Another day, another study proving what mothers have been trying to explain for millennia with our exhaustion-limited vocabulary and sleep-deprived cortices.
Let me just say that, before we delve into specifics, were we to print out all of the studies that have come out in recent years linking the changes happening in a pregnant/new mother’s brain to her ability to function even comparably to her former self, we would be able to stack up a nice paper pillow upon which we would rest our dirty-haired heads, maybe at the same time grabbing a desperately-needed nap.
It is with more relief than surprise that I present the latest study that proves moms are actually different people in our brains after we bring Kid into the world than we were before. As it turns out, we are actually changed. More specifically, our brains are changed. Even more specifically, our brains are shrinking.
I’m going to repeat that, as it is likely that your shriveled Mother Brain needs another pass at processing it.
OUR BRAINS ARE SHRINKING.
“The women who had carried a child and given birth had less gray matter in certain regions of their brain compared with 20 women who had not been pregnant. … The regions that shrunk the most—parts of the frontal and temporal cortices as well as the midline—are thought to be involved in taking other people’s mental perspectives.”
But don’t fret, capital “S” Science says it’s perfectly normal, and maybe even a good thing:
“A shrinking brain sounds bad, but ‘reductions in gray matter are not necessarily a bad thing,’ says study coauthor Elseline Hoekzema, a neuroscientist at Leiden University in the Netherlands. … [and that] pregnancy could be thought of almost as a second stage of brain maturing.”
And then there’s this:
“First-time fathers showed no such brain changes.”
I’m just gonna leave that one right there.
So, what does this all add up to? Well, for the uninformed (i.e. me, before I Googled it), gray matter is, well, super important. It’s basically charged with keeping your shit in check:
“The gray matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control.”*
It’s also important to note that, per this article and other research, the landmark of pregnancy/motherhood isn’t the first time your brain’s gray matter changes. It is also altered during adolescence. Because one upending change in our neural matter ain’t enough for us ladies.
So, here we are. Our bodies have changed, our sleep patterns are forever altered (I don’t care how old your kids are, this is the case) and now we are vindicated with the scientific proof that our brains are actually physically different, too.
What does this tell us? In my own completely unscientific terms, it teaches us, moms, that we are not batshit crazy.
When you forget to put a diaper on your not-potty-trained child and send him to school anyway, it’s not your fault. It’s your deficient brain’s fault!
When common sense eludes you and you send your 3-year-old to school with a toy gun for Show and Tell? Blame the shrinking brain!
And when you try to explain to your husband or friends or family that you don’t know why, but you can’t look at our world today and take it with the grain of salt that you used to, that your brain—and motherhood—is why.
Take heart, my friends. Science explains it all. Almost.
*From Wikipedia, “Gray Matter”