Strands of hair have stories to tell

I’ve been wanting to get a haircut for a few weeks now, but just didn’t have the brain-space to plan & actually get to it. Finally, when a friend at work planned a girls’ salon day out today, I got it done.

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It’s a haircut – nothing can go wrong (other than a bad haircut), right?

The last time I got a haircut was almost 2 years ago. I got it trimmed once or twice, but not a cut. My plan was to let it grow & get it cut very short, just below the ears, 1-2 weeks before my due date last year because short hair would be convenient with the baby around, plus I might not have the time to step out as much once the baby is here. So, I might as well get it done before my delivery. Perfect plan!

My hair grew a lot in length with all the pregnancy hormones & the added nutrients during that phase. It grew further after the c-section  – meaning, it continued to grow even after Ayden’s death. I got compliments from family & friends on how my hair has grown & that it looks nice. Most people noticed my hair first before anything else. I ran into a male friend whom I hadn’t met in a while, at a restaurant, and the first thing he said after “Great to see you” was “Wow long hair!”

My hair was probably the only good surviving outcome of that pregnancy. And, that’s a secret reason why I was hesitant to get it cut.

And, it’s not just me. My husband started growing beard, not on purpose, during our hospital stay, because running around to save his son’s life was a priority than having a clean-shaven face. After Ayden’s death, he didn’t get rid of the beard for a couple of months – for similar reasons as me – his beard was as old as Ayden. There was that story behind his facial hair, linked to his son.

To people who knew of my pregnancy & the aftermath, I’d always attribute the shiny hair & it’s growth to the pregnancy, but to others I just smile. A friend once joked – “Oh wow, I don’t mind having a kid sooner if pregnancy gets me good hair.”

So… the hairstylist asked me the kind of hair styles I’ve had in the past & what I wanted now, etc. He also asked why I decided to grow my hair that long (he wasn’t questioning, but a friendly chat) to which I answered –

“I’ve mostly had mid length hair, layer cut. But then it just grew last year and I thought I’ll retain the length since that’s the longest it’s ever grown. Now I think I need a new look.” I smiled.

“It JUST grew?” He chuckled. He’s a stylist – he’d want to know that secret formula to a quick hair growth.

“As in, last year I was pregnant. So, with all the hormones & nutrients the growth was sudden I guess…”

“Oh ok.”

He didn’t ask anything else. I’m assuming that he assumed there was something off-the-route and that he shouldn’t probe further. Otherwise, I’d have said “I had a baby last year, and with all the pregnancy hormones my hair grew…”

He ran his scissors through those reminiscence of a life that once was. I couldn’t help but think of it when those strands fell on the floor to be thrown away later.

Anyway, that’s just one leaf from everyday life where almost everything has a story to tell – all related to a loss!

 

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Coming of age on normalizing death conversations

Shortly after Ayden’s death, I realized the extent of social stigma around death & grief. I wasn’t aware that the taboo was so deep ingrained until I had to face it. Or maybe I didn’t think about it until then. I didn’t have a reason to, right? I was kinda forced into curling up into that stigma & be normal like everybody else.

With the heavily private person that I am, and not agreeing to the societal standards of grief, it was a battle between not sharing my true emotions & educating the world around me.

“How was your weekend?” A usual friendly question on Mondays.

I’d have actually published a post on my blog on that weekend, and drafted some 5 more to be edited, modified & published later. But, I don’t say that. If I say I blogged, the obvious question “what do you blog about?” and the uncomfortable not-so-obvious answer “I blog on child-loss” would make eyes stoop, topics change, wind change its direction…

“Weekend was ok. I was mostly at home – watching movies, reading…”  is a safe option, but hoping that they don’t ask what I read because the answer to that would be “articles, books & blogs on child-loss”  

Being a people pleaser is hard work. I never showed my darkest corners, never told anyone (except for a very few close friends) on how life has changed drastically, never showed my anger, and behold – always smiled. And, people believe what they see. I look happy, so I must be happy. I must be over it. I must be back to what I was.

