My “GPS” never brought me to “Holland”

Ok, I am a self professed cynic. It is true. Sometimes it is my downfall. But after receiving the poem “Welcome to Holland” (a poem that has a strong following within the Down Syndrome family and Special Needs Community)   for the tenth + time yesterday (via email, mail, blog) I am over it, actually I never really fell in love with it.  I never wanted to say it to all the wonderful people that sent it along to me to support us because I am grateful they did, or cared, or thought of us. I am genuinely thankful for their encouragement in the form of the popular Poem.  It is nice but every-time I read it on paper, or it wiggles its way into my inbox, I feel a rush of negative emotions. Regardless of the intended inspiration the author aimed for, it falls short of touching in my book. I may run the risk of offending someone, and for that I can not help.

I understand how the poem may bring understanding to a life changed and/or a life re-directed.  But don’t all of our children do that anyways, they bring us to new places and new people, and along the way our children may drift /fall down/over or under acheive/ excel/ be diagnosed/ disappoint … therefore bringing us onto a whole different journey? I call it God’s Plan (Jeremiah 29:11) wether your child is typical or special needs.  Where one may say that denial plays into my cynicism, I call it my Faith. Love it or leave it.

Here is the poem and below is my opinion.

“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 guidebooks 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 some horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place. So you must go out and buy a new guidebook. 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, 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.” The pain of that will never, ever, go away, because the loss of that dream is a 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.

My “GPS” (God’s Planned System) doesn’t subscribe to the following ideas mentioned in the poem :

1.  “There I must Stay” our diagnosis doesn’t keep us in a locked box, in fact my son is free to travel to Italy whenever he wants along with where ever else his life leads him. We shouldn’t put limits on a child’s life before they have the ability to at-least try “traveling”. No his medical diagnosis is never going to be “cured” , “fixed” or “changed”  but we can’t begin to think that it leads us to an inescapable place we never wanted to be.

2. For the rest of my life I will not tell people that “Italy” is where I was supposed to go. That would indicate that I thought in the first place that “I” was in control. Where in reality, we never know where we will end up, I gave that up to the Lord a long time ago. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t shocked when I found out, after all that is the human response to suprise, but I refuse to think for the rest of my life I will be explaining to people with typical children that I was supposed to be like them.  I am just like them, I am no saint or bearer of the second coming, I am a mom with a different set of challenges from your different set of challenges. How is that fair to Grady to explain what our life whas supposed to look like?

3.“The pain of that will never, ever, go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.” Really? Really ? parents of children with special needs will always be in pain? Really? I don’t think so. Yes my Grady is but 2 months old and yes I may experience moments of motherly pain with delayed progression, or when the evils of worldliness try to afflict hurt upon our lives, but in no way does this sentence reflect the promise of GOD. He gave his Son, Jesus to die on the cross to deliver us from our sin, to deliver us from “Pain”.  He who believes in the truth have hope and if you have hope then it is impossible to go through the rest of your days living in pain.

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”John 16:33

So the only guidebook for anyone (parents of typical children, no children, special needs children) looking to buy is the BIBLE if you want to “plan” your vacation called “life”. You will soon learn that God has a plan for you, all the days of your life where planned before you were born (Psalm 139), upon this acceptance  you will realize that it is painless to give up control to the Big Guy above and accept a life of Hope.

So as a mother to child diagnosed with Down Syndrome  and a Believer I have something that I hope others have or will find: the KEY. The KEY to unlock the Holland Box that this poem/society puts me and Grady in. The Key is Jesus, not this Poem.  Allow me to brag then, like all the “other” mom’s do as quoted in the poem. I am going to brag about how I woke up today with no forever and immanent PAIN.

I don’t see windmills and tulips all around me nor do I see fairies and glitter falling from the sky when I think of Down Syndrome.  T21 is just a piece of him, and it does not define him. Today I saw, two ears, two eyes, a nose, a few poopy diapers that are the same color in Italy and Holland, oh some spit up and I even heard a few “coos”….I’m sorry  Mrs. Kingsley I was unable to tell if his “cooing” dialect haled from Holland or Italy.

anyone up for a trip to Bermuda..? after this post I need a vacation!


20 thoughts on “My “GPS” never brought me to “Holland”

  1. Leah says:

    I have to laugh at people’s response to this poem. She didn’t intend for the next 20 years for this to get distributed to every new parent. LOL She wrote this for herself, about HER journey, nearly 23 years ago! Someone thought it was cool, and it was published, and on it went. Sadly, people think that because she wrote something about HER journey, that every parent must be going through the same thing.

