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Does baby brain exist?

What is baby brain? Is it a debilitating condition that turns your brain to mush or is it an excuse for when you’re not on par?

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I can’t deny I’ve had my share of baby brain moments. Such as when I put a whole toilet roll in with the washing the week after baby was born and when I dented my brand new car by literally driving into a parked van. There has definitely been a post-baby change to my brain where at times I wonder what has happened to my mental state of mind. I actually hope baby brain is real because it’s nice to have something to blame – I’m not actually going mad, allegedly.

The good news is that as my baby has got a bit older, my moments of baby brain-ness have reduced. This increase in mental strength has got me thinking and I’ve developed a theory on baby brain…

I don’t believe that mums’ brains are being turned to mush. I think that mums’ brains are being filled with so much more information and are being used so much more, we’re actually displacing our old knowledge. A theory I’m calling BBD – baby brain displacement.

Learning how to look after a baby takes a lot of time, concentration and (without realising it) brain capacity. Your senses are heightened and you not only need to look after yourself but need to become automatically atuned to looking after another human being. We’ve all heard of a mother’s instinct. I think that this is something that your brain actually builds and develops. In the same way that your body is tired while you’re pregnant because it’s supporting another life, your brain is bound to become fatigued when it’s learning to do the exact same thing once baby is born.

Think about how much more you do when you’re a mum:

– Even when you’re asleep your mind is on alert for baby. In the early days, even the semi-silent sound of baby wriggling and opening their mouth can be enough to stir you from slumber. If that’s not instinct, what is?

– Your day takes meticulous planning. You have a 10am music class followed by a play date. You’re up at 7am (if you’re lucky) so surely you can get out in three hours? Routine: Up, nappy, bottle, breakfast, wash, dress, nappy, desperately try to help baby fall asleep so they’ve napped and are not therefore grumpy making any outing pointless, get yourself washed, dressed, sterilise bottles, pack changing bag with nappies, spare clothes, bottles, milk, muslins, wipes, clean dummies (once hunted for), toys and books to entertain, lunch (once you’ve figured where you’ll be and will they heat it). Then another bottle, set up the pram, leave the house, return immediately for a dirty nappy requiring a full change of clothes. Leave again – this time needing to run because you’re so late…already thinking about the next feed and nap.
Think we just rolled out of bed and leisurely rocked up drinking tea and eating cake? No, this was a military operation.

– When you’re doing something seemingly simple such as walking down the street, you’re not only concentrating on the task in hand but are on high alert for any hazard and foreseeing any potential danger or accident; there’s a pot hole at five paces, dog poo at eight paces, pebbles to be picked up at 16 paces, steps to mount at 20 paces, is that the sound of a car? Will that patch of gravel trip baby over? Is baby about to make a run for it? Will not crossing the road to pet a doggie make them roll on the floor in a tantrum rage? Do I bash the car that’s parked on the pavement with the wheels of the buggy? Wait, it’s tea time in 10 minutes and we’re 15 minutes away from home! And all this while singing wheels on the bus on a continuous loop.

– Then there are the endless to-do lists which circulate in your head and the panic of when you’ll get stuff done. If baby naps for only 40 minutes, can I wash and sterilise the bottles, clean up after breakfast, boil the kettle for tea, shower, change, make the bed, do the washing, pack the car ready to go out…oh and catch up on precious sleep? Not really. No wonder the tea never gets drunk hot!

– And don’t forget you’re doing all of this while being physically tortured by sleep deprivation. Fuelled by (cold) caffeine and as much cake as you can lay your hands on, you have to perform like a super hero when you’re so tired you could sleep standing up.

So the next time you try to put yourself down by worrying about having baby brain, think about the amazing feats you perform every single day in caring for, nuturing, feeding and entertaining your baby. All this with no experience, training, guidance or sleep. If you do have a “baby brain” moment, it’s not that you’re losing your mind. That piece of information has just been justifiably displaced.

What do you think of this theory? Leave a comment below or say hello on Facebook or Twitter.

Like this blog post? Read these:
Post baby: why I changed
Things parents do they’re not proud of

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It’s not all about you baby – but shouldn’t it be?

I’m sad to say that I’ve heard a lot of parents shouting at their children this week. I don’t mean shouting for their temperattention or the panic shout of NOOOO when a toddler tries to poke their finger into an electric socket. I mean really shouting. And there’s been one phrase I’ve heard more than most – “It’s not all about you”.

I’m not sure why this phrase has been particular prevalent. Maybe the amount of tempers I’ve heard flaring is more to do with the quantity of parents and children crammed into soft play centres and parks with it being the Easter holidays. But I do find it uncomfortable when I hear some parents telling off their children. I’m not perfect and at times I do lose my cool with my toddler’s fiercely independent and tempestuous nature – such as when she refused to hold my hand on the zebra crossing last week so decided to have a tantrum and lie down in the middle of the road with an audience of oncoming cars.

