Friday, October 18, 2013

Welcome to Holland {a beautiful story}

I don't want to go through Down Syndrome Awareness Month without sharing a story that has beautifully touched us on our journey since Sam was born. The story was read to me after we met our little man, and I've never forgotten it. We've been given the opportunity a number of times in the last 16 months to visit families in the hospital who have just had a child born with Down syndrome, and Pete always reads this story with them. It really is beautiful.

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.


About a year and a half before Sam was born, I was scrolling through Facebook and came across an adorable photo of a little girl in a tutu and clicked to read the caption. In that moment, I was directed to a beautiful blog. Enjoying the Small Things is written by Kelle Hampton, a mama in Southern Florida who, at the time I began reading, had two daughters. One was about four and the other was two. I was captivated by her photos and everything she was able to capture in them. Beautiful colors, artistic settings, unique angles. An abundance of life was depicted in those photos. One more thing drew me in, though; her younger daughter, Nella, had Down syndrome. 

 Fast forward to the night I met my baby boy. I had been following Kelle's blog for more than a year because of the beauty in her photos and the depth and humor of her words. Clearly, God had directed me to her blog as a way to prepare my heart for what He had in store for me. As I held Samuel in his first few days, I was able to dream of all the incredible things we would do together. I'll admit that before seeing Kelle's blog, it was hard for me to imagine life with a child with special needs. I know that reading her blog opened me to the realization that life can be full and vibrant and adventurous, which is what I needed for the moment the path of our lives changed just a bit. I am so thankful that I stumbled upon her blog. In time, I hope to be an encouragement like she was for parents of children with special needs.

Kelle also released a book just before Sam was born called Bloom. I had considered buying it before his birth, but didn't get a chance, so I ran right out for it while he was staying in the NICU. I read most of it while nursing or rocking my baby, sometimes in the middle of the night. I cried and I laughed, and sometimes I had to put it down because my heart just wasn't ready to read more. But in the end, it was very good for my start in the community of Down syndrome. It was like having another mama nearby, gently telling me her story. 

Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way for the content in the post. All opinions are my own.


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