Acrylic nail art has been making a major comeback in the last few years, and you don’t have to scroll through Instagram for long to see how impressively intricate many of the designs are. But amid the thousands of nail selfies with glitter and hearts and holiday motifs, you may come across a few with painted images that hold a special meaning: nails painted black, with tiny white swirls that recreate ultrasound photos of babies in the womb.
Sara Peterson, a California-based nail artist and former owner of the salon Nails by Sara, says she was first inspired to create an ultrasound photo manicure last year, and did some research to figure out how exactly it could be done.
“There are some nails done as far back as 2013 that have sonograms on them,” she says. “They were not hand-painted, though. Instead, the actual ultrasound or a small photocopy of it was printed out and then applied to the nail and encased in acrylic.”
So Peterson set out to hand-paint her own, and proudly shared them on Instagram:
For Peterson, this was far more than just a unique manicure — it was a way to honor the baby she had recently lost to miscarriage.
“I don’t know what it means for other mothers,” she tells Babble, “but for me, it made me so happy to look down and see my baby and have him with me for a little while. People would see it and ask what it was, and that allowed me to share about him and spread awareness for miscarriage.”
“This manicure has been a long time coming,” she shared in her photo caption at the time. “After three years and numerous fertility treatments, my hubby and I finally conceived in April. On May 30, my heart was broken when I found out my baby was no longer living and growing, and he was taken from me the next day. I lost all inspiration as I struggled with the grief. I learned how to love him and his brief life and move forward with renewed hope.”
She then ended her post with a sweet message to the baby she lost, writing: “I love you jelly bean, and seeing you on my nails makes me smile.”
Peterson says many people she knew were touched by the moving tribute, and that in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, she’s currently offering to paint a sonogram photo on the nails of other women in her area who’ve experienced a loss.
Since Peterson’s post last year, she’s noticed more and more hand-painted ultrasound nails popping up across Instagram.
Some, just like hers, are done in honor of a loss; others are done as a creative way to announce a pregnancy.
“It’s so hard to tell these days ‘who was first’,” Peterson says, when asked if she thinks she started the trend. Either way, she’s just happy to see it catching on, and to do her small part in raising awareness for pregnancy loss. In fact, she’s since launched the blog and online store Invisibaby, with the mission to “empower parents of pregnancy and infant loss, honor and celebrate our babies, and break the silence.”
So far, it certainly seems she has.