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


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.

Publication DOI:
Divisions: College of Business and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences & Humanities > Sociology and Policy
College of Business and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences & Humanities
Additional Information: Crown Copyright © 2023 Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article made available under the CC BY license (
Uncontrolled Keywords: Infertility,Motherhood mandate,Pregnancy loss,Pronatalism,Tattooing,Education,Development,Sociology and Political Science
Publication ISSN: 1879-243X
Last Modified: 11 Apr 2024 07:21
Date Deposited: 22 May 2023 10:11
Full Text Link:
Related URLs: https://www.sci ... 277539523000791 (Publisher URL)
http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2023-05-11
Published Online Date: 2023-05-11
Accepted Date: 2023-05-03
Authors: Tonkiss, Katie (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-0671-3357)



Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

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