When an expectant mother learns her child might have Down syndrome, it’s natural for her to worry. Even with all the information available about the condition, she might wonder what her child’s life will be like—or how they might experience the world differently. There are so many unknown elements to accept that it can be overwhelming.

So when California mother-to-be Suzie Skougard found out that her baby had Down syndrome, she decided to learn as much as she could to prepare. Months before her due date, Suzie met someone who would completely change her life—and help her realize that her baby would be alright.

What Suzie didn’t realize, however, was that this person would also become a beacon of hope in her baby’s life as well…

When Suzie Skougard, a mother of three from Mission Viejo, California, found out she was pregnant—and that her baby would not only have Down syndrome, but a heart defect—she felt lost. Thankfully, she found an unlikely friend who knew just how to help…

baby2Team Carly Jean / Facebook

Suzie shopped at her local supermarket all the time, but only after she received the news about her unborn child’s condition did she notice Sydney Taylor, one of the bagging clerks—who, coincidentally, had Down syndrome. Suzie made it a point to visit Sydney’s line and engage in conversation.

carly2Suzie Skougard / Facebook

Suzie learned about their shared interests, like reading and theatre. Sydney told her about how she’d take the bus to work and often meet up with friends. Their conversations gave Suzie comfort about her baby’s future, despite the challenges.

Shortly after befriending Sydney, Suzie gave birth to her beautiful baby girl, Carly. Indeed, she had Down syndrome—as well as three holes in her heart, which required her to undergo multiple surgeries.

Carly-hospitalSuzie Skougard

Suzie said, “It was constant watching to make sure she didn’t turn blue, monitoring her breathing. Any slight cold could kill her. Her cardiologist said her heart was in a perpetual state of running a marathon.”

Thankfully, after more than a year of intensive care and surgery, Carly was strong enough to visit the grocery store with her mom. Suzie was excited. The two went straight up to Sydney, who immediately recognized that Carly had Down syndrome. Sydney said, “She had a big heart, like I do.” She gave the little girl a hug and even taught her how to say “I love you” in sign language. Suzie said the interaction was “something so small—and beautiful. It was just, hey, we’re in this together.”

carly3Suzie Skougard

Carly and Sydney became great friends. They now celebrate birthdays and sing karaoke together. Suzie and Sydney even send each other Facebook videos and messages daily. Even though most people wouldn’t consider a grocery store interaction to be meaningful, Suzie said, “I do think it’s up there with some of those other really big moments, just because of the impact it had on all of our lives.”

Now Suzie uses social media to spread educational messages of respect and positivity about Down syndrome. She tries to reduce the stigma against the condition and show the world all the happiness that Carly has in her life, including her friendship with Sydney!

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