  2. skiingthroughlife says:

    I should mention this then…

    This would be my comparison to HER journey, and to many others who related to HER Journey. This is my view of Down Syndrome in correlation to ideas presented in her Poem ans story. My viewpoint and opinion and reaction to a Poem so widely Loved, so popular, accepted, subscribed and distributed. When something is published by accident or by purpose and finds its way into my hands I can’t help but provide my reaction to it. This poem from my research has become a sort of “hymnal” for the special needs community whether she intended it to be or not.

  3. skiingthroughlife says:

    I also appreciate and respect her contribution as it has paved the way for many new families, and provided comfort… but for all those who praise this poem publicly and those praises go undoubted and undebated, this is the opposite of that and so I should expect to have similar responses.

  4. Leah says:

    Certainly nobody is discounting your reactions. I’m just saying, people seem to forget that she wrote it about HER story. There’s no reason to get defensive, and you’re certainly NOT the first person to feel this way about what she wrote. The discussion comes up quite frequently on DS forums all over the net. It’s also different for a parent who gets a prenatal diagnosis and has time to digest the information than it is for a parent who didn’t find out until after their child was laid in their arms. Like me. It was very much a shock to find out the baby I was holding was NOT what we dreamed she would be. ALL of us go through that, no matter when we’re given the diagnosis. When you don’t find out until afterword, it’s VERY different. You don’t have time to just love your baby first, because you’re busy grieving, and learning about DS (since most parents don’t know much about DS before they have a baby of their own) I can’t identify with a a prenatal diagnosis, because I didn’t have one. I wonder what it would have been like to get that information ahead of time, to get to a point of acceptance (or almost acceptance?) BEFORE I got to hold my child. Instead it was like being in the middle of the best dream ever, only to have someone throw a glass of cold water in my face. For me, that was very much like landing somewhere I had no intention of going. Is that wrong? No. Are your feelings wrong? No. They’re different because all of us have a different story to tell.

  5. skiingthroughlife says:

    I’m not getting defensive, I was just telling MY story like Mrs. Kingsley told her …but I am comparing mine to hers, since her story is so widely accepted and known! I am sorry you misinterpreted my response to your post! When I post I am not looking to be RIGHT, I am looking to share . lol.

  6. Leah says:

    Oops, I forgot something. (I know, I’m long winded) EPK also wrote that for a different generation. She was still fighting for those who were being told to never take their babies home, to put them into an institution and forget they’d ever been born. She was writing to parents who wondered if they were doing the right thing by bringing that baby home. We were lucky, our doctor was long past that, only 13 years ago! My best friend’s doctor spent the first 4 weeks of that babies life trying to convince her to place the baby for adoption. (because surely someone ELSe would be better equipped to raise the baby? crazy thinking.)

    As I type, I’m sitting in a hotel room in Bulgaria (I live in MN) and will be meeting with a SMALL group of parents who have made a leap of faith, and in the past few months have chosen to keep their babies instead of placing them into orphanages the day they’re born. And yes, I’ve been touring the orphanages too, and it is nothing less than a horror story. The U.S. was in that very place 30 years ago. THAT is who EPK was writing for.

  7. skiingthroughlife says:

    again in my opinion Society needs God just as much now as they did when she wrote it 30 years ago. I know a few people who know her personally and I know the history behind the poem, I am using it as a literary catalyst to express my viewpoint on Down Syndrome since it helps develop my personal viewpoint of the topic… 30 years ago or today or tomorrow…. Time won’t change my story.
    Sounds like a great trip! SafeTravels!

  8. skiingthroughlife says:

    Leah- I am in such a good place right now in my life and happy that if my journey gets better than this, than I will be one happy mamma… I have looked her up and read her follow up poem to “Holland” I would have no problem presenting my opinion or analysis of that as well, but I just dont have the time today! Maybe for another day. EPK is a great mom and woman just like every mom, I appreciate her Poem as it lead me to a place of great thought, and thank heavens for free speech and my ability to critique it! yay!

  9. Courtney B says:

    Erin, I loved the way you expressed your opinion on a very popular poem. I have read it numerous times and have my own opinions as a non-mother. Thank you for sharing your view! As always, another beautiful picture of your littlest man!

