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 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." The pain of that will never, ever, ever, 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.
I don't remember where I was when I first read 'Welcome to Holland", but sometime between Eliza's diagnosis and her birth, this beautiful essay was passed along to me. It's truly a rite of passage among special needs parents.
Processing the idea of becoming a special needs parent or family is a hard blow. There are many things to grieve and let go of. There are a lot of harsh new realities to face. There is a new depth of anger, denial, and sadness to reach.
It is always turbulent.
But this is also a story of redefined beauty.
It begins in the moment where you find the strength in this new place - this new home that you'll inhabit forever. You find its purest and most miraculous qualities. You find its encouragement and inspiration. And the deepest and most meaningful of ways, you find that you yourself, have been changed forever because of this journey.
Holland? I'm a big fan.