Welcome to Holland

This piece was shared with our Clarke School therapy group around Thanksgiving a few months after Landon was born. I remember holding my tiny girl and crying over her while Melissa read this aloud.  I looked around the room, all of the mothers with tears in their eyes, and we nodded to one another. Our eyes telling one another… I see you, I understand you, I love you and your child just as he or she are. It was one of the most beautiful days at Clarke, and that is saying something. I was reminded that I posted it five years ago and wanted to revisit it again with you today.  It’s amazing to think back to that time five years ago. I was bewildered, anxious, and wracked with worry. Tears came so easily, protection and strength emerging while I was filled with tremendous love for my girl. I was only on the brink of our journey to Holland, and this author’s words move me today even more than they did then. This story allows me to feel less alone while beaming with immense pride. What a wonderful gift.

Welcome to Holland – c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved. 

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.





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One thought on “Welcome to Holland

  1. Elouise, Your image of landing in Holland is so poignant. We adopted and have had so many struggles with our child’s mental health. I constantly listen to friends who spend their lives in with their children in “Italy” and relinquishing our dreams for our family has been a long journey. Thank you for putting this all in such a fresh frame!

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