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Mommy brain has set in

February 18, 2013

By Jennifer Joyner

We've seen the scenario many times on soap operas and TV movies. A woman wakes up in a hospital with a bandage wrapped all the way around her head.
"Where am I?" she asks, looking frantically around her.
"You're at the hospital," says a handsome doctor in a calming voice. "You've had an accident."
Usually, the woman is the sole survivor of a shipwreck, or she has been assaulted and left for dead by an evil twin or something. She is typically found by some drifter, or perhaps an early morning jogger or lone boatman. They brought her to the hospital, but she doesn't have any identification.
Then, the doctor asks the question. "What is your name?"
The camera zooms in slowly to woman's face. There is usually a dramatic pause while her expression morphs from contemplative to perplexed to panic-stricken.
"I d..don't kn..know!" she says, finally.
Ominous music plays, and a melodramatic plot ensues. This premise has been a go-to engine driving story lines on daytime drama throughout the years.
Of course, this would never happen in real life. I've never once heard of someone with an actual case of amnesia. But I and many others have suffered from a similar and arguably more crippling ailment: "momnesia."
Momnesia is a lot like amnesia, except instead of waking up one day not knowing where you are, momnesia can strike at any time, and on multiple occasions.
You know you are suffering from momnesia when you start to put your toddler's pants on before his underwear, when you call him by the dog's name, or when you shave just one of your legs in the shower. (This one was not me. It was a friend.)
For me, I think it's an extension of what is referred to as "pregnancy brain." When I was younger, I prided myself on my impeccable memory, but from Month One of carrying Dylan, I couldn't maintain a thought in my head.
I was a real mess. Multiple times per day, I would do things like put my keys in the trash and my used candy wrapper in my purse. One time, I let my dog out into the backyard and then later freaked out when I couldn't find him in the house and spent about 15 minutes looking for him.
It's gotten better. Nobody could survive like that on a long-term basis. But I don't think the "pregnancy brain" has every fully gone away. Now, I must write down every little thing, and even then I might still forget. I often will be in mid-sentence and forget what I am saying or right in the middle of a task and forget what I am …
… Wait a minute … What were we talking about?
I don't know … Anyway, all my life I've been sort of messy and disorganized but have gotten away with it because I always remembered exactly where everything was. I could leave my stuff anywhere and just keep a mental note on its location.
But recently, after numerous frantic searches, I'm finally learning to tell myself, "No you can't leave your keys on that table, you won't remember where you put them. Put them where they go."
This might seem obvious, but it's been an adjustment for me.
Adding to the chaos of my momnesia is the fact that I have in my home both a two year old boy and a new puppy.
With either one of these, things come up missing. But with the two combined, I can't ever find anything. There have been countless times where I only have one of each pair of mine and/or Dylan's shoes. And if you have ever taken care of a toddler, you know that when something has disappeared, it could be anywhere. Absolutely anywhere.
Not too long ago, I was looking for the remote control. I checked the usual traps: between the cushions of the furniture, under the couch and behind the TV. It was not until I opened Dylan's toy kitchen cabinet that I found it, along with my sunglasses, several coasters, two acorns, a leaf, and one of his sippie cups.
When he was about a year old, I once spent several days looking for my iPhone, until I eventually found it buried under a pile of stuffed animals and blocks at the bottom of Dylan's toy box.
Honestly, it's a wonder that I can manage to keep up with anything.
Note: If you or someone you know is experiencing the symptoms of momnesia — including forgetfulness, fatigue, confusion, and fogginess — do not panic. Just invest in a good planner and plenty of sticky notes and remember your kids are totally worth it.

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