After having a baby, you are filled with the most incredible range of emotions and hormones imaginable. You find yourself ping-ponging from ecstatic, to devastated, to aggravated, and back to joyful all in the space of an hour. It can be exhausting and you find yourself dreaming of the day that you get your old self back.
If you thought your pregnancy was a roller coaster of feelings, then buckle up and prepare for the ride actually having a baby will take you on.
Stage 1: Relief
Stage 2: Joy
Stage 3: Adrenaline
Stage 4: Stupidity
Where did my keys go?
The most common symptom of momnesia is forgetfulness. While there is no doubt that you are an intelligent, articulate, capable woman, being pregnant and having a baby can cause you to question whether or not this is indeed true. Take heart that this too is a phase, like so many others which we pass through when becoming a mother. The reasons behind what causes this sensation are diverse, and understanding what they are can help us to combat their negative effects.
It’s common knowledge that for new mothers, sleep is a rare commodity. The question of “how is your baby sleeping?” is most often to be met by a sideways look and a response of “don’t ask”. You may be breastfeeding your baby and taking on the full responsibility of your child’s night feeds. How can someone so little eat so much! Your baby may have colic or another condition which prevents them from getting consistent, restful sleep. This is a difficult and stressful challenge, which will hopefully improve with time as your baby continues to grow and develop. You may be suffering from depression or insomnia, both of which can be extremely taxing on your sleep and should be treated by your doctor. Whatever the reason you aren’t getting all of the z’s you need, it definitely adds up over time.
One piece of research suggests that women can lose up to 700 hours of sleep within the first year of their baby’s life.
This is the equivalent of approximately 2 hours per night1! It’s no surprise then that women during this time are more likely than ever to wear their shirt inside out while going to the grocery store.
The sheer weight of the responsibility for caring for another individual can feel incredibly daunting at times. Your extremely precious, perfect, vulnerable little child relies on you for practically everything they need from the moment they are born.
The desire and pressure women put on themselves to be the perfect mother and wife, coupled with the everyday stresses we all face, can lead to what is known as postpartum stress syndrome.
This is often characterized by a constant sense of disappointment in oneself, which can lead to damaging impacts on a person’s self-esteem. While the symptoms associated are generally less severe than those of postpartum depression, the remedies are much the same. With so much happening mentally and emotionally, it’s understandable that some details might slip through the cracks and lead to an episode of baby brain.
There are a lot of things about being a woman that is challenging. If a poll were done amongst women everywhere, one of the top difficulties would more than likely be hormones. Even the word “hormones” can bring with it a sense of dread given the potentially massive implications associated with their fluctuation.
There are several different kinds of hormones which play a role during this critical time in a woman’s life, with the various estrogens being chief among them.
The surge of estrogen levels throughout pregnancy help support the development of baby, via improving vascular health as well as nutrient absorption. Once the baby is born, those levels plummet to virtually non-existent as they are no longer required to such an extreme level. That rapid decrease in estrogen can lead to changes which have been correlated to diminished memory and attention span4. This, in turn, can bring on mild to severe cases of momnesia.
Changes to brain structure
It’s no surprise that there are physical changes associated with having a baby.
Every single part of your body is metamorphosed in pursuit of bringing a baby into the world.
But it might be surprising that even a woman’s brain structure would also change as a result. Studies have been done comparing the brains of women who have given birth to those who had not, as well as to men. It was found, in comparing these groups over a period of time, that the women who had given birth showed losses in brain gray matter. This loss occurred in several parts of the brain, including the hippocampus, which is the area that is associated with memory. Most surprisingly, the study went back and looked at the women who had children after 2 years and found that there was still brain matter loss! You may have a hard time remembering to pick up the milk from the supermarket, but at least now you have a justifiable reason.
A little dumber, but still me
It can be really hard to deal with the onslaught of changes during this turbulent time. You may feel like you don’t know who you are anymore, that you are no longer yourself. This simply is not the case. You have transformed into something unique and special.
You are now a mother. You have grown a baby, delivered it, and are now helping to raise her to be strong and confident.
Of course this is going to require some stretching and changing on your part. Some of these changes, such as your love and concern for your child, are permanent.
But many, including the lack of ability to keep two thoughts in your head, are only temporary.
Take heart that you are still you despite it all, but not only that, perhaps you are now a version of yourself who is even more whole.
Ride Nanny is designed for sleep deprived parents struggling to keep their thoughts together.
I know. You simply can’t identify with the fact that you might forget your child in a hot car. But that’s exactly what each parent who faced this tragic moment said as well. Protect your child from this distraction.
1Wigmore, Barry. “ Forgetfulness is a normal part of motherhood, say scientists.” Mail Online, Associated Newspapers Ltd., 4 March 2018, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-526329/Forgetfulness-normal-motherhood-say-scientists.html.
2Kleiman, Karen. “Postpartum Stress Syndrome?” The Postpartum Stress Center, The Postpartum Stress Center, LLC, 2014, https://postpartumstress.com/2014/01/31/postpartum-stress-syndrome/
3Healthline Editorial Team. “What Bodily Changes Can You Expect During Pregnancy?” Healthline, Healthline Media, 29 August 2017, https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/bodily-changes-during#hormonal-changes
4Marrs PhD., Chandler. “ Mommy Brain: Pregnancy and Postpartum Memory Deficits.” Hormones Matter, Lucine Health Sciences, 22 June 2017, http://www.hormonesmatter.com/mommy-brain-pregnancy-and-postpartum-memory-deficits/
5Wadman, Meredith. “ Pregnancy resculpts women’s brains for at least 2 years.” Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 19 December 2016, https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/12/pregnancy-resculpts-women-s-brains-least-2-years