Bad Advice: Your Brain on Baby

Remember when we all learned that our brains are like eggs? Easily broken, and delicious when fried?

Seriously, that commercial has me wanting breakfast right now.

I digress.

The point here is that babies = drugs. Or maybe it’s pregnancy = drugs? Anyway, something during the process of childbirth is basically equal to drugs. Okay, maybe the analogy isn’t perfect, but it definitely screws up your brain, and it makes you nostalgic for the 80’s.

No? Just me? Moving on.

parachute pants

You have to admit, it’s a classic look.

Right from the get-go, you’ve got Pregnancy Brain. Everyone talks about it, and I’m willing to bet serious money that you don’t really believe it’s true. Sure, maybe pregnant women are distracted, or not getting enough sleep, or just using the fetus as an excuse why they forgot to turn in the quarterly budget, but let’s get real here: these are not actually happening as a biological process. We just like to perpetuate stereotypes of women once they start reproducing, or some garbage like that.

Oscar in a trash can

Not that there’s anything wrong with garbage

Obviously, you know what’s coming. The old switcheroo! I tricked you! Ha! Pregnancy Brain is tooooooootally A Thing! 

You’ll forget why you walked into rooms, where you put your mail, what your neighbor’s name is, and probably your own too. Without doing any research, I can tell you that science has no idea why we would evolve the memory of a goldfish, and they definitely haven’t found a cure yet. I guess maybe cavemen didn’t really need to remember which root was good dinner, and which would kill you? Or all the blood is literally being drained from your head to your torso? Or it’s a complicated combination of hormonal responses going on in your body, preparing you to bring new life into this world?

ET phone home

Or maybe it’s aliens!

Whatever. The point is that being pregnant sucks anyway, and losing your ability to function as a capable adult is just the icing on the cake.

Eventually, inevitably, that little succubus is coming out somehow, and you officially graduate from Pregnancy Brain to Mommy Brain. That’s where you’re just dumb. Forgetful, yeah, but also incapable of putting coherent thoughts together. Even if you’re one of those assholes with a baby that sleeps through the night early on, you’re going to be stupider.


First off, you’re suddenly on an insane learning curve, trying to figure out all the crazy stuff you’re suddenly expected to somehow just know (Can you tell the difference between regular diaper rash and a yeast infection?), and I’m pretty sure that means your brain goes into emergency evacuation mode. Everything that’s suddenly unnecessary, like algebra or the Battle of Hastings, gets dumped to make room for knowledge about fourteen subtly different bottle designs. You’re basically getting a master’s degree, only instead of a fancy diploma you get poop. Lots and lots of poop.

Fear the pooping face

But there’s also something else, something biological going on here. This time I imagine the effect is as strong on people who come by their spawn some way other than growing it inside their torso, because I’m pretty sure it’s Mother Nature’s way of making sure you don’t actually run for the hills like you say you’re going to after a full day of having a creature literally on you all. the. time. So it’s probably part of bonding and suddenly reshaping your entire existence, but seriously dude, your ability to carry on witty cocktail party conversation is going to go down the tubes.

Cocktail party conversation

“Did you read that New York Times article about terribly important grown up things?”
“No, but I know all about lanolin!”

Then, there’s the atrophy. If you make the hilariously idiotic choice to stay home with your tadpole, then you’re going to discover something: babies are boring. So are toddlers. But they’re also impossibly difficult to entertain.

Now, I’m not talking about the first few weeks, when they sleep, like, 20 hours a day, and there are also plenty of easy-going little urchins who just enjoy watching the world go by, or so I hear. But for the rest of us, your existence is completely centered around trying to somehow fill the nine or so hours that stretch in front of you like an eternity before your partner (HOPEFULLY) comes home and takes the monster off your hands. So there’s no space in your mind for contemplating philosophical issues, or planning the next Great American Novel, because you’re frantically trying to come up with something else to do once the 18 month old gets tired of chewing on the cat’s tail. And then another thing 5 minutes after that.

Okay, I’m not a monster, even I think this looks cute. I mean, the little kitty is so fuzzy and floppy! Awwww

I know, I know, it’s best for babies to self-direct play, to learn to be bored, and all that. But have you MET babies? They will not let you ignore them. They will be attended to, hand and foot. They are the masters of the house now. Every stay-home-parent I know has devoted enormous portions of their day to figuring out things to do for their tiny runt, and let me tell you, we’re all exhausted. I mean, physically we’re all wrecks, but also mentally. It’s a fiendish combination of utter boredom and constant creativity, with stakes that feel disastrously high. (If I don’t take Ermaline to baby and me accordion lessons she’ll grow up without the ability to appreciate music!)

Imagine where the future may lead!

With all that going on, it’s hard to do things like maintain a rigorous intellectual life. Or a lazy intellectual life. Or any intellectual life. Which is why your brain literally atrophies, and suddenly you’re unrecognizable as your former self. You’re devoting years of your life to developing another person’s brain, and it’s almost entirely at the expense of your own. Being a parent will actually make you stupider.

Basically, what I’m saying is you should probably do something really, really, really nice for your mom for Mother’s Day. She gave up her grey matter for you.

losing grey matter

Literally true

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