Photo: Courtesy of Natalie Stechyson
I recently went through my phone to delete old photos, which is something I do every few weeks now since apparently hanging onto 11,357 live images of my children uses up so much storage space that I can no longer receive texts or phone calls—or, more importantly, take 300 photos of my children at the trampoline park.
This time I decided to do a deep dive of my selfies, figuring I could do without a few hundred pics of myself working with my kids in the background, or showing my sister that weird patch of eczema I get under my eye or trying to determine if my new “mom jeans” are trendy or a crime against humanity (or both?).
But as I scrolled through pics I’d taken of myself all the way back to 2020, I noticed something...unsettling.
I was missing some hair. A bunch of it. In fact, if I’m being perfectly honest, from about April 2020—six weeks after my second son was born—to Christmas that year, I had a receding hairline not dissimilar to that of former teen heartthrob and current middle-aged dad Prince William. And in the exact same way I had been shocked by William’s transformation, the hair loss (and subsequent awkward regrowth) snuck up on me so gradually, and during such a chaotic time, that I didn’t pay much attention.
Parenthood: It'll suck the youth right out of you. Wills knows what I’m talking about.
Postpartum hair loss, also known as postpartum telogen effluvium, is the shedding of hair after pregnancy and giving birth due to changes in hormone levels. It is normal (albeit shitty) and usually temporary. For many, the hair loss is minor. But for some, it can be moderate or severe (enough that some people choose to wear a wig).
After my first son was born in 2016, I remember being appalled by my shedding strands, receding hairline, extreme part and wee bald spot. So I knew what to expect with my second, and enjoyed every moment of my luxurious pregnancy hair while I still had it.
But barely three weeks after I birthed Ben, coronavirus was declared a global pandemic and forced the world into its first lockdown. And I guess I was just too busy keeping a spirited three-year-old and a newborn safe and happy, stockpiling toilet paper and baby wipes, all while managing my daily “is this end times?!” panic attacks to really notice my hair.
I knew I'd lost some hair, and I think I recall being a bit distressed. (I mean, I’m distressed now just from looking back at those photos). But I'm thinking it paled in comparison to my distress over telling my older son he would never go back to daycare, couldn’t play at the park anymore (remember when those were deemed unsafe?!), and had to wish his beloved grandpa a happy birthday through the car window.
My hair was falling out at alarming rates, but maybe that seemed small compared to watching my sweet, perfect, new baby boy spend the first four months of his life trapped in the house instead of being passed around in the loving arms of his extended family. I don’t remember when I stopped being able to put my hair in a bun, but I do remember how scared my husband and I were that time he had a sore throat and went to line up for a COVID test; how he was turned away for not meeting the testing criteria; how he changed his clothes in the garage afterward, doused himself in hand sanitizer and had a scalding hot shower before he went near our children again.
I think, in order to survive and move forward, many of us have repressed some of our more traumatizing memories from the early days of the pandemic. My repressed memories just also happen to include losing so much hair that in May 2020 I looked like Danny Devito.
But it’s all there in my iPhone pics, forcing me to face the truth: It was unpleasant, it was life, and it happened.
Here's what I do remember vividly: my staggering confidence that cutting my own bangs would fix everything. It was January 2021, my son and the pandemic were both almost a year old, and my hair had grown back in angry spikes. Now I had an electrocuted lion’s mane, and with the newborn haze well behind me, I was acutely aware of my appearance. Hair salons were still closed, Ben had just spent his first Christmas in another lockdown, and I was entirely out of fucks to give.
I reasoned that I basically already had bangs growing on their own, and if I messed up, well, who was going to see me, anyway? Pandemic for the win! No regrets!
I had immediate regrets. Not only had I angered the spikes, but I had emboldened them with reinforcements. Now I had a shelf of hair shards pointing in every direction, and no scrunchie could contain them. It took a year of bobby pins and drinking at night to get past it.
But here I am now, in summer 2022, and both my life and my appearance feel much more manageable. I cut back my drinking, took up jogging, went back to work, and all of us except Ben are fully vaccinated (can we hurry this up, Health Canada?). And my hair? Well, other than the fact that I’ve been wearing it in a mom bun for so long that I possess a work scrunchie, exercise scrunchie, and dress scrunchie, I think it looks decent. I can tuck the remnants of my regret-bangs behind my ears now, and these days, when I take a selfie, I see a strong woman who survived a second kid, a move to a new city, a new job, every spirit day my son’s kindergarten could throw at me, innumerable bouts of daycare gastro, the return of high-waisted jeans, and a freaking plague.
And then I immediately delete the photo of myself so I have space for 219 pics and three videos of my boys pulling a wagon.