For those who have not read "Welcome To Holland", it compares having a special needs child (instead of a regular child) with ending up in Holland instead of your intended destination of Italy. It's a lovely poem. A bit too lovely actually...euphemisms and sandalwood scented smoke that softens the truth surrounding the endless struggles we face daily as we make it up as we go along. If I had been clever enough to pen this piece first, this is how it would read:
"Welcome To...Where The F%#k Are We?!"
By Rachel Pomainville
I am almost never asked to describe my experience of raising a developmentally challenged child- if I was, I would say it is like this...
When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning your dream vacation- to Vegas. You buy some guide books, pack some naughty clothes, detox your liver. It's all very exciting.
After months if meticulous planning, you finally get to board the plane and take off. Sitting there next to your husband, you notice that everyone else on the plane is as nervous and as anxious as you are. Suddenly, the plane hits some turbulence and instantly, you start falling from the sky. Everyone is screaming and crying out in fear and panic. The pungent scent of wet shit hangs heavy in the air...and did someone just barf in your lap?! The dangling oxygen masks keep smacking you in the face and your heart is vibrating in your chest- threatening to explode at any moment. As quickly as it started- it is over; the plane is slowly descending and landing safely. You are dazed. You are also loudly demanding for a refund, or at least some more free stale peanuts, god damn it!
The haggard flight attendant opens the door. You look out, squinting into the sunlight and exclaim, "Where the fuck are we? This isn't Vegas!"
"I don't know where we are; I just know that this is your stop" the flight attendant says sympathetically.
So there you are- stranded in a strange place, with no idea where you are, how you got there, or what you should do next. You and your husband wander around blindly, looking for anyone who can help you navigate and find your way. Everyone you ask is giving you different directions, everyone is offering unsolicited advice, everyone is looking at you funny...some of them, with pity. You and your husband are no longer talking- apparently wandering aimlessly frays on one's nerves. Now you feel even more alone and lost and isolated.
With some luck, and a healthy dose of perseverance, you manage to find a hostel: a safe haven where like minded, tired soul have congregated to rest their weary heads. That night, as you look out your window at the city below, you realize that this- wherever the hell you are- is now home base. Sure, you'll get to visit and experience Vegas eventually (we cannot talk about it though. That shit stays in Vegas) but you'll always have to return here. You'll adapt and find your place here- you'll make a home and love it.
But there will be times, sometime when you least expect it, when you secretly yearn for the excitement and bright lights of Vegas now and then. And that's ok. Just don't let that yearning define you. You'll miss the beauty, joy, and fun right under your nose if your eyes are always focused on exotic places beyond.