A tattoo is worth a thousand words

“Do you always take so many pictures?” Her question didn’t have any judgment in it. It was the kind said to get conversation flowing. While seated on the cushioned table, a sort of hybrid between the kind in a doctor’s office and the ones in a massage studio, I sat with my left foot splayed out and my phone in hand documenting each part of the tattoo process.

She knew a little bit of our story. Chris and I had come three months before to discuss getting matching tattoos for Mabel. We brought some inspiration with us and I thought it was important for her to know the meaning behind the tattoos. “We had a baby in February and she died shortly after birth, “ I told her then. “We used to call her the Karate Carrot, when I was pregnant with her, so that’s why we want a carrot tattoo.”

Now, seated in the studio, I hammed it up for the camera, instructing Chris on which angles I wanted and then grabbed the phone from him so I could see and take some of my own.   Chris rolled his eyes and shook his head while keeping a little smile on his face, in that way he does that lets me know that he thinks I’m silly but that my silliness is endearing too. So when she asked if I always take a lot of pictures, I felt a need to explain.

Of the two of us, Chris rarely takes photos. I’m usually the one making him smile and telling him “Now take one of me, like this!” as I posed in some ridiculous way in front of a landmark. We have a nicer camera, but it’s an effort to remember it and when I want to document the more mundane moments of everyday living, I usually grab what I have- my cell phone. The only exception to this habit was this past year, when I shied away from the camera.

“We found out our daughter had Down Syndrome when I was 13 weeks pregnant,” I told the tattoo artist. “And there is a high chance of stillbirth with Down Syndrome, so in the beginning I didn’t take a lot of photos because I thought if I lost the pregnancy, the photos might make me sad. Then later we found out she had some birth defects and the doctors had no idea whether she’d live or not. We wouldn’t know until she was born. So my reluctance to take photos got worse. But now that we’ve been through it, now that we’ve lost her, I am so sad I don’t have more photos of me pregnant. They were part of her story. So now whenever I do anything related to her, I try to take lots of photos to make up for it.”

She nodded in understanding, as she dipped her ink needles, changing the color from green to orange. There was no pause in the conversation, no awkward “I’m sorry”s, no weak platitudes. A simple nod of understanding as she went on creating the life long tribute to my daughter on my ankle.

***

I chose my ankle because I wanted something I could easily show or hide, depending on the circumstance.  It’s also by the foot, reminding me of Mabel’s clubbed feet.  Chris chose the side of his chest, where the kidneys meet the lungs, reminding him of the organs that made her existence so short, but so special.

Do you carry anything with you to remind you of your baby or one that you’ve lost?  If you were to get a tattoo (or if you have one) what would you do to symbolize your little one?

The studio had much to keep us entertained.

The studio had much to keep us entertained.

Some of the decor in the studio

Some of the decor in the studio

Some of the decor in the studio

Some of the decor in the studio

Some of the decor in the studio

Some of the decor in the studio

The design.  The top images were inspirations we brought in, including a carved a carrot given to us by friends and a temporary tattoo chris gave me for mother's day.

The design. The top images were inspirations we brought in, including a carved a carrot given to us by friends and a temporary tattoo chris gave me for mother’s day.

Before

Before. Please disregard the bug bites.

transposing the image

transposing the image

Deciding whether I like the placement

Deciding whether I like the placement

IMG_4225

It kinda hurts!

It kinda hurts!

such a ham!

such a ham!

Chris's turn next

Chris’s turn next

Needlework

Needlework

IMG_4258

Showing off the new tat

Showing off the new tat

Finished!

Finished!

Finished!

Finished!

 

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23 thoughts on “A tattoo is worth a thousand words

  1. They’re wonderful, Meghan – a beautiful tribute to your beautiful Mabel. I love the symbolism behind the tattoos, and that you and your husband have got matching designs in meaningful places. I have my star shaped pendant with Hugo’s hand and foot print. I’ve been considering getting a tattoo too – stars of course – but haven’t committed to it yet xxx

  2. Beautiful!

    I remember watching The Art of Tattoos on the History Channel years ago, appreciating the symbolism and techniques.

    On a few other notes…

    Over this past weekend, I came across a babyloss Mom (recent, maybe 8-9 weeks) via a wonderful yoga teacher on Instagram. Username= ameliakyoga. She tells her their story their. Beautiful. It’s raw and graceful. Discretion advised..

    Also, I wonder if Katy, the shop owner of Pitter Patter Prints could turn Label’s foot prints into carrots. https://www.etsy.com/shop/PitterPatterPrint

    She does some great stuff and I have no connection to her. Just a thought.

    Peace

    • Please excuse my typos…

      Katey and Mabel.

      Also, I just reread some of Amelia’s posts. She has a peacock tattoo on her foot for her son.

    • oh my, what a beautiful instagram account! I just started following0 thank you for the recommendation. and I checked out he pitter patter etsy, but she’s on leave to have a new baby. Honestly I’d love to have some customized cards printed- I have my idea of what I want, but I’ve been looking and havent found anything yet that matches what I envision. so thankyou for the recommendation, perhaps when she gets back!

  3. Your tattoo is beautiful Meghan! And it’s so nice that even the placement have meanings. Hubby & I also have matching tattoos in our wrists, with Rheice’s name and the date she was born. Mine have angel wings on the side while Rhett’s have an angel halo a above the R.
    We also have Rheice’s picture printed & her face inserted in a tiger stuffed toy that hangs by the front mirror in the car. This way, she is with us & we can see her beautiful face even when we’re on the go. I would love to show you pictures. =)
    I feel sad also Meghan that I didn’t take a lot of photos when I was pregnant. I was very conscious as I gained a lot of weight (25kls!) during pregnancy. Since my preggy belly was not that big because of the lack of fluid, I guess I just compensated with the fats so I’ll look pregnant.
    Well, I just wish I took a lot of photos especially with Rhett. Those could be the only family picture we can have.

    • I swear, every time I see you comment, my breathe catches. I cannot get over seeing “Mabel” commenting!

      How lovely your tattooes sound- a thoughtful tribute to your baby. I love how you incorporated the halo and the wings. I have Mabel’s face as my phone screen, so everytime i pick it up I see her- like you have Rheice in your car. it’s nice having our babies with us!

      You and me both with the lack of photos. if only I could go back in time and whisper to myself- take more!

  4. Your tattoos are beautiful. Thank you for sharing this moment with us. I hope having Mabel on you at all times will be comforting. and i think it is beautiful that you and Chris have matching tattoos..

    i got two tattoos for Paul and they both have served me as reminder that he is always with me, when i lose track of that. I got a small one just 2 weeks after his death as a way to connect with the pain and our experience in the ICU. It is two small X on my inner ankles as a nurse had drawn similar X on his ankles to take his pulse always on the same spot. It was such a cathartic moment for me, to mark my body to resemble his and to feel some physical pain at a time when all i could feel emotionally was pain. Then i got another tattoo of a baby wild boar (it sounds a lot cuter in french), our nickname for Paul — a whole other story i tried to write about but never finished…

  5. Y’all are so brave! I wear my Ander necklace – my mom got us sterling silver necklaces with Ander’s footprints on them – but I’m too much of a wuss to get a tattoo. And I definitely echo the sentiment about being disappointed not to have more pictures of me pregnant. There are only three – and one is when I’m on hospital bedrest. Sigh!

    • only three- how treasured they must be, yes? makes me rethink every event in my life- should I be taking photos? just in case? I had someone do it for Mabel’s burial and i was worried abouthow it appear- photos at a funeral? but i’m so glad i did!

  6. Pingback: Day 9: In Memory | Expecting the Unexpected

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