Infertility Ink

I do not have a tattoo. You might think that this is because I’m Jewish and that Jews with tattoos can’t be buried in Jewish cemeteries. Turns out, that’s actually Jewish urban legend. Still, the Torah technically forbids that Jews get tattoos.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t want one.

When I was in high school, I wanted some cliched drama mask and treble clef combo. As my Glee-like levels of drama nerd-dom have waned, however, I feel more drawn to ancient symbols that are reflections of my shared Japanese and Irish heritage, such as triskeles and mitsudomoe. And, as sacrilegious as it sounds, I like the idea of getting a hamsa tattooed somewhere on me as well.

I’m not sure why I’m so drawn to getting a tattoo, other than I’ve always wanted one. Nothing big or ostentatious: just something small and personal, rife with intimate meaning, somewhere discreet but where I can see it when I want to, such as the inside of the wrist, the inside of the ankle or the top of the foot. (I know – I’m picking some of the most painful areas to boot.)

I told Larry that once we are finally over our infertility battle, that is, once we’ve got our son home and in our arms – I’m getting a tattoo. I feel like I need to honor this journey with an indelible mark on my body – a visible scar to match the invisible ones on my heart.

Turns out, I’m not the only person who’s had this idea.

I had first read about getting a tattoo to honor an infertility journey sometime in the last two years. For the life of me, I cannot remember the blogger, but I do remember her tattoo: a black hibiscus. And I seem to remember she got the same tattoo along with two other fellow bloggers or peer support group members, each of them honoring their own infertility paths. (If that’s you, let me know – I’d love to link to your post showing off your spiffy tattoo :))

So recently, I put the call out there on Facebook and Twitter to see who else had gotten tattoos to mark their infertility journeys.

Here’s what some folks on Twitter sent my way:

Heather emailed me her infertility tattoo story:

“Just over a year ago I overcame my 5 year struggle with infertility… by accepting it. It consumed me for 5 years and became who I was instead of a part of me. I now live my life childfree and LOVE my life again. Infertility stole my identity for 5 years… and like most women struggling with infertility, I almost took my own life. My tattoo is a symbol of who I am now: “Stronger.” The saying in life is that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I have it on my foot symbolizing that infertility walks with me through this life; healed, but never forgotten.

Kimberly sent me a link to her blog post talking about her infertility tattoo:

"Now every time things get difficult, you can look at your wrist and it will help you find the strength you need to get through it."

“Now every time things get difficult, you can look at your wrist and it will help you find the strength you need to get through it.”

“I love this tattoo. This tattoo holds so much meaning. Seeing it on my wrist brings tears to my eyes because I sincerely believe it. We will get through this. Not only does this tattoo serve as a tribute to my grandparents and their health struggles, but its a reminder of our own struggles with infertility and that this is not a permanent problem and that if we fight and believe in the fight, one day we will get the chance to become parents and to give our love to a little bundle of joy.” Read Kimberly’s full post about her tattoo here.

Natasha N. sent me this lovely pic of a sea turtle to honor their path:

A symbol of longevity and fertility

A symbol of longevity and fertility

“Here is my tattoo honoring my infertility journey. I got it on vacation in Hawaii after my husband returned from a seven month deployment. Sea turtles are known fertility symbols and represent strength, patience and the power to endure and persevere. We went on a snorkeling tour while there and on one of our dives there were a ton of sea turtles surrounding us out in the ocean! So with everything combined- the infertility journey, the spirit of the island, the memorable vacation, and experience of all of those symbols of fertility and strength surrounding me, I thought what better a time to finally get that tattoo that I have been wanting?

I placed it on my foot to remind myself that this is something I have walked through and that I am still standing despite it all (so far ;) ) and also because I didn’t want it in some horrid place that will look awful when I am 70! It all came together in some great way, so I am glad to have it and use it as a reminder when I need it.”

Jessie sent me this lovely little blackbird that sits on the inside of her wrist:

"Take these broken wings and learn to fly."

“Take these broken wings and learn to fly.”

“Here’s my tattoo and the story: we did IVF in January 2012. We transferred 3 embryos. It ended in a chemical pregnancy. My tattoo has “2012″ in the branches to represent the year of our loss, as well as a “3″ in the bottom left corner to represent the three embryos we transferred and lost. I chose the picture of the bird in the tree because I love the song “Blackbird” by The Beatles. My brother played it on the guitar as I walked down the aisle to marry my husband. Back then, the lyrics ‘All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise’ resonated with me. During this whole journey, the lyrics ‘take these broken wings and learn to fly’ were a reminder that this does not define me nor will it destroy me. I got the tattoo on the inside of my left wrist six months after our loss.”

