Welcome To Holland

I was lucky enough today to meet the mom of a one year old boy recently diagnosed with the same chromosome disorder we know so well.  She was overwhelmed with her recent news and the lack of guidance about her son’s future.  It is a lot to take in.  I felt so happy to be able to support her and share with her information that was not available to us when we were in her position.  She had never read “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Perl Kingsley.  Have you?

Windmills-in-the-Netherlands

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Welcome to Holland
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to imagine how it would feel.
It is like this…When you’re going to have a baby, it is like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The Gondolas of Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It is all very exciting.

After months of anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bag and off you go. Several hours later the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, ‘Welcome to Holland’. ‘Holland? ‘ you say. ‘What do you mean Holland? I signed up for Italy! ! ! I am supposed to be in Italy. All my life I have dreamed of going to Italy! ‘.

But there has been a change in flight plan, they have landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they have not taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It is just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met before. It is just a different place. It’s slower paced than Italy. It’s less flashy than Italy. But after you have been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, and Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy and they are all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life you will say, ‘Yes, that is where I was supposed to go, That’s where I had planned’.

And the pain of that will never, ever go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss, but if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t go to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.

Written by Emily Perl Kingsley (in 1987)

HollandWindmill

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Welcome to Holland (Part 2)
I have been in Holland for over a decade now. It has become home. I have had time to catch my breath, to settle and adjust, to accept something different than I’d planned.

I reflect back on those years of past when I had first landed in Holland. I remember clearly my shock, my fear, my anger—the pain and uncertainty. In those first few years, I tried to get back to Italy as planned, but Holland was where I was to stay.

Today, I can say how far I have come on this unexpected journey. I have learned so much more. But, this too has been a journey of time. I worked hard. I bought new guidebooks. I learned a new language and I slowly found my way around this new land.

I have met others whose plans had changed like mine, and who could share my experience. We supported one another and some have become very special friends. Some of these fellow travelers had been in Holland longer than I and were seasoned guides, assisting me along the way. Many have encouraged me. Many have taught me to open my eyes to the wonder and gifts to behold in this new land. I have discovered a community of caring. Holland wasn’t so bad.

I think that Holland is used to wayward travelers like me and grew to become a land of hospitality, reaching out to welcome, to assist and to support newcomers like me in this new land. Over the years, I’ve wondered what life would have been like if I’d landed in Italy as planned. Would life have been easier? Would it have been as rewarding? Would I have learned some of the important lessons I hold today?

Sure, this journey has been more challenging and at times I would (and still do) stomp my feet and cry out in frustration and protest. And, yes, Holland is slower paced than Italy and less flashy than Italy, but this too has been an unexpected gift.

I have learned to slow down in ways too and look closer at things, with a new appreciation for the remarkable beauty of Holland with it’s tulips, windmills and Rembrandts.

I have come to love Holland and call it Home.

I have become a world traveler and discovered that it doesn’t matter where you land. What’s more important is what you make of your journey and how you see and enjoy the very special, the very lovely, things that Holland, or any land, has to offer.

Yes, over a decade ago I landed in a place I hadn’t planned. Yet I am thankful, for this destination has been richer than I could have imagined!

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