In this article I explore the role of tattooing practices in how women with experience of infertility navigate the pronatalist ‘motherhood mandate’ which dictates their value in relation to successful childbearing. I present an analytic autoethnography which places my own experiences of tattooing after infertility and pregnancy loss in dialogue with those of seven other women with whom I conducted interviews. I show that tattooing practices after infertility, for women positioned as ‘potentially good mothers’, represent a desire to claim feelings of control and catharsis after a period of uncertainty and trauma. Yet at the same time, the desire for control often stems from feelings of failure, and moments of catharsis are enacted within a framework of ‘good femininity’ linked to caring and, in particular, mothering. Drawing on these findings, I argue that tattooing after infertility is ‘double-deviance’, simultaneously subverting and reinforcing pronatalist norms of femininity.
Bibliographical noteCrown Copyright © 2023 Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article made available under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licesnses/by.4.0/)
- Motherhood mandate
- Pregnancy loss