Commemorative Tattoos

Jizo & Butterfly Tattoo

Sketch and photograph of upper arm tattoo, the Buddhist figure Jizo in a red robe with children in the folds, releasing a yellow butterfly from his hand.

"In 2010, 6 years after my only child, Nia, was stillborn, I designed this tattoo based on the myth/story of the Japanese bodhisatva, Jizo. The story is that he is the guardian of children who die before their parents. There are statues of him all over Japan. It’s an amazing story- I encourage you to look it up- it’s more than I can include here. The yellow butterfly represents my daughter- as Jizo sets her free."

Wallaby in Hebrew Tattoos

Two arms intertwined with matching tattoos of the Hebrew transliteration of the letters “V-V-L-B-Y” for Wallaby, which is what they called their unborn baby.

“A friend of ours, upon seeing it (because handwritten Hebrew can be so subjective), said: ‘Before reading that it was ‘Vallabee,’ I read it as: ‘oo-levei,’ or, ‘of my heart.’ That always made me happy too.”

Birds and Langston Hughes Tattoo

Tattoo of birds in flight added to an existing tattoo with part of a quote from Langston Hughes, “Free within Ourselves” encircling forearm.

“When people ask about the meaning, it’s sometimes easier just to focus on the words, as they apply to race and sexuality and the freedom to be true to oneself, loving yourself in spite of the obstacles before you. The birds are meant to connect to those words and ideas, but for me they have another meaning, too. During my pregnancy, images of birds kept coming up for me, and I felt that they represented, in a way, the next chapter of my life. I was planning on decorating the baby’s room with birds, and for a while, I was considering getting a dove tattoo after the baby was born. Of course, all of that symbolism shifted when the baby died. But these birds still represent to me new life, unconditional love for self and others, and freedom. They remind me that I don’t have to let go of all of the positive changes the baby brought to my life—changes like focusing more on self-care than I ever had before, and trusting in the path I'm walking, even if I meet unexpected turns." (click image to see more description)

Stars & Moon Foot Tattoo

Tattoo in black ink on top of foot, a constellation of stars on an infinity symbol with a sun and moon on either side with the Latin words for “Let your light shine” in script “luceat lux vestra.”

“I needed to do something to memorialize [my losses] so I have a tattoo on my foot that has an infinity symbol: three stars and the infinity, a sun and a moon for the two children I have that are living, and the Latin phrase “let your light shine.” I went by myself... it was one of those things—it sounds odd—but I needed something painful, something that physically hurt to close this [pain]. (click image to see more description)

Banksy’s Girl with a Balloon Tattoo

Forearm tattoo of Banksy’s "Girl with a Balloon" with stillborn daughter’s name as the string. The image is all in black, except the bright red heart shaped balloon.

“My tattoo is an image by British graffiti artist, Banksy, entitled girl with balloon. I simply added our daughter's name to it. I originally saw it as a perfect, haunting visual representation of loss. In the very dark time shortly after our daughter's passing, I did not notice that the original art work in London included the phrase “there is always hope”in the background of the image. More recently I see an element of peaceful letting go in the image which is befitting where I eventually would like to get to in my grieving process.”

You are Loved Tattoo

Black script of “You are Loved” on the inside of wrist.

“It was cathartic. I was very intentional in what I chose the tattoo to say. It means, it’s kinda two-fold: to this child that I never got to know, you are loved … But also ((crying)) to me.”

Iris on Back Tattoo

Tattoo of single iris sketched in black ink that covers the full length of one mother’s back in remembrance of she and her partner’s daughter. Her partner was pregnant when she had gotten the tattoo and planned to get the same image after breastfeeding.

“We got a lot of flowers and stuff [after we lost our child,] but a close friend who lives out of state sent us a dozen long stemmed blue irises the day after we lost her and that [became] her flower. So, the invitations to the memorial had an iris on them, and that’s the tattoo. Irises became very symbolic for us.”

“We both would ultimately like to get the iris tattoo. [My partner] got it [on her back] right before I got pregnant, and so I plan on getting it after I finish breastfeeding [our second child].”

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