I’m going to be honest right from the get go today. This Way to Holland was a hard post to write because it’s about Hudson’s birth story. And every time I go there, even five years down the road, I find my heart still raw. A lump in my throat. Misty eyes. That’s me right now. But I’m compelled to share, because maybe someone out there needs this today.
Have you ever started a trip intending to arrive at one destination but ended up at an entirely different one? (Just fly the friendly skies. Sigh.) I remember a family road trip many years ago when we somehow got onto the wrong highway exit going the opposite direction.
It would’ve been fine had anyone been paying attention. We could’ve just taken the next exit, turned around. Unfortunately we were too busy gabbing and carrying on. Playing I Spy with my little eye. Munching twinkies. Then about three hours into the trip someone bothered to look at a road sign.
That’s when we discovered we were in Tennessee instead of Virginia. Yup, it really happened. Memories…
Many of you know about Hudson, my littlest of four boys, born with an unexpected diagnosis of Down syndrome in 2010. Some day I’ll write about the day Hudson was born. I’m not ready yet. Today I want to talk about a gift I was given shortly after Hudson’s birth. When he was still in the NICU.
Just typing those letters N-I-C-U now, I can hardly see for the tears. Raw emotions flooding over me. I didn’t walk during those first days and weeks. I was carried. By the grace of God and many wonderful people who mostly didn’t know what to say. And sometimes said nothing. But they were THERE. Showed up. And that’s what counts.
So I believe it was my sister who gave me the gift: a book, Road Map to Holland. (But it could’ve been someone else. It’s all a blur.) The important thing is, I received this book at the hospital from someone who loved me, wanted to give me hope.
And I read it during the wee hours sitting in the NICU, with my precious baby Hudson in an incubator under blue lights. Tiny Hudson with tubes and wires. And Road Map to Holland induced many tears but brought great comfort.
It’s based on the true life story of Jennifer Graf Gronenberg, an expectant mother of twins boys, Avery and Bennett. Five days after the boys are born, Avery is diagnosed with Down syndrome. Road Map to Holland (2008) recounts Jennifer’s poignant first two years of life with Avery and Bennett.
The back cover says:“this book is about…the love between a mother and her son – the child she didn’t know she wanted, the child she’d always needed.” And that resonated deeply with me. And still does today. Because that’s how I feel about my Hudson, even on the hard days. Especially on the hard days.
In her book, Jennifer talks of Holland. (Yeah the country.) References a short essay by Emily Perl Kingsley, Welcome to Holland. (Emily’s son also has Down syndrome.) I don’t want to say a whole lot more, just hoping you’ll read the short piece below.
But read it with a broader perspective, not just in terms of a special needs child. Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of going to Italy, but Holland is where providence has carried you…
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.
Today I read Welcome to Holland again for the first time since Hudson was in the NICU. And I wept like I did that day, a small mountain of tissues by my keyboard.
The truth is, we all have dreams. Or had them. Dreams of where we want to go in life. Italy. And maybe things don’t turn out as we hope and dream and somehow we arrive in Holland instead. Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about.
I’m thinking of my own dreams. (And I’m not just talking Hudson.)
And I’m thinking of lost dreams of people I know and love. Dear ones who lost their soul mates far too soon. Or a precious child. Or lost another dearly loved one. Maybe a bankruptcy. Or an unexpected accident. Perhaps fighting a debilitating or terminal illness. Or traveling the painful road of divorce. So many scenarios. And so many hard situations still hang in the balance…
And the pain….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. Not Italy.
You know friend, these windmills are amazing.
And the tulips….wow!
by Hudson Fall Taylor
And the Rembrandts. I especially love the Rembrandts.
Friends, Holland can be an exquisite place. Also a wonderful destination. I’ve found it to be so and I hope you will too.
Hudson’s birth story here: Can’t Buy This
Nancy mcmahan says
Thank you Allie. I am on a journey that is not where I had planned to be and a reminder to enjoy where my life is right now is always welcome and needed at times like right now. It is 3 in the morning and I have been up three times. With what comes with being a caregiver to my 96 year old mother is difficult, stressful, tiring and time consuming but those things are far out weighed by her thankfulness, kindness, laughter and love. I am blessed to be on this journey in life with my beautiful, in so many ways, mother. Holland is a wonderful place to have ended up in.
