I’m no stranger to tattoos. My sister in law has a zillion of them – well, maybe not a zillion, but she is an impressive walking art canvas. She is married to my younger brother who also has an expansive collection. My older brother and his wife both have a couple small tattoos. I got my first tattoo about 7 years ago, and my second tattoo about 4 years ago, and so it was about time for me to think about another one. Actually, I’ve been thinking about more all along, but I didn’t want to prematurely upset the beast (aka my loving and mostly tolerant husband), so have been putting it off for a while.
So my first tattoo honors my husband. We met at a country music bar, on my birthday, and I was pretty well buzzed. We danced a few dances, flirted a bit, and went our separate ways after a few spins around the dance floor. Over the course of a few weekends at the same bar, we flirted more and eventually went on a couple of dates. I had been in and out of a couple dating relationships in the last few months, and let’s just say that I was getting tired of the game. I was NOT looking for a quick hook up or even a new boyfriend. I was decidedly NOT LOOKING for love. But dating him was refreshing, and he was much more down to earth than the rest of the guys I’d been dating before. I was completely honest with him about MRKH and that I couldn’t have children, and that I was NOT looking for anything permanent. But he was persistent. Dinner, movies, dancing, horseback rides, diner lunches, it was a good time – but I was keeping him at arms length. I was NOT looking to fall in love again. Apparently at some point I mentioned to him that I was thinking about buying a new belt buckle, so imagine my surprise when one evening as he stopped to pick me up for our regular dinner and trip to the dance hall/bar, he presented me with a lovely new silver belt buckle. Awwww, how sweet, exactly what I had been wanting. And then I turned it over. Darned if this cowboy hadn’t had the dang thing engraved?!?!?!? Two hearts together forever. Admittedly, it was a sweet gesture, but honestly…it scared the beegeezus out of me! I was NOT ready to fall in love, to BE in love. And furthermore, I wasn’t WORTHY of love. He deserved someone who could bear him children and provide him with a legacy. Not me…I wasn’t the right
one for him. I gave up fighting it after a while, and eventually later that year when he asked me to marry him, I said yes.
But back to the tattoo story – after we had been married for 14 years, and I wanted a tattoo, I made plans with my sister in law to get my first tattoo. She went with me, and this is what I got. It’s on my right shoulder blade.
A few years later, and I was itching to get another tattoo. While I loved the one I had, I couldn’t SEE it everyday. I still can’t see it unless I look in a mirror. So I thought about it long and hard. I thought about what kind of a design I wanted and where. I wanted something I could see everyday, and something that was again very symbolic about my life. Ultimately I kept coming back to an idea. I have known my BFF since what seems like forever, but was actually just middle school, but she’s been a constant in my life, and I in hers. On one visit “back home” while I was in the military, we got together for a day of shopping, dinner, and drinks. At one of the antique stores we went through, I saw and pointed out a beautiful pair of earrings. Swirls of antiqued silver and gleaming moonstones.
They were beautiful. That night when she dropped me back at my parent’s house, she handed me the pair of earrings. My heart melted…they were perfect, and such a beautiful gift from a beautiful friend. I wore them and cherished them for years. I still wear them frequently, they are dainty and timeless and go with everything. So I called her and I told her, “Hey, you know that pair of earrings you gave me a million years ago from that antique shop? Well, I think I want to get a tattoo of them. I love them so much, and every time I wear them I think of you and our enduring friendship.” We talked about it, and ultimately that became my next tattoo. She eventually came for a visit and got the matching tattoo…because, yes in fact, we are that connected.
So my first tattoos are both deeply personal and honor important people in my life. I have several dream tattoos on my “want list”, but I tend to prioritize them and think about where and when to get them. To be completely honest with you, I hadn’t really thought about doing an MRKH tattoo before finding the online support groups, and specifically the Beautiful You MRKH Foundation. But the more involved I became, the more I truly recognized how my life had been shaped by my diagnosis, and how it has truly been a journey my whole life. The more I connected with other women and embraced the sisterhood that is full of MRKH women around the world, the more I wanted raise awareness and empower women with MRKH. I didn’t just want to get the BYMRKH flower slapped on my body, I wanted there to be more symbolism, and have it be more personal. I wanted to show the beauty of the flower, but also to embody my own journey. I had a good idea in my head of what I wanted to incorporate, so I just had to take the plunge and visit with an artist to see what we could come up with, and figure out how much it might cost. I wanted it bold, but feminine; powerful, but delicate; symbolic, but personal. After a lovely visit with Cera from Swan Family Ink, I set an appointment, and asked my friend Karen if she would come with me.
On the day of my appointment, after a lovely lunch with Karen, we headed to the tattoo shop to get started. Cera and I talked some more, I gave her some reference material, and a few minutes later she called me to her station to get started. She used stencils for the BYMRKH flowers, and for the text portions, got them all applied and then pulled out a bic marker and started drawing directly on my skin all of the scroll work. We had discussed that it would likely be a multiple sittings type tattoo, with hours of work in it. After about an hour of Cera drawing on me, we started in on the process of getting the initial line work done. She began at my wrist, and worked her way up and around my arm methodically. The first word she completed for me was Faith. And then 2 flowers, and back around to the front for Strength. Another series of scroll work and 2 flowers and she had worked her way around to Courage. And finally she finished with the BYMRKH flower at the top of my arm. It was 4+ hours of incredible line work. I was blown away, it was so much more than I had expected, yet entirely perfectly right. I have 2 more sittings with Cera. One for more detail and artistic effect in the line work, adding depth and artistry to the scrolls and lettering. The third and final sitting will be to complete the color. But for now, I’m focusing on the healing part – keeping it clean and moisturized. It’s just beginning the tightening and itching phase, but because it’s just line work at this point, it won’t likely peel so dramatically like fish food flakes! Here are a progression of pictures from design work to what we got finished this first sitting. Enjoy!