First up: if the title of this blog post doesn’t rhyme in your head, either you’ve been pronouncing the name of my blog wrong or there’s a P on the end of tattoo that I don’t know about.
Segue time! The name of my blog both rhymes with tattoo and is deeply related to my tattoo.
But before I go any further … I’m almost 40, and I got my first tattoo! I have never felt so cool.
When I’m around other people who have clearly been getting tattoos for a lot longer than me, I look for excuses to roll up my sleeve.
So far, no one seems to care.
But people used to care! Back when I was a young whipper snapper, only inmates and pirates had tattoos! Oh wait—that’s my Nana talking.
But for real, tattoos were a huge deal when I was a teenager because they were the rebellious thing to do. (Belly button piercings were the rebellious but more reversible thing to do, and my massive outie belly button didn’t want more attention drawn to it.) I still remember the cool girl in gym class getting Tinkerbell on her back. And lest we forget, I came of age in the era of the tramp stamp.
Had I been left entirely to my own devices in the late 1990s or early 2000s, I would likely have a butterfly somewhere on my body, possibly a flower.
In the 2010s I was pregnant, post-partum, breastfeeding, repeat … so no ink for me.
Then I find myself in the 2020s: my family is complete (bigger than I would’ve imagined in high school), and I’m finally ready to get my first tattoo.
I knew that I wanted a tattoo to represent my children, so I spent probably two years imagining what it might be and where I would want it. Most of the time that I spent thinking about it was when I was driving my kids around, and during peak pandemic times, driving around was one of the only peaceful things I could do with them.
Perhaps because it is a visible part of my body while driving, I decided I wanted a tattoo on my forearm. I considered somewhere on my hand, but in the back of my mind there’s the idea that you should get a tattoo somewhere that you can cover up if needed. (And honestly, I think we’re past it now, but just ten years ago when I was teaching, the dress code required teachers to cover up their tattoos.)
My inner forearm seemed practical to me since it’s one of the few not-too-hairy spots on my body, and it seems like it’ll be one of the last places on my body to get droopy. I also wanted my tattoo to be somewhere I could see it easily. (The idea of having a tattoo somewhere on my back where I could never see it myself did not appeal to me.)
I started off wanting just my kiddos’ names in a whimsical font on the inside of my forearm. But since I don’t use my kids’ names on my social media, I’d have to make sure the tattoo wasn’t visible in videos and photos. Plus, who am I to assume that the names I gave my children are the names they’ll always prefer?
I decided on initials—easy to modify if ever desired, no need to hide from view online.
I don’t know how I got to the idea of a compass, especially because I can’t follow cardinal directions to save my life. But a compass has single letters on it, and a compass represents direction. And you know what? My children have given my life direction. So a compass it would be.
I thought about the compass for a long time. Replacing the cardinal directions with my kids’ initials seemed like an awesome idea and I loved it, but I didn’t know how to bring that to life since I cannot draw. How was I supposed to get a tattoo of something I couldn’t show the artist? (Spoiler alert: they draw it for you. But I didn’t know that!)
At some point, I decided my tattoo needed to also include a wolf.
Maman Loup? That means Mommy Wolf. My husband and I share a love of wolves and the symbolism of both the lone wolf (my husband) and the wolf pack (our family). When our firstborn was in utero, we called him Wolfie.
By chance, I saw a local tattoo artist’s Instagram feed, and I liked the style of her work. I sent her a message. I told her what I was hoping for in a tattoo, and I sent her this hilarious collage of what I was imagining:
She messaged me back with her own “rough” sketch and it blew my mind. It was exactly what I wanted, but my unartistic imagination hadn’t been capable of envisioning it.
It was also bigger than I imagined. The size of a toonie is what I had in mind, and it was quite a few more dollars than that. Was I ready to commit to such a large tattoo? Without a doubt. It was gorgeous, and it was perfect.
I knew absolutely nothing about the process of getting a tattoo except what I’d seen on TV, so I was very excited to show up at Foxy Ink. Yana printed out and applied a stencil of the design to make sure I liked the placement.
Speaking of placement, my tattoo is upside down. I’ve noticed most people orient their tattoos so that the person looking at them sees them the right way around, but it was very important to me that my tattoo be the right way around for me, and not just in a mirror. I mentioned this to my tattoo artist, thinking that maybe I was doing it wrong, and she was very clear that a tattoo is for me, and however I want it is the right way!
I was mentally prepared for the tattoo process to be extremely painful. People always seem to be screaming and wincing when they get tattoos on TV and in movies! I know it depends a lot on where your tattoo is being applied, and that the forearm isn’t an overly sensitive spot, but I was sure it was going to hurt terribly and that I would need to apply the same mental fortitude as I did giving birth without an epidural.
Turns out it was tolerable enough that I happily chatted to my tattoo artist the whole time. No wincing. No sucking in breath or watering eyes or looking away. Laser hair removal? Waxing? Birth? All delightful processes that made getting a tattoo not exactly pleasant but really not unpleasant either.
It took about an hour and half to complete the design, with all its fine details. I wanted it entirely in black but Yana suggested adding a little bit of white shading to the wolf’s body which was a beautiful touch.
A plastic-wrap kind of bandage was applied to the tattoo, and I was sent home with some care instructions. I was so excited to show it to my husband and my kiddos, since they hadn’t seen the design ahead of time. I don’t think my kids were as excited about being commemorated on my arm as I thought they might be, but I did it for myself and not for my ungrateful little cubs!
Besides being a bit itchy for a few days, the healing process was fast and easy.
I got the tattoo in November, so we are just now getting into the type of weather where my arms are bare, and I am diligently applying sunscreen. My husband has a black tattoo on his shoulder that predates me, and it has turned a murky dark green colour (he rarely applies sunscreen, of course). I feel like such a badass, rocking a tattoo like literally 75% of the adults around me.
I’ve heard people say that once you get one tattoo, you want more. I didn’t think that would be the case for me, but I already have an idea for tattoo number two, so stay tuned!
If you love her work as much as I do, you can find my tattoo artist at Foxy Ink