You know I thought about you when I was writing this Nan. Never once have I heard you complain about taking of your mom 24-7. And yet I know it can’t be easy. Cheers to you, your mom and Holland, friend. And hopefully some uninterrupted sleep for you! xo
What a beautiful perspective. Thank you for sharing. We all need to enjoy our “Holland”.
Thanks Ell, we’ve all got our Holland…love you.
Thank you, Allie, for this precious reminder of the truth of this life. Also, the reminder of the joys that come in the pain, if we choose to accept the unexpected and give thanks to the God who is redeeming all things to Hinself. How great is His love and unsearchable His ways. What a great God!
Thank you Rosemary. The word “redeeming” says it all. That’s His business, redeeming broken things, broken people.
I love your recipes but I must admit, your life experiences always hit a cord with me. Your journey gives us all a glimpse of God, His compassion and grace to us. What a beautiful perspective . Thank you.
Many thanks Simone, I so enjoy the writing part of this blog. Thanks for coming along for the ride. xo
Marilyn Sylvester says
Fortunately, Allie, I do have Kleenex nearby this time. Still can’t see through my tears….
Hugs to you my friend. xo
Having traveled on that very road to “Holland” myself, begun some 48 years ago, I can testify that eventually the pain will go away, but it may be too soon for you to have experienced that, after “only” five and one-half years. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). “Morning” probably won’t come the day after the “night” before, and it surely doesn’t come at the same time for everyone. But when you wake up some morning and your first thought is not about that painful situation, then you will know that healing has, amazingly, arrived….finally. In the meantime, it will ease and become more bearable. Yes, you will always be able to remember the pain and loss of your dream, for it doesn’t go away in that sense, but it won’t always be the way it is now. That can take many years, and for me it did, but one day I came to the incredible realization that the sharp, unrelenting pain had left at long last. You have come a long way, Allie — a very long way — simply by embracing the pain early rather than allowing yourself to hold on to the “Why me?” syndrome. May God continue to bless you with the excellent insights He has already given you, with continued healing, and with whatever else it is that you most need. As He has in the past, so He will in the future.
Judy your words are indescribably beautiful, touching and therapeutic. May God bless you tenfold as your words have uplifted many. xo
Words of wisdom. Thanks Mama, love you.
Nancy Hammett says
Thank you for sharing this beautiful post. When I see the pictures of Hudson. Sweet loving smile he is a precious gift from God. blessed to have such a loving caring family. Through some of my health problems I have question why but after I had the cardiac arrest in 2010 . I realized he is strengthen me and teaching. me grace that I can handle any thing for he is by my side carrying me through the trials. ,I love reading. your. post I see Gods. grace how you’ll. handle trials in your life. Sending Gods. blessing .
Thank you dear Nancy. xoxo
Aunt Pinkie says
Oh, Allie, what musings today! Thank you for sharing these poignant remembrances!
Thanks Aunt Pinkie. XOXO
Yvette Couser says
I have been to my Holland…twenty one years ago, unmarried, I discovered I was pregnant. I withdrew $300 cash from my bank account with plans…terrifying dark plans…to “right” my “wrong” in secret. Legal, but secret. A chance encounter with a work colleague and dear friend after a sleepless night of praying and crying for help set me straight on the very rocky path of truth, light, life and living in my Holland…and Jon and I marrying and welcoming our dear Adelia. What a tidy life I would have had if I had followed my plans…a tidy and dark and lonely one. Our actions sometimes bring us to Holland, and through God’s grace we can live there, and grow into His people. Maybe one day I’ll really write about it, but even these many years gone, it’s too fresh. God holds a mother’s heart but He holds it wide open.
Wow, God is so good Yvette. Tidy. Holland is not tidy or easy. But it’s beautiful, and full of hope and authenticity. Holland has God’s fingerprints all over it. xo
This is so beautiful.
Many thanks Kellie. xo
Oh Allie, you brought tears to my eyes!
awwww… I shed a few myself Laila. xo
Christy Smith says
You hit right where many hearts are this day! Beautifully written and a timely reminder to thrive in Holland!
