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Why I Got My First Down Syndrome Tattoo

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Never did I think I would be one to get a tattoo. Having always been conservative in my views on them, I was myself surprised when I gathered a group of local parents and headed toward “Captain Savage Tattoo” parlor to get my very first one. Now, I am the proud wearer of a #theluckyfewtattoo, which signifies that I know and love someone with Down syndrome. My fourth child, Iva, who is 14 months old.

I live in Lithuania, and this tattoo phenomenon originated in the United States in late 2017, and is quickly spreading around the world. On Instagram and other social media, family members of people with Down syndrome display their three arrows stacked on top of each other under the hashtag #theluckyfewtattoo, with more photos being added daily.

The arrows represent how we, parents of these children, rise up and move forward. And just like arrows, we rise the highest after we’ve been pulled back and stretched — sometimes even more than we think we can bear. Three arrows, because the number three is representative of the three 21st chromosomes that result in Down syndrome.

Approximately 1 out of 700 babies is born with Down syndrome, regardless of the social standing of the parents. It is the most common genetic condition, caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21.  Approximately 1000 Lithuanians have Down syndrome.

In Lithuania, many parents of children with Down syndrome decided to get the arrow tattoo in conjunction with International Down Syndrome Day, which is on March 21st.

The tattoo is our visual and public proclamation that we are proud of our children with Down syndrome. True, most of us initially mourned the presence of the extra chromosome, but now we celebrate and love the child who carries it.

We hope the tattoos will raise awareness about Down syndrome, and that it will send the message that we don’t prescribe to the out-dated practice of hiding away disability in shame. We are not embarrassed of our children, but are actively and openly advocating for a society of inclusion and acceptance of all. Hopefully, society will soon see that with the proper education and integration, people with Down syndrome can be a valuable part of society.

Never did I think I would be one to get a tattoo. But then, never did I think I would be one of the lucky few, having the privilege of being mom to my sunshine Iva.

Originally published: March 12, 2018
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