Mimi's Column: Bigger Brain is Bogus, "Baby Brain" is Real
Bigger Brain is Bogus, "BabyBrain" is Real
By Mimi Hecht
I mean, usually I'm all for it. I respond pronto when the "baby people" research children's medicines and make necessary recalls. Or when bored mothers spend hours researching, on my behalf, the best new baby gadgets. I enthusiastically concurred when research studies concluded that redheads are more fun (yes, I have a redhead). In all these cases, and hundreds more, research is a mother's best friend. In fact, we love to pull out our affinity for research when a fellow mother makes a claim about a philosophy or product.
We're like, "Hmm, I dunno, I have to research that."
But then, every once in a while, a study releases findings that make you think the lab-rats are really the scientists. Such is the case with new research out of Maryland's National Institute of Mental Health, which claims that the brains of new moms are actually larger, and bustling with a ton of new brain cells that make them "smarter." The explanation? That the steep learning curve of dealing with a newborn awakens increased smarts.
I don't care how many cerebral scans they collected or the magnitude of new brain cells they found, no study can counter the overwhelming reports of almost every new mother that "babybrain" - the theory that a new mother's thinking is impaired by pregnancy and raising a newborn - is indisputable. When I was pregnant, I didn't even know "babybrain" was a silent understanding amongst soon-to-be and new moms. I discovered it on my own when I became increasingly incoherent in conversation. Like I was drunk. Smart enough to know that I was intelligent enough not to have been drinking during pregnancy, I searched for answers. I Googled something like "pregnant and brainless" and was introduced to a world of jokes, experiences and, yes, research, that made me feel no less drunk but a bit more validated.
You see, it was more than just the inability to speak as intelligently as I was used to. I was also forgetting things. Like, you know, important things. I couldn't sit and write like I could before. I was tired. I was preoccupied. I was, well...stupid. And it didn't get better after having the baby. Oh contrair! Having a real life in my hands only generated more loss of life in my head. Sure, I was smart enough to feed, bathe and care for my child. I kept a very organized diaper bag and was on my toes with everything baby-related. But when it came to life in general, there was no brain left. I started putting the ice tray in the refrigerator. I started painting my nails, forgetting to do the other hand. Washing the milk dishes with the red sponge. Not exactly Harvard material.
Honestly, to say my brain got smarter is actually an insult. If being clumsy and incoherent is me with a betterbrain, then I must have been a complete dummy before.
I'm not embarrassed to admit all this because I know I'm not alone. It sounds crazy, but me and all my amazing, capable and even brilliant friends have all had serious encounters with brainlessness once we entered the motherland. And we're smart about it. We run into an old friend without recognizing her, then simply point to our bump and say, "It's the babybrain! How are you?"
The new headlines announcing "BabyBrain is a Myth!" are robbing new moms everywhere of their most legitimate excuse for all the very real blubber-brain. If you're pregnant or a new mom that finds yourself forgetting the oven and turning your chocolate cake to charcoal or removing clothing from the dryer and putting it back in the wash, don't let the new research make you feel insecure about your shrinking brain.
Not that you're stupid enough to fall for it. Women may become a bit more brainless, but our brainlessness is one thing we're pretty smart about. No mother is reading the new findings and saying, "Wow, and all this time I had a sense I've been smarter since the birth!" Not happening. If you're expecting or just joined motherhood and you truly feel like you've become smarter since having a baby, please contact me. I'd love to meet you. Because seriously, all this research seems so bogus to me. Unless there's something I'm not getting. Which wouldn't really make the case for the new mom's smart brain, would it?