Thanks friend, Holland has some real perks! xo
Your words touch our heart and soul. Soooo beautifully written Allie! You are an inspiration (understatement!) and help so many by sharing your special journey. Thank you! ❤️
Thank you friend, and what a journey Holland has been. Love you. xo
Thank you for this, I sometimes need to remember to be thankful for all the things in my life…
Yup, me too Adina. Many thanks for dropping by today!
Linda Jenkins says
Allie, God has blessed you with the ability to help others to discover, appreciate, and cherish all of His gifts. I truly believe God will never give us more than we can handle; you are living proof of that. I didn’t know I was headed to the Mount, but had not sent me there I wouldn’t have met the wonderful Taylor family, brought to the Bible study, met such wonderful members of your church, or progressed so far on my spiritual journey. While I haven’t arrived at my destination as yet, I am so grateful and blessed by my detour. Thank you for your gentle guidance along the way. You have no idea how much focus and inspiration you have provided to me. I’m promising to enjoy the detour to Holland. Blessings, my friend.
Love you back, Linda. I know it was providence that brought our families together. Cheers to Holland and the coming year. XO
Susie Mandel says
Allie, you are one amazing writer. Thanks for putting into words what so many of us feel! You are such a gift. Thank you SO much for sharing your heart. This was absolutely beautiful. <3
Sniff…..thank you friend. Enjoying Holland right along with you. XO
No words. <3
Sallie Eisengrein says
I am swept away by your description. Thank you for sharing your heart!
thank you friend xo
Karen @ On the Banks of Salt Creek says
I admire you.
I know Hudson has the best mom he could ever have.
Awww…thank you friend. I’m so blessed to be Hudson’s mom. (Also Jonathan, Jacob and Charlie’s too.)
Thanks Allie. That was wonderful.
Thank you Dianne, love to you and Bill. Miss you both as always.
Allie, thank you for opening your heart and sharing your stories with us. You help bring hope & light to many who need to hear that there is hope. You are truly an amazing woman to all who meet you. Thank you again !!
Thank you, dear Diana. xo
Thanks Allie for this poignant message… I stand in stillness and give thanks to God for you. He couldn’t have chosen a better mom for His precious child Hudson. Love you friend,
Sweet Daniella, so miss you. Our day will come. Thank you friend. xo
Aunt Margie says
Beautiful application, Allie! Most of us end up in Holland one time or other, and some live there interminably before realizing the lovely gifts God has prepared for us THERE! Thanks you for but another thoughtful, heart jerking blog,
Thank you dear Aunt Margie, Holland is kind of growing on me. You have always handled Holland with strength and grace through the years and are an inspiration to me. xoxo
Mandi Korn says
I love your posts more and more, you are such a beautiful person and an amazing mom, a inspiration and delight. There are few people out there, that I know of, that have what you have. Its encouraging and loving and genuine what you have, and I love reading all your posts. You are such a loving mom and you have this special gift in Hudson that you appreciate everyday. I know days have to be hard for you, I cannot even imagine, but I can tell you get through them so strong and a better person for it. Thank you for sharing this post, I love the words written from the book.
Dear Mandi, such gracious words, thank you. I am so thankful to be surrounded by supportive, encouraging people like you, and that helps get me through the hard days. That and my faith carry me along. xo
Erin @ Miss Scrambled Egg says
Allie – I got tears in my eyes when I read your post today. Although I do not have children, I work with children who come from all walks of life. I need to read this book. We all set expectations and dreams for ourselves and they don’t always turn out the way we planned or hoped; I think the most important lesson, like you said, is recognizing the new path and accepting it. You’re one strong lady. 🙂
Thanks for the kind words Erin, I do hope you can read that book some day. It was quite a read and so enlightening to see what a gift disability can actually be for the rest of us. Helps us to see things (and people) through a different lens. So glad you found a moment to drop by in your very busy schedule, thank you, and wishing you a wonderful 2016 ahead. xo
Cheyanne @ No Spoon Necessary says
Thank you so much for sharing this story, Allie! You always write so beautifully, and always seem to touch my heart when you do. When I found out years ago I couldn’t have children of my own, I was devastated. It took years for me to come to terms with the fact that we would never have a biological child of our own… never have a little Chey/Jeremy. But the journey He has given us has made our marriage stronger. And you know what, I have come to be okay with the fact that it is just Boy and I. And our fur children. And you know what, Holland ain’t so bad. 😉 Lots of love and hugs to you, my dear friend! xoxo
Your Holland was certainly a bitter pill to swallow Cheyanne. I can imagine that it took years to come to terms with. I’m still coming to terms with mine, but I think the writing is therapeutic for me. I’m sort of getting it all out, and in that process coming to realize the beauty of Holland. You are part of that realization, so thankful to have met you on this journey, friend. And looking forward to a great year ahead. Love and hugs. xo
Shashi at RunninSrilankan says
Oh Allie – this is so beautiful – what a beacon for all of us who have shattered dreams of all sorts. Thanks so much for opening up and sharing this and for sharing that excerpt with us. Having experienced having to change direction and put my hope in something else, I must say I love this line the most ” 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” LOVE it – thanks again sweet friend. I hope you have had a lovely long weekend.
