Welcome To Holland

When I was pregnant with Eli we found out that he has Down syndrome and a heart defect. I read Welcome to Holland (a short story/poem for anyone who has a child that ended up taking them on a journey that wasn't expected) and after he was born I started calling him my little tour guide. When I started thinking of fun t-shirt design for kids with special needs, the Holland Tour Guide was my very first design. 

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.


  • We were given this story to read while we were in the middle of our 6month NICU stay. At the time, we didn’t want to even know “Holland”. Yet now we too could feel as if we would like to be tour guides of such a place like Holland. There are rare and beautiful things the most will never see or experience for they have and never will go to Holland. That’s ok because tho it’s a different destination it’s an even more fulfilling place. I was referred to this site from a mom I know from high school – and couldn’t be more excited to rock and support the fellow mommas on a mission!!

    Ashley Elliott
  • You are an amazing woman and writer. You and Eli have touched my heart and soul. This was moving and such a beautiful expression of your journey together. Thank you for showing us and teaching us so much…

    Courtney Frei
  • Having been on this “guided tour” for nearly five years now, all I can say is…Holland Rocks!

  • We have a new grandbaby due in Dec. Going to be our tour guide with spina bifida. We have been to Holland before and thought I never wanted to go there again, God has said dust off your passports. So this new journey will look a little different with lots of new people, and as grandparents we will prob stay on the bus and watch from the windows a little more. Thank you for your boldness and creativity, you are an encouragement to so many travelers that land in Holland.

    Libby Comfort
  • Such a beautiful and touching analogy…

    Anna Noel

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