This poem was shared with me many years after Jacob’s diagnosis. From time to time I think about it and how wonderful it captures the feelings of my naive first-time mother frame of mind. Life rarely turns out like we pictured. Right? Right! There are no guarantees. But I do believe that changing our mindset can have a powerful impact. We all have a choice, whether we choose to take the road to negativity or determine to strive for the power of positive thinking. While I’m not always successful, it is my goal to choose the latter.
WELCOME TO HOLLAND
by 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.
Frankly, there was a time when I mourned that my life, my family, hadn’t turned out at all like I imagined it would. And part of that grieving was wishing all families had a child with a disability. It is embarrassing to admit that I let my mind go there. Maybe that was part of the bargaining or anger stage of grief. How awful to think I would ever want another family to experience pain. It shows that I felt so terribly isolated and thought if we were all in the same boat, there would be more understanding. Slowly and thankfully, as I focused on the blessings, the beautiful things, my mourning turned to gladness realizing God did not make a mistake.
I’ve never been to Italy or Holland and probably never will. But this I know, God meant for me to be right here, right where I am, right now, all along. Even if it is a different place. Because when He sets the detour sign, embracing it makes the trip worthwhile.