Since becoming a parent, I sometimes worry that the range of my topics of conversation has narrowed a little. I can chat for ages about the merits of one kind of nappy over another, but since I can’t even remember the last time I went to the cinema, let alone what it was I saw, there is little chance I’ll be discussing the latest blockbusters. As for bands I’ve been to see in concert or clubs I’ve been to… sadly these are distant memories at the moment. So I have been transformed into some kind of “nappy head” who can only concentrate for short periods before being distracted by my children.
The other thing that has happened is my short term memory has been blasted into pieces. House keys? Not quite sure where they are. Paid the milk bill? How about the car tax? Um…
Baby brain has well and truly set in.
Two things in particular have happened to me to confirm without doubt that “baby brain” exists. One is amusing, one less so and far more expensive:
Before Alt.D2 was born (about 48 hours before she was born in fact) I managed to drive the new car, less than two weeks old, into a carpark bollard. Said bollard was, somewhat ironically for a baby brain induced incident, in the carpark of the local maternity unit. Alt.D1 said “don’t cry, mummy” and Alt.Father said “that’s what insurance was invented for…”. That was the expensive one.
In a former life I worked in an office, and often had to collate papers, stapling, hole punching and filing. One afternoon shortly before I went on maternity leave with Alt.D1, I had a big stack of papers to sort. I dropped into a rhythm of clip, punch, file, clip, punch, file, when the stapler came to a stop. Having sought out new staples and re-filled, I picked it up to start again. “Oh hang on…” I thought, “best check there are enough holes in the hole-punch…” Luckily, as soon as the thought entered my head, the one that immediately followed it pointed out that I was obviously losing my marbles!
A great friend of my dad’s used to claim that mothers give half of their brain to their first child, and half of what is left to the next, and so on with each subsequent baby. That doesn’t hold much hope for mums of large families, does it? I did wonder whether there was a good reason for this apparent deterioration of our intelligence, and apparently there is. Our baby brains are supposed to make us better mothers!
While women are pregnant, according to research by Professor Laura Glynn, our brains start to filter out the unimportant stuff, so that we can focus on our new baby. This makes sense to me. A child’s reliance on its parents is so important that it seems logical that we should evolve some way of ensuring we concentrate on their needs first. Of course as parents we want to put the children first, but this goes beyond conscious decisions about who gets the last piece of cake or who wins at Snap. This is something much deeper.
I haven’t been able to find out whether it’s true or not, but I was once told that film makers use the sound of a newborn baby’s piercing cry as a subliminal sound effect in scary movies. This is designed to make us feel on edge, nervous and anxious. If their cries are being used to this effect by others, it stands to reason that new babies are pretty good at drawing our attention. “Look at me,” they are saying, “I have requirements that need to be met!”
All of this seems to be telling me that being a parent is so much more than a full time job. We are meant to become totally absorbed, and keeping conversations going on other subject matter, sometimes on any subject matter goes way down the list of priorities. Maybe that’s how it should be. Babies are little for such a short space of time that a few months of fuddle-headedness seems a small price to pay. Perhaps we should step back and take time out to just listen and be there, learining about our babies and how they fit into our world.
I’m pleased to say that the garage did an excellent repair job on the car – you would never know! In the meantime, I think I shall invest in a notice board and rediscover my love of to-do lists If only I could remember where I left my pen…
I’d love to hear about any of your baby-brain related incidents. Please do click on the comments link below and leave me a message!