May 16, 2010
Confession time. Before I was a mama, I would sometimes “forget” appointments or special events such as engagement parties or birthday dos. The minority of the time, I truly didn’t remember. But the other big fat percentage of time, I gave preference to forty winks, a work deadline, or a hot date.
It appears that such behaviour started backfiring once I became pregnant, and to this day, I am being punished for breaking the Thou Shalt Not Pretend to Forget commandment. I am becoming murky-minded and absent-brained. Or is it absent-minded and murky-brained?
In the last two weeks, I genuinely forgot two of my closest friends’ birthdays. A month ago, I forgot the pin numbers of the two cards I use most. Over the last couple of years, when friends asked my opinion of One Hundred Years of Solitude or The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, I froze, not able to recall even the protagonists’ names. I recommended Kieslowski’s “The Double Life of Veronique” to a chum, and when he asked for a synopsis of the film, I think I said something like, “Well, um, well, uh, I can’t really recall.” He enquired, “Oh, did you watch it a while back?” I responded, “No, I watched it last night.”
It’s zenith time for this failing to remember dilemma as I now feel as though I’m forgetting to forget. At present, though I’m likely not forgetting anything, I build up a panic, convincing myself that I’ve forgotten something. Athazagoraphobia, anyone?
When I was about five months pregnant, I blanked on which subway line I was to take – the same one I’d been taking every day for months. It was then that I decided to read more about “pregnancy amnesia”. According to studies, large percentages of pregnant women reported some type of absentmindedness or inability to concentrate. Fantastic! I wasn’t riding solo in losing my mind; I was joining the legions of pregnant women who temporarily lose their minds, so to speak.
Whether it was caused by surging hormone levels, iron deficiency or stress, this pregnancy amnesia stuff wasn’t proving to be a provisional thing. Into my third trimester, brain fogginess increased. My preoccupation with the actual labour (my pain threshold is reached with a paper cut), along with the prospect of becoming responsible for a new human life caused me to show up to work sans bra and with mascara on only one eye on more than one occasion. No, I wasn’t looking for a promotion; I was looking for a memory impairment repairman. I would boil eggs and then accidentally forget about them until the smoke alarm went off. And, I mistakenly gave the pizza delivery guy the wrong address.
This memory mumbo jumbo was out of control, so I consulted the experts again. I found that one woman in a “pregnancy brain” study reported bumping into doors and walls, dropping kitchen utensils, burning herself, twisting her ankle, and spraying herself with poisonous weed-killer because of her poor coordination and inability to concentrate. One doctor noted that there are 15 to 40 times more progesterone and estrogen pickling the brain during pregnancy, and these hormones affect all kinds of neurons in the brain. She said that pregnancy shuffles what gets your attention, and because you only have so many shelves in your brain, during gestation, the top three are filled with baby stuff. Another doctor in one of my what to expect when you’ve a bun in the oven guides posited that there may also be an evolutionary facet to pregnancy brain – memory malfunctions may be helpful so that women will forget about presumably unimportant bits and pieces and focus on caring for their child.
After I gave birth to my little bundle of joy, I was no longer able to blame my cobwebbed-synapses on pregnancy brain. Sleep deprivation was now my rationalization for leaving our home barefoot in winter and not being able to recall my own name at times. Apparently, we new mamas accumulate up to 700 hours of sleep debt during the first year of our little angels’ lives, causing that silly cerebrum to not be in top form for anything other than caring for the cherubs.
My husband said that getting more sleep would help with my remembering what decade we were living in and what day of the week it was, and I know I wrote “get more sleep” on at least 20 Post-its, but I was forever losing the Post-its and surprise, surprise, couldn’t remember where to find them.
I asked my mom if she experienced momnesia, and she said that while she didn’t experience momnesia, the memory muggers did pay a visit to her after her hysterectomy. She still doesn’t know whether it was the erratic hormones or the anaesthesia. I told her it was likely the former as the hormone experts believe that fluctuating hormones – particularly during periods or menopause – can cause diminished memory and changes in thinking.
Unfortunately, neither repenting for pretending to forget nor comprehending the memory hiccups and concentration coughs solves my quandary. I need to strengthen my synapses and recoup my brainpower, and since novelty and sensory stimulation are key, I’ll start with baby step neurobic exercises recommended by the memory pros, such as brushing my teeth with my nondominant hand and taking a shower with my eyes closed. Neither of these should be too difficult as when I brush my teeth, I’m usually interrupted by my little guy asking for something which requires me to use both of my hands, resulting in my near mastering of handless tooth brushing. And, since I’m exhausted a fair amount of time, taking a shower with heavy eyelids that are nearly closed is nothing new. I think I’m ready for advanced neurobics, perhaps some underwater basket weaving and darkroom chess playing.
The authorities on all things recollection also suggest regular exercise, managing stress and good sleep habits. Now where did I put those Post-its? I need to write this down so I don’t forget how to start remembering.