I was going through some files on the computer – killing time while Mike does our taxes – and came across two things I wanted to share. The first was written about a parent who finds out their child has Williams Syndrome (or any “syndrome” really) and was shared with us when we first received Mikayla’s diagnosis by another parent of a WS child. The second is sort of a sequel, even though it was written by a different author.
WELCOME TO HOLLAND
By Emily Perl Kingsley
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.” 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.
By Cathy Anthony
I have been in Holland for over a decade now. It has become home. I have had time to catch my breath, to settle and adjust, to accept something different than I’d planned.
I reflect back on those years of past when I had first landed in Holland. I remember clearly my shock, my fear, my anger – the pain and uncertainty. In those first few years, I tried to get back to Italy as planned, but Holland was where I was to stay. Today, I can say how far I have come on this unexpected journey. I have learned so much more. But, this too has been a journey of time. I worked hard. I bought new guidebooks. I learned a new language and I slowly found my way around this new land. I have met others whose plans had changed like mine, and who could share my experience. We supported one another and some have become very special friends.
Some of these fellow travelers had been in Holland longer than I and were seasoned guides, assisting me along the way. Many have encouraged me. Many have taught me to open my eyes to the wonder and gifts to behold in this new land. I have discovered a community of caring. Holland wasn’t so bad. I think that Holland is used to wayward travelers like me and grew to become a land of hospitality, reaching out to welcome, to assist and to support newcomers like me in this new land. Over the years, I’ve wondered what life would have been like if I’d landed in Italy as planned.
Would life have been easier? Would it have been as rewarding? Would I have learned some of the important lessons I hold today?
Sure, this journey has been more challenging and at times I would (and still do) stomp my feet and cry out in frustration and protest. And, yes, Holland is slower paced than Italy and less flashy than Italy, but this too has been an unexpected gift. I have learned to slow down in ways too and look closer at things, with a new appreciation for the remarkable beauty of Holland with its tulips, windmills and Rembrandts.
I have come to love Holland and call it Home. I have become a world traveler and discovered that it doesn’t matter where you land. What’s more important is what you make of your journey and how you see and enjoy the very special, the very lovely things that Holland (or any land) has to offer.
Yes, over a decade ago I landed in a place I hadn’t planned. Yet I am thankful, for this destination has been richer than I could have imagined!
While I haven’t been “in Holland” for a decade, I can identify with Cathy Anthony. Parenting a special needs child is tough, it is slow, it can be lonely. But, we have met some amazing people along the way who have been a tremendous help to these sometimes ignorant parents. We’ve learned a lot (about Williams Syndrome, yes, but also about parenting in general and about ourselves and about our friends and about feeding difficulties) and hopefully we’ve reached a place where we can now look back and help others.
Mikayla’s first 8 months were excruciating and the 6 months after that definitely weren’t easy. We’ve been blessed over the past 10 months or so to see much improvement and growth. Life feels more “normal” than those first months, easier, almost like gliding. (I hear extreme sleep deprivation can also make you feel like you’re gliding, so maybe it’s just that.) Our hope and prayer is that she continues growing and improving and we can continue “gliding”. I’m sure school will bring about a whole new set of challenges but for now I’m thankful for the peace and normal-ness we have in our lives. I’m thankful for the things we’ve learned and the people we’ve met. I’m thankful for a child who even at 2 years old is teaching me about loving people in a pure and unconditional way without judgement or prejudice. (If you don’t know what I mean by that, come with us to any public place and watch how Mikayla interacts with people.) I’m thankful that we landed in Holland and thankful for the journey we have here.