Welcome to Holland. Welcome to a world you never knew existed. Welcome to a place that will change your life forever.
“Welcome to Holland” is one of the most relatable writings I’ve read since being thrown into the world of being a parent of a child with a disability. It was introduced to me at a time when I didn’t know what my life was going to throw at me day to day. When pneumonia, breathing tubes, feeding tubes, seizures and ICU were a bigger part of our vocabulary then diapers, wipes, bottles, naps and rattles. It was a time when it was becoming very apparent that nothing about our life was “normal” and never would be again.
Quinlan was 3 months into his ICU stay when a special person, one of the many that had come into our life specifically because of Quinlan, introduced me to this poem. I remember thinking that the author, Emily Perl Kingsley, must be a mind reader. She has to be some sort of psychic who was able to get into my brain, find all the thoughts that were jumbled in there with no where to go, and put them on a piece of paper in a way that made more sense then I ever could have. A beautiful, realistic, relatable description for all of us in this unique situation. But also made it understandable for those who are not as familiar.
Instead of explaining what the poem is about, I’ll let you all read it. These are words I feel everyone should read.
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 colliseum. The Michaelangelo 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 plan 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 dreamed of going to Italy.”
But there’s been a change in the flight plans. 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 and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you never would have met.
It’s just a different place. It’s slower then Italy, less flashy then 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…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 significant loss.
But…if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, that you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things…about Holland.
Yes, we ended up in Holland. Holland is amazing. Fields of tulips, Rembrandts, canals, and wooden clogs. But there are many days that I dream about Italy. I would have no idea what it would be like in Italy. From the moment Quinlan was born, we knew we were on a very different trip that was not planned, and it certainly was not to Italy.
So, while our trip to Holland did unfortunately end with more loss then we could ever have imagined, heartbreak, and a lifetime of grief, I could never say that I don’t feel appreciative and, in a way, lucky that we arrived in the land that we did. One of my closest friends got the opportunity to live in Holland for a year. While I never made the trip over myself, I was able to reap some benefits by the special gifts brought directly from the amazing country (stroopwafels, dutch cheese, clog slippers, and actual Dutch tulip bulbs – that I’m hoping grow to look like the ones from the fields…we’ll have to wait until the spring to see if that happens). Holland has been part of our lives in more ways then one.
Maybe we’ll get that trip to Italy someday. We’ll get to share stories with everyone else who vacations amongst the gondolas and Michaelangelo David. I don’t regret our change in destination, but as Kingsley states, it’s a pain that will never, ever, ever, ever go away.
Lucky for us, we had the most handsome, amazing Holland tour guide to show us the way.