I first heard this beautiful story when I was with my friends in Oklahoma while attending a Woman’s Conference. My oldest son was diagnosed with high functioning autism at 4 years old, but that was finally a huge relief. Our struggles with him started at birth and those first 4 years were filled with many emotions and hardships. I wish I had heard this story when Davis was a baby. I believe it really would have helped me explain how I was feeling to my family who didn’t believe there was anything different about Davis. Gratefully, Jason supported every decision I made and we did everything in our power to help Davis develop those skill sets that he doesn’t have naturally.
In those early years, there were many moments where I wished Davis look disabled. Then in the grocery store instead of looks and words of irritation, hopefully I would have received looks of sympathy. Since we didn’t know what was wrong with Davis, I assumed (along with the rest of the world might I add) that I was a bad parent.
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 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 guidebooks. 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.
I have turned my journey of a mother with special needs into http://www.executivehomemaker.com/. It’s basically a collection of everything that I made for Davis to help teach him and help with the consistency he so desperately needed to control his tantrums. At one point when Davis was about 4, I tracked his tantrums and documented that he was having a screaming, throwing himself on the floor, kicking his feet tantrum every 5 minutes! Yes, I said 5 minutes. No wonder I was a little crazy during that time period. Dylan was 2 years old and I don’t remember much of Dylan before he was 3. I was in survival mode.
I have had my many “mourning” moments over the years and I try to stop and feel those feelings completely instead of pushing them away quickly. For me it’s easier to acknowledge them and move on instead of trying to consistently deny them. I don’t expect them to go away entirely just like it says in the poem because I also “morn” over not having a daughter. I believe those are two of my many trials in life and I’ve made my peace with that. I don’t like it but I can live with it.
When Davis was 6 years old a very close friend of mine, who I admire for her heart and connection to others, gave me a framed copy of this poem. I can’t explain exactly how it affected me, but somehow it validated me in a way that my family was unable to. Here it is:
Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures, and a couple by habit.
This year, nearly 100,000 women will become mothers of a child with special needs. Did you ever wonder how mothers like this are chosen?
Somehow I visualize God hovering over earth selecting His instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As he observes, He instructs His angels to make notes in a giant ledger.
“Armstrong, Beth, son. Patron saint, Matthew.
Forrest, Marjorie, daughter. Patron saint, Cecelia.
Rudledge, Carrie, twins. Patron saint… give her Jude. He’s used to profanity.”
Finally, He passes a name to an angel and smiles, “Give her a child with special needs.”
The angel curious. “Why this one, God? She’s so happy.”
“Exactly”, smiles God. “Could I give a child with special needs a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel.”
“But has she patience?” asked the angel.
“I don’t want her to have too much patience or she will drown in a seal of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wears off, she’ll handle it.
“I watched her today. She has that feeling of self and independence that is so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I’m going to give her has his own world She has to make him live in her world and that is not going to be easy.”
“This one is perfect. She has just enough selfishness.”
The angels gasps, “Selfishness? Is that a virtue?”
God nods. “If she can’t separate herself from the child occasionally, she’ll never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn’t realize it yet, but she’s to be envied. She will never take for granted a ‘spoken word’. She will never consider a ‘step’ ordinary. When her child says “Mama’ for the first time she will be present at a miracle and know it! When she describes a tree or sunset to her child, she will see it as few people ever see my creations.
“I will permit her to see clearly the things I see… ignorance, cruelty, prejudice… and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side.
“And what about her patron saint?” asks the angel, her pen poised in mid-air.
God smiles. “A mirror will suffice.”
To print out a copy of this poem, click here. Bless those of you out there who know this pain and are stronger for it. I honor you.
28 thoughts on “I’ve been to Holland, it’s life changing”
I’m not a crier, I consider myself pretty darn tough, thank you. But I am wiping my tears away. I 100% can relate to you- you wrote down what I feel everyday. I especially love the second story. I’d love to chat with you more since we belong to the same club! I read your blog daily but feel even more connected to you knowing that we have a huge thing in common….thanks for the post.
What a beautiful post. Thank you for allowing us to see what your world is like. You are amazing and wonderful and your son is so lucky to have you! We as women of the world are lucky to have you here on this earth! I applaud you!
What a touching post. I am an occupational therapist by trade and a mother by choice. I think the perspective of the poem is wonderful! Keep smiling girl, your doing great!
Thank you for the comment on my blog- I have enjoyed reading your blogs. I can totally relate to the more boys I have in my home the girlier I seem to become (Ha)- I hadn’t thought about it until you said it..soooo true!!!
I’m totally crying – you jerkweed! Seriously, Laurie you are amazing. Even without having a child with special needs, you are a most amazing mom, and woman. Davis just puts you above and beyond the rest of us. Thank you for your example and friendship. You make me want to be a better mom.
hi, you have commented on my blog a few times. i love reading your blog and your story ts amazing. i can’t even imagine my 2 year old throwing a fit every 5 min. i think i would lose my mind. what a great mom!
Laurie you are the best. I am proud to call you friend! I love you! Keep up the great work you are doing with your beautiful family.
So beautifully expressed, Laurie! You are one of the chosen women! What a gift for your little boy to have YOU! Thank you for such a touching post! You have helped to put my “woa isme” mindset in a better place. Thanks.
Thank you for sharing your special story. My own son has some exceptional needs and we are working so hard to help him in all that we can. When I read that story, it really did put it all into perspective!
