I got my first tattoo when I was in high school. My best friend pulled out some Indian ink and a safety pin to permanently mark me up as I lay on the bathroom floor at her mother's house. It's hidden below my bikini line so not many people get a chance to see it.
Years - and several more tattoos - later, she's still my best friend (she's getting married in a few weeks) but the tattoo I'm most proud of is the one that lies on my chest. LaSara Firefox has a tattoo on hers as well and when I mentioned this coincidence, she asked about mine.
People comment or ask me about this particular tattoo all the time (when it's not covered up by clothing) and I enjoy sharing the story behind it.
Permanent reminders are often painful and this one is no exception. While the process of getting the tattoo was not painful, it does bring up a past experience that was and has brought me to the place I am today.
I found out that I was pregnant (unexpectedly) during my Senior year of college. I was dating a guy one year younger than me and I was working part-time and attending school full-time to try and finish my college career in exactly four years.
While the news of my pregnancy was not something that I was truly ready to embrace, I decided, after several sleepless nights and many emotionally-charged debates with my then-boyfriend, to keep the baby. As pro-choice as I am and have always been, not having the baby was never the choice for me.
I grew fond of the idea of being a mother very quickly, almost instantly. In a matter of weeks, I was a proud, pregnant woman who was ready to graduate from college and embark on the amazing journey of motherhood. My boyfriend would be joining me on the adventure.
Family, friends, classmates, and professors were made aware of the pregnancy and of my plans to get my degree and raise my child with the father. I was ecstatic and ready and yet so unprepared for what was to come.
I experienced a miscarriage in the third month which is not unusual at all. Everyone knows that the first twelve weeks are the most critical and my announcement very early on in the pregnancy only led to greater heartache when it was time to share my loss with everyone who was still getting around to congratulate us.
Without realizing it at the time, that was the beginning of a great state of depression for me. I ended up running away - or at least trying to - by moving across the country to San Diego (after dropping out of school).
I started my life over in a new place where no one knew me or my story but I still longed for a way to keep the memory of this experience with me as a reminder of the change and evolution that pregnancy brought about within me.
My then-boyfriend and I had been creating a tattoo together in honor of our unborn child. With the design in hand, I marched into a tattoo parlor on the date she would've been due (October 18, 1999) and sat down to have the symbol permanently placed on my chest, the place where my hand always went whenever I talked about the pregnancy and miscarriage, or thought about my unborn child.
I think about how old she would be now. I think about what type of relationship I would have with her. I wonder if she knows how much she means to me.
She is very real to me and when I see other nine-year-old girls, I struggle to picture a face that I will never be able to see.
My life started over that day, the day I had the symbolic tattoo placed next to my heart. I began a new life then, a fresh start on the adventure that has led me here: I'm Mom to a nearly five-year-old boy. I have a wonderful career, great friends and enjoy single life in San Diego andI truly believe that everything happens for a reason.
I've always loved the quote that states, "That which does not kill us only makes us stronger," and I know that I am a much better parent for having grown and evolved from the person I was before that first pregnancy.
Living without regrets is my ultimate goal in this life. Every moment moves us forward on this great journey that has been mapped out for us.
My son and I, 2004
I am still friends with the father of my unborn child. We share pictures of our children and exchange stories and I know from the sparkle in his eye when he talks about his role as a father and husband, that our daughter was put in our life for a reason. She has taught us to let go, enabled us to evolve and inspire us to love without expecting anything in return.
And yes, when you see me talk about my tattoo, you will see that same sparkle in my eye and perhaps a tear or two that fall, not in mourning for a child who will never age, but for the hope that she will never be forgotten.