Sunday, September 12, 2010

head shave

Today we shaved off everything that took over two years to grow in. My baby now looks like a cancer victim. Just the thought of removing his beautiful reddish-blond hair almost had me in tears on the way to the salon. But I had to stay strong for his sake.

We hoped that shaving his head would help us to contain the lice sooner rather than later. Since he has the worst case in the family, we hope that if we can contain it on him, we can contain it in the household and prevent spreading it to others. We also hope that the sooner we get it under control, the less chemical treatments we’ll be exposed to, which is of special concern since I’m pregnant.

I thought of the parents whose children are going through much more serious ordeals, who must remain strong and encouraging as their children’s hair falls out and they endure painful treatments. It’s a beautiful and rewarding experience to be a parent, but it can also be heartbreaking.

When we went for our first haircut, just a few months ago, Mark advocated for a buzz cut. I insisted on a better salon and a cute cut. This time we went to Great Clips. I figured it’s hard to screw up a complete shave. I was told the best they could do was to leave 1/8 of an inch.

River cried when I asked him to get into the seat. But once I gave him a Dum-Dum, he was fine and stared straight ahead in the mirror as the clumps of hair fell. I tried to distract him by talking about how the clipper tickles and he was impassive during the process.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about lice online in the past few days, and comparing notes with my sister-in-law (she and her toddler are also affected from the same source – a rented house they stayed at during the family get together). With four boys, she is going to have an even harder time than us keeping things under control. Yesterday she was going around with Vaseline on her head covered by a garbage bag.

Wikipedia says that lice can’t survive on a bald head and that a very short cut makes them easier to spot. It cautioned against shaving a child, due to the psychological effects they could endure. But I figured River is too young to feel any psychological effects. As long as we accept him and strangers aren’t coming up to him and mocking him, he feels comfortable with how he is.

I wish we could have gone bald because even the 1/8 inch leaves visible nits that we will continue to have to monitor, comb and treat. But it is much easier to see and remove them. If more bugs appear, they won’t escape our notice for long.

I feared the combination of being almost bald, and the scabs he has on his head from the lice would make him look like a freak. I miss the River with his beautiful hair. But he’s still my same baby. I feel lucky that he is of an age and a gender that make head shaving easier and I’m really crossing my fingers we get this under control quickly and can resume our normal lives.

I’m also very grateful that he has yet to start preschool. We worried that starting preschool would bring all kinds of diseases into the home, which we didn’t want to risk during my third trimester. In the past month, we’ve gone through a stomach virus, 102 degree fever, and now lice. If he’d been in preschool, we probably would have blamed the proximity to other children and perhaps considered removing him. Since he’s not in preschool, we have to blame the real causes – a family reunion (which included close proximity to many children) and a dose of bad luck.

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