This article throws light about a stage of my life that almost every mother goes through. Recently, a term “Mommy Brain” is quite prevalent these days as researchers continue exploring diverse areas of medical or, psychological streams. I would highlight how or, when “Mommy Brain” or, “Baby Brain” or, “Pregnancy Brain”, various terms used for this syndrome, started and how was I able to cope with it. Currently, no vivid evidence or, explanation is present anywhere. It’s mostly amusing moments shared by numerous mothers. I’ll be sharing my own through this article.
Journey to Mommy/Baby Brain
Life was going smooth. One day I got up from my bed as soon as the door bell rang in the morning. I opened the door and clutched its handle. Everything was hazy in front of my eyes for around 30 seconds. I couldn’t make out the person standing in front of me except the voice. “What happened, madam?” asked my maid. “Nothing,” I said. Unsurprisingly, it got confirmed that I’ve entered into the journey of expectant moms!
Morning sickness, urge to have delicious food all the time, tiredness etc were some of the usual symptoms not unknown for me. Like any curious mom, I read about various stages of pregnancy on the Internet along with the diet. There was one thing, which was completely overlooked and I didn’t give a second thought to it. My thought itself had got disturbed!
Everything got changed in my life. I hardly realized that my same house itself would feel completely new when I first entered it with my new born in lap. I felt as if I’m entering a new house even though I was acquainted with it. My brain had turned foggy!
Mommy Brain Events
I came across “mommy brain” term long before when I was at the edge of overcoming it. Initially, I thought that something permanently has gone wrong with me and got disturbed about it. It shook my confidence as well to some extent. It was not until I crossed that stage, I got my confidence back. Recollecting those moments make me realize how funny they were. I’m sure it’ll be the same for readers as well.
Before I start explaining about this peculiar term, let me share some of my experienced incidents, which are not airy notions spouted at all. It was my third trimester, when I went into the kitchen to boil the water, kept the utensil containing water on stove and retrieved back to my bedroom to take some rest. After 10 min when I went back to the kitchen I was clueless for water not getting boiled. In that confused state, I called up my husband to check what the issue was. Nevertheless, he quickly pointed out by staring at me in a sarcastic manner that water can never boil when the utensil is kept on stove without the burner on!
Post-partum memory loss was also believed to be one of the peculiar episodes. I opened the door of my house to receive the courier. The courier person gave me the sheet to sign it. He pointed out with his finger the exact column, where I was supposed to sign. After having a look at that column, I looked up at the person and gazed at him trying to remember my signature! He thought that I was having some doubt about it and clarified that I need to sign it. Gladly in that short span of time, I was able to recall my signature!
Probably the last subtle humorous occasion that I can call to mind was when my child was 3 years old. I went for his admission in school, where I was given the form. I quickly filled by child’s name and Date of Birth. As soon as I filled DOB of the child, I realized that I had put down my own! I glued my eyes to the form for whole one min and couldn’t recall his complete Date of Birth! Finally, I had to apply below formula to extract his Year of Birth as thankfully, I remembered his Date and Month of Birth:
Year of my marriage + 2 = My child’s Year of Birth
These events surely head us to the fact that becoming a mother does change not only her life and body but also her brain! Recent researches highlight the fact that hormonal changes in pregnancy and childbirth could affect brain function later in life. The phenomenon of forgetfulness or, spaciness is referred to as “mommy brain” or, “momnesia”, when it’s after giving birth or, “pregnancy brain” or, “baby brain”, if it’s during pregnancy. The process is permanent – brain alteration and not the brain fog. It’s a frustrating hallmark of pregnancy and motherhood. “Pregnancy and motherhood are life-changing events resulting in marked alterations in the psychology and physiology of a woman,” Dr. Liisa Galea said at the University of British Columbia. It makes difficult to sustain focus on any work. A mother is unable to manipulate and organize incoming information effectively. We know that a mother’s body changes visibly and hormonally during pregnancy and motherhood but changes inevitably happen with the mind as well.
