Dear valued client,
It’s been a while since we’ve seen you at the salon! Is there a specific reason for you not returning? If you were unhappy with something we would love the opportunity to discuss it and make things right!
The team at High Street Salon
Thanks for checking in. Four weeks ago I had a baby and my world has shrunk to a handful of rooms, which I travel between slowly, perched atop a maternity pad the size and weight of a beach towel. My baby turned my body into a life factory and my brain into a pretzel. Actually though. When people say “baby brain” what they mean is the most significant neurobiological transformation of a woman’s adult life. The permanent structural changes to my brain triggered by pregnancy and motherhood have been passed down through the millennia and are designed to transform me into a fierce protector of my young.
A trim could not be further from my mind.
Although now that we’re on the subject, I was a little disappointed by your reading selection last time I was in. I was offered a newspaper and an old Woman’s Day with hair clippings sprinkled between the pages. It was gross, if I’m completely honest. Who reads the news at the hairdresser’s?
My daughter has seven hairs on her otherwise bald head. She looks like G.I Jane and seems to possess a similar brand of steely determination. When she isn’t feeding (always) or sleeping (never), she screams like a navy trainee on a gruelling obstacle course in the rain. She is outraged to be here and I don’t blame her. 10 months ago she was just minding her business in non-existence when Sam and I plucked her out of the abyss, gave her a human form and forced her signature on a contract that made her our property for the next 18 years. We haven’t got the faintest idea what we’re doing either, which is rich. She lived in a house the size of a pear for almost a year and I couldn’t sit through a two minute tutorial on how to collapse a pram.
Really? Said her screams, on my 7th and final attempt before shoving the unfolded pram in the car and driving off with the boot open. You’ve got to me kidding me, she cried, as I vomited over the side of the bath at the sight of her bellybutton floating by.
I imagine I would feel a similar level of disappointment had I moved to another planet and nothing was ready when I arrived. And the only person I could ask for help was a sleep-deprived greasy giant who didn’t speak a lick of english.
“Greetings, giant lady!” I’d say, after an hour of floating around the abandoned half-built airport. “Could I trouble you for a glass of Tang?”
“Glick glarck smarghft mnnnk,” she’d reply, binding my arms to my sides, gagging me with latex and confining me to a brightly colored padded enclosure.
The night my daughter was born, I lay in my hospital bed watching her through the plastic side of her capsule, a mummified specimen from a far off land. Her eyes were open and crossed deeply inwards, her mouth opening and closing like a goldfish in a bowl.
“Who sent you?” I whispered in the dark.
Never mind that, she tried her best to communicate. Less talk, more Tang.
A catheter bag wasn’t in my birth plan. I remember ringing for the nurse that night when I noticed it was full and an unfamiliar woman appearing at my bedside.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Hi…” I said, squinting at her ID card. “Ruth… Um… My catheter bag’s full.”
“In here,” she replied, opening the door to the en suite bathroom.
I stood up gingerly and shuffled in, holding the bag by its tube to keep it from pulling on my stitches.
“There,” Ruth said, pointing to the toilet.
I looked down at my golden clutch and back at her, blinking under the fluorescent lights.
“Hold it over the bowl and release the valve,” she said from the doorway, arms crossed.
I did as she said, trying to recall a moment in my life when I had felt more alone. If motherhood was a sorority, I was still in the hazing stage. And Ruth was a stone cold veteran sister who specialized in humiliation. Task accomplished, I turned to Ruth, awaiting my next instruction.
“Wash your hands,” she said, and left.
Days after getting home from the hospital, I was momentarily energized by a wave of oxytocin, and announced that I wanted to have breakfast at our local cafe as a family of three. By the time we got there, I was so out of it I couldn’t have said for sure if I was dreaming or awake.
“You had the baby!” exclaimed the waitress. “How was the birth?” she asked, in the casual way people sometimes do.
I looked up from my menu like a cow in a paddock at a passing car. “Supes amaze,” I said, an expression I had never used prior to that moment nor haven’t since.
“That’s so great,” she said. “Let me tell you about the specials…”
I ventured out of the house with the pram during week two. A young woman hurried closely behind me, poised for takeover but blocked by my pram and the freshly emptied wheelie bins that lined the footpath.
“Save yourself,” I said pulling over to let her pass, surprised by my own choice of words and the way they rolled off my tongue. She laughed uncomfortably and hurried to her appointment. A class maybe, or a day date, or shift at a job she could quit at any moment. As I watched her glossy chestnut ponytail bounce off into the distance, I ran my fingers over my postpartum bald spot.
Out of interest, what do you have in the way of wigs? It would be nice not to have to rely so heavily on the bunny filter when I story about how well everything is going.
The insistence that I practice self-care is one of many paradoxes I have come across since becoming a parent. Do something that’s just for you, the books say. Slap on a face mask and take a candlelit bath, because you’re worth it, mama bear. But also present your blood blistered nipples to a tiny mouth with the suction power of a jet engine anytime of the day or night, you faceless, sleepless host organism.
I couldn’t fathom going to the hairdresser’s at the moment. I can barely wrap my pretzel around a shower. That said, having enough of a sense of myself as an individual to schedule a hair appointment is a goal I didn’t know I had until now, so thank you for the thoughtful prompt. Here’s to hoping you’ll hear from me in the not-too-distant future. I look forward to that day, as it will mark the completion of my transformation from human, to mother, to human-mother.