PARENTS

Let's Reclaim 'Baby Brain'

14/08/2014 17:01 | Updated 20 May 2015

Let's reclaim baby brain

If you've recently gone out minus your handbag, sporting unbrushed hair, whilst leaving your keys swinging merrily in the front door, chances are that you're either pregnant or a new mum.

Let's face it, ladies: forgetfulness becomes your default setting when you're dealing with pregnancy exhaustion.

It only becomes worse once you're responsible for a demanding baby who won't sleep longer than three consecutive hours and requires 17 outfit changes a day.

During pregnancy, my beleaguered 'little grey cells' started giving up the ghost. Ordinarily hot on remembering birthdays, my Moonpig account began gathering dust. I missed a dentist appointment and mislaid my house keys three times.

It got progressively worse until my daughter arrived. From that point, my memory was a lost cause. Two years on, I'm still hopelessly absentminded.

i

'Oops, that'll be the baby brain,' is my mantra, as I stumble from one mishap to the next.

i

I regularly rush into a room, guns blazing, only for my mind to go blank as to what I was doing.

Then there was the time I trotted down our road, clutching a rubbish bag full of stinky nappies, which I was supposed to have deposited in the wheelie bin on my way out. I was almost at the bus stop before I noticed that I was still carrying it.

Still, it's nice to know that you're not alone....

"I put lip gloss on my eyelashes instead of mascara the other day," says Katie, who's five months pregnant with her second child.

Mum-of-one Michelle's lowest point involved taking the kitchen scissors out to the car instead of her car keys. "In that moment, I realised that I didn't have one single brain cell left," she laughs.

Then there's Claire, who strode off for a walk into town... in her slippers.

Mum-of-three Rebecca 'fesses up to accidentally grabbing another mum's empty pushchair at the school gates and setting off home with it and her two older kids. She was mortified to realise that she'd left her baby behind at the school gates in her actual buggy.

"Not my finest parental moment," she cringes.

Julia arrived home with her two toddlers after a day out to find that she'd left her front door wide open. Thankfully, no passing burglars had noticed, although a stray cat had taken up residence.

"The thing is, it wasn't the first time I'd done it," she admits.

Mum-of-two Kate says: "I put on a wash and stayed in to hang it up, only to find I'd put no clothes in."

"I found a four pack of loo roll in the freezer," says mum-of-one Rachel. "I have no idea how it got there."

New mum Paula admits: "I put my wedding ring through a cycle in the washing machine..."

"When I took my toddler swimming, I scrambled into my own costume into the changing room before rushing out to the poolside," says Sarah. "I only realised, after jumping into the pool, that I was still wearing my T-shirt over my costume. It was a very soggy walk home."

"I went to the park for a play date, leapt out of the car and got my daughter out before rushing off to meet our friends," explains mum-of-one, Kate. "Hours later, after a great day, we returned to the car and there was a policeman doing a check to see if it was a stolen vehicle. It turned out that I'd left the driver's door wide open...."

And new mum Anna accidentally exposed her left boob to a midwife, who was meant to be checking her C-section scar.

"I was exhausted and on breastfeeding autopilot so I just whipped my top open without thinking," she sighs. "She looked so shocked, I suddenly realised and said: 'Sorry, you didn't ask to see that, did you?'"

But top prize has to go to mum-of-two, Helen, who drove off before realising that she'd left her newborn in his car seat......still in her lounge.

My own most shameful memory lapse?

Forgetting to take a gift for my own child to her toddler group Christmas party, meaning that she was the only one without a present from Santa.

Thankfully, the group leader had brought a spare, but it was still an excruciating day for mummy guilt.

However, perhaps the 'I'm rubbish, me,' negativity needs to end here.

Because a new report claims that 'baby brain' isn't a poor excuse trotted out by befuddled mums.

According to scientists, becoming forgetful during pregnancy has a purpose - it helps us bond with our babies.

Rather than remembering piddling details, such as work deadlines and paying the gas bill, our brains show increased activity related to emotional skills during pregnancy.

i

This shift helps us fine tune intuition which helps us understand our baby's needs.

i

"Our findings give significant insight into the 'baby brain' phenomenon that makes a woman more sensitive during the child bearing process," says my new favourite person, Dr Victoria Bourne, who led the study at Royal Holloway, University of London.

"The results suggest that during pregnancy, there are changes in how the brain processes facial emotions that ensure that mothers are neurologically prepared to bond with their babies at birth."

Because, when you're bringing a brand new person into the world, your focus is solely on them. Feeding them, nurturing them, keeping them alive – that sort of thing.

It doesn't exactly leave much room for remembering dentist appointments.

i

But the phrase 'baby brain' is so patronising! Can't we find something better? How about 'overworked, undervalued, completely exhausted brain?'

i

Come on, mums. Let's reclaim such a belittling phrase and turn it around.

And, while we're at it, surely it's not just us women? There are plenty of new dads wandering in a fog of confusion, trying to recall what day it is.

It's not as though my own forgetfulness comes out of laziness. I'm just busy, like most parents.

A self-employed writer, I graft when my daughter's asleep. Tapping away on my keyboard until late, before getting up with the lark - and my toddler - is not conducive to an orderly mind.

And that's before you start on the tantrums (hers, not mine).

When you're trying to leave the house with a stroppy madam who refuses to get in the buggy because, actually, Mummy, she wants to wear the purple striped socks, not the pink spotty ones – you don't tend to think: "Ooh, I must remember to fetch those overdue library books from the kitchen worktop too..."

Most parents are just muddling along, trying not to slip up.

There's so much pressure to be constantly 'perfect'. But we're not battery operated androids, we're humans who make mistakes.

It's easy to get confused when you're being distracted. And let's face it, life with rowdy kids is one long distraction.

I may frequently appear in public with my cardi on inside out and I may forget to return people's calls. But when I'm with my daughter, she's my sole focus. I still wake up from a deep slumber, at 4am, when I hear her cry in the next room.

i

So let's stop dissing mums for being a bit dippy and celebrate our strengths and achievements instead.

i

All those packed lunches, washing loads, school runs and work meetings you power through on four hours of sleep...

Come on mums (and dads), can't you see how fantastic you are?

Baby brain? Whatever. Anyway, I can't hang about – my dentist requires an apology and I have library fines to pay.

More on Parentdish

Suggest a correction