The first tattoo I got was not a cross. It was not so I could be cool and counter-cultural and let all the non-church people know you can love Jesus and still sport some ink. This was 2005, and I was twenty-eight year old church going girl, but believe me, I wasn't thinking about my Christian witness at the time.
Nope, I walked into the parlor with a new friend and a freshly broken heart. It had been about four months since I lost what would have been baby number three, and although I’d been going to therapy for a few weeks and the fog was starting to lift, I still needed a push.
My social worker had suggested I consider taking an antidepressant for the first time, and I filled the prescription the same day I got the tattoo. It was scary to think that I needed medicine to make my brain work properly again, but not as scary as it was to not have my brain working properly. After all, I still had a toddler and a first grader to take care of.
I was a little embarrassed that I would need to unzip my pants to get the tattoo placed where I wanted it, but I knew that it belonged atop my ovary, right next to the womb so recently emptied by mechanical and medical means. I wasn't planning on showing it to the world anyhow, this tattoo was just for me, and the two children I never got to meet, or see and know.
When my husband and I were at the hospital and I was waiting to be wheeled away to surgery, a doctor I'd never seen before came in with a clipboard in hand that I swear had a political sticker on the back of it. He looked at me and John and said something like, "Are you guys here for the abortion?" I don't remember his exact question and I can't imagine why anyone would ever use that word to describe what I understood to be a procedure that would remove a dead child from my body; but I looked right at him and said, "the baby's heart stopped beating" and the crack in my voice must have knocked some sense into him. Anyhow, he walked away and my regular doctor showed up and I went back for anesthesia pretty soon after that.
I've since learned that a D&C is technically considered a type of abortion, and that some Christian ministries and insurance type companies oppose these kinds of procedures and won't pay for them, so some women must wait for their bodies to naturally go into labor before delivering an already deceased child.
I'm not telling this bit of my story because I have some sort of solution for these complicated situations, and I'm not wanting to focus on a political issue like abortion. Instead I just want to acknowledge that loss and grief are part of life for everyone. Even churchgoing kids who get married young and never have sex with anyone but each other. And sometimes the culture that young couple is a part of doesn't do a good job of giving them the time, space, and tools necessary for processing their trauma, whatever that may be.
In fact, the Christian subculture I've been part of all my life often makes things worse by only talking about their blessings and pretending they never have any hardships. Which is one of the things that led me to become a writer, but that's another story. For today, just let me end by telling you that if you're feeling angry, sad, lonely, or confused, you can still have those feelings and be a person who wants to live like Jesus. It doesn't mean you don't belong to God anymore just because you're not speaking to him very much right now. Because being a Christian isn't about what we do anyhow.
It never was, and it never will be.