A Tattoo Story

A Tattoo Story | pinchofyum.com

This Is The Story Of How I Got a Tattoo

(um, I GOT A TATTOO!!!!!!! I’m very chill about it.)

There’s nothing really extraordinary about my particular story: I experienced a tragedy, it changed me forever, and I wanted to physically ink my body to reflect my newness. I wanted to carry my story and my sweet baby boy in a way that was visible to myself and others. It’s meaningful, and empowering, and also, it’s a pretty basic tattoo story.

Sometime between the blur of January and February and March, post-hospital, post-loss, post-trauma, when all I could really do with myself was think about ways to memorialize Afton, I made list upon list of things that I called my Grief Calendar. It was things I could do each week or each month that would help me feel closer to Afton even in his absence. And somehow, in that loop of ideas (planting trees, joining a grief group, making a memory book) I got stuck on this idea of a tattoo. I can’t remember if someone recommended it to me? it had to have been – I don’t think I had the mental capacity to come up with any ideas on my own during what now feels like a complete wash of two, three, four months. But as soon as the idea was presented, it was practically a done deal.

The idea wasn’t totally new – over the last few years I had considered getting a tattoo, but you don’t want to get just ANY old tattoo, right? I mean, I’m risk-averse enough that if I was going to do something so permanent, it couldn’t just be a random little pineapple on my shoulder or something. (Although, note to self: pineapple would actually be kind of cute.) I was open to the idea – I was just waiting for the right one to present itself.

And then it presented itself – not how I thought it would look, but in the form of loss, and love, and a tiny expression of rebellion against the status quo.

This was my right one.

A Tattoo Story | pinchofyum.com

I did what all good people of 2017 would have done – I went on a major googling run:

“best tattoo shop twin cities”

“where to get a tattoo on your body”

“tattoo memorial”

“tattoo women small”

“tattoo inspiration”

“tattoo fails”

“what to know before getting a tattoo”

I called and scheduled it. It wasn’t for several months thanks to the popularity of my preferred location (as Bjork reminded me every day: the fact that they are busy is a good sign, Linds). Every day I wished it was happening sooner. My body felt lost without it. I needed to be marked, to have some outward symbol of a new and mostly invisible reality. Sometimes I’d look down and my arm and touch it and just wish that I had that ink buried deep in my skin.

I had been working with one of my talented and generous friends to help design a hand-lettered version of his name – Afton – and went back and forth on the styles with everyone who would look at them with me. Is this one too girly? Too scripty? Too basic? Which one looks the most Afton-y? One day I came across a lettering account on Instagram. I wasn’t even looking – it was just by chance, it was maybe even on my Discover page somewhere. I took one look at Aedriel’s lettering and I just knew this was the exact style I was looking for. I sent her an email asking for help with the final, official lettering of this tattoo, and she said yes.

And suddenly, like time does, it snuck up. The tattoo was happening in three days.

Wait a minute, uhhh, what’s happening? Where did we get this idea again? Who is supervising my decision-making right now?

A Tattoo Story | pinchofyum.com

I started my second, more frantic googling run:

“what do tattoos look like when you’re old”

“pictures old people tattoos”

“women tattoo regret”

“will I regret getting a tattoo”

“how bad does a tattoo hurt”

Even as we drove to the tattoo shop, I was debating between wrist and forearm. I was worried about weird things like veins on my wrist, but I was motivated by the idea that something on my forearm would be the most visible to the most people the most frequently. During a deep dive in Pinterest’s tattoo archives, I found a picture of a small tattoo on a woman’s forearm in a scripty font and I was sold. I printed out the picture and brought it to the tattoo shop with me.

We played around with size and location at the tattoo shop (thanks, Allie!) and eventually got it just right.

“Okay, are you ready?” she smiled.

Tattoo Story | pinchofyum.com
A Tattoo Story | pinchofyum.com

It kind of hurt, but also kind of not. Maybe I was expecting it to be worse? Or maybe the pain of the needles and the ink felt appropriate given the pain of the situation that was bringing me to get a tattoo in the first place. Either way, I didn’t flinch too many times and I didn’t cry. Well, I did feel my eyes filling with tears at one point, but that was just my heart swelling.

She finished in about ten minutes, and I looked at it, and I loved it.

From the very first moment, I loved it.

A Tattoo Story | pinchofyum.com

I have to tell you – in the week leading up to this day, I had started getting cold feet. I was googling pictures of old people with tattoos and trying to decide if I this would something I’d be proud of, or if I’d look back and regret it.

And there was a moment where I just made a firm decision: I made the decision to never regret this tattoo.

That’s something that can be decided, right? I promised myself in that moment I would never look at this tattoo for any reason and say, “I wish I wouldn’t have gotten this tattoo,” even for something as shallow as how it looked with a watch or the way my shirt sleeves laid over it or how it would look with my future wrinkly skin.

This little piece of scripty font across my forearm? It’s beautiful and sacred and a little bit rebellious and I will never regret it. I will never regret writing my baby’s name on my arm and carrying it around with me everywhere I go.

