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ONTARIO, Canada — Tara McCallan had a perfect pregnancy in 2012 and her little girl made her debut in December of that year after a relatively easy labor and delivery. She excitedly welcomed the daughter into their family of three, including her husband Craig and young son Noal.
“Only a few hours of contractions & 4 pushes later & my baby girl was here,” she wrote on her blog. “The same euphoric, amazement spell hit Craig and (me), and we basked in the awe of creating a little life like we had with Noal.”
Life with baby Reid was great for two days until a doctor came to check on a possible heart murmur. The pediatric heart specialist told McCallan that while he didn’t detect any defects, Reid showed many signs of Down syndrome. She was shocked and left wondering why no one at the hospital had made a diagnosis within the past 48 hours.
Even though she was devastated at first, McCallan quickly picked up the shattered pieces of her old expectations and learned all she could about Down syndrome for her new baby girl. Reid, affectionately called “Pip” by her family, had surgery at just 5 weeks old and had a host of other health problems. McCallan hated the looks of pity she got from other people.
She recently wrote a post titled “What Makes You Different is What Makes You Beautiful” on her blog Happy Soul Project after an experience at the grocery store left her feeling frustrated.
“After a lady commented on how cute Pip was, she leaned in and said in a quieter voice, ‘But what is wrong with her?’ to which I replied, ‘Absolutely nothing,’ smiled and whisked my darling and our dignity away,” McCallan wrote. “I didn't mean to come across as rude or short but I wanted to make sure I made enough of a statement that this lady, thinks about what happened, thinks about how she could have approached the situation a bit differently.”
McCallan said she wrote the post for two reasons — to educate people on how to react when approaching someone who looks differently and that people’s differences should be celebrated.
“We are all unique and awesomely special and my little Pip is going to prove just that,” she said.
Pip appears on the post in a pink outfit matching her pink glasses, smiling at the camera, holding a sign that says, “What makes you different is what makes you beautiful.”
“Through everything she's endured — eye, heart surgeries, hospital stays, the works, she's always looked at me with these eyes full of light,” McCallan said. “Eyes full of purpose, as if to say, ‘Don't give up on me yet momma, I'm here for a reason.’ She's also a sassy, yappy little thing who loves her big brother Noal more than anything else on the planet.”
The response to the blog post has been remarkable, she said. Even before the blog got national attention from sites like The Huffington Post, Happy Soul Project was already connecting and reaching thousands of people, but now the visitors, comments and opportunities are pouring in.
Through everything she's endured — eye, heart surgeries, hospital stays, the works, she's always looked at me with these eyes full of light. Eyes full of purpose, as if to say, 'Don't give up on me yet momma, I'm here for a reason.' She's also a sassy, yappy little thing who loves her big brother Noal more than anything else on the planet.
–mom Tara McCallan
“It’s opened doors that I only could dream would happen. … Opportunities to share Pip's story and message wider, partnerships with different organizations to help bring Down syndrome awareness,” McCallan said. “And the opportunity to open a Happy Soul Project shop where we will be selling handmade art made by people with disabilities with messages celebrating our differences. We've been given this amazing chance to paint outside the lines and we're taking it.”
McCallan is especially glad about the message she’s sharing when she hears from other moms.
“When I get messages from other moms struggling with their baby’s Down syndrome diagnosis or even moms who decided against abortions on their unborn Down syndrome babies because of Pip, it gives all of this such purpose,” she said. “Happy Soul Project is there to show others that although our life, our daughter, is different, our lives are brilliant all the same.”
When asked about how she would like people to react when they see Pip, or other babies with Down syndrome, McCallan just wants people to know that there is nothing “wrong” with her daughter.
“First and foremost treat (Pip) as you would any other cute baby,” she told KSL.com in an interview. “If you do have questions or are curious, fantastic, ask them — but in a respectful and organic way.”
The Happy Soul Project is currently trying to get their message and Pip to “The Ellen Show.” To read more about Pip and #OperationEllenMeetPip, click here.