WELCOME TO HOLLAND
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
When you are going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a
bunch of guidebooks and make wonderful plans. The Coliseum.
Michelangelo’s 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 guidebooks. 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 Rembrandt.
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.
By Emily Pen Kingsley