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Dear Younger (by 23 years) Self,

Relax.  Breathe.  Yes, parenting Charlie Walker will have its challenges, and some of them seemingly insurmountable.  But be calm, because in spite of those hurdles, there will be great – yes, GREAT – experiences with him and for him in this life.

And there will be amazing experiences for you too.  Yes, you will have more children.  Yes, your husband will love you whether you’re a special needs mom or not.  And, yes, you will raise a wonderful family that is special and not because someone in it has special needs.

Still, don’t sugarcoat the special needs experience or dismiss the reality that those special needs, that Down syndrome diagnosis, will affect you, all your children, your family and your friendships.  It will.

Yes, Charlie will have physical characteristics of an individual with Down syndrome.  But at times he will look just like his Dad, and mostly he will look just like Charlie.  Yes, no matter what you do, your other kids will still complain that you love Charlie more.  But whatever, ‘cause seriously, living with 3 teenagers was way more difficult than anything ever anyway, and everyone is lucky we made it through whole (heads up on that, by the way).  And, yes, people in your family, community and random strangers will say the most ridiculous things to you.  But, what truly matters is how you, your children and your hubby feel about each other and frankly, there’s always been a whole lot of love there within you all.

So my suggestion is that you accept, as soon as you can, that this diagnosis is now a part of your life and a part of your baby.  Don’t let the diagnosis get in the way of seeing Charlie for who he is though, and who he will be (hint:  he’s AWESOME, like his siblings J). I mean, those baby blues with the Brushfield spots:  heart-stoppingly gorgeous, right?  Breathe him in, Karen, breathe it all in and soak in that joy and love. You are one lucky mama, and Charlie is one lucky son.

Love, Older (by 23 years) Self

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