By Terry Hoover | Photography by Jim McGuire
Posted: Thursday, Oct. 04, 2012
A growing number of moms are going beyond jewelry, cell phone photos and Facebook albums to celebrate their little ones. Tattoos, once limited to sailors, skateboarders, hipsters and bikers, have joined stretch marks as permanent reminders of birth.
Pioneered by celebrities from Angelina Jolie to Kelly Ripa, mommy tattoos have gone from cutting edge to mainstream as soccer moms and middle school teachers follow their example. One online retailer offers kids T-shirts stating, My Moms tattoos are better than your moms. Theres also a childrens book, Mommy Has A Tattoo.
The Pew Research Center reported in 2011 that 35 percent of Americans ages 20-45 have at least one tattoo. Nick Hughes, owner of Sinners and Saints Tattoos in Cornelius, reports that moms (along with dads and the occasional grandparent) looking to honor their children account for 15 to 20 percent of the tattoos he and his artists ink each year.
Weve done tattoos of kids names, initials, handprints or footprints, trees with initials hidden in the leaves, all kinds of things, he says.
Coulwood Middle School teacher Angie Carter sports a 4-inch-by-4-inch tattoo of a bright green T-Rex on her shoulder her son, Clayton, now a senior at Hough High, drew when he was 4, that serves the dual purpose of covering a birthmark.
Id been thinking about one (tattoo), but didnt want something girly like a heart or flower, Carter says. When I came across the T-Rex in some of Claytons drawings one day, I said, Thats it. Most people who see it want to know the story and think its a cute, original idea.
Whether its a way of embracing parenthood or saying, Im a mom, but Im still cool, tattoos of children are always a safe choice. Boyfriends and husbands may come and go (just ask Pamela Anderson and Heidi Klum), politics and passions may wane, but children are forever.
Even those no longer present. For some, tattoos are a meaningful way to commemorate children theyve lost. Heather Brown has the Chinese symbol (or kanji) for child surrounded by vines and butterflies above her ankle in remembrance of her son, Liam, who was delivered at 24 weeks and did not survive.
Brown has since had two more sons and honored them each with tattoos as well. She has the kanji symbol for children tattooed on the back of her neck with the initials of her living sons, Patrick, 14, and Shaun, 10, incorporated into the design. She later added stars to represent Liam.
Lake Norman Charter School teacher Christine Pecorella sports a bouquet of irises on her right shoulder, two blue ones representing her sons, Vinny, 8, and Dominic, 14, surrounding a purple bloom in remembrance of a stillborn daughter, whose middle name was to be Iris, also the name of her paternal great grandmother. A butterfly hovering above the blossoms represents Pecorellas mother.
It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing, she admits. I found I really wanted to do the iris because it has meaning for my family.
Huntersville native and diehard Tarheel fan Candice Stone, who has 16 tattoos, including one celebrating her son, Mason, has become something of a tattoo disciple among her relatives.
Stone sports a 4-inch, Carolina blue tattoo of son Masons infant footprint with his name and date of birth on her shoulder blade. He was born two months premature and weighed 3 pounds, she says. The main reaction I getexcept from Duke fansis, Is that really his foot? He was so tiny!
Stone says when she got her first tattoo at 18 her mom was outraged, but she soon came around, and eventually decided to get her own ink. Stone took her mom to get her first tattoo, and today she has three. Stone also took her dad, Jeff Hathcock, to get his first tattoo when he was 52, and she has since taken other close relatives to get their first tats.
Its a family affair now, she says. When Jason Sink revealed the yin-yang tattoo he got during his freshman year at UNC-Wilmington to his mother, Debbie Wilhelm, he expected her to be shocked. He was disappointed.
People with tattoos dont bother me, says Wilhelm, who later got her first tattoo at age 45 and now boasts four. Theres no longer a stigma that tattoos on a woman are tramp stamps.
Tragically, Jason passed away in 2009, leaving behind two daughters, now 12 and 14. Wilhelm had her sons yin-yang tattoo replicated just above her ankle in his memory. And her granddaughters have made her promise she will take them to get their first tattoos when they turn 18.
They think Im the cool Grandma, says Wilhelm. Thank God.