Welcome to Holland

// September 5th, 2005 // Kids, Life

I’ve got a nasty cold today – bleargh! And Jan has too so I’m not getting much sympathy.

Thus this is a lazy post where I post something written by someone else. Anyone who has ever had a child with Down Syndrome will be familiar with this piece by Emily Perl Kingsley (a writer for Sesame Street who has a son with DS), it’s one of the first things given to you by the social workers. It actually is very helpful in conceptualising what’s happened, and a pretty good analogy. So enjoy!

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.

12 Responses to “Welcome to Holland”

  1. Martha says:

    That is a fantastic piece of writing. To be honest I don’t think many parents to be make it to the Italy they imagine… I think maybe we get to one of the slightly industrial parts of Italy rather than Florence or Milan!

  2. emily says:

    ha ha i’m posting as emily but i’m not emily!

  3. rosie says:

    I am sick too, sick sucks. Sick is like planning a trip to italy (or holland, or anywhere) and getting on the plane but the wind in wellington is so bad that they delay take off and you sit on the plane for 9 hours waiting and then they realise you will never be able to take off in this weather so you have to get off the plane and go home. But when you get home all the food in your fridge is mouldy and you have no money coz you spent it all on an airfare to italy/holland

    this metaphor has nothing to do with having babies or infertility by the way, just trying to join in with you smug parents.

  4. samuel says:

    Being a young new zealand male is like buying a ticket to holland coz you want to go there and smoke all of the pot in the whole world in seven hours…but then you realise you have a meeting at the dole office and if you miss it well on the way to holland they will kick you off the plane in singapore where you try to buy a gram of coke for $200,000.00 and then get arrested for being a stupid smelly hippy.

    and that was me posting as emily…gosh it felt naughty.

    Thanks for the loan of the john safran ems…scary

  5. Jessie says:

    That’s a great analogy. Thanks..

  6. rosie says:

    ooh did you like john safran? was it john safran vs god? I loved that show, it was very scary when he was exorsized and the whole show was over! I have seen him a couple of times out and about in melbourne and in my drunken state have nearly asked him

    ” like what was the deal with that, that was weird”

    but then I realised that would make me a dick.

  7. samuel says:

    yes the exorcism is truly shocking. I have googled him to find out more and there is an interview on his website with ABC which has some interesting points. I can;t bring them up here as emily hasn’t watched it yet.

  8. rosie says:

    hey sam when are you coming to australia?

  9. samuel says:

    maybe november…its all up in the air as we wait for the record company over there to get in to it….could be a while!

  10. Naomi says:

    If you like Welcome to Holland then you’ll probably like this as well http://callumandkieran.blogspot.com/2005/08/notes-from-deep-end.html

  11. emily says:

    I didn’t know you had a blog, Naomi, I’ll be checking it out. And thanks for the Deep End story, it’s great!

  12. Naomi says:

    I didn’t know you had one either until I came across a link from somewhere else!

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