Tuesday, November 06, 2007

As part of a presentation in my college course "Introduction to Mental Retardation", I read this poem. I had no idea that ten years later this would be a perfect description for my life with Soph and one of my very favorite writings. Since I have just joined a new family (parents of kids with RTS), I am finding that this new diagnosis has brought me peace. I am visiting Holland again, but in some ways this feels like the very first time. I am so glad to be here.

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. 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.


Lori said...

I love that poem. The first time I heard Dylan diagnosised with MR it was in the school psychologist's room and it was said so matter of factly. It felt like I was punched in the stomach, dreams faded away quickly, my heart sank, my mind whirled and the tears poured. It is so hard intially when you think you have been put on the wrong plane but then you realize that He is bringing you to a better place with a closer relationship with Him and a walk worth walking. Love you girl so much, Lori

Emily said...

Holland doesn't get nearly enough credit. It has way more beautiful sights than Italy ever will. ;)

Kate said...

This is so true!! I was living in Autism Twilight Zone with Jack this weekend and reading this has been so refreshing!!

Kate said...

Lori, I want to get in touch with you, girl!!! Email me at: jackngirlies@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. I am pretty sure you are underestimating the percentage of time you listen to the Holy Spirit. A 15 percenter would never be able to write something like this. Thoughts and prayers for you and that beautiful child. Not only is Holland a very beautiful place, but it is a very warm and accepting place.