When I was pregnant, along with the barrage of information I was bombarded with about my pregnancy, I was also told what my post-pregnancy life would look like. Diaper changes. Bodily fluids. Wine. Sleep and the lack thereof. My body and how it would deteriorate. And my brain. And how it would deteriorate.
Casual sites are founts of knowledge about “mom brain” – how mothers get dumber after having a baby. Not only could I kiss my abs goodbye, it seemed I could kiss my brain goodbye as well. While I tried not to dwell on it, I was a touch concerned nonetheless. You see, I have always considered myself to be smart. As a recent graduate, I drew pride from my high GPA. Now that I’ve been in the workforce for several years, I pride myself on my attention to detail and my ability to get things done quickly and accurately. If I were to believe the memes and the clickbait articles, I could expect all of that to disappear after pregnancy. I tried not to think about it.
October came and I gave birth to a child. My brain didn’t feel like my own immediately afterwards; I was anxious and overwhelmed. Perfectly understandable, I told myself. After all, I had been through a major life event and was trying to find my new center while caring for an extremely needy being.
January came and I returned to the workforce, to my male colleagues. I celebrated remembering how to label a balance sheet and congratulated myself on being able to uphold a conversation with adults again. I tried to catch-up on missed information and assimilate myself into the workflow as quickly as possible, brushing off the whole “mom brain” thing.
And then I started to forget things. My pump parts. An email that needed a follow-up. A project that I started two weeks ago. Things that, I thought to myself, I would have remembered pre-baby. I’ve always been one to write things down, so I took up that habit again. I thought back to those clickbait articles, but brushed off the thought. I attributed the issue to the fact that I just had so much more to remember now – daycare bag, milk, baby, myself, pump parts, work bag, milk cooler – every single day. If anything, my brain was working more, not less.
Writing things down helped with my memory, but then I started to find other problems. I felt like I was a step behind my colleagues. I wasn’t keeping up with the conversation. Questions regarding my work floated over my head in a way they never had before.
What if….. I thought.
After a couple of months, and Luffy’s prodding, I decided to do more thorough research into mom brain. I’m glad to report that, of course, the memes were sensationalized. I found that changes during pregnancy are real; researchers have found decreased gray matter in the brains of once-pregnant women. However, the changes in gray matter have more to do with making sure my brain gives me positive feedback (to the extreme degree) for taking care of my child. The changes make sure I’m hyper-attuned to my infant. So not dumber, just different. My new brain devotes more space to infant care than my pre-pregnant brain, but that’s about it.