I can assure you this was not a rash decision; nor was it a result of intoxication (although in retrospect my nerves would have appreciated a quick stop at the bar). It was actually a well-thought-out, daily pondered, prayerful, all-angles-considered kind of decision that has now been almost three months in the making.
The idea was triggered by a simple article I read this past summer about a woman who had lost a child to miscarriage. I found the way she memorialized her baby to be beautiful. The article stuck with me for several days and I soon found myself taken-transfixed-obsessed with the thought of doing the same.
My first hurdle to clear was gaining my husband’s blessing. I wanted more than his approval; I wanted to feel confident that he thought this was a good idea. In all honesty, I figured he would laugh and tell me I was crazy. He didn’t. Much to my surprise, he actually liked the idea. I was both excited and suddenly nervous, realizing that this idea I fully expected to be dismissed might actually come to fruition.
After realizing my husband would back me on this decision, I ran the idea by my kids to be sure my going ahead with this wouldn’t change their opinion of me. Again, the idea was met with surprising approval. Outside of my husband and children, I didn’t tell other family and friends what I was considering. That, in itself, is very unusual for me, as I’m typically the one seeking the approval of others. This decision however, felt more personal than most and if the idea was to be shot down by anyone, I wanted it to be between me and God.
After weeks of careful research and several more waiting for my appointment, it’s time to reveal one of the very last things anyone who knows me would expect me to do.
I know. Nutty, huh? But, if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that sometimes the most beautiful things are found in that which is unexpected. Allow me to explain the meaning wrapped in this image. The three birds represent the three little souls we have lost to miscarriage. Birds are often viewed as a symbol of freedom, their ability to fly an escape from any earthly boundaries. Some look at these fragile creatures as a link of sorts between Heaven and earth. When spoken of in the bible, birds are used as clear examples of God’s protection and providence. Although the pain was very real during the loss of each one of these precious souls, God was present and His healing abundant.
To me, the tree is a constant sign of life; that which always holds the promise of rebirth. It is the representation of God, the very foundation that holds us up when we feel like crumbling under the weight of our sadness. It is a place of rest for the bird, a place to make their home-much like the heart of God is for us. The branches symbolize the many twists and turns our lives can take, everything leading back to the main foundation; both influencing the other-the foundation of who we are influencing our reaction to the different paths and the twists and turns influencing and strengthening the foundation of who we are. I wouldn’t be the same person I am today were it not for living through our three miscarriages.
My choice of placement is a reminder that these babies of mine are always behind me; looking over my shoulder as I make my way through life. The words are a reminder that life is extremely fragile and should-needs-demands to be cherished.
The tattoo isn’t meant to be sad and it’s certainly not intended to invoke any sort of pity. I’m still trying to work out exactly what feelings are behind it. I guess the best way to describe it is that I’ve been searching for a way to identify with these little beings that I carried and love to this day, but never got to hold-never got to watch grow. I’m at a point in my life where I’m watching my three earthly children grow at a rate my mind and heart can barely absorb and I’m finding myself stepping back and realizing that, at forty-one years of age, more children are most likely not in God’s plan for us. We are the family we are meant to be and I love it; I’m more grateful that I have words for. There is this piece of me however, that simply wants to live the truth that this mama’s heart is made up of six children.
There’s a fascinating study that has found that “the cells from a developing fetus cross the placenta allowing the baby’s DNA to become part of the mother’s body. These fetal cells persist in a woman’s body into her old age. This is true even if the baby she carried didn’t live to be born. The cells of that child stay with her, resonating in ways that mothers have known intuitively throughout time.” The study goes on to say that “fetal cells a child contributes to the mother may be found in her blood, bone marrow, skin, kidney and liver. These fetal cells appear to “treat” her when she is ill or injured.” (http://lauragraceweldon.com/2012/06/12/mother-child-are-linked-at-the-cellular-level/) How cool is that? The intricacy and intimacy of God’s design is nothing less than astounding.
I’ve probably given too much thought to this tattoo over the past three months. I’ve given substantial consideration to how others will interpret the message now imprinted across my neck. I’ve pictured myself standing in the checkout line at the grocery store with various opinions forming behind me.
To the young woman who is pregnant, unprepared and scared, I would tell her there’s a deep message behind the words “cherish life”. Within those words, there’s memories of sitting beside the birth mother of our daughter as she cried tears of pain in seeing her daughter in the arms of another woman. I’d also tell her of the healing this hero of ours has found in her choice of adoption and the many times she has looked me in the eyes and told me how happy she is to have this precious little girl in a stable, loving family; realities she just wasn’t equipped to offer at her young age.
To the couple standing behind me who recently learned of their baby’s diagnosis of Down Syndrome-or Muscular Dystrophy-or Trisomy 18, wondering how to cherish a life so fragile with so many unknowns, I’d assure them from my own personal and very privileged experience that the life they carry will bring them more joy than their hearts could imagine and teach them the very definition of life at its greatest.
To the woman or man who made the decision to have an abortion, I’d look them right in the eye and tell them that they. are. cherished. I’d tell them of one of my dearest friends whose healing from an abortion, and resulting growth in her faith, is a true example of God’s love and mercy. I’d take their heartbreak home with me and pray for them and for the beautiful soul lost to this earth. And to those that have lost a child of their own to miscarriage and deeply connect to the message, I would tell them there is hope in God’s perfect plan.
It was quite a sight, me and my husband waiting patiently in the “shop”. We sat and scanned the many option available for tattoos. There were pictures of scantily clad women on one wall, demons on another and pictures of Jesus on yet another. We sat side-by-side, perched on the end of the green couch, wondering if people actually used the Ouija board set out on the table in front of us. If the two of us had to hide to save our lives, this would have been the perfect place. The question of “what are we doing here?” ran through my head more times than I can count. I’ll look back on this memory shared with my best friend and laugh. We’ve been through so much together and I love this man I created this family and life with more and more each day. It’s a good life; one to cherish for sure.