I tried everything to keep Adelaide’s long hair. Sprays, products, brushes, everything Pinterest had to offer. But Adelaide’s medication changed the texture of her hair, and everything that had been working just stopped. But her incessant head-thrashing hadn’t lessened, so we were spending more than 6 hours a week trying to keep her from looking feral.
After a couple hours in our bathtub with three products and three different hair tools, I screamed out, “That’s it! I’m never doing this again. Chop it off. I cannot live like this.” Adelaide had been screaming in my face the entire time. We ended up pulling her from the bathtub, hair still full of knots. Me sobbing. Dave looking like an orderly at a mental institution.
The emotional decision to go short had been made, but I wasn’t sure how to do it. Adelaide doesn’t let people touch her head. Thank you, head measurements and eegs and glasses! We spent another week trying to set something up, which ended in another $60 of products and 2 hours just to get it untangled enough for scissors.
People fill spaces, especially silence, with awkwardness. When strangers didn’t know what to say about the disabled baby with the crossed eyes and drool, they would say, “At least she has pretty hair!” Even now, after her eye surgery, people still say, “That’s a nice wheelchair! And her hair is so beautiful!” “She can’t talk? Her hair is so gorgeous!” “What a pretty bottle and pretty hair.” Awkwardly filled silence. And always about her hair. Because her hair was beautiful. No matter what else we added to our special needs dance card, her hair remained beautiful.
You know when Jo March chops off her hair to buy the train ticket? Or when Anne Shirley must whack her hair off after it turns green? That’s what I felt like. Defeated. I can’t do for Adelaide all the things she needs…and I can’t even brush her hair. It’s a basic mom task that I couldn’t even do. It’s hard to even explain, because it sounds completely ridiculous. But I’m being honest here. Cutting hair = failure.
But the beauty of it all was that we ended the day with the opposite being true.
Haley, my stylist and friend, came to our house and gave Adelaide the sweetest pixie cut. She spent more than an hour cutting and thinning, while I held Adelaide’s hands and sang along to her Rachel and the TreeSchoolers playlist on YouTube. I didn’t cry. I was so proud of myself. Adelaide didn’t cry until the last 7 minutes.
Then, she ran her hands through her hair and shouted, “Addie AIR!” She loved that her fingers didn’t get stuck in her hair. She giggled as she thrashed on the floor and had zero knots. She just kept grabbing the healthy hair…all her split ends and tangles were gone.
The next morning, we went to an indoor playplace with some friends. A little boy came up and asked why “the little baby boy” was in a wheelchair. I explained that she was a girl and answered all his sweet questions. I felt that mom failure creep up. She looks like a little boy. In a dress.
Then, a total stranger came in, ruffled Adelaide’s hair, and said, “Her hair is so beautiful! So sassy!” It was silly, but I needed it. I just needed someone, anyone, to acknowledge that she was still that gorgeous little girl I had birthed. That I hadn’t turned her into Fantine. (As I type this, I realize I have some hair issues that require ice cream and counseling.)
The truth is that hair doesn’t define Adelaide. Just like her wheelchair doesn’t define her. But we have this ingrained desire to be seen as pretty. And our society often equates beauty with hair. Whether that’s right or wrong, I don’t know. One of my best friends lost all her hair to cancer, but she is still one of the most beautiful women I know. But Julie will also say she can’t wait to have her hair back.
I want so many things for Adelaide that may or may not happen, but at least she gets to don a cute pixie with everything else going on in her little life. Her life’s not easy, but her hair is.
It takes us 30 seconds a day to brush it. She will wear hairbows and headbands for short stints of time. She doesn’t cry in the bathtub. She even wore her glasses without crying.
Before the cut, Haley held my hand when I couldn’t even explain why I felt like I was failing my little girl. And she just kept reminding me that I was actually loving Adelaide in a big way by saying goodbye to her long hair. We rejoiced together after taking the pixie plunge. And how I wished we had done it earlier. So much earlier.