On Fall Leaves, Baby Hairs, and Relief

On Fall Leaves, Baby Hairs, and Relief | Twin Cities Moms Blog

{Photo credit: Valeriia Miller of Pexels.com}

I cried the first time I saw a fall leaf. 

It was the beginning of September, only two months into calling Minnesota home. Our family had spent four years adventuring in Texas but now we were back in the Midwest, a place that should have felt familiar, like home. 

Instead, life felt unsettled. As I unpacked each box, our things felt crowded next to the lingering exhaustion, uncertainty, and doubts that found their way into our new home. Was this the right move? Is this where we should be? Thoughts like these come with every move. But I thought it would be different this time. I thought I would feel at home more quickly. I looked around the room of chaos, eyes searching to land on something familiar, something normal. Finding none, I decided I needed to work out my confusion through sweat and deep breathing. I needed to run. At least that would feel normal. 

Winding my way through the trails in our neighborhood, I relaxed with the cooler breeze and the familiar feeling of moving my feet. Something crimson and gold caught my eye, stopping me in my tracks. I picked it up in my hand, spinning it around as if to make sure it was real. The colors nearly glowed in my hands. Was it always like this, this magical beauty in a tree? I must have forgotten.

In Texas, fall is experienced through social media stalking of northerly climate friends and when walking into Trader Joe’s. I missed the seasonal change, the gradual cooling, the bright leaves that fall and crunch under foot. But I didn’t know how much I missed it until that day. There is a relief that overcomes you when you return to a familiar place. There is a stronger beauty to the welcome back. Tears overflowed, the kind that come from beauty and relief and gratitude. All from that little leaf. 

Fall is here, I thought. And so am I. The relief washed over me as I made my way back home. 

On Fall Leaves, Baby Hairs, and Relief | Twin Cities Moms Blog

Now I sit in my chair at the vanity, which is just a fancy word for table shoved into a dormer window because one bathroom for five people. A collection of beauty products I pretend to know how to use clutters the desk. A curious baby sits at my feet. To keep him distracted, I hand him my random samples from the beauty counter, including a palm size plastic canister that claims “groundbreaking stem-cell technology that reduces signs of aging as well as damage caused by environmental stressors.” Environmental stressors? Oh, like children, I suppose.

“Here, you could probably make better sense of this than I can.”

I return to doing the thing where I rub stuff on my face and peer into the mirror lifting wiggling my skin up and down to see if there is a change. Now? How about now? 

And then I see them. 

The baby hairs are back. 

Those tiny little fibers that begin to grow at your scalp like new grass seed in the spring. Wiry, awkwardly sticking straight out of the scalp like the time I decided I was done with bangs so I cut them off. This is just one of those little things no one ever tells you about motherhood. That right around the time your baby goes through a sleep regression (another thing I swear they never told me, which means they probably did but who listens to that nonsense), your head will start growing these tiny hairs around your scalp, hairs that can not be hid and can not be tamed. 

I remember the first time I spotted these hairs after my first baby.

“WHAT is that?” Disdain radiating from my thoughts. It was just one more change to my already discombobulated body since she was born. I was pulling my hair back, an attempt to salvage the unwashed hair for another day. But the grease wasn’t enough to hold back these little spikes. I googled “baby hairs after pregnancy” and the kind internet reassured me this was just all part of my body “returning to its normal cycle of loss and growth.” 

Normal cycle. Is this where I was supposed to be at this point? I thought. Back to normal? I don’t recognize what this is anymore. Did I used to get a full night’s sleep? Did I once hold intellectual thoughts? Did I wear clothes that actually fit me properly? None of this felt normal to me. None of this felt like a cycle I wanted to keep rotating around. And if that wasn’t enough, now I have these weird hair thingies growing out of my head!

The second time around was less surprising. Postpartum was not easy for me, but each nuisance at least felt familiar again. Like a “normal cycle” but normal in “there’s a newborn baby in the house again and things are going to be a bit rough for awhile” terms. Intellectually I knew the body does return. I would collect my thoughts. I would find sleep, and my abs. But first I had to endure such things as spiky hairs at my scalp. Sigh. Eye roll. Just add it to the list.

Now here we are, third baby. The familiar signs of postpartum nagging at me again. Achy breasts, saggy body, constant state of exhaustion, emotional ups and downs that make me relate more with my three year old than ever before. 

But something is different today. 

Looking in the mirror, spotting the baby hairs again, I smile. Surprising tears come over me. Not at the hairs, no, they are still just as unsightly as ever. This time, it is tears of joy. Joy that comes from two observations. 

First, changes are beginning. The pregnancy is over, the hormones are balancing, my body is beginning its process into finding itself again. I know this because this is not my first time through the “normal cycle.” Perhaps we ought to call it the “back to normal cycle.” For it indeed is a cycle moving us back gradually closer to what feels more like normal. Or at least a new normal.

And the second observation, the one that brings me to tears.

I never have to see these hairs again.

Long before the baby at my feet was more than the size of a lima bean, I knew this pregnancy would be my last. For many reasons, this child completed our family. Pregnancy does not suit me. The changes physically and emotionally exhaust me during those nine months. And the postpartum period of shifting darkness, resettling of the body, resettling of the mind and heart too, it was a time I knew I did not want to put myself through again.

Seeing these growing hairs, it isn’t just another sign of the changing postpartum body. It is also a reminder that my life, my whole being, given up lovingly but exhaustingly to my children for so many years, one day soon that body and mind and soul will belong to me, or at least a whole lot more than it does right now. I am beginning the normal cycle, and will never have to return to the beginning again.

It will take time. These baby hairs have only just sprouted. They won’t find their place in my top knot anytime soon. But when they do, I know it will be the time to celebrate. I have made it. I am back.

The relief this gives me is enough to make me cry.

It is also enough to make me settle in comfortably right where I am. I pick up the baby I was mindlessly entertaining before and snuggle him up into my lap. We make faces in the mirror at each other, working ourselves up into contagious giggles. It is the youngest my face has looked in years. I shove the skin care samples at my feet under the desk, I won’t look at them again. I scoop him up into my arms to head out for a walk. It is another beautiful afternoon in October, and I learned before that the best way to celebrate change is to go hunt for fall leaves. 

Rachel Nevergall
Rachel, the creative free-spirited one, met her husband, the organized practical one, discovered he was WAY better at cleaning the kitchen and realized he was one she should hang on to. Together they have three children born in three different states but since landing in their south Minneapolis neighborhood two years ago decided with the access to good ski trails, running paths and beach side picnics, this might just be their forever home. Rachel is the curator of family adventures, builder of epic train tracks, lover of all of the library books, and writer in the in-between. She shares about the confluence of her child development background and the realities of parenting on her blog Raise and Shine Blog.


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