After having my first tattoo done, I almost immediately began to plan the next alteration of my skin. There was something remarkably satisfying about the process: first the pain, then the memory – burned into flesh as a permanent tribute to my children. The dates on my back were for them. The next one would be for me.
I knew what I wanted, a mantra repeated over and over throughout the course of my life: be still.
As a child, growing up in Catholic school and attending church twice a week: “Be still and know I am God.” Words sung at our wedding “Be still and know I am here.” Though no longer a practicing Catholic, I consider myself spiritual and “Be still and know” still runs deep as a philosophical end to the questions of the universe. Be still. Know. Be comfortable. Believe what you believe. And know.
As a yogi, every class I have taken over the years includes some form of savasana: corpse pose. Clear the mind, quiet the body. I have a mediation where I tell my body, one muscle at a time to completely relax, sink into the floor. Be still.
After losing Nelle and Iris, there were so many days that were hard to face. What I knew had been uprooted and I often felt like I was spinning. But I could not change that they were gone and I could only try to tether myself so that I did not drift away. Focus on inching my way through the days. Slowly quiet the screaming that was occurring in my head. Be still. Just be.
I found an image of “be still” in a beautiful script and I kept it.
I became pregnant. I had my baby. I nursed my baby.
Finally after no more pregnancy and no more nursing, it was time to revisit the tattoo. I needed to add Autumn’s birth date to the existing tattoo on my back. I contacted the woman who did the original, but she was booked many weeks out. Now that I was in the place I needed to be, I wanted it done now. I found a tattoo place near my home that had great reviews and walk-in hours on Monday afternoons. I had read about the artists ahead of time and one was a woman with two young children. I went in and requested her. She happened to have some availability, if I could come back in half an hour. I was glad I could go ahead and have it done the same day.
I talked to her about adding the date, for my daughter’s birthday and she asked me how many children I have. I said “I have five children.” First time I have ever said it, in that way to a stranger. Her jaw dropped and she said “You have FIVE?” Yes, I responded. I have three living children, and we lost two. I have the birth dates of the first four on my back already, and need to add my baby. It was the response I have always wanted to give: I have five children. And in the context of the situation, it was the right response.
be still was added to the inner part of my upper left arm. A few people I told wondered about the pain of that particular location, versus my back. In my head I thought “No worse than the pain of labor before delivering a stillborn baby.”
I love it. I love the location – not something obvious, but as I move my arm around, talking, people could catch a glimpse of it, whereas my back tattoo needs a very specific cut of shirt to be seen. I love the words, I love the constant reminder. be still. I love the permanence of saying: this is me, and this is meaningful enough to me that I want to carry it with me, always.
Now to start planning the next tattoo….