06/19/2018 14:00 EDT | Updated 01/22/2019 15:28 EST

Postpartum Hair Loss Is The Pregnancy Side-Effect I Just Can't Get Past

Ruined Vagina? OK. Saggy Boobs? Sure. But Bald Spots? GFY.

It was hotter than Hades last weekend and — desperate to entertain my toddler while keeping him cool — I turned my backyard into a miniature water park.

He splashed away happily in his kiddie pool for the better part of two days. At one point, I had been lifting my wet and wriggly, giggling son onto his water slide over and over for about 20 minutes straight (whoever said parenting was boring!) when my husband took a photo of us.

"Look how cute you guys are," my husband said, showing me his phone when my toddler was finally bored of the slide game about nine hours later. My son was grinning at the camera as I bent over to help him slide backwards into the pool. The sun was shining. The yard looked lush and green. My sunglasses hid the fact that I haven't slept since 2016. What a beautiful moment it was.

"Delete it," I snapped at my husband, while staring in horror at the zig-zag part in my hair that ended in an exclamation point at the crown of my head. "You got my bald spot."

Natalie Stechyson
The author, a year after her son was born, thrilled that her hair had started growing back in.

I like to think I knew what I was getting into, physically at least, when I signed up for parenthood.

I took things fairly well when my son exploded out of my vagina and left me with a third-degree tear, an extra flap of skin in my perineum (I called it my shark fin) that eventually had to be surgically removed, and a butt full of hemorrhoids that still like to occasionally pop out to say, "Hey, girl. What's up? Have you considered more fibre in your diet?"

I accepted it when, over the course of 18 months of breastfeeding, my son literally sucked all the youth out of my own body, leaving me looking not like the soft, curvy essence of motherhood I'd imagined, but more like Steve Buscemi in leggings. (My solution? Eye cream.) And when my son finally weaned and my boobs let out a giant sigh of relief — and never inhaled again — I shrugged and went bra shopping.

But when my hair started falling out in clumps a few months after giving birth, and what didn't shed broke off in spiky shards in my son's tyrant fists, I felt nothing but despair. I couldn't hide this side-effect of mom life in granny panties, lotions, and underwire.

Natalie Stechyson
The author, 18 months after her son was born, wondering if she was bald after giving birth and people were too afraid to tell her.

Postpartum hair loss, also known as postpartum telogen effluvium, affects about half of the people who have been pregnant, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

It usually happens about three to six months after giving birth and can last another six months after that, according to the Canadian Hair Loss Foundation. Research suggests the drop in estrogen and progesterone after delivery causes increased hair shedding to make up for the fact that we shed less hair while pregnant. Eventually, our hormones (and hair) even back out.

The Canadian Hair Loss Foundation recommends postpartum mom avoid heavy conditioners, tight hairstyles, and excessive combing when the hair is wet. You can also try eating as healthy as possible, considering a hairpiece as camouflage, or cutting your hair short to weight it down less.

It will grow back, but this regrowth will likely be in uneven tufts that resemble a lion's mane.

Postpartum hair loss "can be extremely distressing," the foundation says on its website, but it is supposedly temporary. Most women can expect full re-growth in about a year, but some note that their hair density "remains less than before pregnancy."

What they don't tell you, however, is that someday you might look back at the tender photos of you holding your new baby and realize you can see your scalp. And on that particular one day, while rushing to dress as the baby naps, you will pull your hair into a bun and realize you have to wrap your elastic around your 'do not two, not three, but four times. That you might pull entire strands of hair out of your baby's mouth and, god help you both, his poop.

That you will look back on your maternity photos and see only the lustrous hair that once was — not your pregnant belly, your adoring partner, or the field of wildflowers you frolicked in at sunset. Eff that noise. LOOK AT HOW GREAT MY HAIR WAS.

Nicole Wilson Photography
The author, dreaming a dream in times gone by.

And sure, it will grow back, but this regrowth will likely be in uneven tufts that resemble a lion's mane. You could try slicking them back with product, but that will only make them stand at attention, now fortified with confidence and mousse. You could try cutting actual bangs to hide your mom bangs, but then you will just have jabby hair spikes... and bangs.

You could just wear your hair down every day and wait for your tufts to grow out, but you will look like a backup singer in A Flock of Seagulls for at least a year.

At least, this was my experience.

This magical time gave me new appreciation and understanding of the mom haircut. I'd always assumed moms were hacking off their locks because they were simply too busy with child-rearing to wash or style it. I never understood why they didn't just pull that mess into a topknot, and get on with their days.

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Now I get that you don't choose the mom haircut. It chooses you. I came very close to chopping off my own hair (I mean, I was halfway there already) and starting fresh a few times. Once, while a hairdresser gingerly trimmed what little hair I had left, she asked if she should touch up my bangs. I said "I don't have bangs," which led to a long explanation of postpartum hair loss that I'm fairly certain, by the horror in her eyes, ruined any possibility of her ever having children of her own.

My son is almost two, and my regrowth is only just now long enough that I can wear my hair down again without sporting a full mullet. The day I could finally tuck my mom bangs behind my ears may not make it into the baby book, but it's a milestone that made my eyes well up as much as the first time my son crawled.

Natalie Stechyson
The author enjoying a day at the park with her son and LOOK AT MY HAIR!

But, just like the stitched-up Frankengyne I used to call my vagina, scars remain.

My hair, which was always fine and thin, will never be as full as it was before I had my son. My mom bangs are mostly grown out, but my part is deeper and wider than it used to be, and the back of my head is a little patchier than I'd like.

I could ask my doctor if vitamins or supplements might help. I could invest in some jaunty hats. I could cry into a glass of wine. But for now I think I'll just burn my husband's phone and get back to the kiddie pool, where my son still needs help climbing up and down the slide.

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