Inked: Stylish Mamas Share the Heartfelt Stories Behind Their Tattoos
Photos: Howl & Rose
Of the many questions that mamas are often asked, one of the most common is, "Was giving birth painful?" (Another frequent one: "Are you getting enough sleep?") Regardless of whether it's via a natural hospital birth, doulah-led water birth, or C-section, welcoming a tiny human into the world undoubtedly involves a special tolerance for pain that — as Buzzfeed once hilariously illustrated — women are uniquely equipped to handle.
Another experience that leads to the same question: Getting a tattoo. Just as we support the normalization of breastfeeding and cannabis therapy (hey, we love bottle feeding and our MJ-free mamas, too!), we're wholeheartedly behind the modern movement to dispel the stigma once associated with permanent body ink.
That's why we asked some of our tattooed members to share their favorite works of body art and the tales behind them — from heartwarming to tearjerking to just plain silly, read their stories below.
Randee Braham, Lifestyle Publicist
"The rose tattoo on my elbow is a tribute to my best friend Shane, who unfortunately passed away due to complications while pregnant. It's memorial tattoo for her and her son Brenner and the yellow flower is very significant because at her funeral, we all wore a yellow senna flower. I actually named my daughter Senna kind of as a tribute to her and her son.
The most recent one is the pineapple on my wrist right before I got pregnant with Senna. For a majority of my career I was a publicist specifically focused on the hospitality sector — hotels, restaurants, nightlife — and pineapples are an international symbol of hospitality. When I switched over to lifestyle PR, I got it to remember where I got my career started.
The pizza versus taco tattoo on my hip, my buddy Stu actually drew. It’s a battle between New York and LA; the taco signifies California and the west coast and the pizza certainly signifies New York. I spent a majority of my life living in the city, so it’s just the battle of the coasts.
The tattoo on my finger — I was born and raised in Cali, so it's [a reminder to] just never forget where you come from. I’m really proud to have grown up on the best coast."
— Randee Braham, lifestyle publicist
Katie Kay Mead, Freelance Creative
"My hand [tattoos] are really new, I got them in December with my best friend of 16 years. Each one has 16 lines for every year of our friendship, so that one’s pretty special. Because they’re so prominent on my body, it’s the biggest leap of faith.
I’m established enough in my [field] to make a move that was as bold as this one, [and] I’m at the point in my career where I wouldn’t want to work with someone who cared. This one [was] done by Juan Puente in the Bay Area.
The guitar that I got about 15 years ago, it’s the floret off an 18th century Spanish guitar. It just really resonated with me and music has been a giant part of my personal life and my career even 15 years ago and still. These were done by D'Mon on Sunset.
The [one on my right arm] I’ve had for [almost] 20 years; it’s abstract art by an artist from the '60s, Stephen Willats.
A lot of my tattoos are symmetrical, maybe because I’m a Libra or a control freak. I’ve had [it] since I was a teenager and I still get stopped by it constantly.
I [also] have bands on my arms that [signify] rings of a tree that I used to get [whenever] I had a major life event."
Jenna Davidson, Fashion Designer
"The footprints are actually the most meaningful to me; I have a younger sister that passed away and so all of my sisters got the footprints from her birth certificate. I’m one of seven girls and it was really important that, even the younger ones, when they turn 18, everyone gets the tattoo. It’s a family tradition now.
My dots [on my ring finger] — My husband and I started dating when I was 15, so he’s my past, my present, and my future. So when I don’t wear my wedding ring which is kind of often, this is kind of my ode to him."
Natalie Alcala, Founder of Fashion Mamas
"I have two tattoos, and their stories couldn't be more different. The first one is a floral garland on my back; the first half was done on a whim when I was about 17, and the second half was done about three years later. I wish I had some deep meaning behind it, but I just like to think of it as as a symbol of my youth and a memory of a more spontaneous time.
The second tattoo has more meaning; back in 2013, I wrote this profile on iconic tattoo artist Mark Mahoney — owner of Shamrock Social Club on the Sunset Strip and the man who Dr. Woo first apprenticed for. The man is a legend; he has tattooed everyone from 2Pac to Johnny Depp to David Beckham to Rihanna, and his shop was even one of the first LA stops that the Spice Girls made during their glory days. (He has some amazing stories behind all of these stars, too.)
Mark and I really connected during my time shadowing him for the story, and graciously offered to give me some ink. I couldn't refuse the offer, of course, but I also didn't want to get something random, so I waited a few months before going in. I finally decided on three roses to honor my late grandmother named Maria De La Rosa, my mother named Rose Marie, and myself, Natalie Rose. Mark hand-sketched it for me and did it in his signature single-needle style. I consider it a collector's item now."
Marie Rafferty, Fashion Consultant
" [I covered up] my first tattoo, Mr. Sneezy, [that I got] at 16. When I got pregnant, Mr. Sneezy resurfaced [along with the] only stretch mark I have. So it kind of popped right back out of the cover-up. The second [tattoo] to cover it up—I wanted to start a theme of just women on my body—[so] it's basically a sea woman [creature]. I got it when I first moved to LA, about 12 years ago.