  10. Emy says:

    Erin, as I said earlier…how lucky we are to live in God’s plans. How very many places He has taken us that we never would have planned for ourselves, and look at the joys we’ve been privileged to have received. I’m so glad you had the courage and grace to state your opinion; you did so beautifully. I never was disappointed, as I told you, and when I did mention this to some moms I was told–oh wait for the first day of kindergarten when all the other kids get on the school bus and Patti gets picked up separately. Well, Patti got on the same school bus…we fought to have her included throughout her years of schooling. Then I was told–you’ll feel the disappointment when her school dances come and she doesn’t get invited. Sorry, Patti went to every school dance because a boy invited her…and she went to four proms, each with a different boy who asked her.

  11. Emy says:

    And the next thing I would feel disappointment about was that she would spend her days in a sheltered workshop because that’s all she’s prepared for…Sorry to disappoint the nay-sayers, but Patti attends a program that gets her out into the community where she interacts with all kinds of people with and without disabilities and she loves it. She’s worked at a pizza shop, worked in a school cafeteria where the workers wanted her to stay permanently, she loves cooking at the soup kitchen where she gets to help others, and on and on… Sorry to disappoint, but God knows the plans he has for Patti and Grady and you and me…and none of us could ever compete with the ones he’s given us so far. I understand the shock that Leah says she felt when her daughter was placed in her arms, but I assume that once she began to see her daughter as a beautiful baby, and not a dismal diagnosis, she saw, loved, accepted and found all the joy that a daughter brings. I credit you for telling your story, for sharing your joy, and for being open with your opinion. As Patti has been a joy for us, Grady will be for you and your family…and with the strides that have been made in the 30 years (and they have been made by parents like you and me, and Emily Kingsley, who will fight for equality for our kids). And, thank God, we now don’t have to hide behind stereotypes, and we can express our own opinions.

    Keep up the good work, Erin. You are doing a great job.


  12. Brandi McKenzie says:

    I think the poem is helpful especially during those 1st few days of diagnosis. Although God’s plan for us all, it is still hard in the beginning…at least it was for me. I know that is wrong and I should accept whatever God gives with open hands, but I mourned those first few weeks. I am ok with that. And that poem helped me then. Now…10 months later, it doesn’t really speak to me anymore. I am past it and over it. However, I think it is helpful when people are open and honest about how they are feeling, even if it’s “wrong”. I appreciate your opinions and thoughts too. Thanks for sharing.

  13. skiingthroughlife says:

    Brandi- you are right, when I first heard it days after my pre-natal diagnosis, when i was in mourning and shock, I read the poem and well didn’t think to hard about it but I could understand it pretty well. But it just didn’t fit as soon as the grieving subsided and I accepted God’s Plan…. 🙂

  14. Sheena says:

    PRAISE THE LORD!!!!!!!!!!
    Erin, Its so funny that I read this today! I was actually reading this poem yesterday and I started to think about it and how it was very unsettling to me. Your right, it was meant to be a sweet endearment but it doesn’t give Glory to God In ALL things. I sat and every point you made I kept saying “Right On”.. Its funny because I realized that I was chanting along with you!
    Thank you for being bold and sharing this with us! You are such an encouragement!!!

  15. Melissa says:

    I agree with Brandi. I think this spoke to me more when we had just found out that Claire would very likely have DS. At that point I was shocked not only by DS but with the very scary OHS surgery too. That was definitley not something I was planning on!

    Now I’m in a great place. God has a plan for all of us, and letting go of my worries, fears and control has put me in a much better place than Holland.

  16. Christie Taylor says:

    I like this……really I do! I live smack dab in the middle of Indiana…and pretty much always have! Indiana looks just the same as it did before my son was born, only now, I see more of it.

  17. Libby says:

    Amen! I’ll just go ahead and join you in the cynical corner. Good, bad or otherwise I think this poem has been played out. Yes it makes some great points or analogies, but I think it’s asking too much of one poem to speak for everyone who happens to have a child with special needs. In almost three years I have been Charlie’s mom I have received it via e-mail, mail, or told by someone who knew of this “great poem.” The truth is, all of those people were just trying to reach out in love. When they didn’t know what to say the poem tried to bridge that gap – for that I do appreciate it.

    But, I think you hit the nail on the head with your bold reminder that it is Jesus that holds the key to all of the love, hope, joy, encouragement, well pretty much everything and that the one true guidebook is in fact the Bible. (gasp!)

    Thank you for sharing your bold and courageous love for Him.

    {can you tell that my boys are taking super-long naps today? I’m doing some major blog reading and catching up!}

  18. P says:

    I found out at birth with minimal heads up and I also DO NOT LIKE THIS POEM’S NEVER EVER GET TO THERE ending. It is very very discouraging and stuck out more than anything else it has to say.

    Depends on your temperment I think!

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