Friday, August 3, 2012

Modded Mama

So, let's step away from hot topics (I think!) for a minute and talk about one of my favorite topics: Body Modification. Lots of people have opinions on it and one out of five Americans has at least one tattoo (40% of people born between 1966 and 1980 have them). The number of people with at least one piercing is much, much higher (73%-83% of women alone have their ears pierced).

Many of my friends have tattoos. Their reasons range from just liking the picture they chose to a deep story about each one. I fall into the "each of my tattoos has meaning" category, personally.

My first tattoo took me 10-11 years to decide on
I don't remember when I saw my first tattoo, but I do know that by age 10, I wanted one. By 11, I was thinking hard on what I actually wanted to permanently etch into my skin while applying fake tattoos left and right. Music was an incredibly important part of my life, as long as I can remember. From my first desire to be a drummer at 3 to my desire to be a rock star by 5, the only thing I cared more about was being a mommy some day.

So it only makes sense that, eventually, the first tattoo I would get would be a band tattoo. Stabbing Westward helped me through some of the hardest parts of my life--the parts I almost didn't survive. Shortly before seeing them onstage for the first time, they put out an album with a symbol for the band that I thought looked great and thus, my first tattoo was born. I scanned the symbol, recolored it to my favorite colors and after an hour and a half, I had ink!

Yes, my boobs are huge--I have macromastia--you're
supposed to be looking at my ankle
When I planned to meet my husband (then, long distance boyfriend) for the first time, one of the things he expressed to me was a desire for his own tattoo. So, our first date, we went to my tattoo parlor and he got his first and I got my second tattoo. An ankh--a symbol of fertility and the afterlife. Now, if I get decapitated, they know to let me live forever anyway.

I drew this tattoo myself. I was not pleased that
the artist didn't redraw it and I would like to get it
touched up to a nicer design. This is 8 years later...
In 2010, my husband's gift to me for Mother's Day was my third tattoo. We met on a Star Trek: Voyager list and the words "Voq Je bang" along the bottom are Klingon for "truth and love." I designed the tattoo myself, right down to drawing a map of my favorite constellation, Orion (which, when the design was blown up, wasn't centered right, but that's okay, I love how it turned out) and each star represents a member of my family.

Yes, nerd glasses--Lilly and/or Naomi snapped the stems off

Of course, tattoos aren't the beginning and end of body art! I currently have 8 piercings, comprised of 9 holes and I've had my lip and tongue pierced in the past, but they are retired (my tongue reacted badly and my lip started driving me nuts when Lilly was a baby, from clicking on my teeth).

Now, onto some commonly asked questions from moms:

Is it safe to get a tattoo or piercing in pregnancy?

Not really. Overall, your risk is very low of getting a disease from a tattoo parlor (all metal equipment should come from sealed autoclave bags, opened in front of you; ink should be freshly squeezed into new little cups and the artist should be wearing gloves at all times), however, that risk still exists and therefore, you shouldn't put your baby at risk for something that can wait. If a tattoo can't wait 10 months, you shouldn't be getting one. These are forever. Don't go into it thinking "I can just get it removed," -- tattoo removal can be painful, can leave massive scars and is expensive. If you're worried you won't want to do it in 10 months, you shouldn't do it at all.

As for piercings, let me start by saying don't ever go to a mall piercer or anyone with a piercing gun (read: glorified stapler). I've never had a problem with the four I've had gunned that I didn't have with a needle, but that doesn't mean you won't. The problem with getting pierced (and this applies to tattoos, too) during pregnancy, aside from the risk of infection, is that your healing factor is greatly reduced during pregnancy. This increases your risks of infection, rejection and will considerably lengthen the healing time. This is another procedure that can wait.

Do I have to remove my navel piercing while pregnant?

No. There's a whole website devoted to the pierced, pregnant mama. You can get a flexible bar made of PTFE. Unless you experience discomfort or severe migration, you should be able to stay pierced right up through baby's arrival.

What about my genital piercing?

Yes, those should be taken out, sorry! Generally, you will not tear up through the clitoral hood, but it has happened and the swelling will greatly affect labial piercings, as will any tearing (if it occurs). You can keep them in right up until you think you're in labor or toward the end, if you like, but when it comes to actually giving birth, most providers (OB or midwife) prefer them to be removed for your safety. Some women just use a longer bar for hood piercings, but again, this can be a risk and in your postpartum time, it will just be easier to care for your vulva without them in.

Can I breastfeed with nipple piercings?

Well, that's more of a personal choice. Most women certainly can! Some say it helps their milk flow, even. Typically, piercings should be removed during the nursing session for the baby's health. Bacteria can live on the metal and more, it isn't going to be comfortable in his or her tiny little mouth. Some babies are little hoovers and if you have a CBR/BCR, there could be concern for the baby sucking the ball right out (or if your barbell balls are loosened--I've had plenty of barbells fall out because somehow, the ball got loose and I have to regularly check the tightness). Some remove them during the whole nursing relationship and re-pierce them after and some simply remove them before each nursing session. It's up to you! Beware the twiddler baby, though--shiny objects attract babies and if you don't like having yours tugged, that can be a problem!

To the non-modded audience members, remember: look, but don't touch! Appreciate, but don't demand a story for every tattoo you see. Yes, these are problem behaviors--just as most mamas don't like having random strangers come up and touch their baby bump, most people with tattoos don't want you to come over and start touching them, no matter how awesome you think their ink is. The people who have very large, prominent tattoos don't always, as is the common myth, do it for attention. Most are simply an idea of beauty, art and/or personal expression. Sometimes, even when the tattoo is visible, that is private. So if they want to tell you their story, that's great, but let them offer.

Are you Modded Mama (or Dad)? Feel free to talk about it here and show them off!

Note: I will not address non-consensual body modification procedures such as infant ear piercing other than to say that I do not support anything that infringes upon the bodily integrity of another without their consent.


  1. I love hearing people's stories of body modifications. I've got … let me count, here … 7 piercings. I tend to get the itch for a new one around birthdays. My husband wants a tattoo but is taking it slow trying to figure out what design and what studio to go to.

    I appreciate your list of tips and facts about mods and pregnancy/breastfeeding. I know those are questions that come up a lot, and it's good to have clearheaded answers!

    1. My husband is next in line for the tattoo money. He knows what he wants, but hasn't quite come to terms with not getting it in red (as red ink is the most likely to trigger an allergic reaction and he has a history of allergies, so he decided that it's not worth the risk). However, if I get a good deal on a little star for Katarina, I get to skip in line ;)


Please keep it civil and remember that my blog is not for debate. I have friends in all walks of life, so don't assume anything from individual posts! I do enjoy hearing from you, though :)