No matter what you call it; Baby Brain, Momnesia, Post Partum Depletion or Pregnancy Brain there is one thing that is for sure…its real! I’m sure you have felt it before? You’re having a conversation with another adult and the words are on the tip of your tongue but you just can’t seem to find them. Maybe you have been in a deep conversation and you find yourself in lala land. Or perhaps you got at least six to eight hours of sleep and you can’t figure out why you can’t wake yourself up in the morning? I’ve heard lots of fun stories from calling kids by the wrong names to leaving coffee on the roof of the car. It’s at times humorous and other times frustrating. You are not alone though; many mom’s out there are having or have experienced similar issues.
Let me start off by explaining what I’m talking about in more professional terms: Baby Brain often referred to as Post Natal Depletion in the medical world is a sensation that encompasses the symptoms of having difficulty concentrating, poor memory, and emotional lability (emotional roller coaster.) There is often a feeling of isolation, vulnerability, and of not feeling “good enough.” Many women experience these symptoms which are completely understandable and accompanied by the extremely demanding task of being a mother from the perspective of both childbearing and raising children.
By all means I don’t want to come across as complaining about the sacrifices of being a mom because the altruism of motherhood is what makes it so beautiful. I also hope that mom brain isn’t confused as a disease but rather a life experience. I have definitely struggled with Mom Brain a lot, especially after having my second son!
I found it strange that even after getting adequate sleep I was still tired and couldn’t jump out of the bed ready to start the day like I used to. I found myself needing coffee in IV form. Even after 6 months of completing breast feeding my hair was still thinning. I couldn’t believe how much hair was coming out in my hair brush. My stress level and ability to handle simple tasks felt overwhelming and tedious at times. Some days my kids would leave me questioning whether I was good at being a mom. It was then that I finally started to see the toll of having two pregnancies back to back.
As most women do, I shared my frustrations and setbacks with my closest friends and found they were experiencing similar problems. These conversations inspired me to research and better understand what causes postnatal depletion and how it can be managed better. Over the past year I have been hosting professional presentations on this topic as a way to support moms and to let them know they are not alone.
It’s import to understand the symptoms that are associated with baby brain: fatigue and exhaustion, tired on waking, falling asleep unintentionally, hyper-vigilance aka tired and wired, sense of guilt and shame around the role of being a mom, feelings of frustration or being overwhelmed, loss of libido and the big one…trouble with memory.
Research has found a few causes for this phenomenon. The big ones are societal pressure and the perceived notion that mother’s have to do it all and be SUPER MOM. Women are having babies later in life and a great deal of mom’s are starting at a depleted starting point; especially when it come to not having enough recovery time after a previous birth. Other important factors include mothers of infants and toddlers being severely sleep deprived. Research has also found that 21 century environmental pollutants and issues with food becoming increasingly nutrient poor also play a role.
So where should women start in beginning to feel like themselves again? There are four important areas to focus on: purpose, sleep, activity and nutrition. Purpose is probably the least obvious answer. We need to look beyond the fast paced day of the modern mom, who on a daily basis is balancing so much on her plate that she has no time for soul searching. Finding purpose is about following your heart and doing want you love and are passionate about. Not only is purpose refreshing for you but your kids will see this in you and understand the importance of talents, hobbies and activities that make your heart sing.
Sleep…I know what you are thinking; this is a battle you will never win. Sleep is something in the long distance future that is unattainable. In some ways it is true, sleep deprivation might be a phase in your life in which getting the recommended hours of sleep is impossible. While I understand this, I also know that I personally have failed to put sleep as a priority. There is cleaning to do or night time is the only free time. I highly suggest trying to get to bed a little earlier in the night because the chores can wait. It took me a long time to stop feeling guilty to cuddle with my kids and enjoy naptime with them. One motto that I live by is “it takes a village to raise a kid.” Never feel bad about calling in the reinforcements whether it’s your hubby, grandparents or friend when you need to reenergize.
The last two recommendations of staying active and keeping a nutritious diet are pretty simple; however, often over looked. I can’t tell you how many times I have been in a rush and forgot to eat breakfast. I remember joking with one of my mom groups about a meal consisting of the kid’s leftover food. It’s important to listen to your body and stay hydrated and eat a balanced diet. If you struggle with getting the vitamins and minerals your body needs, ask your doctor about taking a daily supplement. Also, make sure that you are keeping up with your health and wellness. We take our children to a dozen of doctors appointments with in the first year of their life yet often over look our own recommended yearly physical or gynecological appointment. Exercise is also very important. Not only does exercising keep you strong and fit but it releases endorphins aka your body’s natural happy juice.
While much of what I’m talking about today is completely normal; I want to take a brief moment to address post partum depression. Post partum depression is a very serious and real diagnosis. If you or anyone you know shows that following signs professional help should be sought: lack of interest in own children, negative feelings towards family life, worrying about hurting loved ones, lack of concern for self or ability to provide self care, loss of pleasure, lack of energy and motivation, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, extreme changes in appetite or weight and recurrent thoughts of worthlessness, suicide or self-harm.
The most essential thing about this is article is to stress the importance of self-care. Have you been on an airplane and heard the flight attendant tell you to put on your oxygen mask first? The immediate response is “No way! I need to take care of my kids or loved ones first.” The idea clashes with our instincts. Our tendency is to do for others first because we are caring, loving, nurturing, responsible, supportive by nature. However, just like the oxygen mask, we need to take care of ourselves so we can effectively take care of the people we love. Why is this so important? The answer is simple because of the risk of burning out as results of neglecting self-care. If you think about it is like a neglected car over a period of time, if you do not change the oil, rotate the tires or provide it with basis maintenance your car would run at its best and eventually it will break down. The same goes for a caregiver.
Here is a list of a few ideas that don’t too much time or money:
Take a relaxing bath
Go for a walk
Read for pleasure
Pray or Meditate
Complete a cross word puzzle or Sudoku page
Give yourself a mani/pedi
Go out for a girl’s night
Learn to say no when people ask you to do too much
Write a daily gratitude list
Engage in a hobby such as knitting or scrapbooking
Indulge in eating a piece of gourmet chocolate
Talk on the phone with a girl friend
What your favorite movie from back in the day