Oh joy I’m having a baby, everyone is looking forward to the unknown – Joy, anticipation of the explosion of love . But what happens when you don’t have a baby?  The Big Taboo.


I remember during my 3rd pregnancy sitting in the waiting room.  I got a sinking feeling in my womb, a cramp- Oh no its that feeling – the feeling I’ve had before- don’t say anything – It’ll be alright, it can’t happen again, it wouldn’t be fair.  I’m in a waiting room full of baby bellies and exited future parents looking forward to cooing over the  moving image of the content of their wombs.  We enter the scanning room. The nurse pronounces my name incorrectly and I correct her ( often I don’t bother – why do I this time?)  I’m glad I did.  She scans, she scans ,she looks, she looks again she says ” Sorry Rachele, I just need to go and get someone, I can’t see baby’s  heartbeat”   I knew it! Oh how could it be happening again.  That unspoken horror.  My partner looks stunned, he hasn’t been here before.  Now the unspoken taboo has to walk back through the pregnant waiting room.  I see the fear on the faces of those who notice me passing them, I feel their terror.  I’m led to the consultants office to see the scan of my perfectly formed but dead baby.  I know the statistics that are skimmed over at the booking appointment.  I am struck by the clinical sterility of this experience and fear what I now know I have to face, the passing of my dead foetus and the reaction of friends and family as I tell them of the loss and they grieve.

A few years earlier I had my first encounter with Mother Holda. Never heard of her?  She’s rarely mentioned.  She is a Germanic deity, the Goddess who comes to take away and care for the unborn and the still born, on their journey to the next world, the midwife of miscarriage.  She is rarely mentioned in the esoteric lists of Goddesses  until she visits you.

So where is the Tattoo?  A couple of years ago my 8 year old drew a wonderful  picture of a heart with Mum written on it, it had trees and faces coming out of it.  What struck me was how it reminded me of those tattoos you see on hard men, big men, Mum tattooed on their arms.  I felt the love, the sentimentality of those skin deep tributes to their Mothers; the beauty in those marks, those tattoos and I felt overwhelmed by the love I have for my children, those  born and unborn.


On my visit to look round the maternity suite in preparation for the birth of my youngest child I noticed a tattoo on one of the’ other ladies’- that’s midwife/hospital  speak- A young  child’s  portrait, the child’s name, their date of birth and their date of death.  The death of a child born or unborn is a taboo.  Often it’s difficult to articulate, people are scared to talk about it in case they catch it or upset you.  It leaves a permanent mark on us, inside of us, like the marks of the external tattoo Mum (heart) or the Name, DoB/DoD of a lost child on your skin.

About Ruthy Rabbitt

Ruth Rabbitt it the facebook persona of Performance Artist Rachèle Howard.  She trained at Bretton Hall and has spent over 25 years performing, directing, devising shows and happenings, hanging from a trapeze and making art.  She now combines the membership of Mewee with Glass Art, Motherhood …Read more

3 Responses to “Taboo and Tattoo”

  1. Jasmine Gauthier

    Beautiful drawings! I love your daughter’s ‘tattoo’, the more you look at it, the more you see.

    It seems right to talk about the hardness you have to bear with loss and the hardness of the ‘Mum’ tattoo of men especially as I think they would get it done, in my mind, once their mother had passed away.

    With every thick skin one grows with experiences like this, a mark, a tattoo is left behind to remind us of what we have been through.

    It made me think of when my life was a bit upside down when I was younger and a teenager. I used to ‘doodle’ with an ink pot and pink pen in a similar way to the drawings where I would imprint ink from my skin on the paper too. I think desperately trying to capture a part of myself in the moment, creating a therapeutic act for myself.

    An example of one I actually scanned in: http://fc05.deviantart.net/fs10/i/2006/124/9/6/Inside_my_head_of_doodles_by_Jazbagz.png

    Anyway, I found your images, writing and connections between the two really fascinating.

  2. Ruthy Rabbitt

    Thank You. I drew the heart on a Red Tent Women’s retreat. It was only the second time, in 10 years I had been able to be away from my children and actually have time for myself. It was very emotional I cried a lot!
    The heart, like your wonderful doodle, I now realize was drawn from that place/moment when I was able to ” create a therapeutic act for myself ”
    I have designed a glass panel from my child’s ‘tattoo’ and was struck by the similarity of the thematic images in your pen and ink doodle. These heart images are so simple and familiar to us yet they seem to travel to us from such deep and often dark places.
    Hopefully what is produced casts a beautiful light and helps us in those difficult times.

  3. Frances Earnshaw

    What an amazing drawing. I wonder if we know more than we know, when we are very young… can’t think how to express that better. A knowing of the unknown. The drawing reminds me of the drawings of Nadja, a real or imagined woman, made up or met by the Surrealist, Andre Breton.

    Funny how those tattooed hearts are often pierced by a dagger. An acknowledgement of the pain and piercing of love, even of the love of dear old mum.

    The image of the piercing dagger reminds me of a quote from T. S. Eliot,

    “…Love is the intolerable shirt of flame…”

    Is love always accompanied by pain? The love of the person who might have been is no less than… What has also died is hope.

    These things must be held and protected by the family, even young children have their part in this.


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