It’s 6.45am. I am lying here in bed and my most prominent thought is ‘I want my mummy’
Having spent the last few days retching my guts out, contrary to my natural disposition and faith convictions, I have revelled in a number of sad songs my rusty brain can remember such as…
♫ Why me why me Lord why me… ♪ – Shaggy
♯ Lonely I am so lonely I have nobody called my own oh oh oh oh.. ♬ – Akon
♬ It’s another sad love song rackin’ my brain like crazy ♪ – Toni Braxton
♭ All by myself ♭ – Celine Dion
And my favourite from the queen of sorrows;
♯ Well I’m not gon cry I’m not gon cry I’m not gon shed no tears ♯ (while shedding buckets if I must add)- Mary J. Blige
These songs have been some comfort on some level (weird I know) because of all the things I’ve been told about being pregnant -“It’s the most wonderful feeling”, “It’s the most beautiful thing”, “You’ll have a glow” (I sure ain’t glowing!) – blah blah blah, nobody told me the degree of incapacitation it can cause or utter frustration it can make you feel.
Plus, I don’t know about ‘morning sickness’ but I know plenty about daily sickness.
However, while dealing with my recent trials and tribulations, I have ‘received’ some very fancy exhortations… sorry comments.
Most of these comments have either been empathetic, helpful or encouraging. Others have been NOT.
Comments such as “oh that’s absolutely normal”, “you’ll be fine”, “that’s nothing new”, “all women feel that way” have all not been helpful, empathetic or encouraging.
Which got me thinking,
“Dear Lord, have I been that person who has shrugged off someone else’s pain simply because such a pain is common to man?“
And after a little self-reflection, I realized that indeed I have (farewell friends as I embark on my walk of shame).
Seriously though, no sane person goes to a funeral and announces “Everyone! Put a sock in it because we will all die anyway!”
So just because pain is ‘common’ such as the loss of a loved one, a heartache, injury from an accident, disappointment, sadness, a let down, loss of any kind including loss of a sticker (kids can potentially make your life miserable for that one), pain from being pregnant (amen!) or any other ‘common’ pain we can think of, does not make it any easier for us when we experience those pains. That’s because no two pains or experiences are the same. Kinda like fingerprints. They might be similar but no two are the same.
In my recent pain and discomfort of being pregnant, these three responses from others have done me more good than harm:
‘the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation’
One of my main methods of handling difficult behavior with children is using empathy, i.e getting them to try to see something from the other person’s point of view. For instance, asking questions like ‘how did it make you feel when they did that?’ and then later asking ‘how do you think they felt or they would feel when you do that?’. Most times it works wonders. Other times, well…we all need Jesus!
Empathy is not necessarily feeling sorry for someone but saying (and acting) “hey, I get you”. It’s actively saying ‘I acknowledge your pain, I respect it and I am not going to weigh it against any other’. So rather than giving me the statistics of signs of pregnancy, and reminding me of the millions of women who have all been through pregnancy, just get me. You feel me?
Now, I must say, having lived a (wee) while in the UK as an African immigrant, I should point out that the word ‘encouragement’ has different connotations in Nigeria and the UK. For instance, in my preggy situation, this is how I would ideally be encouraged in both worlds.
“Oh you poor thing, what a shame! You hang in there. There’s light at the end of the tunnel and soon you’ll be cradling your wee lad/lassie (Scottish variation) or little darling (English variation).
“Your mother single-handedly (I still wonder if it takes two women to push) gave birth to ten children. TEN CHILDREN! (Just in case you have suddenly lost your ability to count). This is just the beginning for you so your strength is still plenty. Practice makes perfect. I know you are capable. Well done! (I would like to add that my mother never had ten children and that ain’t my father speaking).
Considering I do not want to be disowned by my country nor deported by The UK immigration, I can neither confirm nor deny as to which is the better way to give encouragement. Mmhmm.
However, let me use this illustration to explain. A while ago at the nursery, a little girl came over to me and said:
Little girl: “Millicent, would you like a cuddle?”
Me: “em… Why do you ask”
Little girl: “it’s cos you look sad and I don’t want you to be sad”
Me: going down on my knees so as to be at eye level with her “sweetie, I’m not sad. I was just thinking of what we’ll do this afternoon (not really) but thank you so much” (giving her a hug)
Little girl: touching my face “don’t be sad, you’re my best teacher”
Now before you go all mushy, about 10minutes later, we were sat talking about the whereabouts and benefits of our listening ear. Kids!
My point is that encouragement should positively stimulate hope i.e. ‘i cannot wait to have and hold my baby’ as opposed to ‘dear God, let me be over and done with this pregnancy already’.
So, to him who has an ear, let him hear what a Sista is saying. Amen!
‘make it easier or possible for (someone) to do something by offering them one’s services or resources’
The hubby has been the biggest help in and out with the house (boy done good!). My girls, however, have been exemplifying the word ‘help’ by making their services and resources available to me. What I have found most helpful though is that not one of them (some of whom have kids of their own) have used the word “it’s normal” around me. Instead, I hear a lot of “how can I help?” Or “would this help?”
Bottom line, before you use statistics, reminders, comparisons and judgments to respond to people’s pain, have you tried empathy, encouragement and help?
I’ll see you after my sojourn in the land of shame.