The Red Tent

This is a hard story to write, but I’ve now shared it now with so many people, that it’s getting less hard all the time. And it’s a story that I think is worth sharing.

At the end of October, I was leaving to go and speak at the Parliament of World Religions as part of the Buddhist Catholic Dialogue Group I’d been part of now for a few years. In addition, my Interplay group was also going. I was staying with a friend from my Buddhist Sangha. And the trip cost was being covered by a grant my Catholic friends were so generous to find for me. I was all set.

I was 6 weeks pregnant, when the day before I left, the doctor told me I was going to miscarry. I wasn’t so sure whether I should go. Instinct though told me I should go anyway although I wasn’t certain as to why. I was somewhat horrified at myself and maybe my husband was too although he’s too kind to really say, but I got on the plane to leave the next day. I called up the friend I was staying with to warn her and make sure it was still ok, and I told my Interplay friends and some of the people I was doing my workshop with. And I told a Shambhala teacher who was also speaking there. I also got myself some travel insurance in case I had to go to the ER. Then I left.

It was emotional going to many of the workshops. But the day it came was on a Sunday. I had already done my workshop by then. It came first completely emotionally. A wound so deep, I cannot describe it. After bursting into tears uncontrollably during an Interplay circle, my friend Agnotti took me to the “red tent” – a tent setup on the 6th floor of the conference center than was intended to be “womb space.” It was somehow the right space for that moment.

When I got there, she laid me down in some pillows. I was in a lot of physical pain. There were maybe 40 or so mostly women in the tent, taking turns singing songs from their cultures and spiritual traditions. We listened for a little while. Then Agnotti bent over and said “wouldn’t it be great if all these women knew what was happening over here?” and I said “Why don’t you tell them.” And so in the break between songs, Agnotti made the announcement. I was having a miscarriage.

The atmosphere became directed at me. Songs were dedicated on my behalf. Women came to me and told me their own stories of their miscarriages. Women and femmes prayed over me, and offered me healing from their own modalities. I accepted it all, feeling blessed and honored. A First Nations woman offered a phrase from her tradition that is offered during a miscarriage which loosely translated as “have a good bleeding” which somehow offered me some solace that other traditions could have actual phrases and acknowledge the naturalness of what was happening.

All this went on for maybe two hours. Although I admit my time sense was warped.

Somehow I know that is why I had to go to Toronto. Logic did not send me there. It is not logical to get on a plane to another country the day after you are told you’re going to miscarry. But something just told me it was best I go. That it would be more healing for me to go. And that space is why I had to be there. That experience of closure is why I had to be there.

After that, Agnotti, some of my Interplay friends and my friend that I was staying with took good care of me. I will never forget their kindness. It all ended Monday night, as the mass/being passed through although I felt it was only the shell of the being that has already left days before.

I’m writing this not to share my story of miscarriage particularly, but because the Red Tent is something we need so badly in our society. We need spaces that are so safe, that complete strangers can come together and offer healing and emotional support to each other. We lack this kind of care in our world right now. And not only do women and femmes need spaces, but everyone, even men, need womb spaces. Can you imagine if entire communities had their very own red tent, available to be in at all times? Not only do we need the physical spaces, but we need the spiritual practices, and song and dance. The play and the love. And we need the level of care that Agnotti and the rest of my friends showed me during that time. We need spaces of care and people who care.

The Red Tent is an inspiration – one that I hope we can make happen everywhere. And to all those women who suffered in silence through their miscarriages, I offer you healing, and encourage you to find your own red tent.

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