Catie shared a wonderful story about how she and her mom Kelly got matching tattoos:

A mother-daughter bond of love, told in ink.

A mother-daughter bond of love, told in ink.

“Here are my Mom’s and my tattoo. Its a simple version of the infertility awareness symbol. Mine says BELIEVE, because I have to always remind myself to believe that I WILL be a mother (one way or another). My Mom’s is actually written in Irish, and it says FAITH, HOPE, LOVE because she wanted to support our journey and she says that’s what it takes. They are on our left palms so that they are visible to us and everyone else, and people can ask what they’re for. I love them!”

And finally, Anasara sent this picture of her bumptious looking pomegranate tattoo:

"Pomegranates, a longstanding symbol of fertility, serve as a strong analogy to those of us dealing with infertility."

“Pomegranates, a longstanding symbol of fertility, serve as a strong analogy to those of us dealing with infertility.”

“I got my infertility tattoo in late 2011 prior to undergoing our 1st IVF cycle. It was my 8th tattoo overall (#9 is scheduled for my birthday in April) so I’m no stranger to the needle even before infertility, LOL! Although all my tattoos have special meaning, this one was by far the most cathartic to get. I think it had to do with finally ackowledging the fact we were entering “the final frontier” (to my DH & I) of ART since IUIs never worked. I wanted something that was both beautiful and yet not obvious to the world, not for privacy’s sake (I’ve been ‘out’ as an infertile since we started seeing an RE almost 4 years ago) but so people would ask me ‘why a pomegranate?’ and I would get to educate them on the meaning.” Read Anasara’s full post about her tattoo here.

Do you have a tattoo honoring your journey so far? Thinking about getting one? And what do you think about getting a tattoo in general? Share your thoughts in the comments and link up to any blog posts you might have about your own tattoos!

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  1. Anna says

    I have one on my ankle for my IF journey. It is the kanji for grace, the color blue for sorrow with a yellow shadow for hope. It also symbolizes a few other significant losses I have been through. :) I will get another when my journey comes to an impasse. This one will be for my 4 angel babies (and hopefully no more) and any living children I may possibly have. .

  2. says

    Keiko…I’ve also considered a triskele for a tatoo. I found one that was beautiful and I still love it. Mine was more of if our first cycle didn’t work I would get the tatoo as a symbol that life would move on and be okay. I still kind of want the tatoo but I’m a woose. I love the stories and picture of these tatoos dedicated to the journey no matter the ending.

  3. Robin says

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I have recently been looking at quotes and art trying to decide on a tattoo that best represents and honors my infertility journey. We’ve been through 7rounds of IVf resulting in 2 chemicals, 2 miscarriages one at 6 1/2 and the other at 9 1/2 weeks, and one ectopic pregnancy. It’s been a long emotional journey that’s left me exhausted and pretty depressed. We are considering one more try with some PGD testing for the first time. I have been considering getting a tattoo and a few choices I’ve thought of is one of a baloon floating up with the tail reading, “rise above it” or “rise above it all”. The original picture I found has the tail reading “sometimes you just have to let go” and I would change it to “rise above it” because that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying not to let this journey tear me down but it is hard. Whatever the end result I want to have risen above it all and gone on to have a happy fulfilling life with or without a child. “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory” is another saying I’ve thought of getting a tattoo of. That is how I feel about the moment I heard my babies heartbeat and then it stopped only a few short weeks later. So I haven’t decided exactly what yet and I am not very good with physical pain but this is the first thing in my life that has brought me to considering a tattoo. It means that much to me and I feel it’s going to be there as an invisible pain forever. I want to honor it and have it be there in a way I can know and remind myself I made it through.

  4. says

    Tattoos can be wonderful things. It’s very important to make sure your tattoo is something you really want on your body forever, and once you’re sure, you must research tattoo parlors and artists and settle on one that is well-respected and has an impressive portfolio of work (in this area I can highly recommend Rueben and Ellen at Chameleon in Harvard Sq.).

