Honey-Rae was born with a strawberry rose birthmark that covers nearly the entire right half of her body, so her devoted parents decided to tattoo their own legs to replicate the birthmark. Honey-Rae's mom, Tanya Phillips, says the birthmark is "bright red and it covers almost half of the right side of her body. It stretches from her toes to her lower back. It hasn't faded with time. In fact, some days it looks darker than others."
As Honey-Rae grows, so does the birthmark.
And, like any mother, Phillips didn't want her daughter to feel ostracized, or be marked as different because of her birthmark. She knows that the birthmark doesn't pose a health risk to Honey-Rae, but says, "Although in our eyes she was perfect, I knew other people would cruelly point and stare at her."
At first, when Phillips dressed Honey-Rae, she would make sure her legs were covered up in order to avoid strangers' stares or comments -- or sympathy, either.
"I didn't want sympathy or pity or people feeling sorry for Honey-Rae," Phillips said of her initial decision to keep her daughter's birthmark covered.
But then Tanya and husband Adam decided that they "wanted Honey-Rae to feel special, that her birthmark was something to feel proud of and not embarrassed by."
So last summer, when Honey-Rae was still less than a year old, Tanya dressed her baby in shorts and sandals and went shopping. And it was while Tanya and her baby were in the check-out line that an elderly couple began to stare and whisper.
"I was distraught," Phillips said. "It was first time I had taken her out without covering her up and it confirmed all my worries and fears. People are cruel without even realizing. And I knew if adults could be that insensitive, then kids at school would also be unintentionally mean."
It was then that Tanya and Adam decided to be pro-active in their desire to make sure their daughter didn't feel different or alone.
"We had talked about having duplicate tattoos done for a little while, but that day my mind was made up. We knew we had to do something to ensure Honey-Rae grew up knowing she was very much loved."So this last Christmas, Adam Phillips had his leg tattooed first, in a procedure that took two-and-a-half hours. The tattoo stretches down his right leg from his thigh to his toe, and replicates the birthmark on his daughter's leg.
Tanya says, "It did look red and angry but there was no doubt in either of our minds that it was perfect."
And this last week, Tanya herself got the birthmark tattoo on her right leg as well, for her 40th birthday.
Tanya and Adam wanted their daughter to know she wasn't alone.
She shared the special moment she was able to show her new tattoo to Honey-Rae, once the swelling went down.
"I showed Honey-Rae, and she gently touched it and smiled as she said 'Match,' pointing to her own leg. If I'd have needed any reassurance that I'd made the right decision, that was it. She now constantly touches mine and Adam's tattoos then her own birthmark and giggles -- I couldn't be happier."Tanya, Adam, and Honey-Rae all now sport matching strawberry rose birthmarks on their right legs, and by getting those tattoos, Honey-Rae's parents have guaranteed that Honey-Rae will never feel like she is the only one in the world with a birthmark.
"Some people will says it odd and think what we've done is quite extreme, but in our eyes all we have done is ensure Honey-Rae never feels different," Tanya says. "Mummy and Daddy now have the same permanent markings as she does."
Tattoos are often deeply personal and tell a story. Tanya and Adam's tattoos are certainly both. Click here to read about the father who gets one piece of his son's artwork tattooed on his body every year -- the results are amazing.