Welcome to Holland
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 – a trip you’ve looked forward to your entire life. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You dream about all of the things that you are going to experience in Italy. You learn some 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 and the flight attendant 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 have dreamed of going to Italy!” But there’s been a change in the flight plan. You’ve landed in Holland, and there you must stay.
The important thing to remember is that you haven’t been taken to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.
So, you go out and you buy new guidebooks, and you learn a new language, and you meet a whole new group of people you never would have met.
It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy. It’s less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while, and you catch your breath and begin to get over the initial shock of not being in Italy, you look around … and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills … and Holland has tulips … and Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is still busy coming and going from Italy … and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there, and what a great place Italy is. And for the rest of your life you will say, “Yes, that is where I planned to go.”
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever fully 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 go to Italy, you will never be free to enjoy the very special, very lovely things … about Holland.