Hello friend, thank you for this. I really love that line too. I’m thankful to have met you on this Holland journey, though we both might’ve rather met in Italy. Ha. Truth is, we might’ve just passed each other right by in Italy. 🙂 What a growing process this has been. Glad to be on it with you. Have a beautiful day, Shashi. xo
Dear Allie, I loved reading this post, it really touched my heart. What you are saying is so profoundly true, and also very, very serendipitous. I have been away at my father’s funeral so I have not been blogging or reading my favourite blogs. So today, after publishing a post I’ve been working on, I came here to catch up, and the topic is so related. (I posted about why I love Winnipeg, and though different in tone, it stemmed from the same feeling. In a past, I’ve also explained that I’ve wound up in Wpg – not my beloved mountains – and that I’ve come to appreciate where I am) Please forgive me for mentioning my blog, it was just such a coincidence, I wanted you to know. Thanks for this beautiful post, it does come at the right time. I will be reading the book, for sure. Take care my friend, and have a great week. Xoxoxo
*Oops~ Meant to say “In a past post”…
Dear friend, thank you for this sweet comment. I hope things went as well as they could have at the funeral, I am so sorry for your loss. I know this is a very sad time for you. Thinking of you. You are always welcome to mention your blog here Carina. I so enjoy following it and hope others will discover it too. Wishing you a beautiful, peaceful weekend in your Winnipeg. XO
Christina @ Christina's Cucina says
What a poignant post, Allie! The Italy/Holland analogy is absolutely brilliant. We truly don’t realize how blessed and lucky we all are until we compare ourselves to another’s situation. Unfortunately, most times, we do it in reverse: comparing ourselves to those with more or better, when we should do it with those who have less or worse.
Whenever I have to drive through a tony neighborhood in LA (often), I have to remind myself not to feel sorry for where we live and the house that we have. It’s much easier to feel blessed when I drive through skid row. The same applies to health, family, friends, etc.
Thank you for posting this as I know it was difficult for you.
Dear Christina, thanks so much. I love that piece Road to Holland. It got me through some long days (and nights) with hope. XO
Kathy @ Beyond the Chicken Coop says
You write beautifully. Thanks for sharing such precious memories.
Awww… many thanks Kathy.
Been a busy few days and I just saw this post this morning. After reading the post and comments, I was in tears. Oh Allie, you’ve got such a grasp on those times when things don’t work out as “we” planned. I’ve been to “Holland” quite a few times in my life. We just have to remember that God is in control of all circumstances and he’s there even in the darkest times. Sending you love a big virtual hug! Sure wish we could spend a day or two together. “Leaning on the everlasting arms” with you. xoxo
Dear Robin, thank you so much for this sweet comment. And thank you also for the virtual hug, friend. I send one right back atcha. Excited about the coming year for you, your new blog focus and look forward to see how everything will unfold. I would not be surprised if we spend a day or two together one day. I do make it south occasionally. XOXO
About 25 years ago, I read this essay in one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. It catapulted me into a positive and empowering perspective that helped me become the mom I wanted to be for my daughter as she navigates the challenges in her life. All those years ago, I shared the essay with a dear friend who was dealing with supporting her son in his challenges. To this day, we often end a “venting” discussion with the words, “Welcome to Holland!” How brave of you to share your story and this essay! I have no doubt this post has the power to change lives. Wishing you a path lined with tulips. 🙂
Dear Wendy, thank you so much for dropping by and also for your gracious comment. It’s somehow comforting to know there are others out there navigating Holland along with me, who understand exactly what I’m talking about. XO
Aunt Pinkie says
Still a moving muse, Allie!
