Why didn’t anyone tell me I’d lose my mind giving birth?


Stacy L. Frueh

The first time I noticed my mind was deteriorating was early in my pregnancy. I was on my way to the grocery store when, halfway there, I realized I had forgotten my shopping list. No problem-I could remember what I needed. How naive I was, unaware of the changes occurring not only in my body but also in my mind. I got home, looked at my list and realized another trip to the grocery store was in order.

It seemed that as my belly grew, my mind got smaller. I began making lists of lists. I told myself it had to do with my pregnancy, that things would be better once the baby came and my hormones leveled out.

Theory proven wrong

My son arrived, but my theory of regaining my senses once he was born was proven wrong. I believe he took a piece of my mind with him on his way out.

The first time I locked the keys in the car, Jonah was just a few months old. I opened the car, hit the open-lock button (I did not have a remote) and slammed the door shut. Carefully balancing Jonah and the diaper bag, I tried one door, then another. All were locked. I peered in the window. There were my keys-right on the seat.

I glanced down the street. Deserted. Stay calm, I told myself. But I was a first-time mother with a small child in my arms and no keys to either my car or my house because the house key was on the key ring locked in the car.

I looked upward, as if asking the heavens for an answer. Instead I got a face full of rainwater. I raced under my porch before the torrent of rain soaked us completely.

Once the rain stopped, I walked down to the corner store and used the phone to call my husband, who, thank goodness, worked nearby. He had to leave work and use his extra set of keys to open the car for me. I swear, this had never happened to me before Jonah was born.

The second time I locked myself out of the house and car, Jonah was about 20 months old. We were on our way to his gym class. By now, as a mother, I had things down to an easy routine. I grabbed the diaper bag and Jonah, locked the house and headed for the car. I reached into my pocket for my car keys and found it empty. "Not again!" I screamed in frustration.

Seeing no other choice, I got out the stroller. We were close enough to walk to class, even in the rain. Yes, it was raining that time, too. I used the telephone at the gym to call my mother to bring over her spare key. Lucky for me, she, too, worked nearby. I now have an extra key hidden on my property.

'Pregnancy amnesia'

Many other women tell me they have had similar experiences. They often refer to it as "pregnancy amnesia." Upon conception, they noticed small lapses in their memories, or they became more forgetful.

Some mothers said they really didn't notice their minds deteriorating until after their child was born. Other mothers swear it was sleep deprivation that ripped the logical and coherent thoughts from their brains. But all agree that their minds, as they knew them, are gone.

It's been years since my son was born and he's now an excellent sleeper. I no longer can blame my lapses of memory on sleep deprivation or pregnancy. So I wonder, when will I get my mind back?

I like to believe that the reason my memory is fading and I have become so absent-minded is because, for the first time in my life, I am solely and completely responsible for another human being. It is up to me to decide what he will eat, what he will wear, when he will bathe and when he will sleep. All of these things take up a lot of space in my mind. There isn't room up there for much else. It's a lot to remember day after day after day. No wonder mothers are so frazzled most of the time.

I have heard stories about moms that have loaded up their cars and forgotten the baby, only to find them a frantic second or two later, still sleeping soundly in their cribs. Nothing that extreme has happened to me. I have forgotten formula, wipes, clothing and diapers, but never once have I forgotten Jonah.

Usually I am just a little spaced out, telling a friend, for example, the same story or thought over and over, until they politely inform me I have told them 10 or 15 times already.

"Sorry," I mumble, waving my hand over my head to indicate no mind left. They nod compassionately. They understand.

I have asked many mothers, mothers of children of all ages, "When will I get my mind back?" The answer is always the same: Never.

Stacy L. Frueh is a writer living in Wilmette with her husband and 9-year-old son, Jonah. Her first children's book, Jonah's Weird, but Totally Cool Field Trip, was released this September.

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