late-night stranger told Laura her son was
alive, but could not sit nor stand alone.
The mother now knows better.
In a Yerevan hospital, 26-year old Laura Yeritsyan
faced a decision motherhood could not prepare
her for. Her child, and, significantly, the family's
first boy, would die within 10 days, doctors told
She had just given birth to Hayk, her fourth
child. Tatevik, Anahit and Gayane, were age 9,
8 and 2 and healthy. Laura and her husband Vartan
wanted a son, but when their wish was granted,
the child they got was born with severe problems.
Specifically, the baby was born with a cleft lip
and a hole in his palate.
A micro-surgeon told the parents that the baby
had no chance of living.
Even if a surgery could be arranged, the baby
would require numerous costly follow up procedures
and at-home treatment. Neither Laura nor Vartan
had a job. So Laura signed a paper giving up guardianship
of Hayk, and left him with the hospital to await
"I had three other children," the mother,
now 29, says, not as an excuse but as a pitiful
explanation. "I thought if I brought him
home and something happened it would be worse
for the other children."
Laura left the hospital, and never heard any
more about her son.
Hayk was born February 7, 2000. The story moves
ahead to this August.
Near midnight at the Yeritsyan's hovel of a home,
a woman knocked on the door and said she had some
legal papers she'd like Laura to sign concerning
the adoption of a boy believed to be Laura's son.
doesn't yet understand who Laura is, but
The child, now 3, was in an orphanage in Gyumri,
the late-night visitor told Laura. The boy was
mentally ill and could neither stand nor sit,
the woman said.
Laura did not agree to sign the papers. Instead
she called relatives in Gyumri and asked them
to go to the orphanage and check out the woman's
story. (She now suspects that the woman was trying
to make money by trying to help someone adopt
Relatives indeed found Hayk, but not as the woman
had described. The boy was not only healthy, but
energetic. A program - Operation Happy Smile -
sponsored by World Vision, British Airways and
the British Council had paid for a surgery to
repair Hayk's lip and for a prosthetic that covers
the hole in his palate.
All Laura had known of her son was that he had
blond hair and blue eyes.
"I wanted to go and get him on that very
day," Laura says. She was told though that
she'd have to wait until proper documents could
be prepared. But within a few days of learning
that Hayk was alive, Laura went to the orphanage
and "adopted back" her first son (in
the interim, she'd given birth to Hovaness, now
1 year old).
"I changed his clothes immediately in the
car," she says. "As soon as we started
driving back, he put his head on my shoulder and
The fairytale could end there. But this is no
happy ending story.
In a path of destruction that will one day be
Yerevan's glitzy North Avenue, the Yeritsyans
live in two rooms, each about eight feet by 12
feet. Two adults, two girls about to be teenagers,
a pre-schooler and two babies, in a space equivalent
to two minivans. What passes for a kitchen is
an entryway where Laura prepares meals for her
husband and children over a propane tank; she
has no oven. The toilet is a separate room reached
by first going outside, and the water freezes
family, lots of laundry, and frozen water
in the winter . . .
Vartan, 31, is working now as a driver, so things,
Laura says, are better than before when he was
back and forth to Russia looking for work. Driving
pays well by some standards; Vartan makes about
$100 a month. Still . . .
Hayk gets free speech therapy and psychological
counseling through a World Vision-sponsored center
in Yerevan. Laura cries when she says that Hayk
still has no idea that she is his mother. To him,
she is just someone who might be visiting the
Taking Hayk back is a decision that, in many
ways, might not be to the Yeritsyan's advantage.
But it is a decision made with much greater clarity
and infinitely less soul searching than the decision
to give him up.
"Life demands that you must force yourself
to do things for your children," Laura says.
"I grew up in a time when things were good
and my family had a comfortable apartment. I want
the same for my children.
"I started believing in miracles after we
got Hayk back. So I believe that one day things
will be okay."
World Vision is an international agency offering
several means of humanitarian work in Armenia.
To learn more about them, visit www.wvarmenia.am.
To make a gift to the Yeritsyan family or others
with need through ArmeniaNow's HyeSanta
project, click here.