If you've had a baby, you've probably experienced at least one "mommy brain" moment. Like the time you locked your keys and your baby in the house, left your car running in the parking lot, lost your purse god knows where, or forgot to pick your baby up from day care. Yeah, I've done all of those things. I swear it wasn't my fault, though. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and suffering from a short attention span. So to every mom with mommy brain: I believe you. I believe you, and there are a few things that you, and the people around you, should absolutely know.
Being a new mom is hard enough without feeling like you're losing your damn mind. In my opinion, trying to care for another mini-human while you're stressed, foggy, and exhausted, is a recipe for disaster. And while it's funny to hear about a tired mom leaving her car keys in the refrigerator or forgetting her baby's name (I'm guilty of both), the same brain fog and exhaustion could be deadly, especially when you consider how dangerous driving while drowsy can be, or the tragic consequences of distraction, like infants dying in hot cars.
So what causes mommy brain? Researchers speculate that pregnancy hormones, sleep deprivation, learning to keep a tiny human alive, stress, postpartum mood disorders, and/or a combination of those factors are all to blame. Pregnancy changes how your brain works, and not only can those changes last years, but they can seriously impact your ability to function.
Is there a cure for mommy brain? The "remedy," it seems, is social support from friends and family, which can help new moms cope with stress, get more sleep, and weather the challenges of new motherhood. Unfortunately, when you are a new mom it can feel overwhelming to leave the house or ask for help, which makes it hard to get the support you need. Which is why I want moms suffering from mommy brain to know that I see you, I hear you, I believe you, I support you, and I know the following to be absolutely true:
Mommy brain is real, not just as the punchline of a joke. It starts during pregnancy, and changes the way your brain works. Whether it's caused by hormones, exhaustion, or the new things you are learning all at once in order to be a good mom, it's totally and undeniably real.
If it makes you feel better, you should know that mommy brain is pretty common. You aren't crazy. You are just a new mom. Believe me, I can definitely commiserate.
It can totally feel like you are losing your mind. Before I had babies I had a photographic memory. I excelled at both school and work and was confident in myself. After having kids, my memory sucks and I feel like a hot mess most of the time. Just last week, for example, I stood at the checkout line and apologized meekly to the cashier because I forgot my purse at home. I started to cry, thinking I had to leave without my cart of groceries, and then he told me that my purse was in my hands. I laughed with him, but only to keep from crying.
When you are distracted and tired you can easily make tiny and somewhat hilarious mistakes, like leaving the house in two different shoes. You can also make mistakes that are not so "tiny" in nature, like turning the wrong way on a one way street, not buckling your kid's car seat, leaving the oven on when you leave the house, or even forgetting your baby in the backseat.
Mommy brain seems funny, until you really think about it. In my experience, forgetting things, being distracted at work, and having a tough time finding damn near anything isn't all that hilarious. It's actually super frustrating, embarrassing, inconvenient, scary, and overwhelming, especially when you are a new mom.
The struggle is real. Mommy brain can not only make you feel like an idiot, but it can make you wonder if you'll ever feel like your pre-pregnancy self again. It can make you lose confidence in yourself and your abilities, which is kind of an important part of this whole new-mom thing. So when you're busy being a new mom, the last thing you really need is for your brain to somehow make it all harder.
When new moms feel foggy and exhausted, it's a clear sign that something's gotta give. The trouble, of course, is that for most moms more sleep and less stress can be really hard to come by, and it can be so hard to ask for what you need. It takes a village to raise a child, and, apparently, to make sure that new moms don't lose their sh*t or forget to put on a shirt before they leave the house.
The good news is that mommy brain won't last forever. Everything changes when you become a mom, but chances are you'll eventually figure things out, your baby will sleep, and you'll find that work/life balance everyone is always talking about. In the meantime, be gentle with yourself and try to remember that this too shall pass.
Well, if you can remember anything, that is.