When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I used to cringe when someone would exclaim “pregnancy brain!” every time I so much as paused to answer a question. Non-pregnant people can once in a while get double booked or forget they had an action item due at a meeting without anyone giving it much attention. But when the pregnant lady forgets…clearly she has pregnancy brain.
I never related to pregnancy brain or mommy brain…
…until I got pregnant with my second child.
By my second pregnancy, I was much less sensitive to being “called names” than I was the first time around. If someone wanted to comment on the size of my stomach or my brain that had apparently been taken over by the pregnancy, fine by me (well, on most days).
I didn’t have the energy on some days to be pregnant, raise a 2 year old and work full time so I certainly didn’t have the energy to focus on other people’s perceptions of my brain. I remember feeling tired and scattered and actually buying into the thought that perhaps pregnancy was doing something to my brain. It seemed like the easier route to just nod instead of cringe when people felt the need to exclaim their thoughts on why I had a question or missed a meeting.
But despite giving into it, I wondered: Is there really such a thing as pregnancy or mom brain?
It turns out some interesting things do happen to our brains when becoming a mom. Research shows that pregnancy may actually trigger brain growth in areas that are responsible for things like maternal motivation, reasoning, judgment and emotion processing. This would mean that our brain prepares us for those very stressful first few months (or 18 years, I guess) of parenthood. The baby becomes our focus. And while I am sure we all agree that is a good thing, the question for me was why couldn’t the baby be my focus while also remembering where I put my keys and not feeling like a disaster 24/7?
All the hormones surging through our bodies during pregnancy can actually impact our spatial memory, which includes forgetting where things are (a-ha!). I have some friends with toddlers who claim they are still feeling the hormones and this could actually be true! There is nothing that I found that is clear on how long we hold onto those surges of hormones.
I read that the average new mom accumulates 700 hours of sleep debt in the first year of parenthood. So, that explains why I still feel like a disaster despite being out of the newborn stage: it’s because I will forever be catching up on those 700 hours of sleep.
Our brains can only store so much. Once you are pregnant or become a parent, your priorities immediately shift. We try to shift it all to hold balance. Moms really can do it all, but unfortunately not without sometimes feeling like we just may lose it if we haven’t already on some days.
While there is research behind the brain and hormone changes, I think ultimately we feel this way because these little people take up not only our houses and social calendars, but they also find their way into every “open” nook and cranny of our brain space. Regardless of what we are balancing in life (work, hobbies, friendships etc.), our kids are forever also on the brain.
What’s your funniest “mommy brain” or “pregnancy brain” story?