Today is Mother’s Day, my first one since we added the twins to our family. This morning in church, the message was from 1 Samuel 1 & 2, about Hannah, who was very bitter because “the Lord had shut up her womb” In her bitterness and grief she prayed that the Lord would give her a son, that if he would, she would give him back to the Lord all the days of his life. And the Lord did.
I remember feeling that bitterness and grief, I remember when I didn’t even want to go to baby showers anymore because it hurt too much, and I remember spending Mother’s Day at family gatherings and being the only woman there who’s day it wasn’t.
And this morning, and this evening a church, I looked around me at all the families with all their children, and smiled, because my family just about fills a pew. God had a different plan for my husband and me. He trusted me with very special children who needed me to be their mother, and I’m thankful for that. I cannot imagine my life without our three adopted children, and my step-son who has now lived with us for more than half of his life.
A while back, I came across the following essay written by the mother of a special needs child. I think it’s as appropriate to those of us who did not give birth to our special children as it is to those who do.
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 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.
While searching for the text to the above essay, I came across the following to go with it:
Celebrating Holland- I’m Home
By Cathy Anthony
(my follow-up to the original \Welcome to Holland\ by Emily Perl Kingsley)
I have been in Holland for over a decade now. It has become home. I have had time to catch my breath, to settle and adjust, to accept something different than I’d planned.I reflect back on those years of past when I had first landed in Holland. I remember clearly my shock, my fear, my anger, the pain and uncertainty. Inthose first few years, I tried to get back to Italy as planned, but Holland was where I was to stay. Today, I can say how far I have come on this unexpected journey. I have learned so much more. But, this too has been a journey of time.
I worked hard. I bought new guidebooks. I learned a new language and I slowly found my way around this new land. I have met others whose plans had changed like mine, and who could share my experience. We supported one another and some have become very special friends.
Some of these fellow travelers had been in Holland longer than I and were seasoned guides, assisting me along the way. Many have encouraged me. Many have taught me to open my eyes to the wonder and gifts to behold in this new land. I have discovered a community of caring. Holland wasn’t so bad.
I think that Holland is used to wayward travelers like me and grew to become a land of hospitality, reaching out to welcome, to assist and to support newcomers like me in this new land. Over the years, I’ve wondered what life would have been like if I’d landed in Italy as planned. Would life have been easier? Would it have been as rewarding? Would I have learned some of the important lessons I hold today?
Sure, this journey has been more challenging and at times I would (and still do) stomp my feet and cry out in frustration and protest. And, yes, Holland is slower paced than Italy and less flashy than Italy, but this too has been an unexpected gift. I have learned to slow down in ways too and look closer at things, with a new appreciation for the remarkable beauty of Holland with its tulips, windmills and Rembrandts.
I have come to love Holland and call it Home.
I have become a world traveler and discovered that it doesn’t matter where you land. What’s more important is what you make of your journey and how you see and enjoy the very special, the very lovely, things that Holland, or any land, has to offer.
Yes, over a decade ago I landed in a place I hadn’t planned. Yet I am thankful, for this destination has been richer than I could have imagined!
Cathy Anthony is a parent, advocate and presently the executive director of the Family Support Institute in Vancouver, BC (www.vcn.bc.ca/bcacl/fsi.htm
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who have given birth, adopted, or are in some way mothering young people!