I glanced at my reflection one last time in the mirror, put down the hairspray and sighed. What was the point? I’d been working on the fly-away hairs for fifteen minutes and they were still no closer to obeying my orders to just stay put.
Ahhhh postpartum hair regrowth! One more treat for mothers to enjoy after the birth of their baby – although I’m sure that had I actually been able to keep my baby, this wonderful post-pregnancy phase would have bothered me less.
Here’s the thing that often gets forgotten when mothers suffer a stillbirth; pregnancy doesn’t end in the hospital. Unfortunately, the loss of our babies doesn’t mean that we get a free pass from anything post-pregnancy. It just means that we have to experience it all without our baby to share it with. There really is nothing more heartbreaking than sitting on the sofa in those early days, a postpartum bump still visible and swollen breasts that continue to make milk that will never get used. You can cover it all up with clothes and make-up and the world will pass by believing that your body is back to ‘normal’. But underneath the facade, your body is still a sketchbook of a nine month journey without a happy ending.
Eleven months on and my body is still reminding me that it was once Evalyn’s home. I spent most of January and February shedding hair which is still desperately trying to grow back yet constantly disappointing itself by continuously splitting at the ends. It’s fair to say we have a love/hate relationship most mornings.
I have the marks and scars on my body that Evalyn made as she grew and the scars she made when she was born. It’s like she graffiti’d her story – ‘Evalyn Woz Here’ – into my skin before realising that she couldn’t stay. In some ways, it’s nice. In a world that deemed her unworthy of a birth certificate, at least these scars are proof that she once was.
In other ways, it hurts. On my bad days, these are the reminders of what I have lost. I trace the scars with my fingertips as if they were braille and somewhere within them, there’s an answer hidden inside that I just can’t see. These scars can make me hate my body and love it all at the same time.
The postpartum stage of Evalyn’s pregnancy has been hard. Not just on me, but on Nick too. He’ll tell me I’m beautiful like he always does, but the old version of myself that used to enjoy the compliments now struggles to believe them. Because how can the body that let Evalyn down be beautiful? How can my body that couldn’t do the one thing we needed it to do and keep our daughter safe be beautiful? How can he look at my scars and not be let down by me?
Of course, this is just me over-analysing (as usual). My scars are our story of Evalyn and as sad as it is, we are trying to turn it into something beautiful. Evalyn deserves a beautiful story and I don’t want it to end at the hospital when we walked away and the door shut behind us. I want Evalyn to have her legacy and be a voice for raising awareness for baby loss. She can’t carve any more scars into my body but, in her own way, she can carve them into the earth. I don’t believe her story is over yet. I don’t even think she’s finished her first chapter. . .
I guess it’s not just my postpartum hair that’s trying to regrow. We are too. We are still tending to our scars, licking our wounds and trying to find the sunbeams amongst the dark days. We are still trying to figure out who we are without Evalyn. Because we’re not the same people we used to be. We have been changed by grief and the world can sometimes look different to us. I have less patience for people who moan. Nick has more empathy. In a way, our personalities have had a role-reversal.
I used to be a bit of a doormat when it came to people telling me what to do. Now I stand up for myself in a way I never thought I could. Nick never used to take anyone’s nonsense, yet now he has all the time in the world for people. I think in a way, Evalyn has brought out the parts of us that we held back, yet we are somehow more rounded people because of this.
We have also grown as parents to Ieuan. We have realised that the little things really don’t matter. Who cares if he gets paint on the dining room table whilst making a picture or spills orange juice on the carpet because he was running around too fast? Who cares if he goes to bed a little later than planned or if most of the bath water ends up on the floor because he wanted to play ‘diving’? Who cares if he forgets to take his muddy shoes off before running through the living room?
Because none of that stuff matters. Family matters. Nick matters. Ieuan matters. Evalyn matters. Any other problems that come our way are trivial in comparison to loss and grief.
The past months have shown me that, in a way, life can be regrown. Ok, so it might not grow back the way you wanted it to and you might find yourself having to cut the edges back into shape every so often, but it can be regrown. It may not be perfect but nothing in life is . .
Even the most beautiful gardens have weeds.
And weeds can still be beautiful.