They say babies can hear outside the womb. My nephew, Henry, must have known us all. During the early hours of May 13, 2017, my sister started to throw up. At eight months pregnant, she felt a contraction that wouldn’t let go. Her pain and condition worsened and she went to the hospital. The doctors couldn’t find Henry’s heartbeat. Henry passed away due to placental abruption. My sister, Jenna, almost didn’t survive the catastrophic hemorrhage.
Jenna lived and Henry never cried on that day in May.
This is my story told many months after Henry was laid to rest.
I sat up straight and smiled at the dermatologist walking in the room. Finally. An answer to why my hair was falling out. The doctor smiled back, sat down, and explained my hair loss diagnosis.
“Julie, you have a hair loss condition called Telogen Effluvium. Your body went into shock immediately after the loss of your nephew and almost losing your sister. Three months ago, those two events were enough to shut your body down momentarily. Your fingernails stopped growing too. Your body seems to have corrected the shock. I see where your fingernails grew again. Your hair will do the same but because hair grows in a cycle, it will take about a year or maybe longer for your hair to grow back. It’s a rare condition but a temporary one. I’m so sorry for the loss of your nephew.”
The divots in my fingernails are almost grown out now. My hair loss slowed down and I have new hairs sprouting around my scalp. I don’t cry when I wring my hair in the shower anymore. Yet, I still avoid brushing it or pulling it back in a ponytail because it is much thinner than it used to be.
I stood six feet from my nephew today.
I knew Henry wouldn’t hear my voice. He wouldn’t feel my feet above him. Or smell the lotion I put on this morning. I stood anyway. I stood six feet from my nephew for the first time since I held his sweet face 200 days ago.
Just Henry and me, under a giant tree.
He slept and my chest felt heavy.
I looked around. I was surrounded by babies. Quiet, sleeping babies. I saw a bundle of yellow flowers against the fence, next to the giant tree with branches over my head. I walked over. I didn’t see any headstones. The flowers must have blown with the leaves and stopped at the fence. I picked up the flowers and placed them on Henry’s headstone.
I whispered the only words in my head.
“There you go, Henry. Aunt Jules will hook you up.”
I got in my car. I didn’t cry. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to wake the sleeping babies.
I started my car and drove towards the entrance. I got lost. I drove past Henry and his yellow flowers three times – and one time in reverse – before I figured out how to get out. And when I finally made the right turn out of the cemetery, the heaviness on my chest lifted. It shocked me. The weight on my chest was real.
My shoulders lifted too. I didn’t know my shoulders had bricks on them. The air filled my lungs. I didn’t know my lungs needed the air. My body lifted up.
My hair tingled.
I stood with Henry.
This piece originally appeared on Bug Bytes.
Julie Burton is a mom, wife, writer, and bacon hater living in Overland Park, Kansas. She is a contributing author to the New York Times Best Selling “I Just Want to Pee Alone” series titled, “But Did You Die?: Setting the Parenting Bar Low.” Burton writes for Simply KC magazine and her blog, Bug Bytes. She has also been named one the “funniest parents” by the Today Show, Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Perfection Pending, and Sammiches and Psych Meds. Her work has also been featured in Mock Moms and The Good Men Project. And yes, she really does hate bacon. Please don’t drop her as a friend. Follow Burton on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.