This is my third one technically; it’s a little girl that’s been injured but throughout all [of it] she still sees the beauty and she’s bleeding butterflies instead of blood. I went back to Canada, started my life over again, and came back here. It's by Fumi Nakamura; she’s a Japanese sketch artist. She does a lot of work for Nylon magazine and all of my art is by her. I don’t know her [personally] but we’re friends on Facebook, and she knows I have all of my tattoos.
There was a woman attached to this [tattoo on my leg] but I really liked the deer, and I wanted something really earthy. I got this after my first baby, it [represents] me and my two boys; my little clan. The tattoo artist is amazing...His name is William Doolittle and he’s at Studio City Tattoo and he has a year wait list [now].
This one [on my side] I got right before I decided I wanted to have kids. It was to [remember] the body I had have pre-kids. I didn’t know what to expect [or] how much my body was going to change and I wanted to keep my body [somehow, so I] tattooed [it] on myself. When I got pregnant, it's so funny because it literally just stretched out and it kind of had a belly too. Then it went back to normal and I actually ended up keeping a good body after pregnancy so now I have the proof!
This star, this is for the 'star' that I’ll never be because I don't have any artistic skills. I’ll never be an actress or a singer or anything like that but I am a true star inside myself so that’s how I represent that."
— Marie Rafferty, fashion & apparel development consultant
Jenny Sung, Jewelry Designer
"I got the apple [when I was 22 or 23] because it was a really special part of my life. It’s pretty much a sign of knowledge; you know, [like when you] give an apple to your teacher.
Then I got these flowers because they're cherry blossoms, they [represent] my Korean background.
The [lyrics tattoo] was from my late-teens, early '20s when I was really into bands — I was that girl. It says, 'No telling what tomorrow holds.' I still love them so much and it’s so nostalgic, it's [from the song Duality by] Bayside. It was very KROQ and [represented] that time of my life.
Lauren Hastings, Model
"I’m not proud to say this, but most of my tattoos are a bit of a blur. My right arm [tattoo] was inspired by that famous photo ['Flower Power'] back in the late '60s — you know, that black and white one. It's a tommy gun with a really delicate flower coming out of it.
On my left side of my neck is for my daughter Monroe, and the snake [on my chest] I just got. Honestly, I’ve just always wanted a snake and I wanted a chest tattoo and I thought it was a good idea.
I wish it was a little bit smaller but I am happy with it; it’s delicate, [and] I mean when are my clothes ever really off? So it’s kind of a surprise.
This one on my left ribs is a Mark Twain quote. It says, 'When angry count to four, when very angry swear.' It's very my personality so that was necessary to get.
On my left shoulder I have cowboy boots with a lasso — I love anything [with a] 'wild wild west' [theme] and I grew up in a small town so country music is part of my story. There's a spider and scorpion which just kind of go with the dirt and the desert.
[My first tattoo] is on my left butt cheek. The Care Bears have all have hearts on their butt cheeks, and it was inspired by that! I was 17 when I got it, and now I’m 33 and I just keep adding."
— Lauren Hastings, model
Heather Roma, Fashion Consultant
"Most of my tattoos are either about places where I’m from or people in my life. This one [on my left arm] is the longitude and latitude of where I was born, St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I lived there until I was 3 and my dad was a seaplane pilot down there.
[My son] Hendrix and I were on a road trip a few months ago and someone told me a month before that palm trees grow towards their home. I don’t really know exactly what that means, but to me [it means] two people who are meant to be together. So I drew these two palm trees, one for me and one for Hendrix and it forms into an 'X'
It was the first road trip we did together and it was the best time. We stopped in Los Alamos for lunch and the table was [had] craft paper…so I drew it. It had been on my mind for a while and I was like, 'I’m just going to try drawing it [even though] I suck at drawing.' I drew it and [thought], 'Yeah I love this.' I came home and my client that I was on the road trip for had given me a journal and some paint stuff so I drew it in my journal and just kept on thinking about it and knew I had to get it."
Lara Hogan, PR Agency Owner
"This one wasn't my first but it's still my favorite; it's a 'P' and I got it before I had any [other tattoos] visible. It was just a reminder to be patient. My dad had just passed away and he had Alzheimer's. My relationship with him was strained when I got this because it took so much patience. That one I love for its meaning.
The rest are sort of meaningless, this [arrow] I got with my friends on a vacation in Texas and we all got the same [tattoo].
I speak French and "T'Imagine" is the word or term I say the most often when I speak French because it means 'Can you imagine?' It makes a lot more sense in French because it's one word. For me, it's such a symbol of who I am because I'm always [saying it]. I'm always excited about doing something or dreaming something up. So that encapsulates what I think is my vibe.
[My left shoulder and right arm tattoos] I got by an artist named Kati Vaughn in Brooklyn. They're definitely my two biggest pieces. I really love her work because I wanted it to be super feminine. It's floral but then I also added this sort of botanical illustration of a bumblebee with my last name and then it says 'always' [in French] for my husband with his initials.
