I can’t say I wasn’t warned. Friends told me about “pregnancy brain” – the forgetfulness that comes with carrying a child, supposedly because the growing baby soaks up all your brainpower. “Oh, that’s a nice excuse for those sweet pregnant women,” I thought. And then my own stick yielded a plus sign, and my brain cells fluttered out the window.
After I experienced this brain fog firsthand, they warned me that “mom brain” is worse.
The early days of newborn life certainly proved this to be true, though much of that mental disarray was due to sleep deprivation.
I found a pepper grinder under the Keurig spout in lieu of a coffee mug one morning. Soon after, I opened our diaper pail and out poured 27 diapers onto the floor – the bag was removed and not replaced. A few months later, I realized halfway down our street that I was driving to the store in fluffy slippers that couldn’t pass for public outerwear.
Once I started getting more sleep and the fog didn’t really dissipate, I attributed some blame to the kids. I often find myself attempting a complex thought in what I think is a moment of quiet, only to be interrupted by the constant noise of 4- and 2-year-old boys.
The questions, the whining, the singing, the begging, the laughing. I love the curiosity of my 4-year-old and the sound of them making each other laugh. But I find myself barely functioning in conversations with people over the age of 4. Smile and nod and maybe no one will notice.
While this all may contribute to why I feel like my mental acuity is crumbling, there are plenty of distractions for which I have no one to blame but myself. See if this scene is familiar:
I need to buy a birthday present for my nephew. I go to Amazon, find what I want, but then I get a text from a friend. I toggle over, laugh at the hysterical meme, and then send it to my sister. Before I get back to the Amazon app, I see the glaring badge of unopened emails. I delete the junk, but open the energy bill and decide to pay it. Just real quick. Oh, what was the name of the actor in the movie we watched last night? Wikipedia.com … He’s married to that other actor and they have a new baby. DIAPERS. I forgot to buy diapers. Back to Amazon. Wait, what was I doing? Right: birthday gift.
In the span of five minutes, my productivity sinks, my anxiety peaks, and my focus is demolished.
I miss being mentally sharp.
I’m frustrated when I can’t remember a word, or why I walked into a room, or what fourth thing I needed on a quick trip to the grocery store. I operate on fragmented thoughts and actions rather than anything long-form.
I’m seeking the antidote. I can’t do much about the sleep: I’m soaking in more z’s now that my youngest is almost 2, but we disagree on when is an appropriate time to rise. As for the kids, I’ve literally tried to quiet them in the car absentmindedly by pushing the radio volume down button – to no avail.
So, it looks like it’s up to me to change some habits to recenter and reset my foggy mind.
The most healing remedies of mom brain I’ve found share three characteristics:
- No phone. A puzzle with my husband (bonus points for a sense of tangible accomplishment!), or anything outside, which reminds me I’m a small part of a big universe.
- No multitasking. Watch a whole movie or write in a journal. As a chronic multitasker, I find it incredibly mentally refreshing to focus on one thing.
- Not shorter than a half hour. Read a book (here are my book club’s favorites) or print articles (Parents or Cincinnati Magazine are my go-to’s, just get the hard copies!). I get much more of a refresh when I step into someone else’s place and story this way than scrolling Instagram soundbites and headlines.
Whatever the remedy may be, I’m reminded in those moments that my mom brain can still serve me well. It just needs a little recharge.