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These are my thoughts, yo.

Voices Of The Red Tent

jasmine banks

I keep typing words and deleting them. I keep trying to formulate the depth of experience I've had but I can't. My heart freezes my hands and my mind rolls over words and imagery with no real way to communicate the gravity of this experience. If I could I might find songs to sing to you in hopes that I could convey the beauty or a deep deep dirge to express the profound sadness. Maybe there is a painting that might give you a glimpse of that moment, but no... I think not. A couple of weekends ago I attended an event hosted by Maria Chowdhurry of Birthsong Midwifery. The invite popped up in my Facebook feed and as I always do, I clicked over to read the details of the event. I stared at the screen for awhile. Just the description gripped me and something inside began to churn:

The red tent is a sacred space where women come to share their womb stories. We will be creating a safe and beautiful place for women to feel secure and supported. If she so chooses, she may share about her menarche, her births, miscarriages, losses, or menopause. She may choose to share about her sensuality and what it means to her to be feminine. Some women have had hysterectomies and no longer have a uterus, however, what she has is her womb space and her rich stories, that come from that space. No matter what her story is, it wants to be heard. Some stories will be joyful and empowering, some will be filled with grief, hurt and longing. It is not up to us to judge, but to listen and support while holding a healing presence. This is an opportunity for us to gather, to listen, to laugh, to cry, and to feast together as women, from maiden, to mother, to wise woman.

"Damn it!" I thought to myself. It was obvious from my guttural reaction that I needed to attend this event. There are intersectioning moments where what you have kept buried in your soul calls out and you are forced to yield to the call.  I am not trying to be all J.R. Tolkien, but seriously... I felt compelled.
I arrived at Maria's office and slowly walked into the room where women were sitting under a red tent. I felt acutely aware of myself. It was clear some women had already cried a bit. They huddled together, sitting on pillows with their bodies all turned into each other. The womb-like space welcomed me just as the women did.
When it was my turn to talk I spoke of the connect that existed between pregnancy, birth, and my experience with sexual abuse. I mourned the feeling I had being out of control and violated in my own body- both from sexual abuse and from pregnancy. I cried and wept over loss: loss of expectations, over inadequacies, over the deep shame and pain that has been attached to my experience as a woman.
And when I looked up from crying and from speaking, I looked into the eyes of nearly 20 women who lovingly embraced me. They nodded, their eyes welled up with tears, they sat in silent agreement. I lifted the pain from inside myself and placed it into the warmth of red tent. There my sisters acknowledged it and gave me permission to let it go.
And I am letting it go... slowly.
I can't formulate, coherently enough, what this experience means to me. The formative experience that I had has undergirded me with strength and courage. I felt honored as a guardian of the stories of other women, just as they honored me by holding my story.
If you have women in your life who hold you without judgement... If you have women in your life that can see you through your mask, beyond your pain, and into your rawest identity... count yourself deeply fortunate.