[The deer tattoo] was supposed to be just the size of the head, but [Kati] convinced me on the spot that it needed to be my whole arm. I just walked out and I had a full-blown panic attack. I was like, 'Oh my god, I'm a tatted up chick.' I literally couldn't stop crying for [nearly] three hours. I called my brother who has tattoos and he was like, 'This is your body, not as you know it. All you know is your original body so this is just a new way of looking at [it]. It's gonna become your body and you're just going to have to accept it.' And now it's my favorite tattoo and I can't imagine not having it. I did it a few months before my wedding — who does that? — and my mom almost had a heart attack. Now looking back at my wedding pictures, it's so who I am: This really feminine wedding dress with this crazy tattoo. [The white ink] is a big part of it, I wanted it to have this feminine highlighter and so [Kati] added white for dimension.
The [two below my neck] are by the same artist, Daniel Winter, who does single needle. The lower one was my first tattoo and I'm going to cover it up, but it's an Art Deco floral image. My friends and I have a whole camp group [and the upper tattoo] represents the vibe of what I love about camping — the tent, the fire, the mountains."
Miriam Sternoff McKnight, Stylist
"The one on my wrist I got in 2009, five months after my father passed away. These are his initials and his signature. I knew right away that I wanted to do something, so I was literally digging through all of these old papers of his and found the oldest lease that my parents have. I just took it to the tattoo place. This is his watch, too.
The [tattoo] on my back is an eye, which for me signifies keeping the evil spirits away so I can always make sure that I have an eye out. I got this one in 2005 or 2006. I lived in a basement apartment in New York at the time; [the building] was only four stories with one apartment on each floor. I was living with somebody at the time and he had just left to drive to D.C. for a business meeting. Instead of going the night before, he decided to leave super, super early in the morning. I went to sleep for a couple hours and...for some reason I woke up at 3 o’clock in the morning and sat straight up in bed and I was like, 'Something seems weird.'
I wear glasses and contacts so I couldn't really see anything, but something seemed really hazy so I got out of bed and looked around the corner and my entire apartment was in flames. I had two exits because I lived in the basement, but I obviously couldn't go through the kitchen because it was completely on fire.
I ran back into my room to grab my glasses and started climbing up the stairs. At that moment, all of the sprinklers were going off in the apartment so I was wet by the time I got outside...Once I got out of my apartment I just started running up to all of the apartments and started banging on the doors and then ran outside.
It was in the middle of winter in New York, by the way. It was snowing outside, I had no shoes on, my neighbors had to come and give me clothes to wear. The person I was living with had just gotten a new cellphone — literally that same day. Somehow I had memorized the new number enough for me to call and say, 'Hi, our apartment is on fire, I think you should come back.'
I lost basically everything. I got really severe second-degree burns all over my face and was in the hospital for about three days and then had bandages on my face for a good few weeks after that. I had to be super careful.
So that's why I got the tattoo — just to always know that I have somebody there watching over me."
— Miriam Sternoff, fashion and celebrity stylist
Nixi Nicks, Stylist & Blogger
"I was raised with a — I don't like the term 'pagan' — but a very earth-respecting way of believing. [This tattoo on my upper thigh is] a pentacle surrounded by roses. It’s there to cover scars from a painful part of my life. It's the concept [that the] pentacle represents the elements and being able to accept what’s happened and to try to help me get past that part of life.
It goes hand-in-hand with my first tattoo, which is my little brother’s birthday with a dandelion, and I got it the day after he died of a drug overdose at 18 years.
My mom’s family is Greek and I’m very connected to [them], so this is the Greek word for 'family', oikogéneia.
This [tattoo that says] 'Come What May.' I didn’t plan on having my son, but he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s just a reminder that come what may, everything is gonna be [okay]."
Haruna Yokota, Creative Director
"[My first] tattoo was the four hearts.
I got these [happy and sad face emojis] 4 years ago on my 25th birthday, and the number 13 [represents] my birthday, which is May 13.
[I got] the palm trees because I love LA. I’m from Tokyo but I love [Los Angeles] more."
Dee Murphy, Interior Designer
"[I have a] heart above my butt; It seems like it maybe would’ve gotten it because of a guy, but wasn’t — although it was kind of the result of my time with a certain guy in college. We were just going through a tumultuous time and he was kind of being an ass and stood me up on Valentine’s Day, so I decided I was going to get a tattoo [that day] with one of my best guy friends. I decided I wanted to get a little heart [as] a note to keep true to myself, believe in my own heart, and I would find somebody else with a great heart someday. Even though it had to do with my time with this person, it wasn’t for him, it was for me.
I always knew I wanted to get another tattoo. When I was with husband — we’ve been married 12 years, maybe it was around our 8th year anniversary — I was like, 'I want to get a tattoo.' I know you’re not supposed to get the initials, but I was like screw that. So I decided to go on Valentine’s Day. He came with me, and I got our initials: P & D, and it's an anagram. That was kind of my [way of proving], 'See I did find love again!' It’s really funny because my son's name is Parker, he says it’s for us."