When I was planning my tattoos, I was only going to get the two quotes; the foot and the chest. About a week before I went home, I decided that I was going to get one more tattoo; one that wasn’t completely planned out and obsessed over, but was so perfect for me.
If you know me, you’ll know that I have this obsession with feathers; rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces all catch my eye. (Not the hair feathers though; those are tacky and ridiculous. I prefer the pretty metal variety any day.)
I felt so badass when I e-mailed AJ and told him that I wanted not two, but THREE tattoos in one sitting. My hair stood on end when I described the tattoo in the e-mail; I was planning on getting this feather, and it would be so much bigger and more detailed than anything else I’d ever gotten before.
I was nervous, of course I was, because I decided that this would be my first rib tattoo. I knew several people who got tattoos on the ribs and said that they were so so painful. I was expecting the pain, but wasn’t looking forward to it.
I was getting it up on my right side, a few inches under my underarm. I had to remove my bra in order to tattoo, and for some reason, I was more wary about taking my bra off (and possibly flashing this man) than I was about the actual tattooing process. But AJ was as sweet as always with reassurances. He told me that he had seen this stuff before, and that I wasn’t the first, but said in such a gentle tone, it wasn’t mocking at all. I was finally comfortably uncovered (with nothing major hanging out), and sat patiently.
He quickly sketched out the general shape of the tattoo, and showed it to me. I loved it, so he put it on me. AJ had me lie in the most uncomfortable position in order to tattoo me.
After getting everything switched out and ready to go, he asked me if I was ready. At this point, I was close to crying. I had no one with me, and I was scared shitless. I nodded my head jerkily, and he put a hand on my upper side to hold me in place while he started.
When he touched me with the needle, I sucked my breath in, and tried not to jerk away. I knew that I should just keep breathing, but I found myself holding my breath while the needle was pressed against me. When he stopped to pick up more ink, I was panting for breath, filling my lungs so I could continue holding it while he tattooed more.
He was incredibly gentle as he wiped the ink and blood away, and he asked very often how I was doing. The studio was empty, so the vibrations were incredibly loud. Every time he wiped, I cringed from the pain of the rough paper towel.
At times, as he outlined, I felt mirth bubble up inside me, and I had to beg him to stop because I needed to let that mirth out. As soon as he stopped, I was giggling. It tickled in certain areas.
But in others, I was holding myself so still, and holding my breath, in order to avoid that pain.
As he switched from the basic outline needle to the shading one (which was five or six needles across), he told me that it wouldn’t hurt as much. I was looking forward to a lessening of the pain.
But it wasn’t less painful.
As he drug the needles across my ribs, I saw spots. He held me down with one hand when I was weaving a bit because of the pain. His hand was just above my right breast (on the fatty area), and it felt weird having it so close.
The needle over my ribs filled every bone in my body with an all-consuming, painful vibration. I got to the point where I had to breathe, and I panted; tiny little gasps that gave me just enough air without moving my body.
It felt like I had lain there for hours on end, but it was around 45 minutes to an hour long. My skin was stuck to the bench I was lying on when he finally told me I could get up and look at it. I’d been sneaking peeks at it, but when I looked at it in the end, I was shocked. I’m not going to lie when I say that I got a bit misty eyed. It was gorgeous and very realistic.
Now that the needle was not pressed against me, it wasn’t as painful; but it was a bit tender as I expected.
I kept my bra off because I couldn’t bear to cover it up with something so tight. I was wearing a camisole with a shelf bra, so I figured that was enough coverage with my shirt on over top. I snapped a few pictures, and after paying, I headed out.
The first night with it was miserable. It was tender, and every time I tried to move my arm, it would pull and leave me gasping in pain. Trying to sleep was just that; the whole night was spent trying to stay asleep, but the pain kept me awake.
I went to bed that night wearing pajama pants and my sports bra, and applied a layer of Tattoo Goo over all the new ones before I tried to sleep. The sports bra was a mistake.
When I got up the next morning, I immediately wanted to look at all my new ink, and the feather was high up in that regard. My sports bra was stuck to my feather. I spent several minutes slowly tugging the fabric away, with tears in my eyes. After I got it off, I stood topless, with tears running down my cheeks.
The next few days didn’t get better. I didn’t do anything strenuous, but my feather still pained me. Playing with the kids made me both miserable and joyously happy.
Showering was another thing I loathed to do. Even when I used my arm to direct the amount of water that got to the feather, it was still painful.
I made sure to keep it lubricated, and I learned to wear a loose shirt with nothing pressed against the feather. Everyday, I checked on it, and everyday, it caused me more and more pain to take care of it. It hurt to move my arm, and it hurt to breathe. The pain was so intense, rubbing Tattoo Goo on it made me cry. I had a fever and chills the first days with it, and that led me to believe I had an infection. I emailed AJ, and was reassured with his response.
Finally, I found the feather healing; that is, it started to scab over. One night, playing with Braden left me on the floor with tears leaking from my eyes. We were playing a chase game, and when I reached out to grab him, I heard and felt my skin split. As I checked my side, I saw where the skin had split, and it was weeping a bit of blood and a bit of ink; a grisly mixture. From that incident, I had a large, black, raised scab that stayed around longer than the rest.
I started to keep a bandage covered with Tattoo Goo over it. I remember when I put that bandage on the first time. I whimpered as April gently pressed it to me to make sure it was secure. I had her check the feather for signs of infection, but there was nothing. I took at least four Advil a day, but found they took only the edge off the pain.
Traveling to Nebraska for a wedding was awful. I found a comfortable position for the eight hour trip, but any deviation from that position, and I had tears in my eyes.
I don’t remember when, but the pain started lessening. One Advil a day kept the pain from my mind, and I was able to wear a bra (at the loosest hook) again. I stopped wearing a bandage, and after awhile, forgot to cover it with Tattoo Goo. When the kids wanted to look at the feather, I showed them, and allowed them to run their fingers across it without wincing and jerking away.
Today, there’s only pain if I press against it hard; a deep pain that time will remove. It doesn’t hurt to brush against, and I can wear a bra (at the tightest hook) without it bothering me. Sometimes, I find myself absentmindedly rubbing it when I’m reading. I can’t feel anything anymore; it’s healed flat against my skin.
It’s my most beautiful tattoo, as well as the largest, and most painful tattoo. If anyone asks to see it, I lift my shirt up willingly to show it off.
It took around 45 minutes to complete (maybe more), and the tattooing itself was not extremely high on the pain scale (maybe a six/seven out of ten). The healing process was the most painful, but as AJ told me: “tats ….especially that big…do hurt for a few days… and remember, it is an open wound, you did get stabbed several hundred thousand times…so just remember that… ;)”. With my other two tattoos, the total cost was $75 (because, as AJ said, “You’re a frequent offender”).
So this concludes the Tattoo Experience series, until I get a new tattoo, at least. Be looking out for my Piercing Experience when I get my new piercings. I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend, and I look forward to seeing you all here on Monday! Thank you so much to everyone who liked, commented, and shared these posts; they’ve been the most popular posts on my blog!