I get asked pretty often what I did to my arm by people who don’t know me or don’t know what’s happened in my life over the last couple of years. Most often, I get told that it looks like stitches and I get it – it kind of does. It especially did right after I had it done and it was wrapped in plastic with medical tape around the ends. I usually just tell what it is and we exchange tattoo stories or they show me a sound wave they had done for themselves. Occasionally, they probe a little deeper.
It’s been almost four months since Jonah came into this world and I still haven’t found a go-to that I feel comfortable with. When I used to get asked about my Team Jonah button I switched from saying ‘Jonah is our son’ to ‘Team Jonah is our support group’, which then led to being asked why we need a support group… and uncomfortable responses when I told them why. I’ve stopped wearing my button since I got the tattoo and tend to just leave it at ‘it’s my son’s heartbeat’. They think it’s cool and I feel better because I’ve avoided the heart break and sympathy faces, but I had an experience last week that changed my mind. I realized that by saying that I was doing two things – leading someone I see regularly to believe that I experience my son like other families do, and I miss out on opportunities to break down barriers about still birth and Trisomy education. I’m not sure it’ll ever be something that’s an easy conversation to have with people, but avoiding the discussion just perpetuates the very stigma that I’m trying to help break. Being openly honest about the Jonah Experience with people gets to uncomfortable places more often than not, but it’s in those places that foundations are built. We grow in hardship, and we experience compassion through heartache.
Really, seeing Jonah’s heart beating on my arm is therapeutic for me. When I’m having a hard day it reminds me of survival. In times where I don’t feel connection it reminds me that I’m able to carry forward Jonah’s spirit and the opportunities to do so are precious few. It’s also a statement to myself – I am a father, and I’m still worth it. Losing my son does not reduce my value in this world nor should it shake my confidence in what I’m capable of. In the same way that loss breaks people, it can also build us up.
I don’t mind the stitches comments because my tattoo acts in the same way – it heals my wounds. This is a life where we constantly chews us up and spits us out, and it’s important that we find things in our daily life that mend us back together. It doesn’t have to be a tattoo, just something to remind yourself that you are strong and capable. That you are still worthy of a good life and of a real love that can’t be taken away. You. Are. Worth it. Jonah stitches me together and heals my heart, even when it breaks for him.
What mends your wounds?