When I was 19, I had the brilliant idea of getting a tattoo. My best friend at the time drove me to a place called Snakeman's on rt. 355 in Frederick and we wandered around the tiny interior, trying to decide what to get. There was no changing my mind. I wasn't even the slightest bit nervous. I knew I wanted a tattoo and even where on my body I wanted it. I just didn't know what I wanted. For almost 2 hours, we walked around, looking at the tattoo art on the walls, thumbing through binders with greasy plastic covers on the pages. After all that time, I decided on a celestial design - a crescent moon with a single star in the middle. There were variations on what I had picked already on the wall, but nothing exactly like it so I was pleased when the artist took the image straight from my mind and drew it on a piece of paper. He made a copy and took me back to the little room to get to work. It was over in 10 minutes but the product of that time spent is something that will be forever etched on my body.
I look back at the me of 19 and wonder what that girl was thinking. I can see me asking the tattoo artist if my tattoo will stretch. He laughs and asks me if I have ever put silly putty on a newspaper and then stretched it out and looked at the ink that had copied itself onto the putty. Because of the location of my tattoo, I knew right then that if I ever had babies, it would most definitely stretch. But at 19, it didn't seem to matter to me. Having babies was something too far into the future - nothing I had to worry about in the immediacy of my mind's eye. So the thought that at some point my cute blue and purple crescent moon and its little yellow and orange star friend would stretch to some misshapen mass of colors wasn't really something I viewed as a reality.
At the "wise old age" of almost 27, I laugh at that 19 year old naivety, just like that artist did all those years ago. I laugh because I have now had 3 babies and my moon and star has stretched and changed with each pregnancy. I am somewhere in the beginning of my fourth one, perfectly aware of the fact that there is no escape for the celestial art this time either. But I am also amazed at the sort of symbolism my tattoo has taken on. Looking at the shape of the tattoo, it could be viewed as a womb, the star - a baby. A little piece of heaven.
When I had my sister-in-law take pictures of my first pregnancy, some people asked me if I had drawn the moon and star on my belly to symbolize my pregnancy. They didn't know it was a tattoo when they asked. Ever since then, I've been sort of regarding it as that symbol - not because I want to give the tattoo some purpose or have a reason for its existence. But looking at it from that perspective, as if it is a womb and baby, it symbolizes who I am now. I am a mother and I make babies! And regardless of my motive for getting the tattoo when I was 19, at 27 I am not completely regretful of it because it has evolved in its purpose. Within months of getting the tattoo, the excitement of it kind of faded and I couldn't even remember why I got it. But when I became pregnant at 22 and someone asked me about it symbolizing my pregnancy, I realized that maybe it did have a purpose after all. I liked that it wasn't just some piece of art on my body with no significance. I liked that it had become a symbol for my motherhood. And I like that it will always be there, a slightly stretched mass of colors and shapes, representing a part of heaven and what I'm doing here on earth.