My sister was curling my hair when she noticed two quarter-sized bald patches on my scalp. Within two months, I would be completely bald from head to toe.
I didn’t want to wash my hair.
No, that’s not accurate. I wanted to wash my hair, but I was scared. My scalp burned as if it were on fire. The water would soothe it, but it would also cause so much more of it to fall out all at once. There were already the warning signs – like when I had thought that I dropped my washcloth in the shower and was horrified to find that it was a large clump of hair.
As it turned out, my fear didn’t matter;
Within two months I would be completely bald from head to toe.
My and Dale’s love story has always been unconventional. We met and fell in love at Howard University. We weathered the storms of being 20-somethings on a college campus with thousands of other beautiful and intelligent people. We graduated and continued our relationship, which became long-distance when Dale returned to New York to live. Just when we thought we had mastered the long-distance thing, Dale got an opportunity to move to Congo for two years. Despite 6,600 miles and an ocean, we made it through.
We got married in April 2016, ten years after our journey had first begun. We had no idea that less than a year into our marriage, we’d get pregnant, which would bring on our most interesting challenge of all: alopecia areata.
Alopecia areata is a common autoimmune skin disease that can cause hair loss on the scalp, face, and sometimes other areas of the body. It affects as many as 6.8 million people in the U.S. As it turns out, I just happen to be one of those 6.8 million.
I first learned of my hair loss when my sister was doing my hair in January 2017. In November 2016, I was having an itch to cut my hair from a few inches below my shoulder all the way up to my chin, so I went to the stylist and asked for the big chop! I absolutely loved it! Looking back now, I truly believe cutting my hair into a bob was God preparing me for this major change that was about to occur. At one point in my life, my hair was down to my waist. Had I lost all the hair I had at that specific time, I’m quite sure I would not have been able to handle it as well as I did with my bob.
Dale and I found out we were pregnant shortly after my cut. Fast-forward to January 2017. My sister was curling my hair and noticed two quarter-sized patches on my scalp. We immediately FaceTimed my mom, showed her and chalked it up to my hormones acting crazy from the pregnancy. I didn’t really think anything of it. That is, until my hair started falling out in chunks within two weeks. It was so much at one time that I was afraid to wash it, but at the same time, I HAD to wash it—not only because, obviously, it would get dirty, but also because it stung soooo badly. It truly felt like my scalp was on fire. Even when my hair was dry and I would run my fingers through it, tons of it would fall out into my hands. I’ll never forget the moment I thought I had dropped my washcloth onto the shower floor; I looked down to pick it up, only to realize it was not my washcloth: it was a huge clump of my hair. That is when I really started to get scared.
I would hide clumps of hair in toilet paper and throw it in the trash so that Dale wouldn’t see it. But it all happened so fast that there was no more time to hide it. Within a month of finding those two bald patches, my hair was so thin that I had to wear a wig to work, and within a month of that, I had such a small amount left that I had Dale just shave the rest off.
Within those two months, all of the hair on my face and body was gone as well.
Once my head was shaved, I was officially completely bald from head to toe.
It all happened so fast that I don’t think I really even had time to be consumed in sadness over it. I’m not too much of an emotional person anyway, but once I realized that total hair loss (alopecia universalis) was going to happen, I came to grips with it very quickly. There was no time to be sad and mope about it.
I did some research online and found ONE article written by Molly Erdman for HuffPost, who went through something similar during her pregnancy. I reached out to her thanking her for the article because I couldn’t find any other stories online of pregnant women who had gone through this! I believe this also helped me to be more open. To help other women who may be going through the same thing know that it’s ok—to not be ashamed.
I had bloodwork done to make sure I wasn’t suffering from a thyroid issue or any other autoimmune disease that could have been an underlying cause. And once the bloodwork returned negative, and all of my baby’s scans were showing that she was growing normally, I simply kept moving and tried to keep everything else as normal as possible. I was healthy, my baby was healthy, so how could I be upset about anything?
I do remember feeling embarrassed for my husband—afraid that people would look at him and judge him for not having a “hot” wife. But he has been so supportive throughout the entire process, and has proven to me and to everyone else, that there is more to love, and a marriage, and a healthy relationship than outward beauty. He has proven to me that he loves me for who I am regardless of how I look. My outward appearance has changed, but I have remained the same in all other aspects, and that is what he loves the most about me. That is super important. His support, and the unwavering support of my family and friends, has helped me to live a life as normally as it would have been had my hair never fallen out. I will forever be so grateful for all of the support I received through such a trying time.
And now this just continues to be the norm for me! My hair is growing back on my head and a little bit here and there on my body. I shave my head weekly because it’s growing back thin and patchy, and I feel more comfortable being bald in public than I do with thin, patchy hair. I’m interested in finding out if it starts to grow more once I’m done breastfeeding, so we’ll see. If not, I’ve got to say: not having to worry about doing my hair before leaving the house now that I have a baby is a blessing! I’ve got enough going on as it is, so rocking the baldie makes things so much easier. Plus, I just live vicariously through my baby girl, who evidently has stolen all of my hair and has a headful herself!
Through this process, I have learned that I want to help other women who may be experiencing the same changes. There is very little information on pregnancy-induced alopecia. So I find firsthand experiences to be the most helpful. With this in mind, I’ve been sure to speak openly about my experiences to anyone who asks. I’ve shared my story on several outlets, in hopes that any woman going through something similar can find support much easier than I did.
I just want to be sure that women who may be experiencing pregnancy-induced alopecia (or alopecia in general) know this:
The joy I’ve experienced since my baby has arrived, has far outweighed the sorrow I experienced when I lost my hair.
Hair does not make you, so do not let it break you! Focus on your joy. Focus only on what makes you happy.
I am happy. And all other bald mamas should be too!