By, December Fields-Bryant
As I brought my son home to began healing from my cesarean, relished any short hot shower and wearing clothes that would eventually accommodate my deflated boy, I wondered if I would ever return to the woman I had been. Would I ever see the woman in the mirror who cared if my clothes were anything other than comfortable? Would I ever plan an outfit around anything other than whether or not I could nurse in it? Where was the woman who wore makeup without worrying if it might smear on my son’s head, and did something with my hair other than combing it with my fingers and throwing it into a ponytail. I hoped that she was still there, behind the tired eyes and spit-up breast milk on my shirt. I didn’t really worry about her until my son was 6 months old and my hormones and sleep schedule settled into something resembling normalcy. It was then that I began to look at my clothes, my hair, and the mess that was me as a mother. I felt depressed and completely cut off from the person I had been and, at the same time, I had guilt over being so shallow.
I was a mother after all. Everyone was looking at the baby anyways, not me. Shouldn’t my only goals in life now be based on the care of my son? Who cares if I live in nursing tanks and maxi skirts so long as my baby is fed and happy? Well, I cared and I was worried my husband cared too even though he told me I looked beautiful no matter what. “No matter what?” That was a blow to the ego.
I did what I could to feel better about myself. Losing weight and feeling how loose my pre-pregnancy clothes were on me helped but I still felt like a hot mess going anywhere. I couldn’t wear make up and no matter how nicely I dressed (complete with baby carrier and diaper bag accessories) I felt incomplete and bare. I tried wearing different shoes but anything other than a sturdy flat caused my back to hurt after carrying the baby around. I tried wearing hair accessories but my son assumed that, since they were in reach, they were for him to yank out and play with. I donned hats but they obviously looked like they were attacking me and made the baby scream bloody murder until they completely disappeared and I proved to be safe and whole.
Finally, I tried hair wrapping. Hair wrapping, head covering, or pagan veiling was something I’d been looking into for a while and drawn ever since being called into the service of the Goddess Frigga. I started looking at tichels (traditional Jewish style of wrapping hair in a scarf) and decided to give it a shot. Not only did my son approve by giggling and smiling at me (a great improvement from the earlier screaming over the hat) but I felt and looked awesome. I was simply amazed at what a scarf could do for my ego.
I found wrapping to be a great benefit to me as a busy mom. Didn’t have time to shower…again? Wrap my oily head up until later. Can’t find my hairbrush among all the baby stuff? Wrap my tangled mess up and pray it doesn’t become a rat’s nest. Cold out and no time to dry my hair after my rare shower? Wrap my head and stave off the sniffles. The best benefits I’ve found are that wrapping protects my hair from being pulled by playful baby hands and keeps my hair out of my face when trying to nurse and type and drink cold coffee all at the same time. Score!
Wrapping also completed my outfit. I feel very put together and confident when I go out with a wrap that matches the same colors in my clothes or brings together the colors I’m wearing that wouldn’t match otherwise. This confidence bubbles over in how people interact with me. I have had less people bustle me about in stores or at events, more people open the door for me, and less men in particular saying anything rude around me. Wrapping brings attention to my face, for better or worse. More people look me in the eye and respond to my polite smile with their own. It’s a strange rush to be treated with friendly respect even if it is only over a change in how I accessorize my hair.
My self-esteem has been bolstered not only by wearing a hair cover but also by joining a community of many women of all walks of life who also cover their hair. Groups, boards, forums, and more exist for women to share their looks, gorgeous selfies, tips on wrapping, and sales on scarves and wrapping supplies. A surprise among this community is the solidarity and support given. I’ve seen women of all faiths brought together to pray for a fellow wrapping woman as she escapes an abusive husband and women respond with vehemence against businesses who discriminate against women who wrap.
Being a part of this has reminded me that I am more than a mother. I am a sister to other women who wrap. I am a face behind the baby carrier and stroller and car seat and diaper bag. I am a woman who deserves self care even if it’s only in the minute it takes to wrap a scarf around my head before I face the day.
December Fields-Bryant is a Northern Tradition Pagan and earthly handmaiden to Frigga. Her magical life is blessed with inspiration from her little imp of a baby boy and her Viking blacksmith husband. You can read more of her work at www.Terrestrials.earth or on Twitter @TerrestrialsAK.