I recently discovered a poem; Welcome to Holland written by Emily Kingsley and I wanted to share it with you all. The poem talks about the feelings that parents of a child with disabilities may experience. If you haven’t read it before then please do have a read…
Welcome to Holland
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.
This poem is well known within the autism community and seems to be a bit like marmite in that you either love it or hate it. I personally think it’s beautiful and I’m so glad I found it, I can’t read it without tearing up!
The poem describes my feelings exactly, in fact it’s almost like it was written just for me. If you’ve read my post Grieving For a Child I Haven’t Lost , you’ll know I experienced very similar feelings following Max’s diagnosis.
There are times when I’ve felt guilty for feeling this way and so it’s reassuring to hear that other parents go through similar emotions and that I’m not alone.
There are many people who dislike the poem because they feel that it portrays disabilities negatively and while I can understand this, I don’t see it like that. To me Welcome to Holland is simply highlighting that having a child with disabilities is different.
It’s OK to admit that as parents this isn’t what we expected for our children.
Although it isn’t what I wished for my son if I had the option to give him a magic pill that would make his autism go away, would I do it? You know what? No, I don’t think I would. He wouldn’t be who he is without it and as difficult as it can be sometimes, we love him just the way he is. So, although this isn’t what we expected, now that it’s in our lives we deal with it and embrace it the best we can.
What do you think to this poem? Can you relate to it?
Thanks for reading.