I try not to judge any parent and I understand how frustrating parenthood can be but there are some incidents that I think are totally unnecessary and I do pity the child. Such as when I saw a parent grab their little girl and drag her whole body by the arm across the pavement and into a Greggs shop because she was dawdling instead of walking and had fallen down. Or on a packed train when a mum screamed at her boys: “shut the hell up and sit your bum down”. I could see other passengers visibly wince and bite their lip from intervening. I don’t know what the boys were doing but the screaming was constant and the fact that it was loud from the other end of the carriage says it all.

Maybe these parents had their reasons. Maybe they were having a really bad day. But how are we supposed to expect these children to respond after being treated like this no matter what they’ve done to “deserve” it? I appreciate it’s difficult to think rationally when your temper is frayed and you’re being led by emotion but does anyone really think these children will respond well? That they’ll suddenly stop playing up and act angelically because they’ve been screamed at or dragged down the street? Can you imagine how you would act if someone treated you like this and we’re adults who are capable of processing and understanding the situation?

When did we start treating other humans – and most importantly, our own babies – without the respect that they deserve? Maybe this is naive of me but I can only hope that when these parents calmed down, they apologised to their children for their violent reactions.

As for the phrase I’ve heard so often this week; “it’s not all about you”. Two of these occasions were in response to very young children calling to their mummy to watch them whiz down the slide or to chatter to them while the mum was trying to read OK! magazine at soft play. As I’ve said, I’m sure there were reasons for not wanting to engage with their children at that moment. Maybe they’ve been up all night. Maybe all they want is one minute of peace in the mayhem of a hectic day. But if they saw the disappointment in their child’s face like I did, I think they’d reconsider. Because surely as a child, it is all about you. All they know is their world – and they are at the centre of it. They don’t have the comprehension that someone might want to do something selfish, even when it’s as simple as visit the toilet by themselves or sit down and eat a hot meal or sleep for more than two hours straight. It’s our role as parents to embrace this, be patient and nurture our children as they learn and grow. I’m probably being a bit too preachy but I’ve been so touched this week by this phrase. I look at my toddler and I don’t mind that she thinks life is all about her at the moment. Because to me, it is.

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The 18 stages of a baby lie-in

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It’s not often you get a lie-in with a baby. You may dream about it and obsess about the extra minutes (hours) of sleep you so desperately need.

Naively you analyse how long baby napped today and how they were late settling for bed – you assure yourself they’re bound to wake up a bit later tomorrow. Unfortunately, with babies logic never prevails.

But rarely, just occasionally, baby does miraculously sleep through their usual internal alarm clock and you are allowed to actually wake up naturally. Today we slept in until 9am!!! An actual baby miracle. I won’t lie, it was amazing. But I fell into the baby sleep trap which gets me every time…the 18 stages of reacting to a baby lie in:

1. Start to come around blissfully slowly but something feels strange.

2. Sit up bolt upright – what on earth is the time?!

3. Check the clock in disbelief.

4. Do a silent dance of jubilation.

5. Lay perfectly still wondering if you can get away with another snooze. Or maybe you should treat yourself to a baby-free shower or hot cup of tea?

6. No, definitely don’t move. Baby will sense it and wake up. You need to relish this feeling of being vaguely rested.

7. You need to wee. No, hold it in. It’s not worth waking the baby to go.

8. Hmmm, it’s funny that baby has slept so long. Hope they’re ok.

9. Baby is really quiet in there, surely they can’t still be sleeping.

10. Hope nothing is wrong.

11. Stealthily sneak to baby’s door and listen to the silence.

12. Become overcome with concern. You really need to check they’re ok.

13. Slowly turn the door handle and peep your head in – all achieved without making a single noise. Baby is of course fine and fast asleep. Relief.

14. Repeat military precision of closing door without a sound, tip toe back into bed. Put head on pillow and let out a relaxed sigh.

15. Baby cries. You’ve woken them up. Dammit. Bad parent.

16. Spend the day telling everyone about your amazing lie-in from your wonderful genius baby and enjoy your new-found energy from having actually slept.

17. Wonder if this is the start of a new era of baby sleep time? Maybe you can stay up past 10pm this evening – enjoy a glass of wine and being a grown up? You can totally work with this new routine!

18. At 6am the following day realise it’s not. Back to it then.

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Holiday at Bluestone – How baby made me love rainy days

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This month, I was lucky enough to have a week’s family holiday at Bluestone Wales*.

Living near Cardiff, I’m familiar with Bluestone. And as our babies grow, more and more of my mummy friends are becoming familiar with Bluestone. In fact, I think we’re now starting to border on obsession. One mum will casually mention that they’ve booked a visit and all of us will look at her with immediate envy. I’m sure I’m not the only one that logs on to the Bluestone website later that day to check out the latest special offers.

My husband and I visited Bluestone in March last year with our baby who was then just seven months old. However, we were struck down with the curse of the baby ear infection. And no matter how hard we tried to relax and savour the holiday, we couldn’t help but succumb to our concern and exhaustion from round-the-clock baby comforting.

A year on, we returned. To say we were desperate for a holiday is an understatement. We counted down the days until our week of escape where we could spend every moment as a family without work, housework, credit card bills and the endless other chores and stresses of everyday life.

