How a woman's brain changes after having a baby.
Since having children, it's as if the London fog took up residence in my head. Take the other day for instance: I couldn't find my car keys because they were still dangling from my front door keyhole—along with the house key I never took out of the lock.
The ridiculous part was that I had locked the front door from the inside, feeling safe. That was until my husband came home from work, conveniently unlocked the front door and greeted me with, “Did you want to get robbed?"
That's only happened once, but it's much more common for me to lose my train of thought mid-sentence. It seemed ending a story with “Wait, what was I saying?" was forgivable when I was pregnant. I didn't expect the fog to thicken post-birth.
Between managing a home, and caring for a toddler and an infant, some days I don't feel like my brain is on at all. And I don't know if it should be a comfort to know my mom brain is normal… apparently.
It's usually hard to see the silver-lining around my newly hazy sense of recall, but it's true that “mom brain" comes with its perks too.
A mother's brain undergoes special rewiring when she has a child. According to recent research, this postpartum rewiring is the brain's way of optimizing a woman's ability to care for her infant.
Psychologist Elseline Hoekzema calls it “synaptic pruning," which describes when weaker synapses of the brain are eliminated so that “more efficient and specialized neural networks" can take over and encourage greater emotional responses such as empathy.
The initial effects of “mommy brain" can last up to two years. But while we're often hung-up on our new shortcomings (like my lost keys) there are actual superpowers that come along with mom brain.
Mom brain means more space for motherly instincts
From what I've lost mentally, I've gained emotionally to help me physically care for my most important subjects.
How is it that only I know the distinct sound of my child's cry within the noise of a crowd?
Or what certain signs and babbles mean?
How is it that I know my children's needs as if they were my own?
Empathy and compassion are not weaknesses—they are a mother's greatest strengths when it comes to nurturing her children.
Children do miraculous things to us moms. From the time we conceive them, they reshape our bodies and knit their DNA within us, imprinting on our hearts and keeping us ever mindful of them.
Other studies show that this profound connection happens when cells migrate through the placenta between mom and baby, integrating cell tissue and impacting our maternal brain. I think we can all take a moment to appreciate how magical that really is.
[A version of this post was first published December 12, 2017.]
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