This is a phrase I used a lot when I had my first baby. I went from being someone who managed a team of people, who chaired big meetings for shiny well-known brands, who wore smart clippy heels and knew was I was doing.....and I became someone who didn't notice I'd opened the door to the postman with a boob hanging out. Someone who sobbed when I finally found my lost keys in the fridge (WTF?!). Who locked myself out of the house so often that my husband bought a key safe for the garden.
'It's baby brain,' I'd say, when I'd eventually pulled myself together. And everyone nodded in sage agreement.
After all, I was suffering from some pretty hardcore sleep deprivation. My hormones - usually controlled by manufactured synthetic pills - were all over the shop. I was bleeding, and uncontrollably leaking milk. So I carried on feeling that I was less than I had been before. That motherhood had diminished my brain. That this is just what happens to mothers (and, by association, isn't a jolly good job that mothers are pretty much segregated in parks, cafes and soft play, until they pull themselves together.)
Right up until the moment I said it to a friend of my Mum's. This friend was a primary school teacher, and expert in Early Years development. And a man. 'No, no,' he said, 'quite the opposite. Your brain is not *less* than it was before. It is far more'.
Say what?! My brain is *more* now I've had children, not less?
But you know what, he's right. It's not that we're less capable of processing information than we were before, it's that the landscape of our brain is changing, rapidly & under hostile circumstances! Think about it;
you've just given birth. This is a massive physical & emotional feat.
you are (probably) operating under extreme sleep deprivation
your hormones are a chaotic soup, who's only function is to assist you as you nurture & nourish your baby.
your body is recovering from birth. It takes an average of SIX weeks for women to physically recover, and yet how many of you multips were making tea & wiping the sides within 48 hours of birth?
you are learning not only a new language (the vernacular of motherhood is varied & ripe), but a whole new way of being!
your perception of 'important' vs 'not important' has shifted massively. Suddenly, the sensory state of your baby has the capacity to affect your experience of the whole afternoon; warm + fed = cosy, snuggly happiness; wet + hungry = howling for hours and cluster feeding.
if you have older children, you're likely to be doing all this amidst a wall of sound; demands for food, toilets & justice against a sibling.
'Baby Brain' is a phrase that limits and diminishes mothers.
It suggests we are somehow incapable, lacking, less sharp & acute.
But I challenge that! FFS. Look at what Mothers DO! We are creators - of life, and of homes (homes are important - Owen Wilson says it on that sofa ad, so it must be true). We are managers & organisers. We regulate emotions. We nourish. We listen. We care. All of this is important stuff that simply slides into the background of what is understood to be 'normal' life. And it takes effort. Yeah, we've got instinct - that mysterious thing that enables us to know what's going to go down before it actually goes down. Yeah, we have an encyclopedic knowledge of the location of pretty much every item in the house.
We should empower ourselves and our fellow mothers. We should ACKNOWLEDGE, to ourselves and the rest of the world, that this takes effort. It can be hard. It can be draining. And yes, sometimes it means that while I'm harrassing little bodies in through the door I leave the keys in the lock - it's not that I'm a fool, it's simply that I'm dealing with 1,000 things as I step over the threshold, in a way I never did before I had the children.
It's not Baby Brain. It's bloody incredible.
**Expecting a baby in July, August or September 2018? Click here for dates of coming classes, courses & workshops