Do you ever find your mind wandering and unable to focus on tasks you once were able to? Or maybe you’ve forgotten things that you never would have before?
Ask my husband how good my memory was before children, and he would say it was always on point. He frequently would ask where he had last left his keys or wallet, and I could always recall seeing them in a specific spot. Now we rely on Tiles because neither of us would be able to leave the house if it wasn’t for them!
Most women chalk their forgetfulness up to “mom brain,” but is there even such a thing?! Does the brain really change during pregnancy or postpartum?
Fun fact…it does!
There was a recent article in Discover Magazine called ‘Making Sense of Mommy Brain’ where the author recalls how rat’s brains often improve after birth instead of worsening like we assume in human brains.
But do human brains actually worsen or is it just perceived that way?
What if our brains don’t actually worsen after delivery, but instead change to focus more of our attention on the care and survival of our children?
The study in this article referenced how our brains actually grew in the months and years postpartum. Areas of the brain in charge of processing touch and sight, hormone regulation, survival instincts and emotional association, and high-level thinking such as those used in planning and decision making all grew instead of shrunk. As mothers, we all know we use these areas multiple times a day to care for our children.
But other areas of the brain did shrink.
The area of our brain that focuses on understanding other people’s emotions, in particular. That may sound down-right inhumane, but in actuality, the study showed that a person with a stronger bond towards their child showed the most shrinkage. Meaning that instead of trying to encompass everything, our brains are actually changing and thriving just the way they need to be to provide the utmost care for our own children.
Don’t fret though. If you are in the ebbs and flows of early parenting, know that it does get better. Hormones may be to blame for the changes in our brains, but as they even out (taking up to 2 years sometimes), so do our brains. Growth can happen in areas that have shrunk, and a balance will eventually play out.
My good friend and I were chatting the other day about how things affect us differently now as moms. We used to be able to watch Law & Order SVU without flinching, but now just the thought sends our minds into a tizzy of emotions and what-ifs. It is nice to know that we are not alone and that maybe someday we may be able to return to normal programming (mentally and emotionally).
For now, I am relishing in the fact that our bodies are incredibly amazing. From physically growing a human to sustaining life, our bodies adapt in all the right ways just to provide for another human. Who wouldn’t be in awe of that?!
So mamas, give yourself grace in this season of constant change mentally, physically, and emotionally. Big things are going on, and it is not all in your head!