Mothers with Mods [Guest Column - Stepping Back]


Mothers with Mods

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

- Frederick Douglas

The image of what a Mother is has drastically changed in the past fifty years. Many years ago, mothers only wore dresses, stayed home to rear the children and take care of their husbands. Then they began to get jobs, laws passed to allow women to get paid the same wage as men, women even started loving other women in public!

Monica Beyer (IAM:Orinda)

Now it’s commonplace for mothers to not have husbands, to never wear dresses… and some… some have tattoos! Piercings! The shame! How can they be good role models for their children? What a terrible disgrace! What has the world come to?

Obviously this point of view isn’t shared by everyone, but is still dominant in our society. Everyone who has visible modifications has probably, at some point, been discriminated against, or at least been stereotyped by someone unmodified. Is it worse for a pregnant woman who has visible modifications?

A social shift in what is acceptable and unacceptable is currently underway, and we’re never going to be able to please everyone. Modified mothers and fathers can be equally fit parents as someone without modifications; tattoos and piercings don’t automatically lower someone’s intelligence or make them abusive. Pregnant women or mothers toting around children have enough to worry about, the last thing they need is to justify their lifestyle to those who don’t understand.

Monica Beyer (IAM:Orinda), a successful entrepreneur who owns and operates and, has created a forum for members of IAM to discuss anything and everything they want to while pregnant. She initially started the forum because she couldn’t find anywhere else online where she really fit in. After two failed attempts (they just didn’t catch on) at the forum, she now has 141 members who actively participate in topics ranging from nipple piercings to circumcision to labor. It is a closed forum, so those of us who aren’t pregnant are not allowed to join in the conversation, however anyone who is pregnant is welcome to participate, but you will have to contact Monica in order to view the forum, of course.

Initially, the forums were public, but because of some unforeseen drama (one member used what was said in the forums against other members in order to tarnish their reputation and to ultimately hurt their feelings) and excessive posts by members who weren’t pregnant, Monica decided to make them private. She wanted to keep the forum a “safe place where people can feel free to talk about whatever they want to talk about.” She and other members didn’t think it was necessary to involve people who didn’t have anything worthwhile to contribute. It is a place for support, understanding and the ins and outs of becoming a mother.

Monica’s eggwarrior tattoos
Left one designed by Corbin (age 5), right by Dagan (age 8)
BME:  How long have you been with BME?
MONICA:  I started my original IAM page in February of 2001.
BME:  Can you briefly explain what is about?
MONICA:  Well, when Corbin (my middle child) was a young baby I saw a news report on television about a mom who signed with her child, and I wanted to learn more. I bought a book and started signing with him at eleven months, and a month later, when he started signing back, I was hooked. There was an unusual lack of information on the web about signing with babies so I decided to start a website about it. It has had tons of different looks but the goal has always been the same — to share basic information about baby sign language and showcase photos of signing babies (including mine)…
At around the same time I quit my job in late 2003 I was approached by a company who offered to sell me their products at a discount and I would then be able to sell them online and make money by doing so. What a novel concept! The Signing Baby Shop started out with about two books and two videos and I had to learn “on the job” how to start a business, collect sales tax, get a merchant account, get my money out of the merchant account, and have great customer service. It’s been over a year now and I think that I’ve worked out all the kinks but there are always a few situations that come up that I’ve never had before.
BME:  Have your mods or your babies had more of an influence on the decision to start your forums? Or has it been a little of both?
MONICA:  The forums were inspired simply because I was pregnant.
BME:  What are some of the topics covered?
MONICA:  Anything and everything. Recent topics include: size of bellies, insurance issues, job loss, location of kicks, throwing up, veganism, La Leche League meetings. Other recent topics: circumcision, labor, prostaglandins in semen, artificial prostaglandins being made of pig semen, birth, nipple piercings, squirting breast milk, necessity of induction, c-sections, pelvic organ prolapse, epidurals, drug-free labor, recovery, stitches, and sex.
Circumcision is an extremely hot topic. It never goes over well. You might be surprised to hear that quite a few parents in my forums feel that circumcision is not a problem. Many of us (me included) feel that it is an involuntary surgical body modification that should not be done on a non-consenting minor. But an alarmingly large number of parents feel that they should do it so their son “looks like dad” or so they won’t be embarrassed in the locker room. I never thought I would hear a person in this community saying something like that. After all, how concerned are we with “fitting in” with the rest of society?
BME:  Do you know of any medical professionals that take part in any of the conversations?
MONICA:  To my knowledge, none.
BME:  What is your favorite topic discussed on the forums?
MONICA:  I really like talking about myself. It’s true! The pregnancy forum of course is full of pregnant women and since I have been pregnant three times I enjoy sharing my experiences. I’m not sure if I will ever grow tired of telling my birth stories. It’s kind of like, “Wow, I did that, it hurt more than anything else I have ever experienced, and I lived, and I’m going to share the details.” I doubt that it is simply me that feels that way either. I think most pregnant women end their birth experience with a need to share it.