As the week approached, as did the certainty of the weather forecast; one day of sunshine and four days of heavy rain. Now, I’m someone who thrives on sunshine and passionately hates the rain – especially on holiday. Not to sound too dramatic but the thought of a holiday in the rain brings me bitter disappointment.

However, something changed in me on this trip to Bluestone. I watched my toddler’s unbridled joy at being on holiday – even in the rain. Encased in her new romper, she bounded about from puddle to puddle with glee. She squealed with delight as the wind blew in her face and the rain splattered down on her outstretched palms. Her most favourite thing on the holiday was the outdoor lazy river at the site’s Blue Lagoon swimming pool. She constantly pointed at it and when we started to get pulled in by the flow of water, her couldn’t contain her excitement and thrashed her entire body about in our arms shrieking. One thing was clear, no matter what the weather, she could not have been happier.

I quickly realised how old and boring I had become by the very nature of being an adult. My toddler’s emphatic enjoyment transformed my entire outlook and we didn’t waste a moment.

I’m not saying we played out in the rain all week but we certainly didn’t let it dampen our spirits. While there’s plenty of exploring to be done outside at Bluestone – especially with the whole of Pembrokeshire on the doorstep – there’s also lots for rainy days. And we crammed in as much as possible – laughing as we dashed through the rain to the swimming pool or the Adventure Centre with baby giggling and kicking her legs against the rain cover on the buggy. (Although part of me suspected she was laughing at us mugs out in the rain while she laid back in her dry, snug chariot and we affectionately nicknamed her Lady Muck for the week).

Pre-baby, if you’d have told me that a rainy week in West Wales would have been one of the best family holidays, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. I’m actually now a little ashamed that I’d had such a spoiled and dull attitude in the first place. Sometimes you get so caught up in being a grown up with a set of likes and dislikes and being set in your ways that you actually forget how to let go. I’m so proud how my tiny little girl has taught me such a valuable lesson – to forget myself, to challenge life’s boundaries and to embrace every moment. So as corny as it sounds, thank you baby girl and thank you Bluestone.

* Note: I was lucky enough to be a guest of Bluestone Wales for this holiday. Visit my blog next week for a full review.

If you read this blog, you may also like: 10 Signs You’re on Holiday with a Baby

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Post Baby – Why I’ve changed

So your friend has had a baby. Are you thinking any of the following?

“She’s changed”

“She never answers the phone and takes three days to reply to my texts”

“All she talks about is the baby”

“She’s replaced me for her new mummy friends”

Well, let me speak up for all the new mums who are too polite and frankly don’t have the time to defend themselves.

Having a baby changes absolutely everything. I was convinced things only really changed if you let them – and there were so many things that I certainly wouldn’t let change. I now mock the old me who must have lived in a fantasyland.

This BB (before baby) me planned to keep up an active social life; I would go out on Fridays while my husband stayed in and we’d swap on Saturdays. Why wouldn’t that work?

I thought we could keep up our schedule of visiting our baby-free couple friends around the country or hosting them. I knew that the itinerary for the weekend visits would obviously change but couldn’t see why we couldn’t sustain these visits. After all, babies sleep in cars and what else are travel cots for? Right?

I was also incredibly naïve as to think I may have time to fill during maternity leave. A year was a long time and I like always having something to do; this would be the ideal opportunity to decorate the house, sign up to a course and do those little tasks like I never got around to doing such as putting my thousand photographs into albums. I’d definitely be able to do that.

So, how has it all worked out? I haven’t achieved anything during my maternity leave which hasn’t been caring for the immediate needs of my baby; my landing is half painted and my drawer is still stuffed with photographs. I think I managed to go out twice in the first six months. We visited our friends once but what used to be a three hour drive turned into seven hours of torment – screaming, multiple stops, exploding nappies and sick. The thought of a long journey now still genuinely fills me with fear.

However, what perhaps I don’t realise is that everyone I’ve left behind in my BB fantasyland must still have the same assumptions I did and now think I’ve either gone nuts or become a very bad friend.

The reality is that there is no time in my life anymore. If you are baby free, you can’t fully understand. But trust me. New mums are not trying to edge their old friends out of their baby bliss-filled lives. We are chronically time (and sleep) deprived.

It’s not necessarily that being a mum is difficult – although it is at times – it’s the intensity of the job. Some days we can’t shower or even eat anything until tea time. We’re not deliberately ignoring your missed call or text, it’s just further down the list of priorities than trying to keep our babies and ourselves alive because we don’t have a clue what we’re doing and while it sounds dramatic, at times it really does feel like all we’re trying to do is survive!

I miss my old friends; really miss them. Of course we’re still friends but I don’t get to see them as much as I used to. And it’s really sad. So this is my plea to all baby-free friends:

We’re sorry we can’t be as good a friend as we used to be. Our lives have changed beyond recognition; we’re struggling to learn how to look after a little tiny person and we are so so so tired. But please understand that you are still wanted and needed perhaps more now than ever. Do you know how many mums I meet who feel lonely and are desperate for the support of a friend? Please keep on calling us. Please don’t stop inviting us out. Please come and visit us. Just bring cake.