Two little hearts on my wrist: dialogues on tattooing, infertility, and potentially good mothers

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102752
Number of pages8
JournalWomen's Studies International Forum
Early online date11 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2023

Bibliographical note

Crown Copyright © 2023 Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article made available under the CC BY license (


  • Infertility
  • Motherhood mandate
  • Pregnancy loss
  • Pronatalism
  • Tattooing


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