Forgetful Mama

I have turned into a person who needs to write everything down, if I'm not to forget it. The trouble is, by the time I've found a pen and piece of paper, I've forgotten what it was I wanted to make a note of in the first place.

I mean, for goodness sake, I am an educated, intelligent woman... what has happened to my brain?!

Ah.... I had a baby.

Yup. Ever since my darling daughter was born I forget stuff all the time. Well, I guess the stuff I forget isn't that important - usually things like milk, or bread, or renewing library books on time (actually, I've set up a reminder on my tablet now and it flashes alarmingly at me in bright red, so I haven't forgotten to renew my library books lately). Important stuff, like remembering to take my daughter with me when I leave the house, that I have no problem with.

Apparently, it's a real phenomena, and it's known at 'baby brain'. Talk to any mum and she'll nod and tell you how her once sharp intellect has deserted her and her life has descended into something resembling chaos, except everything involving baby seems to be ticking along just about fine.

And that, Ladies and Gentleman, Mums and Dads, is the whole point of baby brain... everything of the utmost importance in a mother's life is completely and utterly connected to that wonderful little person you've invited wholeheartedly into your life. Everything else retreats into a fog of half-remembered, low priority 'stuff'.

After having a particularly bad day of forgetfulness - when I got home from the supermarket with a load of things I didn't need (and even things I had duplicates of in the fridge and cupboards), but nothing for dinner that evening - I decided to visit my good friend Google and find out if there had been any scientific research into this condition.

Well, there's been quite a lot, by some highly respected scientists from major universities. The results of their case studies, however, have been far from conclusive and seem to have fallen into opposite camps - that baby brain is a real phenomena, or that it's a myth.

Without wanting to get bogged down in details (if you want details, dear Google can direct you to a mind-numbing list of articles), I'll give you my well considered summary of what I read.

As you can probably guess, I'm not in the camp that believes baby brain is a myth, but I'll do my best to be objective about that side of the argument - which states that during pregnancy and up to two years after the birth of their babies, women manage stress better, are more emotionally resilient, have improved strategic thinking, better judgement and more empathy. This, the scientists say, actually means that women's intellect improves.

Hmm... this, to me, is the problem with scientific studies, it's all a bit too clinical and hard to imagine at three in the morning when you haven't had any sleep in at least 24 hours and your baby cries every time you put her down in her crib. Yes, you cope, you survive, you manage to do all the things you need to do to care for your baby and yourself... and you do it willingly and with love. But I'm not sure any mum in that situation would think any of the statements above accurately described how she felt right at that moment.

As for the argument that baby brain is a real phenomena, they actually say a lot of the same things as those who claim it's a myth - that pregnant women show increased activity in the part of the brain that relates to emotional skills. Perhaps it's just the way they relate their findings to explain that these neurological changes are important in preparing a mother to bond with her baby when it is born. That, to me, sounds so much more understanding and sympathetic. They go on to say that this rewiring of the brain allows a mother to concentrate on their baby's needs - to which I would add my own qualifying statement - to the exception of anything else.

So, the way I see it, the results appear the same - that pregnancy and motherhood bring about significant changes to a woman's mind and thought processes. Baby brain may make us feel like we're losing the plot a lot of the time, but it's just that our priorities have changed - enormously. Things that used to seem important, like remembering to post birthday cards to your friend overseas in plenty of time (sorry Tina!), suddenly take a back seat to the needs of someone who needs you far more. Which is how it should be.

Baby brain is definitely a real phenomena, but as long as my baby is okay I don't care if I forget the milk.

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