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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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Happy Mother’s Day: How much our mums really did for us

Happy Mother's Day

When I was a child, I looked forward to Mother’s Day. Each year I would enthusiastically make my mum a card, shout at her to stay in bed while I made her (burnt) toast and wrap the garish addition to the fireplace I’d insisted I wanted to bestow on her; for some reason I had an obsession with brass and thought a pair of brass bunnies and a brass teapot would look particularly stylish in our lounge.

One year, I remember asking why there wasn’t a “Children’s Day” – after all mummies and daddies had their day. My mum’s friend laughed and replied that every day was Children’s Day. I wasn’t impressed with this answer and I didn’t understand it either. I thought it would be nice for us as children to be spoiled for the day and waited on hand and foot. I’d forgotten about comment until today and it’s made me laugh at how naive I was.

As I grew up, I appreciated what my mum did for me but it hasn’t been until becoming a mummy myself that I truly appreciate just how hard this job was. And how in fact she deserved far more than one day of celebration a year. Now I understand more than ever how much my mum went through for me, how much she loved me and how much she did for me. And it’s amazing. So thank you mum and happy Mother’s Day.

Here’s just a snapshot into what our mums – and us as mums – willingly and happily go through:

1. Pregnancy: a glowing and wonderful experience but also plagued with being kicked in the stomach, trying to get to a toilet before you vomit next, carrying up to two stones in weight all day and being so tired you cry at having to walk 20 paces and having giant feet.

2. Labour: An unpredictable and un-quantifiable period of sustained pain, knowing it can only end with one thing….

3. Childbirth: Say no more.

4. Breastfeeding: Getting the hang of having an infant chomping on your body is no mean feat.

5. Baby blues: A cocktail of hormones and emotion after birth leaves you weepy for no apparent reason when you know you should be happier than ever. Thanks nature.

6. Goodbye independence: From now on you are no longer an individual – you come with a baby. Of course you love it but you can’t help but miss a little bit of freedom – for instance, when you need to eat, visit the loo, shower…. it’s not as if you want to spoil yourself.

7. Sleep deprivation: A recognised insidious form of torture. You do cope remarkably well but at times you do feel that you’re bordering on actual insanity.

8. 24-hour service: Tending to the immediate needs of a newborn literally around the clock. And there’s no day off. You’re filled with genuine confusion for what on earth you used to do with all that free time before you had a baby. Seriously, what did I do?

9. Irrational fear: Baby has a cold / rash / ear infection / dry skin / *insert any other problem here* – WHAT DO I DO!? You have no idea what’s really wrong or how to make it better. Best visit the doctor…again! I also developed a paranoia / fear that I would drop baby on the hard kitchen floor so would cling on to her for dear life just in case!

10. Career freeze: You work hard during your twenties to build a career…then have no choice but to walk away from it for an extended period of time to have a baby. Of course it’s illegal to discriminate mums in the workplace but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen under the legal radar. Did you know that a quarter of mums report feeling discriminated against and a third say they find it “impossible” to climb the career ladder?

11. Overwhelming love: Your life changes beyond all recognition when you have a baby but with it comes a fierce, all-encompassing and fierce love that you never could have imagined. It makes you vulnerable but also gives you super-human powers as you could – and would – do literally anything for that tiny little being without them ever needing to ask.