Hope’s claim to fame has always been her hair. Waves hello and blown kisses, too, but since her days of newborn sweetness her hair has always been what’s drawn her the most attention.
Actually, it was even before she was born that her hair became such a prominent physical feature. Because my pregnancy with her was high risk, we had frequent fetal monitoring, including ultrasounds. Each week we’d see her hair flowing around in her amniotic fluid, like a little mermaid ready to share with the world all of her magic and beauty. But no matter how many times the ultrasound technicians would tell us that what we were seeing was her hair, it took until her birth for us to actually believe them.
Hope was one of possibly the only full-term babies in the NICU when she was born. Her relatively enormous size among the preemies and her head of full, dark brown hair gained her the nickname “NICU bouncer.” (Below image, left.) I remember the nurses looking around for a comb to use following her first bath—it wasn’t easy to come by!
Then Hope’s hair took on an even more important role. During her stay in the PCICU for open heart surgery—a time when lifting her out of bed was difficult, to say the least—I remember stroking her hair and her little arms, thinking how of all the images I had of being a new mom, soothing my newborn by stroking her long hair was not one of them. (Above image, right.)
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me her hair would fall out and come in lighter…well, you know. But it just kept growing. And growing. First out like a little Einstein, then down it flowed, spilling over her shoulders and down her back. The irony of having this little girl with hair so long and beautiful was that she hated having it brushed. She’d scream and cry and fight with all her might up until she was about 3 years old. It took that long.
I’ve thought many times about Hope’s first haircut and how it would go. Maybe I’d bring her to my hairdresser or maybe we’d go to a children’s salon that specializes in sensory difficulties. But after a long winter and early spring hammered with doctor’s office visit after doctor’s office visit, it became clear to me that Hope was not going to differentiate her fear of a medical appointment from being forced to sit still in a stylist’s chair at an unknown place while someone does something to her against her will. Hope’s desperately needed first haircut was now clearly going to fall on me and I couldn’t ignore that nagging feeling one more day.
At my own hair appointment last week, my hairdresser walked me through how to give Hope a decent first haircut. She explained how to segment Hope’s hair into three sections and how to match the ends of each section to perfect her final look. And so on Saturday morning over waffles and Elmo, I cut Hope’s hair as if it were any other morning where I brush her hair and put it up for the day. Other than a few snapped photos, I’m pretty sure she had no idea that anything special was going on.
Keeping things as routine as possible was definitely the key to our success. I should have known that all along, but after years of anticipation, full of silly dreams of going to the salon, just us girls, to be pampered and beautified, I needed a reality check. As with all things Hope, we will postpone her first salon visit for when she’s absolutely ready.