Monday, December 21, 2009


Someone asked me to try and explain how it feels to us to have a child who has had a stroke, who's entire life course has changed in the blink of an eye. I thought and thought and thought...trying to figure out how to express it in words. If I could sit in front of you and you could see the gamut of emotions, you would definitely understand. Then I remembered the poem, Welcome to Holland. I will copy it here...and then explain my feelings.

"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."

Holland became our home three years ago when Gracie was born. We had never been here before...for crying out loud, we didn't even know what language was spoken here! We learned though. Months and months were spent learning what might as well have been Dutch, with such terms as bilateral grade 4 brain bleeds, intraventricular hemorrhaging, hydrocephalus. We learned about bradycardia's and apnea, tachycardia and Lasix. Later we learned about PICC lines, infiltrates and E.coli. We graduated though, and started to find out all that Holland had to offer us. First smiles that were so sweet that we both cried. Hugs and kisses for mommy and polar bear kisses for daddy. Physical therapy that included huge bouncy balls and giggles galore. And they were right...Holland has beautiful flowers, and farms, and country sides. Holland has apple picking and Christmas tree's just a tad different. Three years ago, we moved to Holland, and gradually we fell in love with it. Holland became our home.

Six weeks ago, we were forced to move. No notice was given to us. We weren't even told where we were moving to! We fell asleep in our beds in Holland, and we woke up in Germany. We were ANGRY and CONFUSED!! We wanted to go back to Holland. We didn't know where anything was, the traditions here are completely different. The worst part? All that time we spent learning Dutch was a we needed to learn German!! It just seemed unfair. So, for a few days, we moped. We cried and complained. Then, we decided to just get up and look around. We had thought Holland was horrible at first too...but it turned out to be wonderful. And guess what? Germany has castles and beautiful landscapes. Germany has incredible bridges and a rich heritage. Germany is NOT Holland...but it's not bad. SO we've decided to step up and learn a little German. To take in the view and just enjoy what we've been given. We're hopeful that Germany is just a pit stop...a vacation. We DESIRE to return to Holland...but if Germany is our new home...we will be fine. We will be more than fine...we will be blessed. God brought us here to Germany...and He will see us through.

And as a side note...I'd just like to praise Jesus for what He did for me! Eight years ago today, sitting at a cantata at The Clemens Center, He spoke to me, and I accepted His precious gift of salvation. I am so thankful to have Jesus as my very best friend.


Heidi said...

Michelle...beautiful choice using "Welcome to Holland". I've read it once before and I love your description of your new journey in Germany. God has certainly blessed you! I am praying for you all to have a most amazing Christmas this year. You and Gracie have touched so many hearts in a short amount of time. You have personally experienced a true miracle in your life...what better witness to the true meaning of CHRISTmas is there than that?

Anonymous said...

Michelle, that was beautiful! What a great way to help others understand what it's like. We love you all and are still praying hard. Give Gracie and Josiah hugs and kisses for me!

Kayte said...

I've read that Holland poem before and just love it. It's a perfect way of saying what can be hard to find the right wrods to express.

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