In 1987 there was a beautiful essay written about parenting a child with an unexpected special need called ‘Welcome to Holland.’ The author weaves a lovely metaphor about buying a ticket for a trip with Italy and somehow accidentally ending up in Holland. The feeling of confusion over ending up someplace unexpected, the anger, and finally realizing that you need to open yourself up to the experience, because Holland, it’s beautiful too.
While lovely, this essay is for parents who didn’t necessarily choose the road less traveled. Instead, that road chose them. I am in Holland, but I’m here because I bought a ticket to be here. I chose the road less traveled. I chose it because it’s what I wanted. Except, when I got on the road, it turned out to be a highway, a super highway, in fact. Y’all, I think I chose the Autobahn to get to Holland. Because no matter whether or not you bought the ticket, you won’t really know what it feels like to travel at these speeds until you’re sitting in the driver’s seat, attempting to navigate the curves.
Around here, we travel at breakneck speeds, through winding curves, up mountains and down. But, this highway, it’s not one I ended up on by accident.
I chose this. So, therefore, I can’t ever complain, right?
So I’ve been told.
I’ve been told by so many people, some of them related to me. Whether I chose this super highway, or ended up there because I got lost, no matter how I ended up on it, it’s painful intermittently. It’s painful to hear that your daughter might not live to adulthood, even when she’s only been yours for a month. It’s painful to hear your son referred to with a slur reserved for people who perform in the circus. It’s painful to make the choice to disfigure your daughter in order to end her terrible pain. It’s painful to really begin to understand what people meant when they said you would spend your life attempting to unlock your daughter’s ability to communicate.
Sometimes, it hurts.
It doesn’t hurt less because I signed paperwork to gain my entryway to this highway. It doesn’t hurt any less than it hurts the woman who gained entry by giving birth. I’m so tired of being told that it should. I love these kids. I couldn’t love them any more than if they shared my DNA. I know that. I just need the rest of the world to know it. I plan to spend my entire life making sure that all these things that are so painful are as fixed as they can be before I launch them into the world. That’s my job.
I’m their mom.
I want the world to understand that, not just with a superficial smile and nod, but with real understanding. It is no different for me than it is for you. We’re both headed the same place, no matter how we’re getting there. Whether you’re in Holland, or in Italy. Whether you’re taking the Autobahn or the meandering backroads, ultimately, we’re both headed to the same place. We’re all attempting to launch our kids into this world the best way we know how.
–FullPlateMom, who knows you get it, way down deep, you get it. Right?