Monday, December 11, 2006

The red cloth

Yesterday I attended a ceremony for children who have died from abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, etc. I’m not religious, but when I miscarried I found it frustrating that there weren’t any ceremonies to help me cope. But it turns out that Buddhism has one, and a friend who lost one of her twins during her pregnancy last year heard about the event and asked me to join her.

It was held in a beautiful Buddhist monastery in Berkeley. We were instructed to bring red cloth, a needle and thread, and scissors. We spent the first hour making something, an offering, and then had a brief ceremony where we each placed our items on a figure in the temple. I sacrificed a too-big Old Navy tank top and made a little hat out of it, with red grosgrain ribbon around the rim. (Turns out I don’t have a future as a seamstress.) It was odd to sit on a mat on the floor of a freezing cold temple on a Sunday afternoon, sewing in intense silence with 17 other people, some quietly weeping.

The priest said the act of making the offering was designed to help us release the being we were doing the ceremony for, and that was hard for me. I’ve held on to my pregnancy as a life raft in the trying-to-conceive process; it tells me my body is capable, that there's a possibility. Since our society doesn’t have a way of recognizing miscarriage, it’s been important for me to hold onto it, to tell people, to be visible. But I realized yesterday that perhaps the act of releasing my failed pregnancy could help make room for a new one. Here’s hoping.

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