    I’ve never felt more alive than when getting tattooed! The process of scheduling a tattoo, looking forward to it, going to the appointment, and getting it done, is such a thrill. The novelty of the ink on your skin does wear off in time but it helps if you get something meaningful to you. My only infertility-related tattoo is behind my right ear. Two bird silhouettes to represent the two early losses we had at the time. We’ve now had one more, Turtle’s twin, and you better believe he/she (I like to think, she) will be honored somewhere on my body, as will Turtle!

    I can’t wait to see what you get!

  5. says

    I have wanted for a while–3 hearts or circles (one blue, one pink, one buff-colored) to represent my son, daughter and kitty (who recently passed away). But I need someone to give me that final push to actually go do it. So if you are game, we could go together sometime next year!

  6. Natalie says

    I have six tattoos, and my infertility tattoo is my most recent. It’s a teal flower (teal is the PCOS ribbon color) with a white, pearl center (as my PCOS ovaries look like they’re surrounded by pearls). I placed it on my lower right hip/abdomen, over what I say is my right ovary ;) No luck since getting it last year, but it keeps me hopeful and will always remind me of this journey.

  7. says

    Thanks for the mention Keiko! I truly love my tattoo. Many times now since getting that specific piece of ink, I forget its there until someone mentions it. People always like to comment on the placement and inquire about the meaning. I enjoy that the one tattoo I can’t really hide has the most meaning to me. I love my other 3 tattoos but this one simply has the biggest meaning and a meaning I’m ok talking about. I plan to get the word “Hope” tattooed on my other wrist in mirror placement to this one, also in honor of our struggles. Once we finally have a child of our own, I would like to honor them by having their foot or hand prints on the side of my upper body. I want honor both the struggle and the end result.

  8. says

    I am NOT a tattoo person. I guess it’s a generational thing — I certainly know people my age who have them, but it most certainly was not something that was done when I was growing up… I don’t think I really started hearing about people getting them until I was in my late 30s or even 40s. I don’t mind one or two small and discreetly placed tattoos, but seeing someone covered in tattoos makes me cringe. :p Our oldest nephew has four on his arms. Two are actually kind of nice (he has the comedy/tragedy masks on one arm, and a Canadian flag on another). But he also has Spiderman & Super Mario. :p I mean, really, how is that going to look when you’re 70??

    If I ever did get one, it would be a tribute to my daughter, though. ;) A small butterfly on my ankle. :)

    • says

      “I mean, really, how is that going to look when you are 70??”

      Honestly my parents ask me the same thing. And the answer (at least my perspective) is that these are statements that showed stages of my life. They are battle scars, just like wrinkles, gray hairs, and stretch marks that showed that I lived and each piece of it will bring me a flood of memories, and stories to tell when I’m older. I have no shame in my 4 tattoos and I won’t when I’m 70 either. and when I’m in a nursing home and someone is cleaning me and asks me about my ink, I will proudly tell them the meaning behind all of them. My husband has a super mario tattoo as well and he loves it, as do I. When he is 70, he can tell his grandchildren that this is a memory from his childhood and fun times with friends and give them a history lesson on where their gaming systems started. We even had a Nintendo themed wedding and people told us we would regret it when we were older. Why? That wedding reflected our likes, loves and interests that we share. So what if it’s based on a kids game, why should that matter? I know that I had fun at my wedding and there is no shame in fun. And the same goes for ink. As long as the decision is made for the right reason, there is no shame in anyone’s ink regardless of what it is or how old they are.

      I respect the choices of those who choose not to be inked but that respect isn’t always returned. People like to judge before they find out the reasons behind the ink. Maybe if you asked your nephew’s reasonings for his tattoos, you would be surprised. Most people rarely get inked on a whim. And most people truly think out their ink before they are permanently marked. And I think this post is a wonderful example of meaning and understanding behind why someone may get inked.

      • says

        My mom got a tattoo in her 50s and I can say in her mid-60s it looks lovely and amazing and very much part of her. I’ve been thinking of getting another one after the twins are born (knocking on wood!) to commemorate the struggle and joy of the whole period. Not sure what I’d want to get though, bears a lot more thinking about.

  9. Angela says

    I got my infertility tattoo after several failed IUI attempts, and before we began our IVF journey. It is an anchor on my foot with “Hebrews 6:19″ written inside, which is “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul”. There is a beautiful pink and blue ribbon wrapped around the anchor to represent that our hopes were for having a baby, and the numbers 6-1-9 represent my wedding anniversary which is June 1, 2009. We were blessed with B/G twins on our first IVF attempt! Now I am planning to get a tattoo on the inside of my wrist of my babies thumbprints in the shape of a heart.