Learning to Love “Holland”

I cannot take credit for these words, a person much wiser than me wrote these words many years ago but they are so so true and so powerful.

“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.


Truer words have never been written and the words of this essay hit so deep into my heart. I have spent so many days and nights over the past 13 months mourning the loss of “Italy” and the loss of what I thought life was “supposed” to look like. “Holland” is beautiful and wonderful and filled with amazing people, but it is not where we envisioned our lives ending up. We, like most of you, spent our whole lives dreaming of “Italy” and the amazing things and experiences we would have there. But with that being said, we are learning every single day to love Holland, it helps that we have an amazing “Holland Tribe” that we would have never ever met otherwise. These are the people who have walked the same path, breathed the same air and fought the same fight, as we do every day. Our beautiful warrior babies are our tour guides and show us each and every day that there is beauty to be found in Holland, just as there is in Italy. It’s just a different kind of beauty. So if you find yourself in Holland with us, please know that you are NEVER alone, our tribe is your tribe from now until forever. 💜


9 thoughts on “Learning to Love “Holland”

  1. Beautiful words, Sara. We couldn’t be more proud of the person you are becoming because of your “change in travel plans!” We love you, Brandon and Everett. God has something very special in your future because you found yourselves in “Holland” and not in “Italy”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is one of my all-time favorite pieces! I read this to my General Education 8th grade Mentors every year. It’s so poignant that I can’t get through it without crying. Love you guys!

    Liked by 1 person

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