Having lice and having a miscarriage are much the same experience. No one wants to talk about it, it’s somewhat embarrassing, definitely upsetting, and it’s happened to lots more people than you know. I’ve had both experiences, so I feel qualified to make this judgment.
I also feel qualified to say that, in my experience, lice is worse.
Hold your horses now. I’m not saying it’s not traumatic to lose a pregnancy. It is. But then again, that particular pregnancy wasn’t meant to be, nor did it involve multiple lengthy and costly trips to the laundromat.
Our story begins a week ago Wednesday, at which point my head and Annie’s head had been itchy for a week at least. But I tend to have a dry scalp in the winter so I didn’t think much of it. We had also had a sleepover with a cousin, and me and all three girls – plus the aforementioned cousin – had shared beds and a hotel room during a family reunion for three nights. Prior to this trip I had asked my Dad (aka The Hamster Whisperer) to check my head because the itching was intense. But that same week I discovered that both of my dogs were covered in fleas. So before the trip I dropped them off at the vet for boarding and a flea dip, set flea bombs all over the house, then ran to the car and drove away. During the trip the itching subsided so I chalked it up to the fact that my small dog likes to lay in the same spot I do on the couch, and that I must have been bitten by fleas. Gross. I know. But whatever.
We’re home from the trip, it’s Wednesday and now all three girls’ heads are itching. We go to The Hamster Whisperer’s office after school and voila! There is a LIVE LOUSE on Annie’s sweet little scalp! Grace started completely freaking out, which always drives me into a state of intensely projected calm in an attempt to keep hysteria at bay. I should note here that Dad was not buying my “intensely projected calm.” And wisely so because I was FREAKING OUT. As in holy fuck we’ve ALL got lice and it’s a school night and I don’t even know where to start and what all could all of us possibly have laid our heads upon that is now covered with bugs not to mention our clothes and jackets and a billion stuffed animals and Chad is in Mexico and I can’t do all of this by myself and holy crap in a trap!
What I didn’t know was that dealing with everyone’s hair would be the easy part. My Angel Here on Earth, Brandi, came over, we started washing hair and applying what looked and smelled like complete poison on everyone’s scalp, and the nit-picking began. Lauren’s head took nearly three hours. Annie was bribed with candy and at least three episodes of Sponge Bob. Grace was the biggest complainer and no amount of bribery could make her stop moaning. By the time we started my head it was 10 0’clock. Brandi’s arms were tired, I was exhausted from traipsing up and down stairs with laundry, remaking beds with clean sheets and not even eating dinner because I was in such a panic. I mean, I’ve given birth three times, cleaned up all manner of bodily waste from both people and dogs, shoveled poop in a horse barn… nothing grossed me out or gave me the heebie jeebies like the night of October 30, 2013.
Here are a few photos for your entertainment:
As I stripped the beds the laundry pile got bigger and bigger. And as things came out of the dryer I became paranoid about where to set them that wouldn’t result in the accidental acquisition of more nits and/or live lice. Thank god I have a lot of stair railing at my disposal.
Believe it or not, it took me a couple of hours before I realized that it would make a lot more sense to go to the laundromat and wash everything all at once. Also, with so many blankets and comforters, I was never going to get anything dry in my own dryer. And frying these bugs to death was definitely a part of the plan. So I packed up my belongs in giant lawn-and-leaf bags, loaded up the Suburban and we hit the laundromat after school on Thursday, Lauren still in her Halloween costume. Evidently we don’t get out much because both Grace and Lauren were enthralled by adding quarters to the machines, pouring the soap and fabric softener into the little compartments, rolling the laundry from washer to dryer in those metal carts, and watching through the round window as the laundry spun wildly in a fizz of soap and water, then hot hot air.
By our second hour Lauren had tired of her costume and gone out to the car to change. Her makeup was still on and, of course, she had to continue to wear her “high” heels. Frankly, I found her outfit a little disturbing.
I also did the responsible thing and called both the middle school and elementary school to report our infestation. And here’s the thing – when I called the elementary a friend of mine was subbing for the school nurse. Our daughters are in the same grade and I didn’t want to tell her about the lice because I didn’t want to embarrass Lauren. (Obviously I could care less who knows that I had lice or I wouldn’t be writing this.) So I called directly to the principal’s secretary and told her. That’s when I got to thinking that I wish lice wouldn’t be kept so secret. Sending a note home is fine, great, but I want to know who has it so that I can talk with them, share ideas about how to get rid of it, and talk about strategies for keeping it away. Like, stuff your kid’s coat in her backpack instead of piling it on the hooks with all the others.
Why is lice such a big dirty secret? For one thing, lice prefer CLEAN heads. And for another, it can happen to anyone no matter where you live, how much money you make, how often you vacuum or how long your hair is. That’s why I’m writing this post. Well, I’m actually writing this post because it’s a funny story, but also because I’m not at all embarrassed about it. I want to laugh about it, I want you to laugh about it, and if you have any helpful tips for dealing with the kids’ hair, or how to reduce my paranoia about pillows and stuffed animals I would love to hear it.
Your head is itching now, isn’t it?