Last weekend, I finally got my hair trimmed for the first time since before I got pregnant (the first time in almost two years). I would have put it off for much longer, but the ends of my hair had been frayed and tangled for months, and were getting worse. I cried – a lot. The stylist cried – she was wonderful, very kind and supportive. She did her best to clean up the tips while changing as little as possible, so that no one would notice. I didn’t want anyone to say “oh, you got your hair cut?” A friendly, innocent comment like that would have left me fighting tears over the past week. I tried to write a tighter piece about my hair, maybe even a poem. But there’s just too much right now…

You see, avoiding haircuts was a way to protect my son:

I had overgrown bangs tangling in my eyebrows and glasses throughout pregnancy, but I didn’t want to go near a salon. I was worried about all of the chemicals around, that they would somehow impact Sacha. My main concerns were avoiding anything that might increase risk for early delivery, or increase inflammation during a vulnerable developmental stage in a way that could increase his risk of developing asthma or depression or other issues.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that he could develop a tumor, a cancer, during the very last weeks of pregnancy. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that a serious problem would be overlooked in our care, or that his delivery would be so complicated, or that a baby born crying could soon bleed to death from birth trauma, given the awful unanticipated combination of an unanticipated large head pushed deep in my pelvis and an unanticipated coagulopathy resulting from an undiagnosed tumor. I tried to exercise as much control as I could over things that were ultimately out of my control… but so do all mothers. That’s motherhood.

You see, my hair is related to how I see myself as a mother:

I have memories of babies grabbing on to my long hair when I was in junior high and high school – including my youngest cousin, who is now in high school himself. He loved playing with my hair when he was an infant. Babies laughed when I shook my hair in their face. Babies felt comforted when they rested their heads against my hair. When I was pregnant, those memories reminded me that I already knew how to take care of a baby, which made me feel more confident that I could do a good job taking care of Sacha. I thought that he would love my long hair. My hair is very shiny and it catches the light; all babies love shiny things that catch the light. I would shake it around, and he would laugh.

You see, here’s what happened to my hair during and after pregnancy:

My hair grew like crazy during pregnancy, as it does for all women. Then so much of it fell out postpartum, as it does for all women. Even though I wasn’t breastfeeding, my hair didn’t start to majorly shed until 2 or 3 months postpartum. Then, it came out in enormous, never-ending clumps. Every time I lost a hair, I lost part of me that had been physically attached to Sacha. And I lost so, so many hairs; my sweaters, sheets, couch cushions, car seats and shower drain were full of them. They were even scattered across my yoga mat, the place where I sought respite. Each hair seemed to say, “He’s gone.”

I did not control any of that. It had nothing to do with vitamins or diet or willpower. It just happened. It happened to me.

The loss didn’t slow down until 5 or 6 months after I gave birth to my little boy.

You see, getting my hair cut feels like betraying my son:

I know those broken hair tips were a part of my body when Sacha was also a part of my body. Losing him was not just a death, it was an amputation. Losing the hair that was connected to him – a part of him, a part of us – feels like furthering that amputation.

Time is brutal. It is giving me increased understanding and acceptance of what happened to me, and what happened to Sacha. But it’s also taking me further away from the time we spent together. Just one year ago I was cherishing his kicks, happy for each additional day of pregnancy to allow him the time to grow stronger and allow me the time to get my act together. Just one year ago I was tuning the radio to the Spanish station each day, imagining the benefit to Sacha’s developing mind.

You see, about Sacha’s hair:

In Sacha’s Quechua family, childrens’ first haircuts are put off until the child is three or five, then celebrated with a big ceremony. Traditionally, the child’s true/public name and sometimes even their gender are first revealed at this ceremony; in fact, my ex-husband’s name was changed at his ceremony (these traditions have quite recently undergone challenge and change due to government mandates that all children be registered at birth under an official name and gender; previously, babies were publicly referred to simply as “the baby” or “xyz’s baby”, and this practice had many cultural functions – including protection of the young child’s role as an innocent blessing to be cared for and guarded).

I had planned for Sacha to have a hair-cutting ceremony around his third birthday. I would have been done with residency, and planned to be working in Peru (with Sacha). I would have organized it with Sacha’s father, invited Sacha’s whole Peruvian family. Maybe Sacha’s older half-brother would have been a padrino; he would have been 15 by then. He will be 15 by then.

The whole family would have received a lock of hair. Instead, I am the only one who has a lock of his hair, the only lock that wasn’t buried with him.

You see, about me:

I miss my son.