My husband's sister gave me The Red Tent by Anita Diamant several years ago. I was either pregnant or had already given birth to Sadie - I am not sure of the exact time frame. I remember reading the book and feeling offended by the liberties taken with the story. As a story it was fantastic. My concern with the text had more to do with people reading the book and thinking that was the true story - the one written in the Bible.
A month ago I received an invitation to a Red Tent event. I immediately thought of the book I had read years ago. I clicked on the link not expecting what I read - it was an event where women would gather in a red tent and share their birth stories. This was my thing. Suffering a difficult birth has made birth stories my passion. I couldn't wait to hear other women's stories.
I arrived at the San Diego Birth Center nervous. I don't do well in large group situations and meeting strangers makes me uncomfortable. I love people but they scare me at the same time. What if they don't like me?
I immediately see some women I met at an ICAN meeting and their smiles and warmth settled my nerves. At the front desk they were asking for a $5 donation but it was Shabbat so I didn't pay. A table groaning with cakes, cookies, fruits and drinks stretched the entire length of the hallway. As my eyes moved past the brownies, sweet drinks and containers of water I saw a beautiful arrangement of pillows and linens on the floor with a large red tent filling the space above. I sat on a pillow waiting for the event to begin. I felt transported to a mystical place where for a few hours there was no judgement. We all would accept one another. This was a room filled with women who understood the power of story telling.
As we all sat on the floor a woman sat on the pillow that was the focus of the room. She smiled and made us all feel welcome. We were explained what the event was about and then she asked us all to not share the stories we will hear. These stories were meant only to be heard and repeated under the red tent. Before finishing, she read this prayer and asked us all to close our eyes and listen:
"There are so many different kinds of mothers and I ask you to pray clearly during the following prayer when you hear me mention a mother you know who fits the description. If we could just bow our heads in prayer:
God, please continue to bless all of the amazing women here today and in our thoughts. Continue to allow us to learn from each other and draw strength from each other. We include in our prayers mothers who had wonderful, empowering birth experiences, and those who had traumatic birth experiences.
We include in our prayers our own mothers, mothers who are now in Heaven, new birth moms, mothers with postpartum depression, adoptive moms, mothers of teenagers, empty-nest moms, mothers of twins, triplets, and other multiples, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, women who hope to have children some day, women who cannot bear children, women who do not choose to be mothers and mother the world in other wonderful ways, women who gave up their babies for adoption, teenage mothers, mothers who miscarry, mothers who abort, mothers of children with challenges or diseases, mothers who suffer a fetal demise, mothers who birth stillborn babies, mothers who lose their children, foster mothers, Godmothers, and surrogate mothers.
Please let your light shine through us all and into the lives of the children around us. Amen."
As she spoke I looked around the room and saw many women with their eyes closed. I then closed my eyes and felt chills as I listened. I knew when she was done I wanted a copy of her prayer. It was beautiful and moving. Later I was able to connect with her and get a copy to share with all of you.
I stayed for five hours at this event listening to woman after woman tell her story. There were animated women, shy women, crying women - all mothers who carried their stories with them. There were women who had birthed sick children, women who lost their children and women who had births dreams are made of. We were all connected by this rite of passage. We wanted to hear and support each other. Many of us felt there was a price to pay to bring life into this world - a price we gave willingly.
I told my story at the end. I was one of the last women to speak. I wasn't sure I wanted to share my story but I gathered my courage and sat on the pillow and spoke. I had lost my voice days earlier so I had to scream over myself just to be heard. I felt myself wanting to cry on several occasions as I looked into the eyes of women who truly cared about my experience. When I was done and had let go of the pain I held inside I walked into a different room and cried. I sat there and cried for minutes - finally letting go of a piece of the pain I hadn't realized I even carried. I allowed the emotions to move through me. Afterwards several women came up to me and hugged me. They thanked me for sharing my story. I felt liberated. I came home exhausted worn out by the experience.
Giving birth changes you. It has been one of the most important moments of my life. Hearing other women share the same feeling was beautiful and moving. The strength and courage I saw in that room was inspiring. For many of the mothers in the room I shared a prayer sending them love and peace. Bringing life into the world demands great faith in God and life and ourselves.
Meet the Blogger!
I'm a mom. A writer. A lover of good fantasy. A proponent of nursing when possible. A birth advocate. I am absolutely horrible at keeping my house clean or the dishes washed or the laundry done. I strongly believe in women having a positive birth. When we start to respect women's rights to birth the way they want, we can start to treat women as equal people in this world.
Sites I Value