Linda Jenkins says
Allie, it has been several years since I first commented on this musing. I have encountered such beautiful and giving people in “Holland.” I think of how much more centered I am because of that God-given detour. I am closer to God and so ready to make my commitment to Him and the church. I feel as though you are the stewardess who first welcomed me to Holland, and you’ve taught me so much not only about pain and sorrow but also about faith, joy, and laughter. You and your family have guided me along the road of acceptance and peace. I am forever grateful. Much love.
Dear Linda – thank you my friend for these kind and gracious words. I know we have both had different Hollands but so glad we have each other on this journey. You’ve taught me many things and I’m grateful we’re traveling on this life journey together. You and Jack are very dear to us. I know you’ll both continue making a difference in many people’s lives. Keep on keeping on my friend. Always – allie
Barbara Child says
Thanks for sharing the wonderful book and your own perspective on being in “Holland”. I guess I’ve been in Holland since Ed died and left a huge hole in my life. We never talked about how one of us would get along without the other. God has a way of leading us through troubled waters and giving us an alternative to what we may have planned. Sometimes I think being alone has pushed me to do things I wouldn’t have done otherwise. But I know God directs and leads us to accept and and even enjoy what He gives us. You’re a very special Mom and friend! xo
Dear Barbara, Thank you for these kind words. I think about Ed and know he would be so proud of you and all the many things you are involved with and how you choose to spend your time. You are such a blessing to so many. I know you miss him dearly. You’re an amazing person and friend and I thank God that you are in my life..
Dear Allie, wonderful to read this special post again ~ thank you. I teared up reading it. XOXO
Dear Carina, And I teared up reading your comment. I was very honest in this post and it was a hard one to write because it is so close to my heart. Thank you for the kindness you extend to me over and over. I always look forward to hearing from you. Wishing you a beautiful November week my friend. xo
Liv @ Healthy Liv says
Such great perspective, Allie. Thanks so much for opening up and sharing this.
Many thanks Liv, it wasn’t an easy post to write but I’m glad I did. Have a beautiful Thanksgiving with your family!
Anu - My Ginger Garlic Kitchen says
Oh my god. What a touching article, Allie. That’s so sweet of your sister who gave you that wonderful book. Thank you so much for this wonderful share.
Thanks for dropping by and your sweet words Anu, I loved hearing from you. XO
Waouh Allie! Je crois que je vient de lire mon article préférée!! Tu as tellement raison, il faut prendre la vie comme elle vient et s’adapter le mieux possible aux nouvelles aventures et mésaventures. Et surtout sortir toujours le positive du négative!
the child she didn’t know she wanted, the child she’d always needed. J’adore cette phrase, ça veut dire tellement! On peut passer devant des choses magnifiques seulement parce que c’est n’était pas ça ce qu’on attendait!
Je crois que Hudson est une lumière magique dans votre vie! Et toi, tu as su la voir de le début! XOXO
Ps: Holland peut être aussi un merveilleux voyage, il suffit de croire et voir la beauté qui est partout!
Cher Eva, Merci pour vos commentaires très gentils et pour avoir essayé de les poster tant de fois. Je pense que 8 !!! Ils sont allés au dossier de Spam pour le site, ma conjecture est parce qu’ils ont été longs. S’ils ne se présentent pas tout de suite, ils vont souvent dans le dossier Spam et je les pêche et les publie. Alors merci beaucoup de m’assurer que j’ai eu ce commentaire et il est maintenant publié sur le site. Je dois être honnête, il m’a fallu beaucoup de temps pour devenir une mère reconnaissante pour les handicaps de Hudson, c’est un processus. Et j’apprends toujours tous les jours. Je demande à Dieu de m’aider car il ya beaucoup de frustrations. Rédiger sur Hudson m’aide à me concentrer sur les aspects positifs. J’ai vraiment aimé le Holland Essay et ça m’aide sur les jours difficiles. Merci d’être un ami vraiment attentionné à travers les miles. Je sens ton amour, ma compassion et ma bonté. C’est un vrai cadeau. Merci pour cela mon ami, et avoir une belle journée. XOXO