Welcome to Holland



Emily Perl Kingsley (1987)

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags 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’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

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

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

My preemie momma friends and I reference this poem quite often…and in particular hard times, it tends to be a humble reminder. We didn’t get shorted our dreams, we didn’t get a terrible trip: we simply got a different one.

I have written and erased about ten paragraphs, and nothing seems right to say.

All I can say, is that you will define your journeys within the context of Italy and Holland in your own ways.

I can only tell you that Holland wasn’t the “wrong” trip, but merely a different one. The unexpected provides great adventure, and our stops to Holland have been just that.  I would say mine was eye opening, inspirational , freeing, and most definitely traumatic! Sometimes wonder what “Italy” would have been like with Aeva. But then I look at her and realize that “Holland” is what makes her who she is, and I cannot imagine her any way else. She is so inquisitive, compassionate, loving, and truly a good soul. I’ve never met such a young child with such a warm and compassionate heart.

Holland starts out as a scary, traumatic place. But once you learn the language, unpack your bags, and settle in, it becomes home.

Having a preemie changed not only my life, but fundamentally who I am.

Me and Aeva at the beach in Corpus Christi, Texas 13 August 2012.

1 Comment + Add Comment

  • This is so true. I got something other than what was planned but we enjoy everyday that we have. I would not change where we are today for a difference experience.

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