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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, 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 of 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 and the stewardess comes in to say, "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 not Italy. It’s just a different place. After you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you can look around and begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, Holland even has Rembrandts.

Everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they’re 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." The pain of that will never go away because the loss of the dream is a very significant loss.

But if you spend you 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!

- Emily Perl Kingsley

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