To start, I’d like to let you all in on a nice little poem, it’s called “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Perl Kingsley. Basically she wrote it in the ‘80s on her experience with having a child with special needs.
When I first read this little poem, I couldn’t get through it. I sat there on the words you’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. There I was. Smack dab in Holland. And I couldn’t leave. It wasn’t anywhere I had pictured myself. I didn’t want to be there. I couldn’t read the rest. I put that poem away and forgot about it.
I tried to read it again when we were discharged from the NICU and I had gone through all the papers we had received and was reading over some of the information. Again, I didn’t want to be in Holland. I put the poem back again.
Finally, a few weeks later, I got the courage to open up that folder that said LDSA on it. I took out the poem and started to read. I got to the part about the windmills, and the tulips… and a crazy thing happened. I was there. I wasn’t in some disease-ridden no-man’s land. I was in Holland. It wasn’t where I wanted to be originally. But I looked at Thatcher. And he wasn’t what I had anticipated. And he was beautiful.
So, new parents. Maybe it takes you a while to read the whole poem. But you’ll get there. And when you get there, you will probably cry when you read it. That’s okay. I still do. Except that at first, I cried because I didn’t want to be here. And now, I cry because it’s so amazing.
The point of the poem, and the point of what I’m saying, is that it’s okay to be disappointed. It’s okay to cry. This isn’t what you expected. You expected the prom queen, the valedictorian, the PhD. You expected the kid that would reach every milestone early and be walking by six months. You expected a healthy baby. And, more than likely, you didn’t get any of those things. Instead, maybe you got a trip to the NICU. You might have gotten a surgery or two. You might have a congenital heart defect on your plate, or hearing problems, or a g-tube. And it’s really easy to look at your newborn baby and see them as a disconnected medical diagnosis in that incubator. You might hold their hand and feel love, but feel disconnected. And that’s okay. You will get through this. You will get to know them. You will see them look at you with love in their eyes, and you will be seeing those tulips in Holland. When they have their first smile, you’ll see the windmills gently turning in the breeze. They will fall asleep on your chest with their little arms wrapped around you, and you will know that Holland is exactly where you want to be, no matter how you got here.
But the trip there is hard. And there are bumps along the way. And that’s okay. Just keep looking ahead for the tulips. Don’t close your eyes and pretend they aren’t there. Do what you have to do. Cry. Call your best friend. Cry some more. Research Down syndrome. Hold your baby, even if there are tubes and wires hooked up to them. Grief is a process; there are hills and valleys to it. One day you will think you are okay, and the next you will hear about somebody else’s child who is crawling and your son or daughter is barely rolling over. It’s fine to grieve about it, as long as you keep looking ahead. Your child will get there, it’s just more of a scenic journey. They might have to work a little harder, but it will be so much sweeter in the end.
So…. Welkom in Nederland, mijn vriend.
Trianna Landon, mom to Thatcher