Almost immediately after I lost my first baby at 13 weeks, I wanted a memorial tattoo as a physical reminder of my baby. After the marks of trauma had disappeared and the pain had subsided, the emotional wound remained. I felt marked forever—my heart was broken, never to return to its former shape.

But on the outside, I looked normal. And I hated it. Because it wasn’t true.

There were no longer bruises up and down my arm from all the failed attempts at inserting an IV and a blown vein. There were no longer piercing cramps that had become a two-week-long constant reminder of my pain and loss. There was no more blood to even signify death. There was nothing left on my body to testify to my baby’s life. And I decided a tattoo would do exactly that—permanently mark me to testify to the love and grief I had for my heaven baby.

Branded, Marked, and Tattooed

Author’s Personal Collection/Heather Butler

The days following my miscarriage, I used a lavender mist that was given to me. It was in a beautiful blue glass bottle. I used it on everything—my face, my pillows, my clothes, my bed. I used lavender in the bath. Everything smelled of lavender from the water I bathed my weary body in, to the places I would fall asleep on in utter grief-exhaustion, to the air I could barely breathe in and out.

Lavender covered everything. Scripture become my lifeline. I discovered the heart of my God in ways I can’t fully explain. It doesn’t make sense that I would have peace in such a dark time. But I did. That peace didn’t mean I wasn’t hurting or that I was ok with what had happened. It was a peace that whispered to my heart, “You’re not alone. I’m here with you.” The faithfulness I felt and experienced adhered my heart to His. It was in a season of dark loss that I learned about true hope. 

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phillipians 4:7

I got pregnant shortly after my miscarriage. The tattoo would have to wait.

After 10 months of navigating the choppy waters of pregnancy after loss, I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby girl. I was thrust into my role as mommy just like every new mom is. Along with all the newness and unknowns, I experienced postpartum depression and it took all my energy just to do normal life. My days were full of diapers and feedings and playing and cuddling and bedtimes and routine. So the tattoo would have to wait. 

A year and a half later, a wonderful but unexpected Christmas surprise—I was pregnant. And this baby’s due date was within days of my daughter’s birthday. We were excited and scared and hopeful and eager. This little one was a surprise, so surely he/she was meant to be a part of our family. This child had been assigned to us. I just knew it.

But just like that, I started bleeding, then cramping. I spent Christmas Eve in the hospital. I had miscarried again—at 5 weeks, 3 days. This time there really were no physical marks on my body. The cramping was minimal and the bleeding lighter than I had previously experienced. I longed for a visual reminder more than ever. I was physically and emotionally depleted however. I had no desire to go into the general public. My grief was once again fresh. So lavender filled every molecule of my home. It covered every surface. It brought me back to that place of mourning. But it also reminded me that I had survived and that I would survive this time too. 

 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:9

And as much as I wanted a tattoo, I needed time. Time to process and navigate my grief. Time to physically heal and just…breathe. The tattoo would have to wait. 

Over the next 2 years, I would have 2 more beautiful, healthy babies. And the deep desire to get a tattoo of sacredness never weakened. In fact, it got stronger.

A few weeks ago, my husband told me he had a fun birthday gift that I was to open three days before my actual birthday. As I tore open the box, I found a rather extensive supply of art products. I love to draw. I’ve always loved to draw. When I was a child up until my teenage years, I constantly had a pencil and sketch pad in my hands. I have a permanent bump on my right middle finger where my pencil rubbed for years. But I hardly ever draw now, for a handful of reasons (and excuses.) There’s always something else to finish, something else to wash or some pressing project that needs my attention. So this was a very thoughtful gift in and of itself. 

My husband smiled at me and said, “You needed to open this a few days before your birthday so you can sketch up tattoo ideas. We’re getting our baby tattoos on Saturday. That’s your real gift.” 

I cried. A lot. I couldn’t believe the time had come. 

For the next 3 days, I scoured the internet for inspiration and made sketch after sketch. Finally the idea hit my heart. And as soon as it did, I knew it was what I would get marked on my body forever. A lavender flower. And instead of a stem, it would be the word faithfulness. So I quickly sketched my idea to bring to the tattoo artist. 

The time had arrived and I was standing in a beautiful tattoo shop looking at intricate drawings hanging on the walls. I handed our artist, Chris, my sketch and he walked me back to where I’d be sitting for my session. He came back with my original sketch on the tattoo transfer paper. “Oh, I didn’t mean to use mine. I did that in like, 15 seconds. I was thinking of having you redo it professionally,” I told him.

He replied with, “Oh, ok. I thought it looked really cool. I’d be happy to redraw it though.” I told him what a compliment it was to me and asked him a few questions. And as I thought about, I realized it was perfect the way it was, because my sketch was raw. It was authentic. It was imperfect. It was me and it was…my real life. 

It was tattooed on my forearm. I wanted it where it could easily be seen.

I want to talk about it. I want to talk about my babies. I want to start a conversation and hopefully bring comfort and hope to other hurting hearts. I want others to know they are not alone. Not by a long shot. 

Branded, Marked, and Tattooed

Author’s Personal Collection/Heather Butler

After my tattoo was finished, my husband got his tattoo done—5 birds perched on a branch, watching 2 birds fly away.

There was no more waiting or putting it off. There it was. It was perfect. And now, I’m marked on the outside too.

Holding baby with memorial tattoo

Author’s Personal Collection/Heather Butler

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