I've always considered myself to be a fairly intelligent person. Certainly not a know-it-all or a person of omnipotence, but someone who could most likely survive in the wilderness for a few days without dying, or at least get by in a world without the internet. So, when my thoughts started to elude me during my first pregnancy, I began to feel like I was quite literally losing my mind. Others told me that my absentmindedness was a result of my apparent "mom brain," so I quickly Googled my "condition" and learned everything there is to know about mom brain.
I was very aware of the common signs of pregnancy, but I had never even heard of this alleged "mom brain" before, and I wasn't very far into my first pregnancy before it started to affect me in many odd and unexpected ways. I was constantly forgetting things, not just insignificant things but things that were actually kind of a big deal if they're forgotten (i.e. leaving a pot of boiling water on the stove until it boiled over and nearly caught my kitchen on fire). I would walk into a room and forget why. I would give out my personal number to my patients at work, when I was supposed to be giving out our office number. Some days I would walk into my job with mismatched shoes.
I knew how pregnancy could affect my body, but I never knew that it would affect my mind, too. I remember telling my partner during my third trimester that I couldn't wait to "be smart again," because I felt like my pregnancy, along with sucking away my energy, had robbed me of every ounce of intellect I ever had. So as a fair warning to my fellow oblivious moms out there, I just want to make you aware of what you need to know about the elusive "mom brain." Mostly, before I forget.
It's A Real Thing
"Mom brain" actually starts off as "pregnancy brain," but it can (and does) carry over into your postpartum life. Many experts blame the changes in hormone levels during and after pregnancy for a woman's forgetfulness or absentmindedness. Sleep deprivation, which every mother suffers from to a certain extent, is also a contributing factor to mom brain, and the information overload that all new parents inevitably face can impact a person's focus and alertness, too. So, if you find yourself searching frantically for you phone, only to realize 15 minutes later that it's actually in your hand, it's not your fault, it's parenthood's.
It Will Make You Think You're Crazy
I searched "early signs of dementia" more than a few times during my first year as a mother. I would forget some pretty major things, lose my train of thought while speaking without being able to recover, and I had conversations with people that I could never recall. There was so much going on, and so much to learn and adjust to with so little sleep happening, that I began to think that I was literally losing my mind. I actually went to see my doctor because I was so concerned about my absentmindedness, but she just snickered and assured me that it was, in fact, normal. "You've got a full plate, but you can't find your fork, can you?" she said. Yep. Sounds about right.
It Will Also Make Your Friends And Family Think You're Crazy
Though most of the resulting incidents of my mom brain were fairly amusing (read: mostly hilarious), some of them sparked the concern of my family, friends, and coworkers. At my old job, my coworker and I worked together effortlessly. We could finish each other's sentences, and knew it each other and our jobs so well that, at times, it seemed like we could read each other's minds. After I had my first son and returned to work, I dropped the ball more times than I'm proud to admit. My coworker would just look at me, bewildered, and ask me if I was still in there.
You're Not Actually Crazy
If you're suffering from a bout of mom brain, it's not your fault, and no, you aren't actually crazy. There's so much that goes into taking care of a baby and a family; So many things to remember and do and prepare; So many things that require your undivided attention. Having so many responsibilities will inevitably divide your attention, so how could you be expected to focus 100% on anything when you've got 100 different things to focus on?
Remembering Even The Simplest Thing Becomes A Task
When I'm speaking with an elderly person, and they pause mid-sentence to try and remember what that one word is that seems to be evading them, I'm a lot more patient now than I was before I became a mother. "It's right on the tip of your tongue isn't it?" I ask them. "Yes!" they say, and we both laugh at our absent vocabularies. I get it now, and I will patiently wait for anyone I'm talking to while they figure out that word on the tip of their tongue, because I've been there too many damn times since I became a mom.
I've forgotten entire subjects of conversations. I've forgotten very important ingredients when cooking dinner that left my family gagging as they politely choked down the meal I prepared, and I've paid the same bill twice in the same month because my proactive self assumed that my forgetful self would, you know, forget to pay the bill. Every day is an adventure when you can't remember the directions.
You Really Can't Help It
Mom brain isn't your fault. No matter how organized you are, or how much you prepare ahead of time, or how brilliant you may be, your once intelligent thoughts will inevitably scape you. Hormones are jerks and life is chaotic, and that's all there is to it.
It Happens To The Best Of Us
I know that we all want to pretend like we're perfect, and like we've got our shit completely together at all times, but I don't think there's a single mom out there who hasn't had that same shit hit the fan on multiple occasions. It happens. It's just one of the many side effects of motherhood, and though it may be a nuisance, it's a little hilarious, too (as long as you don't accidentally, you know, burn your house down).
There Is Help
Good news! All hope is not lost when it comes to your mom brain. Doctors say that getting plenty of rest (hahahahahaha) could greatly increase a person's focus. Also, getting organized, maintaining a healthy diet, and participating in some sort of exercise could boost your brain power as well. Basically, just do your best to take care of yourself. Mom brain doesn't last forever (at least I hope not), so in the meantime, just try to remember when you're using something that could potentially implode, you need to pay extra close attention to what you're doing.