Going Dutch

The wonderful Helen has been back for more blog therapy today and this time she’s giving us an insight into the frustrations she has to deal with on a day to day basis with her disability.  Take it away H….


Blog Therapy 2 – Going Dutch


I’m a born worrier, but of late I’ve been more upset than normal. I read people’s tweets and timelines, I chat to real life friends & I’m jealous. Not of their new phone or latest Mulberry* bag, but of the fact they can take their kids to the park, do messy play or bake some cupcakes. You see I can’t do those normal, everyday things with my toddler without it being a military operation because I’m disabled. I can’t stop worrying how my disability will affect my daughter and I know I need to overcome this for both our sakes.


I became disabled at the age of 28 through illness, I was previously very fit and well. The best way I can describe how becoming disabled affects you is to ask you to read this piece which I stumbled across thanks to @MotherScuffer. It’s an excerpt from an analogy written to describe parenting a disabled child, but it also works well describing the life-altering change of becoming disabled from previously being able-bodied too.



c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved

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 wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The gondolas in Venice. 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 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.

Holland versus Italy

Holland versus Italy


Using this analogy, before I became disabled my husband and I were well on track for a life in Italy, but when I became ill we ended up in Holland and our lives completely changed. I hated Holland at first, the piece above describes my journey perfectly as I came to terms with my disability. And although Mr W would prefer life in Italy, he has adapted to life in Holland too. I’m lucky – he’s a once-in-a-lifetime travel companion & he learns the lingo quickly.


We’d been living in Holland for over 10 years when Lia was born there, almost 3 years ago now. And this is where the problem of Going Dutch really started for me. To me it feels like Lia was meant to have Italian citizenship, but she’s ended up Dutch instead. This worries me – she isn’t ever going to truly know what normal everyday life in Italy is like until she’s an adult & gets her own passport to get there.


I know things could be worse – we could be metaphorically living in Siberia or in a country with spiders the size of dinner plates. The rational part of me counts my daily blessings of living in Holland, of which there are many. We have Lia full-stop and she is healthy herself – she is the biggest blessing I could ever have. We have our families spend a lot of time with us in Holland and some amazing friends to help and support us there. I know all of these things and yet I still can’t help but worry about Lia growing up in Holland.


  • What if when she grows up Lia holds it against me that she’s Dutch? Italy has the best ice cream & she loves ice cream. Lia will inevitably miss out on opportunities in life because of me, though we will try to minimise this.


  • What effect will Holland have on her? She’s already used to seeing me in hospital, bed bound & in pain. I see the confusion in her eyes when I’m unable to get out of bed some days, her fright when I suddenly squeal with the intense pain of a shock muscle spasm and it breaks my heart every time.


  • Most, if not all, of her friends will be from Italian families & she’s going to an Italian school. She’s going to stick out like a sore thumb being Dutch. Kids pick on other kids who are different. Is she going to get bullied because of being Dutch?

And so on, and so on…


At the moment I’m finding that socialising with other families is like I’m torturing myself by reading Italian guidebooks all the time. I get tantalising glimpses of Italian family life, one that’s not ever going to happen for us – I’m never going to leave Holland again, I know that.


So what do I do? I can’t ignore the fact that Italy exists. So I know I somehow need to come to terms with all of this – to learn to enjoy being a family living in Holland, to wake up and smell the tulips if you like. And I need to do this soon so that I can be the best tour guide to Holland, and to life, that I can possibly be for my daughter.


*not true, would give my right arm for a Mulberry bag, for the record.


