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Tattoos are Forever

When I was 18, I wanted a Tinker Bell tattoo on my lower back. I don’t know what kept me from getting it, but I shudder at the thought these days.

I was never very adventurous when it came to body modification. While my girlfriends got their noses and belly buttons pierced and tattooed butterflies and  zodiac signs in easily visible parts of their body, the most daring thing I had done was get a second hole in my ears.

That all changed when I turned 24 years old. I was out of college, learning to navigate corporate America, and for the first time in my life I felt supremely aware of who I was and what I wanted. I was engaged to be married to a kind and funny guy who had several tattoos. Most of the time, I didn’t even notice he had them. Out of the blue one day a very distinct urge to take the jump and get my first tattoo hit. I sat on the thought for months, tossing ideas around in my mind. Tattoos are so permanent (well, unless you’re willing to invest thousands for pricey and painful laser removal). That kind of permanency made me nervous. What could I possibly want on my body for forever?

I eventually decided on a Sailor Jerry-style swallow bird on my hip. I did a lot of reading on the symbolism of that particular design and felt it best represented where I was in my life. Getting it done was far less dramatic than I anticipated, and while I usually forgot it was even there, I’d find myself smiling whenever I caught sight of it.

Two years later, my new husband and I moved to San Francisco (a long time dream of mine) and I decided to get another tattoo to mark the occasion: A bird cage with an open door and a yellow rose winding through it (like the yellow rose bush in front of our first apartment in the city). My third came a year and half after that, when my daughter was 3 months old. I settled on on a dove with the word “Foreverly” scrolled underneath in her honor.

I’m currently exploring options for my fourth tattoo for Arlo. I haven’t decided on what it will be just yet, but I know I want something on my skin forever that represents how he has changed my life for the better. Having symbols of important experiences and people in my life forever etched in my skin doesn’t scare me anymore. It’s become a thing of beauty and pride for me. A history of sorts and part of my story.

I love watching my 18-month-old daughter Everly trace the outline of the bird I got in her honor with her small hands. If the day comes that she or Arlo decide that they want a tattoo too, I’ll encourage them to wait until they are truly mature and confident in their decision. I’ll tell them the story of the almost Tinker Bell and how glad I was that I waited until I found something that was truly symbolic.

I will teach my children that tattoos aren’t a thing to be ashamed of or discouraged, but they are a decision that requires a lot of forethought and an understanding of their permanency. And in the meantime,  I look forward to the next life event that’s worth commemorating forever on my skin.

~Melissa

Do other moms regret their tattoos now that they’re parents? Click here to find out what Babble moms think of their ink!

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