My body. It has changed. My shape has evolved my entire life and lots of hair has fallen out. But three kids later, I’m doing okay. This is my story, of all these changes, my body's journey through motherhood - and yah, hair loss.
At 26 I developed PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). Before this I had been thin, strong and had experienced body changes from my teens to my twenties. And it was body changes that led me to self diagnose PCOS before I had a clinical diagnosis. My lower belly had changed shape and was very different. PCOS had caused by body not just to store more fat, but to actually increase the fat cells in places they hadn’t been. Thanks, testosterone. All this, but I still had my hair.
This is how I entered motherhood, with great hair and an unfamiliar shape. My ovaries made pearl necklaces of cysts, but would not ovulate an egg. Having always loved pearls, this felt like salt in a wound. I sought fertility assistance and miracle of miracles, ONE (most people have many) tiny little follicle finally grew. A few injections later and this follicle, still measuring on the tiny and hopeless side of fertility, I was told might be able to ovulate an egg and that if I waited for it to grow I would likely lose it. This tiny little follicle released half of what is now my brave, strong, fierce and beautiful daughter. Who is also kind of tiny. This always makes me smile.
My body changed again in this pregnancy. My belly swelled. My weight gain was immense. My breasts changed yet again. For the first time in my life, after a period of the itchiest skin, I had stretch marks. My feet got bigger. My hair was thick and lush. Long and lovely. My nails were strong. My body was healthy despite the rapid changes and I held it dear for carrying my baby, an experience that I had become very grateful for having.
Postpartum my hair fell out when she was about six months old. Your hair loss slows when you’re pregnant and your body plays catch up afterwards. For me, this happened at six months and made messes in the shower, the car, my house, my vacuum . . . well, my hair was everywhere. This was also when I realized that my feet were probably not returning to their pre-pregnancy selves. I smelled different and needed more showers. And did I mention the milk? oy. the milk. I leaked it everywhere which resulted in my new body odor mixing with eau de spoiled milk. My body had changed again.
Two more babies. More rounds of body changes. Two more rounds of hair loss. I cleaned it from the drain, pulled it from my brush, picked it off my clothes and vacuumed it from the house. Anyone seeing this would have guessed I was losing it all! But, somehow, my body knew just what to shed and I managed to keep some hair!
There's no secret to avoiding postpartum hair loss. And like all things postpartum, some of us experience this more markedly than others. It doesn't matter what kind of shampoo you use, how well you are managing your stress postpartum (um, it's freaking hard!), how you dry your hair or what type of brush you prefer. If you're going to experience the mass evacuation of pregnancy hair, it's just going to happen. If it makes you feel better to make a home made hair mask, then do it. By all means, care for yourself - mind, body and soul. But know, if your brush is full of hair and the shower water is pooling at your feet becasue of your fleeing lucious locks, you will be okay. It will stop and you'll have hair.
I am nearly 36 and although I am not always confident and I am definitely not comfortable in swimwear, I try to remember that all I have been through is normal. My hair has thickened in pregnancy and thinned after. My eyelashes that were always long and lush have been shared with my children and are not quite what they were. There are lines on my forehead and my PCOS shape remains despite weight loss and exercise. I have a daughter and two sons. I want them to appreciate all their bodies do for them and to be respectful of other people’s bodies. It is my responsibility to teach this by being as confident as I can be, always learning always growing, caring for my body and appreciating its strength.
Ladies, your body might change. You will feel different postpartum. There will be bleeding, soreness, possibly night sweats, your armpits will likely smell different, you might have stretch marks and yah, your hair might fall out. I’m here to tell you, three kids later, that I have survived it all and I know you will too, because we are women and this is NORMAL. I’m not saying we have to rejoice in it, heaven knows I miss my 25 year old breasts, I’m not saying you shouldn’t change whatever you want to change - but want you to know that there is no shame in all things normal. There’s no magic pill or secret recipe to prevent these changes. Be healthy. Care for your body. Find happiness. Anyone that tells you otherwise is a jerk.
Want to chat about your postpartum experience? Pregnant and want to build your community (you are so wise!)? Join us for our New Orleans Postpartum Community Group. We meet three times a month and would love to see you!