Monica and Lauren
BME:  When pregnant, what was some of the feedback from friends, family and strangers about your modifications? Did people see you as being too immature to be a parent (opinions based strictly on their physical appearance)?
MONICA:  It is sometimes hard to read how people are reacting to you — I was 21 when I had my first baby and was condescended too often by people outside of my family, including medical personnel. Was it because of my age? My lack of a wedding ring? Or my tattoos? The more babies I had and the older I got and the more married I became, the more respect I seemed to garner, even though I was considerably more tattooed during my third pregnancy than my first.
My mother had major issues with my getting tattooed at age eighteen. I’ll never forget visiting her at work (first pregnancy) wearing a sleeveless maternity top, and she was horrified that I was exposing tattoo work to her co-workers. I was embarrassed and humiliated. She never made judgments about parenting, but her feelings seemed to be very apparent and hurt me quite easily. This is also something I’ve seemed to outgrow — I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I no longer care or she’s grown used to them (after twelve years I should hope so).
Now — I have had a recent experience with a medical professional that still makes me quite angry, and it’s not directly related to pregnancy or being a mom, but it is a result of having babies. I am having difficulties due to childbirth and I went to see a local physician. You realize that in an OB/GYN examination room you are pretty much naked and vulnerable and at the mercy of the person examining you. This woman walks in and starts feeling my tattooed skin, saying how fascinated she was with it and other meaningless nonsense, which was extremely irritating to me because I am undressed and need an answer. She proceeds to tell me that I will regret “all of this” when I am eighty and did I know how it would look then?
Mostly the reactions I get are grounded in curiosity or surprise. I have had two epidurals and one spinal block. These are anesthesia given through the back and I have a large tattoo on that portion of my body. The first doctor didn’t say a thing (it was the spinal block and I had a c-section so it was a more serious situation). The second doctor, a man from India, immediately starting asking all sorts of questions. Keep in mind that the tattoo is of a Hindu god and I am in deep labor and I wanted the epidural quite badly and also I couldn’t say a damn thing because I was having back-to-back contractions. The man is asking, “So, did you get this done in California? What made you get this? Wow…” and I was not answering any of his questions. The third doctor was really pleasant and he made the typical medical joke that “I must not be afraid of needles so this shouldn’t be too bad.” In that case I was also in seriously hard labor and was spraying amniotic fluid out with each contraction so I wasn’t talking then either.

Monica at 26 and 27 weeks

BME:  Is there anything you’d like to tell the people that scoff at you for being modified? Now’s your time to vent.
MONICA:  If you would have asked me this question ten years ago or even five years ago I would have been able to write volumes. I’m not sure if this is an attribute that comes with age or not but I no longer get negative comments on what work I have on my body. Stupid comments (stuff like “Hey, I like your tatties, look here at my asshole-baring Daffy Duck!”) are probably going to be omnipresent in my life, but I can’t remember the last time someone said something publicly negative about my body. I seem to get more respect now and I’m not totally sure why — is it my age, like I said, or is it the pack of kids I bring out with me?
Also, I also have developed the ability to be far less offended when confronted with stupidity. I don’t feel the need to justify myself any more. I used to have a big spiel on my IAM page about being a college graduate and having a ‘professional’ job (I worked for a college for two years). I don’t any more. I do care what other people think to some extent but I don’t feel I have to prove my worth over and over again. My justification comes from my kids. They are the biggest reflection of me as a person.
BME:  What do you think is the general consensus about the new parent’s child growing up and wanting tattoos and piercings?
MONICA:  I will happily accompany my children at age eighteen to make sure that the tattoo studio they choose is a high-quality one with high-quality artists (an advantage I definitely didn’t have). Same goes for any piercings they might want. I will agree with whatever local laws dictate as long as my children have demonstrated personal cleanliness and I know they will give their piercing the attention it needs.