Some of us might have heard from our mothers or, grandmothers during the time of pregnancy that it’s easier to give birth to a child that to raise it. I believe it’s equally difficult to give birth as well. With the neurological, psychological and hormonal changes in the body, mother’s brain circuitry is definitely impacted. No matter how hard a mother tries, she feels fuzzy and tongue-tied. Brain structure and function is changed on account of small but significant increase in the volume of gray matter. Brain areas such as hypothalamus, amygdala, parietal lobe and prefrontal cortex are seen altered. These areas of brain are the “motivation” areas and are responsible for emotion, reasoning, judgement, senses and reward behavior. It’s believed that such a change in “reward” centers of the brain lead to “protective” behavior of a mother, which urges her to more nurturing and bonding with her baby. This doesn’t mean that capacity of the brain is altered. A mother’s IQ doesn’t change but her priorities do!
Symptom of any syndrome poses an obvious question, which is to know the reason behind it. Why does a mommy brain exist? Is it solely because of the cocktail of hormones? Yes, but mommy brain is a byproduct of lack of sleep and utmost demand of caring the newborn – sleep being the most important. Any healthy person’s brain function, even if she’s not a mother, will get impacted if she’s suffering from chronic and relentless sleep deprivation. When a woman is not getting enough sleep and multi-tasking, then her memory cannot be sharp. Surging hormone levels and new priorities could contribute to sluggishness. Besides forgetfulness, irritability, mood swings, depression and anxiety also form symptoms for mommy brain. This syndrome of impaired memory could also affect cognitive performance particularly with complex “executive” brain functions like multi-tasking, planning, organizing etc. Louann Brizendine, MD, director of the Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic at the University of California, San Francisco, says, “Women accumulate up to 700 hours of sleep debt in the first year after having a baby, and that causes the brain not to be at its best for things other than caring for the baby.” Even the fragmented sleep which a new mommy gets is not sufficient because she’s not getting deeper or, more restorative stages of sleep. “Disrupted sleep patterns can cause a rise in cortisol levels,” says Jens Pruessner, director at the McGill Centre for Studies in Aging. Cortisol is a steroid hormone or, the more popularly known as “stress” hormone. Pregnant and post-partum moms have an excess of this hormone, which is necessary for fetal development and to give them the energy to endure the strains of giving birth. Cortisol not only provides energy to cope with any increase in demand or, any threat at hand but also shuts down the areas in the brain that would allow a person to think more clearly. This explains how a mommy cannot get back to sleep in the middle of night after soothing the baby to sleep again.
Some researchers also consider mommy brain as myth. Some claim that foggy-headedness goes hand in hand with motherhood. Many experts believe that it’s no longer a myth and attribute it to the upheaval of hormones, interrupted sleep patterns and/or, the requirement to quickly learn a wide array of new skills and tasks in order to take care of their babies.
I liked following hilarious quote while learning on mommy brain:
“Some people may think that I’m forgetful. However, I’m suffering from BMS – Busy Mom Syndrome.”
As mentioned by Ronda Byrne in “The Secret”, the more we think about something, the quicker Universe gives it back to us. So, for all those mothers out there, the more they are going to worry about mommy brain, worse would be the impact of it. Instead of worrying they can try following ways to lessen the influence of it:
Jot down points, whenever needed
Stay connected with friends or, join a community/book club etc
Try to take a good night sleep
De-stress yourself with yoga or, simple deep breathing relaxing mechanisms or, painting or, any other hobby of yours
Eat balanced diet emphasizing on fruits, vegetables, nuts, healthy fats, turmeric etc
Do less and do not focus on all the aspects of life. Cut down things, which you need to remember
Be physically active like walking, stretching, swimming etc
Lead a routine or, structured life by making every day activities as much well-organized as you can
Try some of the brain workouts like brain teasers, puzzles, logic problems etc. It’s preferable to learn some skill completely opposite of one is good at. Example, one can do drawing and painting even if she’s a bad artist
There’s nothing embarrassing about any of those “mommy brain” moments but to feel proud of being a woman who can perform one of the toughest jobs of the world, which is taking care of a baby!