In this post, I will be referencing “Welcome to Holland,” written by Emily Perl Kingsley in 1987. It’s a must-read for every new special needs mom or, honestly, new mom. Click below for a link to this poem:
The first time I read this, I vividly remember thinking these are the exact feelings I have been trying to communicate and have failed to do so. This author took the words right from my daily thoughts.
It’s true— at the beginning of my pregnancy, I read all the books, took the CPR classes, took the breastfeeding class … if there was a class out there, I took it. Well, my world came crashing down the moment the doctor told me there is a 50/50 chance I will have a baby born with a form of dwarfism – and let’s hope it’s not the lethal type. Oh, and now you’re high risk, and that birthing plan you had down to a science will all change.
Skip the dramatic birth part and come to the part where it all hit me like a ton of bricks. This isn’t what I dreamt of all my life. This isn’t what my friends posted on social media after giving birth. Wait, where in the books did I read the part that your child might die in his sleep and he will have tons of medical needs throughout his life?!? I think I skipped that chapter.
The questions that came to my mind immediately … “Wait, does this mean I don’t get to go to the mommy/me classes?” … “Does he not get to go to that cute neighborhood school?” … “Will he fit in those adorable outfits that already filled his closet?” … “Can I still use that designer stroller I so desperately wanted?”
Author Emily Perl Kingsley describes this as, “Holland?!? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life, I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”
So as the poem states, I went out and bought the new books, threw out those cute milestone stickers, adjusted the car seat and stroller so it could give him spine stability, researched and researched and researched how I was supposed to carefully care for this new child of mine, found all the specialists we needed to see immediately, enrolled in First Steps (Missouri’s Early Intervention Program), and found a new group of moms who have a very similar path as myself. And … started enjoying this new place called Holland. It took me a while to appreciate and get comfortable in this lovely new place. I have to remind myself daily to stop and smell the tulips. They are not what I imagined, but they are very special and lovely things, too.
If I had 2 minutes to talk to a new special needs mom, especially one diagnosed with dwarfism, I would say:
- Find a great therapist. Not joking. You will need it. It’s a safe place to help you vent and provide the best tools to help you cope with your journey ahead.
- You will experience the greatest love on this earth and, at the same time, wonder how it can be so hard all the time.
- You will see the unbelievable beauty that this world holds. Almost like you’ve been granted membership to this special club. You will celebrate milestones long after you should, but you will appreciate them even more.
- You will witness cruelty from adults and children. Your momma bear will come out, as it should. Take this as an opportunity to advocate for your child. Educate adults and children on differences.
- You will have days where you feel like you conquered the world and many more that you swear you can’t do it anymore. Then you’ll witness the most unbelievable moments that make everything worthwhile. Your child will surprise you.
- You will admire, respect, and appreciate everyone in the medical and education field. I always say in my next life, I want to come back as a Pediatric Nurse. The new moms you meet will be your lifeline at your most difficult times. This is your new tribe.
- Your life will be slower, which isn’t the worst thing. You live the pace of Holland. The hustle and bustle of Italy don’t leave much time for enjoying things like windmills and Rembrandts. You will get to spend more time with your child. The bond you two will share is unbreakable.
- Once you’ve experienced “Holland” for a while, you will stop worrying so much about how life is different or hard, and appreciate your child for the unique things he/she brings to your family and everyone they encounter.
Special needs’ parenting changes everything. Once you learn the secret that you will need to learn on your own, you wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s a whole new country and journey than you expected, but it makes you the person you were meant to be.