The Beautiful Journey To Holland
March 22, 2013 started out like any other Friday. My husband, Adam, and I had plans to go out to dinner with some friends that night. I was looking forward to trying a new restaurant and enjoying a fun night out. I never knew that day would change my life forever.
You see, I was pregnant with our first child, and a few weeks earlier an ultrasound to determine the baby’s sex showed some small spots on her heart and brain that needed further investigation. We were told these spots were loosely related to possible genetic concerns. So following the recommendation from our doctor, we met with a genetic counselor to explore our options. A review of our family history, a more detailed ultrasound, and blood test later we left the meeting feeling optimistic. There were no genetic abnormalities in our family history and no red flags on the ultrasound.
That Friday, I received a call from Carolyn, the genetic counselor that had been assigned to our case. I found a private place at work to talk to Carolyn and conference in Adam. I don’t remember her exact words but she said that the blood test showed a positive result – there was a 99% chance that our baby had Down syndrome. There was a long silence following the news; Carolyn talked a little longer but I don’t remember hearing what she said.
After a couple minutes she excused herself from the call and Adam said he was coming to get me. I frantically ran to my office to grab my things so I could get out before anyone suspected that something was wrong; shortly after Adam pulled in the parking lot to pick me up.
As we drove off we realized we didn’t know where to go. There was a heavy silence in the car that felt like a weight bearing down on me. Adam broke the silence with a phone call telling someone that we were coming over; he was going to Western Carolina Church. Inside, Michelle Bonner, pastor Randy’s wife was waiting for us…she knew we had been undergoing some tests and had been praying for our family. All I could get out when we walked in was, “The test was positive;” I could not even say the words Down syndrome.
Our visit was a blur. There were tears….lots of tears. I remember staring into space while the preacher and his wife talked and reassured us. My mind was racing with so many questions. How did this happen? Did I eat or drink something I shouldn’t? Did I stand in front of the microwave too much? Too much sun exposure…or maybe not enough? Why is this happening to me? Have I not been through enough heartache? I am a Christian. I try to live right. I go to church and pray, and read my Bible. Maybe this is happening because I forgot to pray last Tuesday? Or maybe because I get distracted at times when I am reading my Bible? How could God let this happen? Had I not prayed enough for a healthy baby? Did I cause this? Am I the reason my daughter would be “different”? With every thought there was a new rush of tears. So many tears I wondered how I could even have anymore left? But still they fell. I’m not sure how long we were there but after Preacher Randy prayed with us we went home.
Once we were home, Adam and I discussed our feelings about the day. Sitting in our living room, Adam, always the optimist, said, “Brooke, we still have our daughter.” There are so many people that do not get the joy of having a child. God has blessed us with a child regardless of her chromosome count. So we will love her and she will bless us more than we could ever imagine. God created her exactly the way He wanted her and chose us to care for her. God doesn’t make mistakes. So we will trust in that promise and we are not going to be upset about this.” It was at that moment that I felt the peace that passes all understanding.
Anyone who knows me knows that peace is not something that comes easy to me. But I felt peace in the midst of this raging storm! So we decided to continue on with our plans for the evening and rest in God’s plan.
The rest of the night I smiled and carried on conversation but inwardly my mind was full of the day’s events. Waves of sorrow and fear washed over me throughout the night but Adam was right by my side squeezing my hand when he started to see the anxiety creep up on my face. My thoughts were fixated on the positive test result. What would our future look like? Can I handle this?
The next days and weeks were a blur. I had many questions and there were many calls and emails with Carolyn to help us understand and navigate this new road. One of Carolyn’s emails included a short story called “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Perl Kingsley. Reading the story brought on more tears and a relief that someone put into words how I was feeling. I read the story so many times I lost count. Adam and I both shared the story with our family to help them as they were processing the same news. This story spoke to Adam and me in such a special way that we started talking about using this story as inspiration for our daughter. We began to use that name when talking about her to see how it felt and from the beginning we both knew that this was the perfect name for our precious miracle! Please read the following except:
“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.
1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved
As Adam and I continued on our trip to Holland we both agreed that we never wanted her to feel any negativity. So we were adamant that we would stay positive and surround her with love and support. Shortly after that initial call delivering the news of Down syndrome, a family in the community reached out to us. Having a 22 month old with Down syndrome they understood our feelings. One of the scariest parts of the whole experience was that neither Adam nor I had really been around anyone with Down syndrome; we were afraid of the unknown. We were so blessed that this family opened their home and hearts up to us. They let us spend time with their daughter and let us ask questions. And from the moment I first laid eyes on their beautiful daughter I knew that I was going to love my trip to Holland. Her beautiful face will forever be etched in my heart.
You may be reading this and either know my daughter personally or feel as if you do by following her on Facebook! Holland is the most beautiful and happy miracle baby! Her smile is contagious! She has inspired so many through her loving cuddles and sweet sounding coos! She continues to bless us and teach us more about the joy of life than we will ever be able to teach her. Our journey to Holland and arrival in this beautiful place is the reason that we want to share this experience with everyone.
We are planning “The Run for Holland 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run” for Saturday, April 26th, 8:00 am, at Riverside Park in Spruce Pine. Our prayer is that this event will raise awareness about Down syndrome and other special needs in our community. We want others to know that they are not alone on their journey to Holland; there is support and resources available if you find yourself on this path.
You may register for the event by going to our website at active.com.
Looking back, I whole heartedly agree that as the story says, “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, there is nowhere else I would rather be!
Article originally published in the March 2014 Blue Ridge Christian News