IAM:Keebie meets Lauren at the KC Bowl Fest BME BBQ.
BME:  Do you think it’s possible that tattoos and piercings will go “out of style” by the time your children are adults, and they’re going to be embarrassed of the work you’ve gotten done to your body? If this happens, how will you deal with it?
MONICA:  I’m sure that my children will not always think I am 100% cool like they do now, regardless of if I was modified or not. I think most kids go through the “mom’s a dork” phase and refuse to be seen in public with her. My nine-year-old son was thrilled with my latest tattoo project (he thought it was a Pokemon) and I wonder how long he will be excited about things like that. I may be wrong and he may always think I am cool but perhaps not.
I started getting modified before it was as popular as it is now (twelve years ago) and will continue to do so. And if the kids think I am a dummy or a freak of course there isn’t anything I can do about it. I don’t believe I will regret any of my tattoo work.
BME:  Has becoming a parent changed your point of view on mods?
MONICA:  I can’t say that it has.
I still feel the need to get modified and I have so many plans to do so.
BME:  Do you feel that being modified makes you a stronger mother?
MONICA:  I think the lessons I learned as a youth (once I began getting modified at age eighteen) make me a stronger person in general. I learned that you cannot please everybody, that no matter what I personally do I will always be viewed a little bit differently, and I learned to take comments (rude or constructive) in stride. When you are a mother you are put on display almost instantly, and once your child goes to school you have others rating your parenting skills. It’s overwhelming. But having been through a period of time where I was treated differently for the way I looked definitely made me a stronger person.
BME:  How do modifications affect mothers in their post-partum state? Do you see a lot of people getting tattooed or pierced to make them feel better after having the baby?
MONICA:  I think that getting modified any time makes one feel so much better (for me that is true!), but when you spend nine months not getting tattooed or pierced it can be something you think about quite often and when you finally get something done you feel almost normal again, like you’ve regained your body. I had to interrupt my half-sleeve and was quite dissatisfied about that. But the first session out of my pregnancy was amazing.
BME:  Can you elaborate on why it felt amazing?
Was it better than any other time you were tattooed?
MONICA:  I constantly crave getting tattooed, and abstaining for nine-plus months was a really intense period of time. It’s not all I thought about, of course, but I did have several dreams about getting worked on and when I was able to continue work on the interrupted project it was better than ever. For those nine months I felt incomplete (as far as tattoos go).
During the other two pregnancies it was very different. I didn’t have a major tattoo project pending.
BME:  Do you think that the image of what a mother is has changed in the past fifty years?
MONICA:  I think the image and attitude of women in general has changed as well as the image of mothers. My grandmother was the typical woman and mother of the 50’s. She stayed at home with the children and waited on her husband. I stay at home with my children too but the situation is entirely different. I refuse to succumb to the “mothers are martyrs” attitude — that you must sacrifice everything for the good of your family. I’m not saying that I never sacrifice — I do it daily — but I refuse to give up the idea of me.
I know there are those who would prefer for women to do it all regarding the home and the childcare, but husbands and partners are expected to pitch in more and more. When my husband brings up the point that I am a stay-at-home-mom and the house should be clean, I bring up the point that when I worked full-time I still had to do most of the housework and childcare.
It’s been quite a challenge to change his way of thinking — his mother was also a waitress on his family — but we are slowly coming around. After all, it’s not just my home and children! I don’t think it is too much to expect a full-grown man to throw away his freaking dirty napkins or put his dishes in the dishwasher, or to bring the laundry up or down the stairs because I have a lifting restriction.
Single moms are probably the most maligned group of parents. If a single dad (or married for that matter) goes to the grocery store to buy food and has his child with him, he is hailed as a goddamned hero, but take a single mother who is trying to better her situation by going to college or who works full-time and they can be treated like they are less than a mother. I have been one — I know how it is.

Lauren, Corbin, and Dagan

It’s hard enough to deal with society on a day-to-day basis, but throw in morning sickness, weight gain and water retention and you may be dealing with a hormonal monster! Give the girl a break!

We are an ever-changing society, and the image of what a Mother is will likely be completely different by the time the children of the mothers of this generation start having babies. We’re constantly breaking ground — it’s a very exciting time to be having kids, and with the support from other modified mothers and fathers, it’s getting easier and easier.

- Gillian Hyde   (iam:typealice)

Gillian Hyde is a Canadian writer with a passion for design, ocean, travel, and fonts. If you enjoyed this article, be sure to also read her journal, This Was My Gambia about five months spent teaching in The Gambia.

Online presentation copyright © 2005 LLC. A number of the photographs in this article are © 2004 Sam Lerner. Requests to republish must be confirmed in writing. For bibliographical purposes this article was first published online January 10th, 2005 by LLC from La Paz, Mexico.


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