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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Welcome To Holland

Re-sharing this blog post for the Summer Blog Hop Series Challenge "Coming To Terms"

"Welcome To Holland" is an essay written by Emily Perl Kingsley, (a writer for Sesame Street, and numerous children's books) and mother of a son with Down syndrome. She wrote the essay to describe what it was like to have a child with a disability.

I remember exactly where I was when I read this for the first time.

Kayla was only a week or so old and I was still coming to terms with her diagnosis. Not only was I dealing with post-pregnancy hormones, exhaustion, and depression, but I was also learning to accept a diagnosis I hadn't wanted for my child. I wanted to cry all the time, but held back because I didn't want everyone to think I was sad about my daughter. It was a roller coaster of emotions and conflicts going on inside me.

I was in my bedroom flipping through a pregnancy/childbirth/parenting book. I discovered a section on special needs and sub-section on Down syndrome. I don't remember a whole lot of what was written about Down syndrome, I think it was clinical in nature, but not necessarily filled with negativity.

Then I saw the essay. I started reading. The tears started flowing. It was the beginning of my acceptance of Kayla's diagnosis. It gave me a new perspective; a different way of seeing things. Of realizing that it might be different, but not all bad; that there is a lot of good too. It made me realize that she was still my daughter, Down syndrome or not, and that I loved her fiercely either way.

I know not everyone agrees with the things said in Emily's essay; they don't feel the same way and dispute pieces of it. But it was how she felt she could describe for herself what it was like to raise a child with disabilities, and I, for one, am thankful that she wrote this essay. Because it did speak to me; and it touched me, and opened my eyes.

Welcome To Holland
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 Sistine Chapel, Gondolas. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After several 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. 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’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 experience will never, ever, ever, go away. The loss of that dream is a 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.

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Mom24 said...

I've always loved that essay, it rings very true to me, even though I've never walked in those shoes, and I think it can apply to a lot of things about life and parenting.

Bonita said...

What a beautiful perspective.

To Love Endlessly said...

I still remember the 1st time I read this essay as well. Put so much into perspective for me as well. I'm VERY glad she wrote it as well.

The Hapa Girl said...

Yes, this poem was what I needed after Lillian's birth! I've read a few people who don't agree with it, but to me it was her personal journey that I was able to relate to. And she wrote it the way I could never have explained.

Shelley said...

Yes it has grown on me ... I find I think of it whenever I see tulips... and that makes me think of hannah - so then I have to smile.