By our Doula Bertie, originally shared October 2019, to normalise 'baby brain'
I used to be a spaceship.
I used to be a spaceship, then I got hit by cosmic wave, a traumatic childbirth, post natal anxiety, difficulties breastfeeding resulting in my pumping exclusively, and now I’m a cargo ship running only on impulse engines with just life support systems.
My family look at me and still see a spaceship; they have an expectation of warp 9 speeds, scientific research, space exploration, holodeck adventures, and diplomatic missions, yet I struggle to get replicator working to synthesise a basic meal. At 5 ½ months post birth I still find it difficult to put a meal plan together for weekly grocery shop, no way am I ready to go back to work.
I’m not the person I was before I gave birth. I can’t function the way I used to. No longer can I multi task or set myself more than one goal in a day. I used to have days full of work schedule, then home activities, family and friend connections, now, If I’ve had a shower, that’s a good day. Baby feeds every 3 hours, and I’m tired, even though he sleeps well at night, it’s an all over permanent mental exhaustion. This morning when my alarm went off at 6am, my husband was woken up (he usually sleeps through) and asked me why I was getting up, when I replied that I had to pump, he looked confused and reminded me it was Saturday, well, I know it’s Saturday, but my boobs don’t care, at 6am I have to pump. In the evening I tell my husband I’m tired, he suggests I go to bed early, get some rest, baby is sleeping, and I remind him, I have to pump at 9pm.
Whether its direct breastfeeding, pumping, bottle feeding requiring preparation and sterilising, it’s all caring for baby as priority. I wasn’t expecting to feel this way, to have lost so much of my mental capabilities. Anything not baby centric, my brain discards. Earlier in the week I couldn’t get cover off car seat to wash it after baby had leaky poop nappy. My husband came home from work and took it off in under a minute. The next day he left for work without considering I might need help putting the cover back on, he still thinks I’m a spaceship. So after twenty minutes of not being able to figure out how to put the car seat cover back on, there were zips, straps, velcro, and I was overwhelmed, I gave up and took toddler to crèche on bus with baby in buggy. When toddler almost missed breakfast at crèche and I phoned husband to recount detail of my awful morning, he asked why I hadn’t simply given toddler breakfast at home before leaving to get bus to crèche. Well, because now I’m a cargo ship, not capable of that kind of computation.
‘Baby brain’ is real, I didn’t get hit by it with first baby, but this time, I’m in a constant mental fog. When I was having trouble hearing toddler talking to me from rear of car on noisy road, I tried to ‘turn her up’ by pressing volume button on my phone, was really confused for about 2 seconds as to why I couldn’t hear her any better. Last week I tried to put the steriliser in the fridge.
I started having periods when I was 11 years old, I’m now 37 years old, that’s ... hang on while I get a calculator ... that’s 26 years, after toddler my periods came back 4 weeks after her birth, no break for me then, and with this baby it was 5 weeks after birth, and every 4 weeks since, so I should know what’s going on, well if I was a spaceship I might, but last week on Monday, day period was due, I sat on toilet, wiped, saw blood and had full on panic attack, for an embarrassing 4 seconds, during which I thought I was having a post birth bleed and was dying, then, after the aforementioned very long 4 seconds, realised, it was just my period, which this cargo ship couldn’t process logically.
My toddler missed start of her soccer class today, because I forgot to set an alarm when I went for quick nap with baby. Husband was watching the rugby, I had calculated 40mins each half plus ten minutes for halftime, match would be over before we had to leave and I would be woken by husband. But there was injury time or extra time or something time that I hadn’t considered and I wasn’t ready. Why hadn’t I set an alarm he asked? Because I’m not a spaceship anymore.
I feed baby, I cuddle baby, I clean the nappy poop leaks off clothes, I do tummy time, and I sing off tune, I read picture books. I pump before baby wakes, I pump after baby sleeps. I cry when baby won't latch, I cry when I spill milk, I laugh when baby sucks his toes, I laugh when baby farts and looks at me confused.
I do not get the car insurance sorted, or the passport renewed, or fill out the washing machine warranty, that’s spaceship level tasks.
I’m not a spaceship anymore, but I don’t mind being a cargo ship while my baby needs me more.