"Welcome to Holland"

by Emily Pearl 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 are going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, Michelangelo, David, 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 flight attendant comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"HOLLAND?!" you ask. "What do you mean Holland? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I have dreamed of going to Italy."

There has been a change in the flight plan. They have 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. Learn a whole new language. You will meet a whole new group of people you would never otherwise have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. However, after you have 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 Rembrandt.

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

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

However, 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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