A Tattoo Story | pinchofyum.com

So that’s that. That’s the end of my basic tattoo story.

It’s a physical representation of an invisible truth: that I have a son, that he made me a mom, and that I love him in life and death.

So… who else is inked? 🤓 Tattoo-ers unite! (Well, I don’t think this tiny tattoo gets me fully into the tattoo club, but maybe I can be a junior member or something.)


A million thanks to Aedriel for the amazing custom tattoo design!

I got my tattoo done at Tailorbird Tattoo in Minneapolis. Many thanks to Allie and team for such a wonderful, non-scary first-time experience!

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189 Comments

  1. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Anne J

    Your tattoo is gorgeous! What a stunning tribute to Afton and incredible way to carry him with you everywhere. After we lost our twins, my husband got their feet prints tattooed on his arm. I love that tattoo. Thank you for sharing…you may just be the inspiration I need to get my own, almost 6 years later.

  2. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Allison

    You go girl. I love everything about it, especially the script and placement. The lettering does look Afton-y to me ❤️

  3. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I don’t like tattoos and I would probably only get one if I had experienced something like you. But apart from that I also agree that it is beautiful. It is a very special way to remember your child.

  4. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Kelly C.

    I love this story and how your tattoo turned out. I have seven myself and an ever-growing list of what I want next. They ground me and remind me of where I was, who I was, who I am, and who I want to be. I have one that is visible (on my wrist) and it’s the only one that has any color to it, a remembrance of a friend who passed away. As soon as the needle hit my arm I thought “Am I going to regret this?” and then I made the same decision you did – I don’t regret the friendship I had with this person so I will never regret the memorial to her that I carry with me.

    I know having Afton’s name on your arm will help you feel connected to him as time goes on. He’s always there with you now.

  5. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Julie

    I think it’s perfect.

    I know when I got my memorial piece there were parts that were extremely painful but the reason behind it made that pain all worth it.

  6. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Erin

    I really love your tattoo. I also wanted to let you know that I planted a large planter full of lavender and delicate little white flowers in honor of Afton. Every time I walk into my garden and smell it, I think of the three of you.

  7. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I’ve always loved meaningful tattoo stories and yours is beautiful. I’ve got a couple, and currently a few other ideas milling around in my head. They’ll sit there for a while I’m sure. Until the right moment.

  8. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I love your tattoo! It looks great. I have two tattoos, one I got when I just turned 18, because I’m rebellious like that and the other I got a year ago that has both of my son’s names in the shape of infinity.

    I think the second one hurt way more than the first one and it’s all because of the placement (top of my foot). But I will never regret my tattoos and honestly I kind of want another one. But that’s going to be hard convincing my hubby to be ok with it when he absolutely hates tattoos. 🙂

  9. Pinch of Yum Logo
    LAURA

    It’s beautiful. I love where you placed it. I have 2 tattoos and have been toying with a 3rd for like 10 years now! Still haven’t decided on a design or placement, but I have ideas.

  10. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Ashley

    Beautiful story. Beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing with us. The tattoo is gorgeous.

  11. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Michelle

    I am not at all a tattoo person. I see people with tattoos that cover huge expanses of their bodies and I just can’t wrap my head around why anyone would want to permanently mark their body that way. But I have to say, your tattoo is wonderful! I think it is a perfect way to remember and honour your beautiful son.

  12. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Pete

    I would NEVER get a tattoo! I don’t know that I have any statement that I would like inked into my body, they will look different when I get old, blah, blah, blah…
    I LOVE your tattoo! You are correct, it’s the right font, the right location, the right meaning, the right…everything.
    You made me think about my mother who is still with us at 90 years old. Her skin is different than when she had me at 38 years old, than when I graduated high school when she was 56, different than when my first child was born when she was 73. The point is, she was older, her hair had gotten grayer, her skin had more character, and I swear, she had gotten shorter….but she was still my mother.
    This tattoo will change with you, it will move with you, it will age with you….but you will still be Afton’s mother, and he will still be your son. What I lovely way to commemorate that fact.

  13. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Jan

    It’s not the size of the tattoo (tho it seems quite perfect to me!)…it’s the size of the love it represents. I don’t know if it gets you into the tattoo club, but you’re for sure in the “mom’s club!” (This from a mother of 7, grandmother to 23, g-g-mother to 15!)

  14. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Lorna A

    The timing of your post was perfect, I’d just woken up after having my first tattoo at the age of 52, I have no regrets and it already just feels part of me. Your tattoo will grow as part of you also to symbolize your love for your child and your strength through adversity. Sending you love from a fellow tattoo sister.

  15. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Susan

    Even though I would never consider getting a tattoo, I think I understand why you got yours. It makes way more sense than getting your boyfriend’s name only to break up permanently a week later… Back when I was young, only some sailors got tattoos. The attitude toward them has changed radically during my lifetime. A tattoo like yours is the only kind of design/subject that one would never get tired of. You might eventually get to a point where you don’t feel a need for it any more, but I’m sure you’ll always be okay with having it. I’m thinking it would tell any future children about how much they are loved.