Every year Debra leads a doula workshop in Angelika’s Red Tent in Austria. In this blog, Angelika shares with us how it all started.
by Angelika Rodler
The first time I saw a Red Tent was at a Birth Conference in Hungary in 2003. It was made of simple poster walls, covered with a lot of red material. I went in without any expectations, but I understood within a second. The tiny room was filled with pillows, honey was offered to honor the women who came in. It was so peaceful, silent – like coming home. A different world- and while outside the conference program stimulated the neocortex, here was the place to dream and share about all the new visions which were created on this pioneer’s conference. My friend and wonderful midwife Marina Alzugaray was with me and I couldn’t imagine a better person to be introduced to the sacred space of the Red Tent. At this time I was organizing an annually Birth Conference in Austria and for 2004 I invited the Hungarian Red Tent Women to come with their concept and material. This first red tent was also very tiny, but the women at the conference loved it and this motivated me create our own one, much bigger, for next year. Many midwives used it to recreate, meet with friends and new contacts, take a nap…. After this sweet experience I knew that I need a Red Tent. When I came home I worked like crazy and 24 hours later I had one in a free room of our house. A space only for my own needs and to share time with my girlfriends and my daughter….
In 2006 I became pregnant with my 5th child and I was sure that she will be born inside the Red Tent. It was a candlelit, peaceful waterbirth with my midwife, Doulas, my daughter – and of cause my very supporting husband. This was really a birth-party. I never will forget the magical hours of bonding with the baby in my pregnancy, this perfect birth and the recreation time postpartum, the breastfeeding, – every pregnant woman should have the chance to give birth in a red tent or enjoy the babymoon in red! That’s why pregnant women can rent a birthpool for a homebirth at our center, plus everything needed for a Red Tent- measuring either 2,5 m x 2,5 m, or, if they want, 50 m². I would love to see a red umbrella-tent or some other solutions for an easy and not too exotic performance in the hospital (Doulas know what I mean ;-)), because I think this would be the perfect way to care for more privacy in labour….
I started to organize Red Tents in our Center (NGO/NPO for parents and children to support natural birth and parenthood in many ways)…. The first time 2009 we offered two weeks of Red Tent program, based on Elizabeth Davis and Carol Leonard’s inspiring book “Circle of Life”. We went through all the archetypes of women’s wheel of life –every day a new one. The day started with an introduction to the meaning of the archetype in the morning. The whole day there was a good mixture of open space and a program with leaded talking circles, short lectures, playful singing, dancing (wild and sweet), creative time to experiment with new arts and express your feelings, a slumber party with our little daughters and special massage for our own old mothers. We did “Let’s talk about sex” evenings and shared a lot of female wisdom with experts and our sisters in all ages. We could explore what women can be for each other, especially while they are going through their so-called “bloodmysteries”- menarche, birth, menopause. After two weeks we ended up with our visions about how we want to become old and die. We laughed a lot, cried a little bit and enjoyed being with women. The last day we closed the circle and celebrated the transformer in us. It was a well-used chance to invite girlies and crones, who normally don’t come to a parents & child center and we really could take a look on the special needs and blessings of each lifetime.
While the Austrian Doula training (which I lead) I try to inspire the Doulas to see the Red Tent as a wonderful tool to work with women on every level. You need not to be an expert to invite your girlfriends and clients to come to your red tent and feel joyfully how it works (yes, the red material works with it’s own magic – you can relax!). You need not to be an expert to create a space for YOU and allow women to come in when they need to be for their own– even it the space is tiny, it’s worth! BE the one who is inspiring other women to take their space! I’m thrilled about the huge potential of the Red Tent to bring together pregnant women (new clients and women who had a Doula f. e.) for sharing birthstories, do creative activities, chanting birthsongs, showing birthfilms, the really good ones like “Orgasmic Birth”, do different kinds of bodywork. But I also love the meeting between the generations to understand them and f. e. how we were raised up…
For sure you are highly needed to talk open and positive about first blood, menstruation, birth, love and death (and of cause many other essential things and funstuff). But don’t forget to offer blessingway parties, babynaming celebrations, a menarche party…. So many opportunities really connected to our in-TENT-ion as Doulas… if you are not the one to DO it, be the one who shares the idea, and I promise you – very soon you will meet the women you were waiting for to add their talents to yours and your circle will grow and shine and expand –because women are waiting for YOU to start!
As you see, my personal focus of the Red Tent is not only on Menstruation (although I love this topic, too) like in some Red Tent traditions. I enjoy the beauty and the many many roles in every women’s life and want to empower women of all ages to feel welcome, nurtured and treated with love. I can imagine how special YOUR Red Tent will be created and filled with energy….let’s dream on, share methods of creating, building, let’s make a Red Tent Kit with the best ideas for celebrations – let us be the movement into more joy in sisterhood…!
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