Friday, April 11, 2008

Road Map To Holland

As I sit here, I am trying to find the right words to adequately express how much this book meant to me. And I realize there are none. None that are powerful enough anyway.

I have always had a special place in my heart for children with Down syndrome. So when I was offered the opportunity to review the memoir Road Map to Holland: How I Found My Way Through My Son's First Two Years With Down Syndrome by Jennifer Graf Groneberg, I immediately accepted.

Little did I know just how important this book would become to me and my family. Shortly after I began reading it, we found out that my sister-in-law, who is pregnant with my first niece or nephew, was told that initial tests showed she was at increased risk of having a baby with Down syndrome. My mother-in-law informed us that abortion was being considered.

I felt so helpless and I wanted to shout to the rooftops about how wonderful children with Down syndrome are. How this was not a death sentence, if the tests were even correct, which many times they are not. I wanted to share how what may seem like a burden can actually be the biggest blessing in your life.

I wanted to give my sister-in-law a "road map to Holland."

In fact, I wish every single woman who is faced with this possible diagnosis be given this book to read. It is honest, gripping, and raw, and a testimony to the boundless love a mother can have for her child.

The title comes from the idea that having a baby with Down syndrome is a bit like having planned a trip to Italy, but being detoured to Holland. You've made all of these plans to tour the beautiful hillsides of Tuscany and everything is all mapped out.

When your plane finally lands, the stewardess announces, "Welcome to Holland." At first you are confused, afraid, bewildered. You know nothing about Holland. You have no idea how to get around, where to go, what to do.

But Holland is beautiful too. You just need to get a new road map, change your plans and enjoy all that this new place has to offer you.

The pain of not being able to realize your dreams of going to Italy, especially as everyone around you talks about how wonderful their trips to the country were, will never fully go away. But, as Groneberg says, if you spend your time dwelling on that pain, you'll never be able to fully enjoy "the very special, the very lovely things...about Holland."

What I loved most about Groneberg, is that she makes it clear in this book that she is no out-of-the-ordinary superhero. She is just like you and me. She has fears, worries and insecurities just like the rest of us. And she shows that all it takes to raise a child with Down syndrome is love. That's the only quality you will need to possess. Love alone will give you courage and determination and anything else that may be required of you.

There was one part of the book that made me really identify with Groneberg. It's what made me see, more than anything, that she is just like any other mother. She talked about watching the Tour de France and how cyclists have support vans that move along with them as they race. She says:
"I need a support van. A mother's support van following alongside me wherever I go, full of helpful people popping out whenever they are needed. Want a nap? Here we are. Need to use the toilet? Take your time. Shower? No problem. How about a paper cup of Gatorade and a splash of cool water on the face?"

Oh my gosh! What mother wouldn't LOVE to have such a thing? I was nodding my head vigorously and dreaming of how much easier life would be with a support van.

But you know what? I'm not sure if Groneberg realizes this or not, but in a way, she has not only created a road map for parents facing a Down syndrome diagnosis. Her book is also that support van.

Feeling lost? Scared? Confused? Afraid of what the future holds? There's a support van waiting to help you, and it's found in Road Map to Holland.

My sister-in-law, as it turns out, was never really considering abortion (we found out that that idea came more from my mother-in-law). She has decided to not find out the results of her follow-up tests and accept whatever God gives to her.

If that is a baby with Down syndrome, I will be there with open arms. And I will have a road map and support van all ready for her.
~Read the backstory on Road Map to Holland, including the amazing moment captured on the book's cover, by clicking here.

~Be sure to check out the author's blog, as well as her columns in and Literary Mama.

~Purchase your own copy of this amazing book here.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for reviewing my book! I can't help but shake my head at the timing of it all...and I wish your sister-in-law a happy pregnancy.

I'd never considered my book a support van! But you are right, I can see how it is. Thank you for showing me this!

And thank you for letting my family's story touch your life. I really appreciate it.

BlondeBlogger said...

Hello Jennifer! What a pleasure to see you here!

Thanks for your well-wishes. And thank you for writing such a wonderful book and telling a story that really needs to be told. It was an honor for me to be able to review it. :)

All the best to you and your family!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an amazing book and I am glad that the word "Holland" is associated with it :-)

BlondeBlogger said...

Thanks, Dutchy! Your tulip photos immediately come to mind as proof of how beautiful it is there. :)

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