This is a beautiful blog. Thank you for sharing. Everyone has their challenges in different forms and it reminds us all to be greatful for what we have been given and we have a choice to embrace it or be miserable by it. Thanks so much!
thanks for inviting us in, to see a little corner of your life. this post is definitely inspiring. I am sure you have helped so many people with your words. my life is crazy every day. I can’t even imagine what your life must be like. how frustrated you must have been in those early years while searching for an answer! I am glad to hear that you’ve gotten the chance to visit italy… you are definitely an inspiration to us all!
Thank you for sharing your story.
You and your family are wonderful.
I am blessed to call you my friend.
oh yeah, and I’m still laughing at how Chanda called you a “jerkweed”
Laurie, thank you so much for sharing this with us! You are such an amazing person! Your son is so blessed to have a Mommy like you!
Hey girl. Well, you know that was my favorite talk at Time Out. I joked that I liked Holland so much, I bought another ticket.
THOUGH, I will say that Holland gets a little old some days (can you say THREE month summer!), good thing I get to go to San Francisco next week!! 😉
When I was engaged to my husband, I attended a Relief Society lesson where that poem was read by the teacher who had just had her child diagnosed with autism. I remember thinking at the time, “Married life is not always going to be sunshine and roses.” I currently live in a ward with three autistic children and I see the parent’s daily struggles. You are to be commended for your strength.
I’m glad to know a little more about you. I have been so blessed to know you. You truly are awesome! Thanks for sharing such a beautiful post.
Thanks for your comment on my blog – I’d never have gotten to read this post otherwise!
It brought me to tears! Life can be hard, but remembering that God has chosen us to parent our special children helps bring it into perspective.
Wow I loved that analogy. I worked for about 2 years with a boy who is autistic. I think his mother is a saint, for sure. Thanks for sharing your story.
I got chills more than a few times in reading this post! My mom’s best friend, who is like my 2nd mom, has a son with autism. I used to take care of him quite a bit growing up. (He’s still my “boyfriend”)I get a lot about what you’re saying though I know I’ll never fully understand what you’re going through. You are an incredible mom and I’ve been so impressed w/ the things I’ve seen on your blog. Thanks for letting us get to know you that much more!
I don’t know how you mommies with kid struggles and tons of hobbies do it! I can barely get my kids fed and dressed and my house decent. How lucky you and your son are to have each other!
As your sister I still haven’t gotten past the ‘but somehow it validated me in a way that my family was unable to’ part, but I guess the truth hurts 🙂 It must suck to be the oldest and have to learn everything on your own, but you have no idea how much I love and appreciate you taking me under your wing teaching me so I don’t have to do it alone. Your my rock and I’ve enjoyed my vacations with you whether it was to Holland or Italy. Although if truth be known I’d like to go to Hawaii next year 🙂
thank you SOOOO much for this post. My oldest has Aspergers syndrome… he was diagnosed during his kindergarten year, six months after I had twin boys! I thought I was the worst mother ever (and so did a lot of other people)…I had so many days of crying and praying and wondering WHEN I would ever see the light of day. It has been 3 years and we still have our rough patches, but life is so much better and I have met the MOST amazing women…mothers of these special kids. I loved the poem and am forwarding it on to them. Keep up the good work…thanks so much!
Thank you for this beautiful and heartfelt post! I can totally relate! You wrote—
“In those early years, there were many moments where I wished Davis look disabled. Then in the grocery store instead of looks and words of irritation, hopefully I would have received looks of sympathy. Since we didn’t know what was wrong with Davis, I assumed (along with the rest of the world might I add) that I was a bad parent.”
I have felt that way often. Thank you for sharing. Sometimes it is so helpful to know that someone truly understands. We too have had many ups and downs, the doctors, the gluten free diet on and on. I am thankful to all of those who help and are willing to at least try to understand what we go through. I wrote a little about my feelings on my blog
Laurie, I have been wrapped in a blanket, eating my breakfast, sipping my Diet Coke 🙂 & loving every entry of your blog! This post about Davis is so moving…my sister has a son with Fragile X and I could so relate to what you write about…it mirrors her experience & my heart goes out to you. My SIL is 4 months pregnant and just found out her baby is Downs…can you please let me borrow your poem & get a copy made? I would love to share this with her! She is so depressed right now and really needs these words to uplift her.
You can print out the ‘Holland Poem’ here: http://www.executivehomemaker.com/content.asp?pid=49&id=556
You can print out the ‘For Chosen Mothers’ here:
Thank you for this beautiful post.
Thanks and God Bless You!
One of my dearest friends is the mother of an autistic child. He is such a sweet boy and we get together often so he can play with my son. They get along great even though Jackson is two years younger, they are pretty much at the same level. I am going to steal this idea and frame this poem for her because she truly is everything that is described. She was the right person for God to give such an enormous responsibility to and at the same time such a wonderful gift. She is an amazing mother to that little boy and I just want to give her something to remind her how wonderful she is. Thanks for posting this, I hope it will give her some peace as it is has given you.
My wonderful sister sent me the link to this blog over a month ago, and I am just now read it for the first time.
I have been hanging out in Holland since 1998….My son has Asperger Syndrome. I TOTALLY, absolutely agree with you, and have said many of the same things myself. Especially the parts about Davis' diagnosis being a huge relief, and were you wish he looked disabled. I have said those exact same words.
I too believe Heavenly Father sent Evan directly to me for a specific reason – and he will not let me fail.
Honestly, tulips and wind mills – there is absolutely nothing wrong with them – they could be in Italy! :o)
Thank you for sharing. My heart is swollen tonight with love and thoughts of you and your precious gift from heaven.