Parents celebrate their children in so many ways — memory books, star dedications, hand prints, annual photos . . . and tattoos. Tatted For Love is a photographic community series about parents who have dedicated ink to their children. Some of the photos were taken by me, others are self-portraits sent in for this series. From remembering loss to celebrating life, 8 moms share how their journey into parenting led to getting tatted because of their little loves. Scroll through to read more!
The Gift of Life
“My faith is very important to me and I feel I’ve been blessed with the gift of motherhood. So what better to express my love than getting a tattoo of my children’s names and a cross? It’s dainty, it’s simple and it’s absolutely perfect for me.” — Cathy N., Mountain House, CA
“My son was born at 29 weeks gestation (11 weeks early) and spent 70 long, trying days in the NICU. I spent many hours day in and day out staring at his heart rate monitor and breathing patterns. after homecoming and a few months into parenthood I kept thinking about those sound waves. Right before my son’s birthday I decided to bite the bullet and get a soundwave [tattoo in] black ink. I wanted it to be bold yet simple. I wanted to document something more joyful, so I recorded his laugh and made the piece of art on the inside of my forearm with his initials at the end.”
“Every single day when I had to leave the NICU because of shift change and much needed rest, I whispered to him “Be brave.” This became my motto. my son came early due to unknown extremely rare health conditions with me. I thought I was literally on my death bed at the age of 30 [and] about 2-3 months after my son came home from the hospital. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I couldn’t hold him to nurse him, change my own clothes or even put my seat belt on. My husband reminded me to be brave and I was diagnosed with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease. I will forever be on medication which has gotten me to a good and stable place. (It will be a lifelong battle with good days and bad but happy to say that I have more good days than bad.) I got the ‘Be Brave’ tattoo 2 months after the soundwaves.” — Kira M., Phoenix, AZ
“Each [of my] tattoos has a different story and reminds me of a different time of my life. They are milestones or pivotal events along my way. Since this is for tattoos about our kids I will share about the dragon tattoo. I have always admired Japanese tattoos from afar, [then] I ended up moving to San Francisco and having a baby boy in the year of the Dragon. Having met an amazing local artist (Yutaro at Skull and Sword), I decided to take a huge leap and give him my entire leg for a tribute to my son. I now have an amazing dragon to represent my son and the awesome force that being a mother is. My husband even got one, but his is a tiger because in Japanese lore the tiger is Earth and the dragon is the heavens. You can’t have one without the other, like Yin-Yang.” — Adrienne C., San Francisco, CA
A Close Memory
“My daughter was born too soon due to severe Preeclampsia. I wanted a tattoo over my heart in her memory. [It] says, ‘I carry you in my heart Charlotte Nicole’ with her footprints.” — Larissa N., Lawrenceville, NJ
Honor & Celebration
“Before my children were born, I knew that I wanted to get a tattoo to honor them and celebrate becoming a mother. To do that I chose to get their footprints on top of my feet. One of my fondest memories from when I was little was dancing on my dads feet. Memories of dancing, giggling and just being happy. I wish that for my children. To have a life of laughter and happiness and to dance with me. I also want them to know that no matter what, I will always be here for them and will be here to lift them up. So it’s also symbolic to me for my foot to be under theirs. My girls love looking at their footprints and will put their feet on top of mine to see how much bigger their feet are now and how much they have grown.” — Lisa D., Newark, CA
“S was my rainbow baby. When I was around 19 I was pregnant with my first, and so thrilled. But that pregnancy didn’t last, so I went through the grieving process and with that drew out my tattoo — A heart with the letter ‘U’ attached. (That’s how I used to sign my cards to people I cared about back in the early 2000s.) I was the type of person who didn’t really want a tattoo for myself . . . until this. Then I felt like making this my one and only tattoo gave meaning and importance to this dedication. I got the tattoo for my 21st birthday while visiting family in San Diego and dealing with the loss. It was supposed to be just black ink, but the tattoo artist added the red heart shape in the middle and I didn’t feel like doing a lengthy cover up, I was just happy to have it.”
“I picked a spot that wouldn’t interfere with work (because at the time visible tattoos were a big no-no) but I could still see and cherish. This tattoo is my way of never forgetting, and always holding that reality close. The best picture I have of my tattoo is from my wedding, so I’m sharing that one (haven’t perfected self-portraits just yet). I’m now started to think about maybe adding a bit more to this tattoo to include S in the design somehow. She likes looking at the tattoo because it’s a heart, which means love. She often proclaims that I love this or that because it has a heart on it and I love hearts because of my tattoo.” — Shari S., Mountain House, CA
Creating an Anchor
“Originally, the tattoos on my feet were going to be for both my kids. I had only had Chanel, my daughter, at the time (now, she’s 8!) so one was blank for a long time. I had picked out a few symbolic things; the rose, the anchor, and of course, the sparrows. (Sparrows are associated with freedom, undying love and loyalty.) I picked the sparrows because my children are the only humans on this planet that I can say with any degree of certainty that I will forever love. The rose is my favorite flower and my then husband had brought me roses on the day of her birth. The anchor is a symbol for strength and stability and was the foot that had the blank banner for a long time. I eventually decided that I wasn’t going to have any more children and filled the banner in with my daughter’s birthday – it seemed to have greater meaning that way, like that was the day I was anchored into my role as a mother.
Not long after, I ended up going through a divorce and that kind of felt like it was a sealed deal. I was done with babies . . . . until I was surprised with my Trowa. His pregnancy was wild and harsh and I ended up delivering him 3 weeks early due to a placental abruption. Despite all of that, Trowa was a very calm baby, he was so different than his older sister. I thought for a long time about what exactly I wanted to get to represent him. I wanted to stay in the realm of Americana Traditional but all the things I liked didn’t seem to fit him. I settled for something simple; his name and his birthday with a rose. It fits him perfectly. He’s easy going and fairly laid back for a four year old! I think I ended up getting his tattoo when he was around a year old. Chanel’s she was younger than that but I had been planning her tattoo for so long before she was even born that I got it as soon as I was able to.” — Heather S., Oxford, AL
The Joys in Life
“I love scripture/wording tattoos (not so much images) and I knew [my tattoo] would have to be something that would be with me forever [because] these kids will be with me forever and ever. I got Abigial’s [tattoo] in Oakland about 12 months after she was born, and I got Tate’s when he was 3 (just a few months ago actually). It took me longer to get the name ‘Tate’ because the tattoo shop is all the way in Oakland and lets face it I’m too busy and I hate traffic. I’m not a huge believer that a tattoo has to resemble or represent something or have any significance, but it just has to be something you enjoy, you like and you want to see every day and/or have it represent a specific time in your life.” — Jennifer P., Newark, CA
Are you a parent who tatted for love? Submit your pics via social media with hashtag #TattedForLove, comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org to participate!