Sunday, July 5, 2015

Welcome to Holland

Welcome to Holland, by Emily Perl Kingsley

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.


I have had the incredible experience to meet two people that helped me appreciate my experience in "Holland."  We attended a beautiful wedding.  Every decoration, every piece of lace, every letter on every name tag was dripping with thoughtfulness.  It wasn't overdone or flashy, but was in perfect harmony with the bride and groom's fun personalities. 

It was a little like Italy from the poem.  Perfectly planned. 

I sat holding Bryer who was hot, sweaty, and awkward in her post-op brace, her damp hair sticking to my face.  I did my best to fan her to keep her cool, but let's just say (with the best sense of humor)
It Just Was Not Italy. 

At the reception I had someone introduce herself and want to meet Bryer in person.  It was like she had read brochures about Holland and wanted a taste of it herself.  She was so sincere and warm, although she pointed out that she felt strange following The Briar Effect and trying to find a way to introduce herself. 

Bryer was sweaty and not too social in her thick hip brace, but I was reminded again that Holland is where I belong.  It makes my day for someone to want to meet Bryer and see her the way we see her. 

Later on in the evening, I met another mom - one that had also taken "a trip to Holland!"  Our brief conversation was just what I needed.  There's a bond between people that have 'lived' in the same place.  At first she just pointed out how beautiful Bryer was and asked about her diagnoses, but once she revealed that she had been on her own 'trip to Holland,' well I wanted to hug this near-stranger right then and there!

I am blessed to have 4 older kids and got to experience 'Italy' with all of them.  While that was where I was supposed to be at that time in my life, there's not a doubt in my mind that we were asked to take this family trip to 'Holland' for a reason.  Sometimes it's hot, and sticky, and stressful.  But often times I hear her giggle or watch her master a new skill, and I feel bad for families that don't have this opportunity like we do of having an angel living right in our midst.  'Holland' is a lot of hard work for sure, but all great things are worth working for. 

Once in a while Jason and I get to escape.  We go on a date in the evening, or a yearly work trip to a far away place.  We are pampered and waited on.  People make our beds, serve us food, clean up our mess, and we pretend we're in 'Italy' - but the whole time our hearts long for 'Holland.'  While it's not where we expected our flight plans to take us, it's just not a place I would give up for anything. 


  1. I love this analogy soooo much. Brilliant and beautifully written. :) thank you!!!

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