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"I got my first tattoo in November 2017, right after I had run my first marathon. For months prior to that, I woke up before the sun and trained. Some days, the bile would creep up into my throat, hot tears spilling over on mile 15, sometimes even mile 4. But it wasn't the humidity or the physical fatigue that caused it, although most of the training team was none the wiser. No one knew the real reason. I couldn't even bring myself to say it out loud for the longest time.

In July of 2017, my three year-old son told me that he had been sexually molested by a member of our family. Of course, he did't say it in those terms. He didn't know how to explain it because he was so young. Little by little, we began to uncover parts of the story- shrapnel from an explosion we never saw coming. Each new piece we turned over cut me deeper, but in a place no one could see. That's why I wanted this tattoo. I literally needed the physical pain, a permanence on the outside that signified all I've sustained on the inside. I chose to put it in a place where it would always be visible to me, but less obvious to others- an intricate swallow on the inside of my right forearm, because "'Hope' Is the Thing With Feathers." Or so I'm choosing to believe. "Oh, it'll get better with time," is the thing people want to say. Does it? It changes, it shifts, maybe it fades- but nothing about what happened to him will ever feel better when I think about it. I'll always have to navigate this grief in some capacity- the way I wish our family hadn't been torn apart, the implications of how this will impact him as he grows older and reaches adolescence, even the way that certain places or conversations can bring it all right back again. It will be the work of my life to continue to choose healing- and to point him to it as well.

Five years later, we are beginning the slow, hard work to rebuild family relationships, protecting what's still too tender, but also honoring the parts that are ready to heal. Just like the swallow etched into my arm- I hold a deep pain, but I know now that I also hold a deep capacity to rise above it. I am both, always. And I am a stronger woman and mother for it."

"Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words,

And never stops at all.

And sweetest in the gale is heard;

And sore must be the storm

That could abash the little bird

That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,

And on the strangest sea;

Yet, never, in extremity,

It asked a crumb of me."

~Emily Dickinson


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