They say a lot of emotions are left on a hairdresser’s floor, swept up and stuffed in the bin. Haircuts are cathartic, symbolic.
Well, I took a little pinch of Louis’ hair from the floor home with me, and maybe that was a mistake because I’m sitting on the couch feeling more emotions than I did when I found out I was pregnant after peeing on a stick alone in a public toilet.
After a failed DIY bang trim, we’d been meaning to take him for a haircut for a while, but every weekend rolled around and we’d been too busy. Then today, we found ourselves walking past the kids hair salon with a happy toddler, and they had time to take him. Suddenly, he was in the tiny salon chair. It was happening.
I held it together as the hairdresser nonchalantly lopped off Louis’ blonde baby mullet, and turned him into a sandy-haired boy. We pointed out the fish in the tank and the little plastic dog, and laughed at “Lou Lou” in the mirror (narcissist!). She kept hacking away; I felt increasingly agitated and was barely suppressing the urge to whack the scissors out of her hand “oooops! Looks like we’re done!”. But then it was over and he was running around playing with his balloon, and I tried to keep my spirits up by buying a book on planes that I was convinced he’d shown a slither of interest in.
And then we got home. And mama was sad. Heavingly, snottingly, blotchy faced, wailingly sad. I don’t think any of us were ready for the haircut, but I was not prepared for the wall of sadness that suddenly crashed down on me. The old mullet was terrible, but the flicky little blonde ends were once Louis’ newborn mohawk, which I had twiddled for hours upon hours as I drank in his delicious new baby smell. I hadn’t noticed when that lovely sweet smell was replaced with the smell of boy farts and crusty old food. But I’d watched the remains of that soft baby mohawk swept into the dustpan along with hair snippets from all the big kids.
Hair cuts are supposed to make you look a little different, but this one transformed Louis’ little baby-to-toddler face into one that resembled the boy he is about to become. I realised I don’t know who that boy is! All I know is that if he’s anything like other boys, he is going to go to school, and fall in love and excel in things and fail at others, and eventually, no matter what I do, hate me.
It’s safe to say that this haircut, and the shock and overwhelming sadness that came with it, also gave way to all the anxiety I hadn’t had time to register since I became pregnant.
No milestone in the parenting journey has been exactly surprising, but I guess it’s the way it makes you feel that trips you up. I mean, I know how babies are made, but getting pregnant was a surprise. Despite it triggering a major upheaval in our lives, in that we were suddenly moving country (for health insurance purposes) and buying baby clothes rather than planning our wedding… it kind of all felt natural. We were excited. Birth was nothing at all like my plan, but that wasn’t exactly surprising because childbirth is dangerous and so much can go wrong and I guess the adrenaline of the result – a baby! – all helped me brush off the trauma and move on.
Then actually being a mum to a real baby wasn’t what I expected in that things that I thought would be hard or disgusting and terrible weren’t the least of my worries. And Louis himself has been surprising in that, well, I was convinced he’d be ginger! But also he surprises us by revealing new tricks, personality traits, food preferences and sleeping patterns every day.
But somehow the fact that I got pregnant, gave birth and raised a baby has been nothing in comparison to the surprise, and the shock and overwhelming fear of the unknown when I realised today, that our baby is now a boy. A beautiful, healthy, hilarious, smart and lovely boy. But he swallowed up that little sweet baby, before I could realise he’d gone.