Is 'baby brain' really just your new, permanent mum brain?

Is baby brain here to stay?
Is baby brain here to stay? Photo: Shutterstock

Pregnancy didn't just affect my body; it changed my brain. I felt spacey, zoned out, less than sharp during my entire first pregnancy, but I blamed it on "baby brain," also known as "pregnancy brain" or even more cleverly (ironic, right?), "mumnesia." Creating a new life had seemingly drained all my mental acuity, making me forgetful and knocking down my IQ a few points. But surely my former level of intelligence would come back, right?

Although researchers claim that there's no real evidence of baby brain, every mum I know has experienced it in some form or another. Suddenly, you can't remember words that once flowed off your tongue so easily. You forget birthdays, maybe even your own, appointments, and where you put your keys. Maybe you find them in the refrigerator. Or maybe you go to the refrigerator, open the door, and realise you have absolutely no idea what you were looking for in there.

Because these things happen more and more frequently, you start feeling like you're losing it, or at least like you're losing a good portion of your intelligence, but you're pregnant, and the hormones, the stress, and the looming, overwhelming life change you're about to experience can surely be blamed for your cognitive lapses. You are naturally distracted.

And then, you have a baby, and if you're like me, it gets so much worse. Sleep deprivation throws you into a months-long fog. Days roll together, and you hope you have nothing on your to-do list because you're pretty sure you won't remember what you're supposed to do or even to cancel it. It becomes increasingly obvious that nothing, beyond caring for your newborn, is getting done.

But things eventually get better. The fog lifts. Your baby sleeps more so you get to, too. You fully transition into your new role as mum and feel comfortable in it. You expect things, including your brain, to go back to "normal." But there you are, years after having that baby, still searching for lost words, still forgetting the birthday of your best friend of 20 years, still searching everywhere for your keys. You have to accept that your baby brain might be here to stay.

If you think about it, it makes sense. During pregnancy and after you become a mum, your plate is full. You're busy, you're stressed out, and your attention is divided and demanded by the tiny creatures in your care. Despite how it sometimes feels, your brain isn't necessarily less efficient than it used to be; it just has so much more to process. And your priority is always your children — hence why you'll probably never forget their doctor's appointments or play dates but totally space on your own check up or long-ago scheduled date night.

The solution is twofold. First, you have to accept this new state of your brain, and second, you have to compensate for it in a way that works for you. Perhaps, you need to set reminders in your phone immediately after scheduling any appointment or event. Maybe just writing things down in a calendar helps move events to your permanent memory. I've even been known (annoyingly, I'll admit) to ask friends, family members, and my husband to follow up with me about a request or scheduled event closer to the date. After all, I'm a mum, and my brain is constantly working, just not in the ways that it used to.

This story originally appeared on POPSUGAR Australia, read it here  and find more on Facebook.