But, it didn’t seem right to me. It didn’t seem genuine, exactly like some of the questions & concerns I had to face.

Once, in a very very casual conversation, an acquaintance asked what I do after office hours & on weekends .

“I usually finish up the unfinished chores, workout, maybe watch a movie, read, blog… no specific pattern.”

“Oh, what do you blog on?”

“On child-loss.”

“Oh…”

Silence.

There it is. I said it. I dropped the bomb. For once, I wasn’t concerned about the other person being uncomfortable.

This wasn’t easy, but it should be. Ideally. But, ideally my son should be alive.

I felt like a superhero. I felt empowered. I felt wow.

Again at work, during our chai break, when someone brought up about my cooking skills & my food blog, a teammate entered the scene just enough to hear “blog.”

“Whose blog are we talking about?”

“Shameema’s” My friend pointed at me

“Oh, what do you blog about?”

“Hmmmm… I have 2 blogs – one is a food blog – that’s what we were talking about. And, the other one is on child-loss, related mental-health…”

He just nodded, chewing his paneer pakodas. Other than being tasty, pakodas can be a great distractor as well.

Poor thing! That sudden shift from chai to child-loss without any warning wouldn’t have been that pleasant for him. In my defense, I didn’t mean to scare him, but life had become scary for me, and it was high time that I thought of my comfort & sanity than investing in making others comfortable.

This happened multiple times in the past few months. It wasn’t like I was hunting people down to ask me anything to which the answer would be related to Ayden’s death, but these people & their questions were voluntarily coming my way without a hint of knowing what they were actually getting into.

Did it lessen my pain? Hell no! But this coming of age was indeed liberating at least for those few moments when it happened. Maybe I educated 4 more people this month that I’m not over it, and that bereaved parents think about their children even after a year of losing them (1 year, 1 month & 15 days as of today)!

Questions that make you think & overthink

A few days ago, I was going back home from work in our office-provided cab. There were 2 other employees as well. I know them. Acquaintances. One of them, let’s name her X, has worked with me in my previous team, so I know a bit more about her & vice versa. The other, Y, a mother of 2 – she shares the cab with me once in a while, and that’s about it.

During casual conversation, X turned towards me – “Did you see Z? She’s back from her maternity leave.”

“Ya I saw. Didn’t get to talk to her though.” 

Y pitched in to ask about Z’s childcare arrangements when she’s at work, etc. A small discussion between X & Y on newborns & sleepless nights followed. Slightly uncomfortable for me to sit in the same space as them & listen, given that they are not my friends & I don’t share emotions with them.

At one point, Y, with whom I haven’t spoken to beyond the casual Hi’s & hellos & thank yous, asked me “How’s your health now?”

“It’s fine.” I didn’t have anything else to say.

The only thing that was wrong with my health in the recent past was the C-section, post-partum issues & a messed up mental health. So, in all probability she must be asking about my C-section (she wouldn’t know about my mental health because I always smile to her. That means I’m fine, right?), which means she knows I had a baby, which also means she knows that my baby died because she didn’t ask anything about that baby. Now, that “how’s your health now?” seems very misplaced.

This wasn’t a first.

Once someone asked me “Is your backpain therapy helping you?”

Nothing before or after. Again, the same context.

I’ve been asked out of the blue by people on how my backpain was, or how my health was in general. If they know about my bad health, they should be knowing about my baby & the trauma that followed. Maybe, those questions & concerns would be better placed if there was an “I’m very sorry for your loss” or similar to precede them.

Ideally, something like this:

“I heard about your baby. I’m very sorry”…..  ….”How’s your health though?”

I don’t blame them completely. Nobody wants to talk about death. Neither did I, until about a year ago. We’ve been conditioned to heavily filter our queries & concerns in a socially accepted format, even if it doesn’t make sense. Taboo. And, that filter takes away all the emotions that could have made that statement or question a bit more sensible.

Use filters only where it matters & makes sense!