I sat there in the lobby of the surgical waiting room, reading the kind words my Pranksters sent me that morning – feeling almost as though they were right there, beside me, as I waited. Would she live? Would she die?

No one knew. And those closest to me knew better than to say, “it’ll be okay.” Because a) it’s a bullshit statement and 2) they didn’t know any more than I did whether or not that would be the case.

A little stoned, perhaps, on Ativan, I began to rummage through the bag I’d packed. I didn’t know what one was supposed to pack in times like these – a word search, my phone charger, my breast pump, my own tissues (my face was already torn up from the hospital-grade tissues).

That’s what I brought.

It was there, as I pecked out a quick tweet on my i(can’tfucking)Phone, “She’s back in surgery now.” As I went to put my phone away, she showed up.

It was the surgical assistant, completely suited up in surgical gear. If I’d had more than half a second to panic, I’d have begun – I’d just given up my precious daughter, signing documents allowing the neurosurgeon to cut open her brain, take out some spare bits, then put her back together with a skull implant. The surgery was supposed to be 6-9 hours long – seeing her like that so soon after we’d kissed our girl goodbye, that should have been scary.

She carried a bag with her – a bio-hazard, which she held in front of her, obviously trying to give it to me.

The confusion set in as the tears (again) poured from my eyes: was this a bit of my daughter?

She spoke, “We gave her a haircut. I wanted you to have this for her baby book.”

I took it, turning it over in my hand, as I wondered if it was the last bit of my daughter I’d hold, as she strode back into the OR where my daughter was unconsciously waiting.

Not knowing what else to do, I shoved it into my hospital bag.

I’ve never taken it out. In fact, I’ve never touched that bag. It sits in my closet, still full of whatever I’d packed, while horrified, panicked that I’d been offering my daughter up for slaughter.

A lifetime later, my daughter wiggles and bounces her way into the room, chock full of giggles and smiles, playing a game with her Lego guys, then “cooking” me a breakfast out of her play food.

Why yes I want green beans with my eggs, Mimi, how kind of you to offer.

I see it.

Her hair.

The wispy locks of baby hair are finally growing out, her big girl hair filling in underneath. The new curls are thick underneath it all, giving her a properly impish look.

But the baby hair, it looks…well…weird. It’s clearly time to cut it off.

So I grab a pair of scissors, beg The Guy On My Couch, Who Happens To Be Sitting ON The Couch, to help me out with her – just keep her occupied, I ask. This isn’t the sort of haircut I give the boys – I’m just lopping off the long bits as she chats with The Guy On My Couch.

He too, I learn as I listen to them talk, would love some fake green beans with his pretend eggs.

Soon, I have a pile of longer blondish hairs. Not willing to part with those memories just yet, I find a baggie and carefully place those long strands inside, where they will, one day, be put into her baby book along with her first haircut.

And as she bops and whirls away, haircut over, she looks over her shoulder and positively beams at me, her old eyes somehow comprehending that this five minute stretch on the couch was, for some reason unbeknownst to her, very big deal.

Her curls shimmering, catching the light just-so, giving her the appearance of having an actual halo, I am reminded; humbled, by how far we have come.

Both of us.

22 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Haircuts

  1. It’s so sweet that they did think of that at the hospital. It amazes me regularly how caring most hospital workers are to think of things like that that mean so much to us.

  2. I cried.
    I love the way you write.
    I’ll never forget when my own daughter’s nurses gave her her first haircut. For an IV in her scalp. I’ve never touched our baggie of hair yet, either, and it has been 8 years. Clearly we both need more time 🙂

  3. Been in a pediatric ICU before, when my sister’s son had surgery at three or four days old. (Bowel completely blocked, some weird birth defect that sounds like Hurshboure’s syndrome.)
    The transplant kids were the hardest ones to see. Their parents were the ones who looked like they’d been down the hardest road.
    But I understand just a bit of what you went through.

    Beautiful curls on that girl now. 🙂

    Read through the birth/surgery posts last night. My husband said he’d never seen me so happy as when the doctor got our second child out, finally, and told me she was a girl. We already had a boy, and I was lying there paralyzed from the spinal, trying not to freak out because you can’t really feel yourself breathe with one of those, and thinking… I don’t have to do this again. I have my girl.

    Anyway, really glad you got your girl.

  4. I don’t have a baby book for my girl Sophie. The first year of her life was a haze of NICU, doctors, therapists, feeding tubes, & breast pumps. I do have thousands of photos from our first few years & the words of all who got to know her in a variety of reports and reviews and such. The miracle of these fragile lives is one to behold- even in our own ways. Your words- they remind me that I’m not alone. Thank you for that- and for sharing your daily miracles. They remind me to continue noting mine.

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