Lately I forget many things, but I remember the day it happened. I was leaving an OB appointment when I was pregnant with my first baby. I was stopped at a traffic light stationed at the Parkridge Hospital exit, waiting to turn left across McCallie Avenue. Feeling an impatient urge to go, I gunned it. Yes, that’s right! I turned left on a red light! Not because I am a rebel who loves disregarding traffic laws. No, no, no. I am a rigid rule-follower. I simply forgot where I was and what I was doing. Fortunately, nobody was harmed. This was the first time I had the alarming realization that the papaya-sized alien in my uterus was taking over my brain.
Six years and three babies later, and I am here to testify that pregnancy/mommy brain is TOO LEGIT. At least, for me it is! While presently there are no life forms growing in my body, the three extra humans running (and scooting) around our house have so altered my mental state, I do often feel like I am off in outer space.
My thoughts are like those pesky kids in middle school who tap you on the shoulder and then snicker when you fall for it and glance behind you. I KNOW a thought was just there, but it ducks out of sight and taunts, “Made you look!” Twerp.
Can you relate? Have you ever experienced a moment, after you have expended all your brain power getting your kids ready to go somewhere (“Mommy, where is my backpack/piano book/chocolate kiss Shopkin/butterfly craft I did when I was two?),” where you find yourself sitting in your car for 20 minutes trying to remember where you were supposed to be going and/or how to open the garage door so you can get there? If you can’t humor me a little, then I shall attempt to humor you.
A few nights ago, I made shrimp and grits for dinner…sans the shrimp. Annnnnddd…it sat in a completely cold oven for 30 minutes before I remembered I needed to push that little button labeled “Bake.”
Now before you call child protective services on me, let me assure you that my children are completely safe. I have never accidentally abandoned them anywhere (though I wouldn’t judge anyone who has done so, because I can imagine it happening), and I have never let them go cold, wet, or hungry (for too long). In fact, I believe that my constant, devout attention to my kids is a big part of the reason I can no longer think clearly about anything other than their big little people needs. That and the compounding amounts of sleep deprivation. I am completely absorbed in clothing, feeding, teaching, loving, bathing, protecting, and discipling my busy brood, and while it is by far the most challenging job I’ve ever had, it isn’t always stimulating for my brain. I’m always slightly embarrassed when my husband and I discuss our days. He is a doctor, so he may be detailing the difficult differential diagnosis of a pulmonary embolism. My story about how I was able to get the permanent marker stains of the table seems so lame in comparison.
I don’t believe my brain cells have actually died, and I am certainly not saying that mothers are idiots. On the contrary, most moms I know are incredibly smart and capable. There are studies that indicate a mother’s brain actually increases in matter during pregnancy. I just struggle to be fully present in my thoughts when I am exhausted, stressed and very distracted. I know the girl who graduated summa cum laude with a journalism degree is still in there, though I would have to introduce myself to her nineteen times before I remembered her name!
I am usually running around the house trying my best to get dinner cooked, baby fed, spilled milk mopped, homework questions answered, and I cannot do all of that without something slipping my mind. I have a little trick, though. When I need to remember what I was in the middle of doing, I survey what I am holding in my hands, looking for clues to remind me. What am I holding? Clothes pins, fish food and swim goggles. Now I remember! I was in the middle of hanging clothes on the line, when little girl #2 asked me to fix her swim goggles. That made me think about water, which reminded me to feed little girl #1’s fish. No wonder my thoughts are so scattered! I’m like a Laura Numeroff book!