us and life would be very boring without her beautiful face and personality.
“Good luck on the most amazing journey of your life with your very special son.”
4. “Our daughter is a blessing and always will be”
Jake Coleman, from Gosport, said: “This truly is disgusting. I cannot believe that there are people like this in the world.
“I have a beautiful four-month-old daughter with Down Syndrome and she is the most loving girl in the world.
“It breaks my heart to hear of such foul happenings in this world. I wish that people could have a little more heart.
“Our daughter is a blessing and always will be.”
5. “She has brought us so much joy”
Sandra Allen said: “Good for you ‘Dad’. I have a Down’s Syndrome daughter and she has brought us so much joy. We could never part with her.
“Your wife will miss out on the best thing that ever happened to her. He will show you more love than she ever could.
“Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful, special son.”