The Incredible Shrinking Brain
. . . Or, how I got pregnant and lost my mind
Laboratory studies are fine, but real life — mine, for example — offers the best proof.
Take my recurring theme while pregnant: repeatedly missing obstetric appointments. This did not surprise the unflappable receptionist at my doctor’s office. In fact, when I showed up for one phantom appointment (nothing was scheduled for me that day), she told me about one patient who sat in her car for 20 minutes to warm the engine up before she realized she had never turned the key.
Worse, perhaps, is the sudden inarticulateness that can come with pregnancy. A pregnant friend of mine gave her husband this long-winded answer when he asked if she’d seen his keys: “They’re on that thing between the living room and the kitchen, and it’s long and it’s made of wood and about 32 inches high.” Translation: the counter.
Naturally, all this is embarrassing, wastes time and results in some intriguing explanations for lamebrainness. Um. I can’t think or speak because I’m making my baby’s eyeballs today.
It all seems fairly innocuous until you realize that some mental lapses could bankrupt you. One woman I know kept adding money ($300 and up) to her checkbook balance instead of subtracting when she paid bills.
Another pregnant friend’s math impairment caused her to lose count while attempting to organize 89 stock photos at work. “It was like I forgot how to count,” she groused. Someone else finally did it for her. If one brain is pregnant, it’s good to have a normal-size one around as backup.
Don’t Worry — It’s Temporary
Brain shrinkage is part of the many normal body changes that take place in pregnant women, according to Holdcroft’s study. Thankfully, the gray matter seems to plump back up to normal size sometime after childbirth.
Until then, pregnant women can compensate for their crippled brains by making lists, pasting notes to their foreheads, sending themselves e-mail and appealing to the kindness of strangers. Excuse me, but could you tell me if the checker gave me the correct change, because I am too pregnant to know the difference.
I’m sure researchers would agree that we need to issue some sort of warning to the public. Perhaps an open letter in the form of a T-shirt: “Baby on board. Brain back in nine months.”