Being pregnant and going through the postpartum stage brings on a bevy of changes. While we may have heard about fluctuating hormones and learned the signs of postpartum depression, there’s another sneaky change that enters the lives of moms. It starts off subtle and then seems to crescendo to the point where its presence is unmistakable. That’s right, we’re talking about “mommy brain.”
First thing’s first: What is “mommy brain” exactly? According to some of the mothers I know in my life, it’s what occurs when moms randomly seem to forget things. It can be something as small as losing your keys—when they’re right in your hands—or forgetting your work bag is on top of your trunk because you were putting your infant in their carseat (which may or may not be based on a true story).
So why does “mommy brain” exist? Perhaps because the brain also undergoes several changes during pregnancy and after giving birth. A 2010 study published in the Behavioral Neuroscience Journal showed, “Increased gray matter volume in the midbrain… associated with maternal positive perception of her baby. These results suggest that the first months of motherhood in humans are accompanied by structural changes in brain regions implicated in maternal motivation and behaviors.”
Simply put, it’s not a matter of mothers becoming forgetful. Their brain actually grows to adapt and focus on caring for their children.
As someone who has struggled with feeling as if her memory is not as sharp as it used to be, I feel relieved knowing that “mommy brain” is scientifically acknowledged. Here are a few ways I’ve been processing and working through my forgetful “mommy brain” moments.
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Invest in a Digital or Physical Planner
These days, I absolutely have to make note of things or they will slip my mind. There are doctor’s appointments, important daycare dates, work and school deadlines, etc. to remember. Instead of lamenting the fact that I can’t remember things the way I used to, I ask myself, “is it mentally possible for you to remember all of this?” and “why do you feel you need to hold everything inside of your mind?” This helps me relinquish control and enlist the help of something that’s typed or written down. The tangible reminder helps it stick.
Take the Nap
I know this can be a little controversial. Trust me, I used to lash out when I heard people tell me to get as much rest as possible during my pregnancy. It was even worse when I heard “sleep when the baby sleeps.” I thought it was insulting because “oh my gosh there is so much housework to do” or “I haven’t taken a shower!” The point is, it does not help anyone if we neglect ourselves. Sleep deprivation usually comes with the territory when caring for a newborn or infant, but we can find moments to sleep.
If my son goes down for a nap, then so do I. He may sleep for about 45 minutes at a time, so I relax for 45 minutes out of the X amount of hours I’m awake. Doing this has allowed me to not only start feeling better, but my brain also doesn’t feel as foggy as it used to.
Exercise Grace and Patience (With Myself)
Being pregnant, giving birth, and caring for children is no small feat. Again, our hormones fluctuate and our body changes. No matter if you’re a first-time mom or a seasoned mom, each pregnancy and birthing experience can be different. While there are a plethora of resources available to help us navigate these changes, dealing with them is a continual learning process. Mothers are already placed under a microscope for a number of reasons, so we don’t need to scrutinize ourselves even more. We deserve to extend ourselves some grace.
Ask for Help
It doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom if you need help caring for your children or help remembering things. Moms are not meant to be superheroes. The media and society have drilled into our minds that we are supposed to take care of everyone and everything, but that’s detrimental. I know some moms are not in a position where they have a partner at home, but help can come in many forms: therapy, trusted family members, church (if you attend), daycare, and so on. There is no badge of honor in motherhood. It’s time to take the resilient mommy cape off.
If you feel like you’re struggling to remember things, you are not alone. I’m personally right there with you. I can’t say when it’ll get better, but I like to think it’s not about our situations changing completely. Just as our brains change and expand so we can take on the role of motherhood, we change and expand as well.