I Wear My Story

“Broussard and Harton assert that despite the increasing popularity of tattoos over the last decade, people with tattoos are viewed negatively. Pejorative perceptions of tattooed people abound, including having negative personality characteristics, lower levels of inhibition, competence, and sociability, and higher levels of promiscuity. Studies focusing exclusively on tattooed women have found that they are judged more harshly than their male counterparts. Research reveals that women with this form of body art are perceived as more promiscuous, as being heavy drinkers, less attractive, less caring, less intelligent, and less honest” (The Journal of Social Psychology, 2017).

I’ve had a lot of hesitation in sharing this artistic representation of my story with the world. I’ve feared judgement or misunderstanding or misinterpretation of who I am (because unfortunately that’s the reality of thinking in today’s society). I’ve contemplated revealing a very permanent addition to my body. I’ve wondered about the backlash of being a woman with a half-sleeve tattoo. But I’ve also found comfort and confidence and relief in being able to tell my story without using words that make others so uncomfortable. Thinking about or talking about a dead baby does not make people feel comfortable. Hence, I don’t often get the opportunity, outside of written words or shared photos, to talk about one of my daughters. I found myself feeling more and more isolated as time passed, and I had to find another way to work through this part of child loss.

The photos below are unedited, raw, and real. Some who have already seen my tattoo love it, while others have expressed their distaste in the style or their lack of understanding in my decision. That’s OK. I don’t particularly care for or understand many things, including the cards I’ve been dealt in this game of life. But the work of art you’re about to see is one-of-a-kind. It’s mine. It was designed by me and brought to life by an amazingly talented artist, and a deeply kind soul, Tommy. This the depth and the love and the pain of my story. It represents permanence, in both life and in death.

The Roots The “holding hands” at the bottom of the birch trees represent my grandmothers, who had a huge impact on my life, and still guide me from Heaven. They are the basis of my foundation as a woman and as a mother. They are the start of my roots. The roots extending toward the shamrock appear to be something strong and painful, but necessary for growth. *Red represents the root chakra: identity, foundation, stability, grounding.*

The Paths The paths represent my journey. They lead to the mountains – where we moved to live a slower and more present life, as we seek peace. The waters around the paths represent rough and painful times, as well as constant, unchartered movement on this journey. *Orange represents the sacral chakra: creativity, self-worth, ability to accept others and new experiences.*

The Moon “The Moon represents powerful feminine energy. It signifies wisdom, intuition, birth, death, reincarnation, and a spiritual connection. Each phase of the Moon’s cycle has a unique visual characteristic and spiritual meaning. Her cyclical course also signifies the rhythm of life within us (Grabarczyk, 2019).” I have a very strong connection to Moon. Our three girls were born during different moon phases, each of which perfectly represent their personalities and their soul-purpose. I find peace and beauty in the light, the movement, the changes, and the energy that Moon provides. *Yellow represents the solar plexus chakra: self-esteem, confidence, personal power.*

The Shamrock Hank and I are both part Irish. Our anniversary is on St. Patrick’s Day. Norah’s due date was also St. Patrick’s Day. The start of this tattoo began during the celebration of our 10 year anniversary, immediately before the pandemic shut down which halted the progression and completion of this tattoo, but makes it even more meaningful to me. *Green represents the heart chakra: love, devotion, relationships.*

The Wolf The Wolf is my spirit animal. The three young, howling wolves represent each of our girls and their voices, their connection, their spirit. I relate strongly to the wolf in my role as a mother. According to Wolf Animal Mothers – An Excellent Role Model of Motherhood, “The wolf mother is extremely intuitive when it comes to raising her pups. She knows their needs and follows her instincts to provide. The wolf mother is also protective of her young, keeping them in the den until the pups are sufficiently capable to survive outside of the den. The female wolf is also extremely unselfish, demonstrated in her willingness to remain in the den herself to provide for her young.” Additionally, the wolf is independent, strong-willed, and often misunderstood. *Blue represents the throat chakra: communication, expression.*

The Third Eye/Sunflower “Wikipedia: The third eye refers to the gate that leads to the inner realms and spaces of higher consciousness. In spirituality, the third eye often symbolizes a state of enlightenment or the evocation of mental images having deeply personal spiritual or psychological significance.” The third eyes within the sunflower represents the deeper levels of awareness and enlightenment I’m seeking while on this grief journey. The eye was designed from a photo of Norah. *Indigo represents the third eye chakra: higher consciousness, enlightenment.*

The Cross My faith has been the most constant, unshaken part of my journey. Faith is what has led me this far and kept me alive. There have been so many times when I simply needed someone, besides myself, to blame. I wanted to blame God. Yet my mind and my heart have never once let me go there, because I knew that this was not a work of God. He wouldn’t steal my baby from me. He wouldn’t turn my life inside-out and allow me to hit rock bottom simply to see if I could pick up the pieces and continue on. Instead I’ve experienced a deeper connection and understand through God, that I can’t adequately explain. But I know that He, too, weeps with me and stays by my side to assist me in this tragic clean up. *Violet represents the crown chakra: awareness, intelligence, spiritual connection.*

The Feather Norah’s eternal connection and strong communication with us is represented by this feather. We’ve had so many “unexplainable feather encounters.” Even more powerful than the feathers has been the number “111.” This number has shown up more times than I can even count, and in the most intentional ways (I’ve vowed to begin documenting some these and will share examples in a future post). “111” still needs added to the tattoo but I haven’t decided, yet, on where it should go… so I’m waiting.

Norah’s handprint There were a lot of tears shed during this part of my tattoo session. Norah used to lay her hand on my heart as she fell asleep. She has come to me in dreams, and in dream-like states, and each time she gently but firmly placed her hand on my left shoulder. Her tender and meaningful touch will never be forgotten.
*Thanks to Emily’s brother, who made Norah’s final handprint into a stamp for us. Besides her remains and a tiny piece of hair taken after she died, this is the only other keepsake we have left from her sweet and powerful little body. We’re forever grateful for his beautiful gesture and for this priceless keepsake.*

“Broussard and Harton (2017) contend that these findings challenge existing stereotypes about tattooed individuals, particularly that they are less intelligent, more rebellious, and take more risks. All told, the authors state, these views may not have a basis in fact — and are indeed just stereotypes.”

I’m still me – with the same morals and values and Christian beliefs as I had before (I had this tattoo). I have the same level of intelligence, the same work ethic, and the same desires to be the best person I can be. My hope is that we, as a species, can begin to see others through a different lense, regardless of natural physical traits or additional physical art or ornaments, like tattoos, piercings, hair color, clothing style.

I encourage anyone (especially women – and more so grieving women) considering something like this, to absolutely go for it. Take the time you need to think it through and design exactly what you want (it took me 18 months to discover everything I needed in this). The emotional connection and the powerful outcome is well worth it.

~Some wear their heart on their sleeve; I wear my story.~

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