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.
c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved
This article was written by the mom of a special needs child. I thought it was beautiful and deserved to be read by more people. I have several friends who have been ‘redirected to Holland’ by the surprise of a special needs child and others who have chosen that re-direction via a SN adoption. Either way, these people all talk about the beauty of “Holland” and how they would never trade their experiences or their child for what they expected initially. Their lives are richer and more beautiful for the new experiences they are having and what riches their child(ren) has(have) added to their existences.
Whether we’re talking “surprise” of a special needs child or another ‘re-direct’ in life–the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, or something else, our lives can be much richer if we will embrace where we are (‘Holland’) and release where we thought we’d be (‘Italy’). Beauty comes in all packages and sometimes a ‘re-direct’ can lead us down the most beautiful path, even if it’s not where we thought we’d end up or where we’d want to be..