If you would like to take part in Blog Therapy, drop me an email at firstimehitched@gmail.com. No problem big or small x


Photo credit – Google image search


10 thoughts on “Going Dutch

  1. Helen, Lia will gain so much from having YOU as her mum. You could be living on the moon and she would still be amazingly lucky to have such a brilliant, selfless Mam!
    Growing up in a Dutch household didnt do me any harm. Trust me! Italy is over rated anyways! It’s full of plastic posers! Us Dutch know how to throw a real party 😉

  2. somethingblue_2 says:

    Firstly – big hugs!
    Secondly: I don’t know what it’s like to be in your position but I have seen families from all countries & please believe me when I say that you may be in Holland but you are still hands down a better parent than MANY of those in Italy! Holland may be different to Italy but different doesn’t automatically = bad. Lia will grow up to appreciate the windmills, the tulips AND the gelato. The things you view as stumbling blocks for her I see as building blocks that will raise her up to be a tolerant, empathetic, kind, caring, loving adult. What more could you want to give your child? Ultimately the love you have for her will outweigh any kind of physical activity. The very fact that you WANT to do those things with her? I think that’s the most important thing here. Xxx

    • As ever you are a wise head on young shoulders H. I hadn’t thought of Lia getting the best of dual citizenship, just the downsides in my worrying, anxious fog. According to the Pain Mgt psychologist you’re right – Lia is most likely to grow up with those caring traits as a result of my situation (what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, in a less dramatic way!). I think in some ways wanting to do those things with her is the source of my frustration – I want to do them, I want to give her the lovely Italian childhood that I had and I can’t. However, I can give her a Dutch-Italian one that, whilst worst in some ways, will be better in others. Hxx

  3. Helen, this analogy is fantastic – it’s just perfect and makes things so comprehensible for ignorant people like me who couldn’t begin to imagine what day-to-day life/worries are like for you.
    You are the best mother Lia could ever have and she wouldn’t want anyone else :). Just looking through your photo albums and reading what you have to say about her shows that your love shines through & hers too – there’s nothing stopping her having everything she wants in life and you will be a significant part in making that happen just by being mum 🙂 x

    • You’re not ignorant Beth – why would you know what to imagine? I didn’t 15 years ago. I thought disabled = paraplegic, I didn’t realise that in fact the majority of people classed as disabled are like me with some mobility. You really did make me cry in saying that my love for her shines through – someone else completely separately said the same thing to me today (a physiotherapist). And I’m glad that others can see that – I wouldn’t change my life in a heartbeat if it meant that she wasn’t in it. Hxx

  4. Oh H, I’m in tears. My tears are made up of 50% sadness for the geographical error and 50% sadness for how much you worry. Yes, things are different for L but normal isn’t defined by everyone doing exactly the same thing. Normal is what you know and what makes you safe & comfortable therefore L has more normality than many Italians. In a time when gay marriage has finally been acknowledged & schools are teaching & encouraging acceptance, understanding and respect L is in a position to grow in ways many kids won’t. What you are doing is creating a strong little lady who will no doubt base her character on how graciously her mum dealt with hardship and destination mix ups. Stay strong lady & instead of focusing on what L may miss focus on just how much she is gaining & how lucky she is to have you as a role model.


    • I’m a born worrier Laura, I really am. You’re right that there is no “normal”, especially for children as they’re so accepting. And you also make a good point that the world is more accepting of “different” situations now than ever before (I always joked that if I had been born in Georgian times I would’ve been packed off to a sanatorium by the sea to “take the air”!). The Pain Mgt psychologist has told me the same as you – that Lia will probably grow up to be an exceptionally understanding & caring individual because of my disability. There is actually a parenting psychology theory behind it (Good Enough Theory) that although as parents we want to protect and cocoon our children from harm, actually a few emotional knocks to them as they grow up is beneficial as they adapt their characters to cope. It’s certainly true in Mr W’s case – his family went to live in Germany as a teen and he was packed off to a hell-hole German boarding school (long story!) and his sister wasn’t. As a result he has more strength and resilience in dealing with life than she does. Anyway, I’m rambling now. Suffice to say that, as ever, you have wise words my lovely. Thank you for commenting & for reading too. Hxx

  5. Brilliant blog Helen. Thank you so much for sharing. As quite a few others have said, I think growing up in Holland will be very good for Lia. She will appreciate things so much more than if she were in Italy. And when she does move to Italy when she’s older you can bet she’ll be spending loads of time visiting her Mammy in Holland because she will have such fond memories from there xx

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