Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley


I have been thinking a lot this week about what I thought having a baby would be like. How I thought my maternity leave would be. I have been comparing what I thought then to what I have now. I’d like to share a poem that articulates my feelings much better than I could. Thank you to Christina, a friend of mine from high school, who shared this with me. On days when I’m feeling frustrated, not able to figure out what it is that Maddy needs from me, or exhausted from a non-stop day to keep her stimulated, I think of this:

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.

Here is a link to a youtube video of a reading of this poem.

No, this might not be what I had planned, not what I had expected.  One day after we’ve learned Maddy’s unique needs, once we have the skill set to help her succeed in life, we can look back on these days and think what an extraordinary experience we’ve had.


2 responses »

  1. This was a poem we revisited many times during my genetic counselling training program – I love its message. I can’t wait until Darrel gets back so we can visit with you, Eric, and Maddy!

    • I love its message too – I’m sure in your line of work you come across a ton of people who can get some comfort from it. Excited to visit with you guys too!!

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