This is NOT the Trip I Planned For! (Part 1)
By now I’m sure a lot of you have heard of that very popular essay called “Welcome to Holland.” If you haven’t, google it. Basically it was written by a mom as a way to describe what it’s like to have a child with a disability/illness. At its core, it’s a good essay…but I also felt like it just wasn’t enough. And the more I thought about it, the more I felt like it needed a good ol’ 2015 REEEEEEEEEEEEMIX! I thought a good place to test this out was back in February at the Camp LUCK Conference and I think it was pretty well-received and I had the opportunity to do it again this summer. Now I think it’s a good time to share my version of this with you (the countries have been changed, of course, because why not?) and I call it, “This is NOT the Trip I Planned For!” There’s a lot of stuff here, so I’m breaking it up into 3 posts. Please let me know what you think.
Imagine you’re going on the vacation you’ve always dreamed of…for our sake let’s say that’s Hawaii. And what types of things do you do to prepare for a trip to Hawaii? You buy stuff to swim in, pack some sunscreen, maybe a nice hat…maybe you take some surfing lessons and scope out restaurants and coffee shops (if you’re an addict like me). You get as prepared as you can, because as soon as your feet hit that sand, you’re off to some major fun.
Well the big day arrives and you’re on the plane in your shorts, flip flops, and flowery shirt. It’s a long flight so you doze off after a couple rounds of Fruit Ninja. Eventually the plane lands, you wake up, get off the plane and are greeted with “Welcome to Finland!”
And you’re like “What the heck?” or maybe, “FINLAND?!” But there you are…and to make things interesting: you can’t go back. How lovely! So there you are: in shorts and flip flops…and it’s freezing. And people speak a language you don’t understand. Oh shoot.
For most of us, this is what it was like to first find out you were going to have a baby – and all the planning that went around it – and then arriving at something completely different. Yes, you’re still on a trip…but it’s a little bit different. And you know what? While it isn’t what you planned, it can still be awesome. But first you need to know what the heck to do now that you’re in Finland:
1. Learn the Lay of the Land
So what’s the deal with this strange place? What’s out there? One thing to work on is getting your bearings before plowing ahead. Do a little bit of research on your child’s CHD, reach out to some support groups and get some questions answered, find a good group on facebook to join. Know what’s ahead. The other thing is that you’re going to keep coming back to this step because you will always be adjusting due to age or surgeries or weight gain or even some minor complications. Things change, so you’ll always have to adjust your map. A while back I wrote a post about a care map that I made for Nolan. I sat down and literally mapped out all the things that affect him or will affect him and our family in the future. And it looked something like this:
I made this probably a year ago and as I look at it I already see some things that need to be changed or even added to his map! This journey is always changing, so make your map and don’t get lost!
2. Learn the Local Language
When I first built out this presentation I did a lot of research on what it was like to move to another country. Obviously if you’re going to live in a country where your language isn’t their language, well…you better learn fast. And we all remember the day where we had our language lessons: “hy-po-plastic”…I don’t think I’d ever used so many syllables in one word before. And who is this Norwood guy anyway? But now those things are an everyday part of my vocabulary. Am I a medical expert? No way (you don’t want that anyway), but I am becoming more familiar and more comfortable with the language. I mean, come on, how many of you guys said “Tetralogy of fallot” before this journey?
3. Immerse Yourself in the Local Culture
The reality is, you can’t move to another country and just become a hermit. I mean, I guess you can, but that would be a waste of travel. Yes, there’s germs and the big bad flu bug, but you don’t have to stay locked up in the house all year long. Eventually you need to get out, meet people, and for the love of God get yourself some help! Research says when you move to a new country you need to shop where the locals shop and eat what the locals eat, and this is true for heart parents. Get out there and meet other heart parents: build a good support system. You’re going to find out they’re going through the same things you are and they’ve been in the same place…and even better, they want to help you! Once you get that support you can start to give that same support to others who have just gotten off the plane in Finland with that same bewildered look you used to have. And you can take them by the hand, say welcome, and let them know that Finland is actually a pretty awesome place and you’re there to help.
Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this series. And remember: keep your heads up – together we can do this! I love reading your comments so please share!