Where is my mind?

I used to be quite clever (maybe not modest, but kind of smart). I had a great memory. My deductive abilities were just dandy. I liked my brain and relied on it. In many ways my intellect defined me but somewhere in the last five years that has failed to be true; my brain has failed me.

These days, I can’t remember what my schedule is like from one day to the next (and it’s not like I have a hectic schedule at the moment!).

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. In one week ….

  • I had to return home three times to collect the library books. I knew that they were due. I had fully planned to go to the library after collecting Rose from school. I packed the bag the night before. And then forgot to take the damn bag with me. Again and again.
  • I got confused about the date, and almost missed Mou’s birthday.
  • I missed TWO pediatrician’s appointments. The first got lost in the flurry to make up for getting the Birthday date wrong, The second, I was convinced that the appointment was at 2pm, when it was actually at 11am.
  • Same thing with a work meeting that I had scheduled for Monday. I was totally convinced it was on Tuesday and missed it entirely. A great way to re-establish my on-hold career.
  • Not to mention driving my car into the gate. I’ve lived in this house for eight years and have never done that before. In the past four months, I have twice reversed out the driveway without opening the gate!

My brain is a traitor! It can no longer be relied it. It feeds me false information. I am bereft!

What happened? you ask.

No, I didn’t have a catastrophic brain injury. I don’t have an appalling degenerative neurological disorder. I haven’t consumed vast amounts of alcohol or other mind-altering substances. I simply had two children.

Five years after Rose’s birth, my brain was still not back to normal and now, five months after Fynn’s birth, I feel like some kind of ancient computer – sluggish, unreliable and bound to reboot at any moment. I simply cannot trust my brain at all. Even a simple five item shopping list requires massive effort to remember. Weirdly, I can remember it just fine until I walk into the store and am bombarded with tonnes of sensory information. At that point the list melts away into the ether.

I can’t blame sleep deprivation. My beautiful baby sleeps through the night and has done since about 6 weeks.

I can’t blame lack of stimulus as I have been intentionally exercising my brain with online brain games, suduko, crossword puzzles, word games etc. For the most part, these go just as I would expect them to if my brain is behaving “normally”. However the brain games are enlightening. I’ve being trying out Lumosity and contrary to my expectations have scored quite highly on the memory challenges but I score really poorly on the attentiveness challenges. In short, my focus is split. Hm.

So what do I do? Do I just accept this new status quo and mourn the loss of my former sharper self? Do I hope that time will restore my mental accuity? I’m taking Omega supplements now. I’m exercising my brain. What else can I possibly do? It’s not as if I can undo having babies (or that I would want to!)

Of course, I’ve had to ask myself whether mommy brain is a “real” biological phenomenon or whether it’s (merely!) a social phenomenon that results from increased demands on one’s time and head space. I started to read up on so-called “mommy brain”, the phenomenon that new mothers experience whereby their ability to remember things, concentrate and pay attention is shot but the research was far too intimidating (and the baby was crying), so I called upon one of my science-trained GP colleagues to help me out …


The mother of two girls (Rose, 6, and Fynn, 11 months), Mombot is a feminist and human rights activist based in Cape Town, South Africa. She has a fairly laid back approach to parenting if you ignore the regular rants about the proliferation of the colour pink, the lack of diversity amongst "girls' " toys, the scarcity of good role models for girls in the media etc etc etc.

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  1. “I’ve had to ask myself whether mommy brain is a “real” biological phenomenon or whether it’s (merely!) a social phenomenon that results from increased demands on one’s time and head space.” I wonder about this too. . .and I’m finding myself landing on the side of the social phenomenon, but based only on my experience rather than any logical evidence. My thing is that some women I know seem to sail through that first year or two with such grace and finesse, while I stumble through all unkempt and trying my darndest to just keep up. The difference, from what I see around me is that some people have a better support network (I have no nearby support), while others do not. . .so I’m thinking social.

  2. Not having a support system is hard.! We don’t have any family nearby, and if (as happened on Friday) our child care falls through, we are totally stuck. Juggling baby, five year old, housework and work really isn’t feasible. Whether or not there is a biological element, I’m pretty sure there is a social one.

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