Battling the Mom Brain and Pregnancy Forgetfulness

Any pregnant woman or new mother will be familiar with the “Mom Brain” – the forgetfulness we suffer from after getting pregnant that ensues for years even after our babies are born. It appears that there is controversy over the reality of the Mom Brain as to whether it is a fact or a myth. Based on the poll I have taken with my Mom friends, it is unanimously a fact and according to some experts, it is very real.

My memory has become so bad that it sometimes appears that I am as forgetful as a person with Alzheimer’s when it comes to remembering events and random “to do” lists. It has been so bad at times that Hubby has even sent me an Alzheimer’s link so I can check for the possibility that I might be developing early-onset Alzheimer’s. I’m glad to say that that’s been ruled out, nevertheless, the “Mom Brain” can really be disruptive at times, not to mention being the cause for many domestic arguments.

For instance, I forgot that I was meant to attend a morning coffee session to check out a preschool for Gareth on Friday morning and didn’t remember it until Friday night. I was supposed to pick up Gavin’s school shorts from his school and didn’t remember until the weekend before school was supposed to start. In my defense, I was pre-occupied with Gareth being sick with bronchitis, but rather than sounding like a victim with excuses, I figured it was time to step up my game a little and do something about it.

In a bid to battle the Mom Brain, I have been looking at brain training apps for the iPad and iPhone and brain exercises with the hope that they might help. Previously, after having Gavin, I have noticed that some simple brain training exercises have helped, but since having my second child, my brain has taken another dive into a bigger and deeper cavern of forgetfulness. I’m sick of bearing the brunt for my “Momnesia” and being labelled as incompetent because of it.

So I’ve been trying to analyse the symptoms to define the specifics of my memory loss and I realise it isn’t the entire memory bank that’s been burnt. Moms suffer from memory loss, but it isn’t from all types of memory loss or so it seems for me. For instance, when I remember facts that I have read about early childhood development and usually where I read them from. Even if I can’t remember, I have a vague recollection of the details of where it might have been from – from a book, the Internet, heard it from another mother, etc. The things I forget are not completely forgotten, for instance, I might forget to call a friend to check the details of an event during the day, but I will remember at night after everyone has gone to bed. But by the next morning, I’ll have forgotten again.

To see if there is a pattern to the types of things I forget, here is a list of some things I have forgotten on more than one occasion or have forgotten recently, aside from the shorts and the preschool coffee morning I mentioned above:

  • forget to check the diaper bag if it needs a diaper refill
  • forget to take the water bottles out with us (although at some point when I’m getting ready, I’ll remember but I will have forgotten by the time I get around to collecting all the things for the car)
  • forget to put Gareth’s shoes in the car (so now I’ve made it a habit to keep a spare pair in my car – unfortunately, this doesn’t solve the problem when we go out in someone else’s car)
  • forgot to tell hubby about my car window getting stuck so he could fix it
  • forget to take my drink off the roof of the car after buckling the baby in the carseat (lucky I remember before driving off or some kind passerby points it out to me)

And that’s about all I can remember right now which means squat since my memory is in question anyway, but here are a few more (I had fun reading these – makes me feel less alone):

  • Why can’t I keep a thought in my head, or even get dressed without putting on two different color socks! – The Cradle
  • You find yourself at the grocery store with no grocery list, you forget to call the plumber three days in a row, and somehow the diaper bag has… no diapers. – The Cradle
  • I checked out an audiobook from my library last week.  Two minutes later, I rested it on the trunk of my car while I buckled my daughter in her car seat.  Three minutes later, it was cartwheeling under the chassis of an 18-wheeler on the highway. – Belle Squeaks
  • Leaving the gas stove burner on.  While I run errands.  For two hours.  And arriving home to find a lovely blue flame illuminating my kitchen. – Belle Squeaks
  • Cutting my fingernails.  Or nine fingernails.  I forget to cut the tenth.  There it is—one ring finger talon next to nine other stubs. – Belle Squeaks
  • I get in the shower and after 10 minutes, I forget if I washed my hair or not, and I only shave one leg sometimes. I first noticed it during my second pregnancy and it has gotten worse. It definitely may be related to sleep deprivation and the constant demands of motherhood, but I also fear that it could be early-onset Alzheimer’s (looks like hubby isn’t the only one who thinks it’s Alzheimer’s). – WedMD
  • One mother accidentally left an ATM card in the machine and drove off with the coffee cup perched on the car roof after buckling in her baby. She also knows of a mom who left the gas station with the hose still in her car. – Modern Babies and Children

You can find more real life examples here.

So what causes it? The experts who agree that it exists put it down to:

I would like to add that having young children around doesn’t help because they tend to distract you from the things you need to remember. Not to mention that it is also been shown in a study that the sound of whining is more distracting than many other noises.

Some time back, I read an article that talked about research comparing the memories of mothers and non-mothers and finding no statistical difference between them. In the study, they said that the key difference between mothers and non-mothers was noted when they asked all the subjects to mail a stamped, self-addressed envelope back to the researchers the following day. Most of the non-mothers remembered to post the envelope, while most of the mothers forgot. They attributed the Mom Brain to mothers having too many things to keep track of which leads to the forgetfulness we often associate with the Mom Brain.

So the general recommendation for solutions are:

  • if you need to remember it, write it down
  • get more sleep (which may or may not be possible)
  • try to reduce the number of things you’re doing and take it easier on yourself (also may or may not be possible)

These are some ideas, but they were not exactly the answers I was looking for. Is it possible to function optimally without having to take things down a notch?  In other words, can we enlarge our brain capacity? Perhaps we can… Something I read in The Brain that Changes Itself gives me hope. It is about rewiring the brain to sharpen perception and memory, and increase the speed of thought but more about that later. Now, it’s time for sleep…

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