Botched. It’s the only way I can describe the tattoo I had been sporting since I was 18.
Asymmetrical, ill-defined, and confusing. People would always be surprised I had a tattoo and eagerly asked to see it. Few could hide the surprise and awkwardness when they clapped eyes on the monstrosity.
The tattoo artist’s son told me it looked like a bat (alarm bells…), later came Donnie Darko’s masked rabbit faced imaginary friend Frank (slightly more hip but still not what I had intended), klecksography (better!) and by far my favourite, my husband’s interpretation of a bat crossed with a spider having a shit down my back.
I became much more aware of it after becoming a mother. My son would one day see it, and what would he think?
I can’t say I truly loved it, but there it was. Here to stay. So deeply etched into my skin that even laser removal wouldn’t have spared me.
Thankfully it was on my back so I didn’t have to contemplate it too often. Sometimes I even forgot I had it, only to remember it when I was checking out the size of my bottom in a changing room, or at home.
However, I became much more aware of it after becoming a mother. My son would one day see it, and what would he think?
I started to feel embarrassed by it. So, having found out I wouldn’t be able to get rid of it, there was only one thing I could do – go bigger and go better!
I don’t think many clients take their babies with them to a tattoo parlour
I’ve always been a fan of tattoos so I wasn’t too disappointed with this prospect. I began to Google images of tattoos and found lots of beautiful, delicate, and feminine designs that I’d be only to happy to catch in the mirror.
One sunny May day I strapped my son in his buggy and off I went to Kinky Ink, on Northcote Road, no less, with my saved Google images.
I don’t think many clients take their babies with them to a tattoo parlour, and the receptionist referred me to the ‘No Under 18s’ sign on the door.
I pointed out that my son was only 14 months old, not walking, and that it was highly unlikely that he would unstrap himself from his buggy and begin to either tattoo himself, or some unsuspecting client.
It would just be a consultation in any case. So, in we go!
I spent the next hour surreally comparing caesarean scars and birth experiences with the owner, looking through designs and finally meeting the tattoo artist who would be taking up my ‘case’.
It turned out that Rose, then in residence, specialised in exactly the style I had been admiring.
She was brilliant, and just so happened to be 5-months pregnant with her first baby so we had plenty to chat about besides.
She took some pictures and came up with a beautiful cover-up. No one would ever suspect that underneath lay Spider Bat. The new tattoo would be wildly different, and much more in tune with me. I lived with the design, loved it and I couldn’t wait!
Finally, the day arrived and this time I wisely left my son with Daddy.
I knew what to expect, having been through it before. However, I still hadn’t learnt how to cope!
The pain was relentless. Hot, searing, cold-sweat pain.
The pain was relentless. Hot, searing, cold-sweat pain. I tensed up thinking that the only way I could get through this was to just clench my teeth and bear it, all the while praying for it to end. I was reminded of a scene in ‘This Year’s Love’ when a mother gets her first tattoo.
She snootily informs the artist, upon his warnings about the imminent pain, that she had given birth so quit with the warnings – or something to that effect.
Cue the next scene and we see her throwing up outside the shop, apologising and seemingly confused about what had just happened. I decided there and then that if real labour felt anything like that I’d be happily waving my some-time-in-the-future VBAC goodbye!
This tattoo artist (thank heavens!) was well acquainted with the principles of hypnobirthing. Rose advised me to relax my muscles, stop focusing on the pain, and think soothing thoughts.
It had been less than 5 minutes since the start and I had already started wishing it would end.
I wondered if perhaps it was too much to ask to try and get away with having a just-started tattoo and Spider Bat for life. The Mistake-That-Was and the What-Could-Have-Been.
It took a couple of minutes to get my head around relaxing my muscles but it worked!
I spent the last 2.5 hours chatting happily away with the staff. So much so that I had a sneaking suspicion Rose may have preferred my quiet, tortured self.
I now have a tattoo that I’m happy to show off, and that my children keep trying to colour in…
I do sometimes wonder how I will respond if and when my own sons start thinking about getting a tattoo.
I’ll just tell them what I wished someone had advised me to do at the time – despite it being so bloody obvious.
Firstly, very carefully think about where you’d like to have it and how this might impact you in the future.
Secondly, find a really good reputable tattoo studio and have as many chats as you feel you need about what you want.
Thirdly, live with your chosen design for at least three months – small change when you’re thinking of having something for life.
Then, relax and enjoy feeling like a rebel!
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