“Empathy has no script. It doesn’t have a right or wrong way. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘You’re not alone.’” ~Brené Brown
What are the commonalities between a pregnancy tester, a wheelchair and Airbnb? This is the answer.
In February 2019, one night before I was to get on a flight for my first ever trip to Paris, with my sister and best friend, I took a pregnancy test and it read… positive.
Excited? Worried? Anxious? All the above.
As you can see, I have had a history of premature pregnancy loss. At least one of these was an ectopic. For me, any positive pregnancy test means I am considered to be high-risk because of the possibility that ectopic pregnancies could prove fatal.
Normally, my doctor would need to know about any positive pregnancy tests. They would then test me for hormones in my blood every other day to monitor the trends. If the numbers are in the right direction, it will tell us if there is a normal pregnancy, a miscarriage, or whether to suspect an ectopic baby.
Well, in this case, I wouldn’t be doing that… because, well, Paris.
A consequence of having a history of miscarriages is that when I am pregnant, I don’t tell anyone except my husband. I usually lose the pregnancies so quickly that it’s not worth the shame and emotional rollercoaster to have other people involved.
When I boarded my plane to Paris, I had no idea by my best friend and sister that I was an explosive ticking time bomb.
The celebrations began.
Near the end of the weeklong trip I stood in our Airbnb’s kitchen when it suddenly felt like someone had thrown a knife through my right side.
I fell on my hands and knees.
The stabs and trying to catch my breathe were interspersed with the alarm bells in my head.
Instantly, the girls ran to each other. “What’s wrong? What happened?”
I managed to get out the words “Call my husband. Tell him what’s going on.”
They called him and he told them that I would need to get to a hospital immediately … in Paris … where none of us spoke French.
Our Airbnb host was an American expat who lived in the same house and was an angel. When they phoned, she answered and escorted them to the closest hospital. She even continued to help me translate.
There were hours spent in these waiting rooms.
The girls were a bit shocked to hear that I was honest with them. My pregnancy was confirmed and I believed it possible that there was another. They were aware of my previous pregnancy and could understand the severity of the emergency.
The seriousness of their situation was obvious, so shock brought everyone to silence at first.
Shortly thereafter, my friend became a force of nature. My best friend was encouraging and giving consolatory backrubs, and keeping me updated every few minutes. I can’t quite remember how many cups of water she offered me.
However, my sister, who was also flesh and blood of mine, couldn’t speak. The few that she had, awkwardly dripped from her mouth—“Do you … need anything?” This shocked, scared look was permanent on her face throughout the whole incident.
There is one moment that I can’t forget, however.
When they finally brought a wheelchair to wheel me down to the OB/GYN side of the hospital, someone else attempted to take hold of the wheelchair, and she quickly said “No” and rushed in.
She planted her hands on those wheelchair handles and didn’t let go as we silently walked down the long, cold, concrete corridor to the other side of the hospital.
The Airbnb host returned to her home with her son after she had left.
What about my best friend and sister? You could see them all through the night until the very early morning.
These uncomfortable waiting room chairs. It was freezing. Despite hunger. Without asking why I hadn’t told them ahead of time. Without making them feel bad about their trip’s obvious end.
We flew back to each other and returned home.
My sister called me a few days later after I had returned from the US to check on my feelings.
After she had given her updates, she apologized. She said that she was sorry if she hadn’t said or done the right things. She admitted that she didn’t know the right thing to say and felt bad that my best friend had been so much more proactive.
It was a pleasure to assure her of my satisfaction. This is exactlyIt was what I had at that moment.
She was there, you see. She stayed. Without complaint. Without exception. There was no excuse. Without a doubt, she was there. She was there, and that was it.
Also, my best friend did it. This is exactlyWhat she had to do. She provided comfort, and she tried her best to be my advocate. She offered me all she had to offer in that instant.
And I don’t take either response for granted.
It is clear that there are many ways to provide support. Different people will need different support in different circumstances.
A friend or family member’s support can be as simple as a kind word, or even a meal. It can mean buying something from your friend’s new business at full price. You can connect them with resources or drive them there. It could also mean a hug. Or it might just be being there.
Sometimes, we underestimate just how powerful holding space can be. Sometimes, this is sufficient.
And for those in the position to receive support, it’s important to remember that the people that love you all have different capacities for supporting you at any given time. Give them grace, and thank them for whatever they have to offer.
About Deze Oh
Deze Oh shares her experience with miscarriage and the lessons she learned along the way. She does so at miscarriagemommy.com. She’s obsessed with emboldening women with what it takes to live well when when times are tough and when they’re not. At byDeze.com, you can read her thoughts about being positive, productive, planning and creating a pleasant home.
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Tiny Buddha’s first post, The Many Shades of Sustenance: All Shows up for Us in Different Forms appeared originally on Tiny Buddha.