I’ve never wanted a tattoo. Never could imagine anything I’d want on my body permanently. I don’t even like getting ball point pen ink on my hands, let alone ink under the skin.
But many months ago I noticed something. Whenever my daughter wakes from her naps – naps during which she still today stays latched onto my boob – her ear has left an imprint on my arm. A tiny swirl of negative space – a perfect fit for that small organ – that stays there for 30 minutes to an hour. Those many months ago, when she was 3 or 4 months old, I found myself wanting to preserve it – to have it tattooed onto my arm as a forever reminder of this amazing time in our lives. For the first time I understood why people do it!
She is approaching her second birthday this month. This breastfeeding relationship has had it’s ups and downs. Cracked nipples in the beginning, followed by over-active letdown. She has a slight upper lip tie, which has made her modify her latch, sticking her tongue out over her lower lip much of the time. I’ve had plugged ducts and painful blebs. But what I remember most are these moments every day when I must slow down, hold my daughter and connect with her.
She uses “milkies” any time she feels disconnected, like when I’m distracted or rushing her to get out the door to catch a bus. When she says “I want milkies,” it’s her way of saying “Let’s just be in the moment. Lets check in with one another and feel bonded again.” And I do stop everything, and I hold her on my lap and all is peaceful. Sometimes I sing her a song and she smiles at me. Sometimes we miss the bus, but it’s ok. Everything is ok.
And since she was born, I’ve nursed her to sleep. Which usually means I fall asleep early and nap during the day. Which means I get sleep! That elusive thing that mothers covet! Usually. And when I wake up and she sits on my belly and says “time to get up, mommy!” beaming that big happy smile, I look down at my arm and see it there. That seashell shaped indent that says my daughter slept here. Here, in my arms, cozy and loved.
I probably won’t get the tattoo. It would be painful with her lying on it as it heals. But besides that, this time is supposed to be fleeting! In a few years she won’t be leaving her mark on me daily. Just like the impression of her ear on my arm, this stage will fade away. And as much as I cherish this time, I know that this is the way it should be. Maybe I’ll keep some memento – take a photo or make a breast milk charm necklace. But the real impression – the one that matters – has a permanent place inside my heart. Even if I tried, I could never forget this. I will never forget how wonderful it feels to nurture this amazing little person lying next to me.