Welcome to Holland: Life with Down Syndrome

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  • August 28, 2013

My first encounter with a Down Syndrome child happened while I was in Malacca, growing up as a teenager. I visited the Salvation Army frequently because of church. It was there that I met this boy… who seemed rather different. It’s sad to think that as a child, I was never educated about loving everyone equally, no matter how different they seem to me. Recently, I photographed a child with Down Syndrome, and honestly, I didn’t even realize it until her mom told me about the situation at the end of the session. She was still beautiful in my eyes. As a mom now, I felt an ache in my heart, and yet, I also wanted to pour out my love to this child… to tell her that she is very, very much loved.

This set of photos and story about Nella’s birth really touched my heart.

But the analogy below really stirred me. I never thought about it that way… it is so beautiful.

Holland

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.┬áIt’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.

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