Friday, March 9, 2012

Welcome to Holland

One of my preemie mentors stopped by the house today. It was so wonderful to bounce questions off of her AND meet her micro preemie who is now a beautiful 6 year old lady who is a reader in Kindergarten! This family had some of the same doctors Miss Elise currently has, so it truly felt like we were sharing in the same experience as we chatted today. My preemie mentor gave me excellent advice on every question I asked. Like I've said before, I completely trust my preemie mentors because after all..."they've been here and done this." 

After some chatting (really playing 20 questions...or more!), my preemie mentor handed me a poem. She said it was a beautiful description of life as a NICU mom and that I would cry reading it...she sure was right! I've typed the poem, "Welcome to Holland" by Emily Perl Kingsley so that all of you can revel in its beauty with me. 

Side note: when I read the word "disability" I take that to mean any child that has a special need at some point in his/her life. It does not have to mean a lifelong physical or mental disability. Prematurity isn't classified as a disability, but this poem rings completely true to our experience with Elise. 

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 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.

In August 2011, we did not sign up for Holland. With Elise being our first child, I think our entire family was planning this fabulous trip to Italy with us. I've never seen my brothers so excited for something to happen in our family and Elise's Ami and Grande were beyond thrilled! Needless to say, all other family members were just as excited as we were. We planned a big gender reveal party for Dec. 23rd when we found out "It's a Girl!" I couldn't stop shopping online and became so excited when friends were asking to throw me baby showers. Italy was looking so inviting and we "had our bags packed." 

We landed in Holland at my "routine OB appt" on February 2, 2012. Questions filled our minds. Worry filled our minds. Flat out fear filled my mind. 

Fast forward to today. We are now in Holland. Do we miss Italy? Absolutely! Just like the poem reads, not having a full term pregnancy and enjoying all my showers with a big belly bump and anticipating the May 20th arrival of Miss Elise is a loss of a very big dream. I've stated before that I feel I got cheated out of a full-term pregnancy. I loved being pregnant with Elise and look forward to the day when I can carry a second child for our family. Hopefully we will land in Italy that time. 

Until then, we are going to appreciate Holland for all of its beauty and accept the "small gifts" Holland has to offer (or shall we say preemie gifts?). We like to look at this time with Elise as time we would not have had with her if she was still in the womb. Of course, being in the womb would be the best scenario if it was healthy for both Elise and me, but we are not going to dwell on that because she is here now and my health has gone from 'scary' to 'normal.' She will technically be a "newborn" towards the end of May. Therefore, all this time before May is extra time to bond and love, love, love. 

Before my preemie mentor left today, her daughter had a present for me. It's a small vase that says, "A tulip is a treasure." Simply beautiful. I cannot wait to show this vase to Elise someday and let her know the story behind it: Elise's 6 year old preemie mentor gave it to her :) 

Come to think of it...tulips are popping up early everywhere you look...whether they are coming from the ground due to our extremely mild winter or coming from Heaven above to a family who is making peace with the captain of the plane and falling in love with Holland. 

our little tulip from Heaven!

Visiting with our tulip tomorrow,
G & J & E


  1. Jess, I have read this poem before, but this whole post just made me cry! Love you so much! Love Elise! xoxo

  2. So beautiful(just like your little lady) and so true. Thank you for sharing.