5 Ways Having a Baby Messes With Your Brain
So I've been taking some time off from writing columns because I've been busy having a baby. While everyone knows that taking care of babies is a light task no more difficult than a simple newspaper route, I guess it must have been the straw that broke the camel's back when it came on top of writing regular columns for Cracked and an actual 9-to-6 desk job making movies for the public to compare poorly to Pixar movies.
I first took off (column writing, not animating) in the middle of the pregnancy because I was already getting overwhelmed, and I felt like a wuss doing so, because lots of other women work vigorous blue-collar-type jobs all the way through their pregnancies and I must be some kind of sissy taking it easy so early. But like our old used Ford Fairmont station wagon, I was constantly overheating, falling apart, and cornering like a cow. I just didn't understand why I was holding up so much worse than all the other ladies I knew.
Oh wow, this brings back bad memories.
After 48 hours of labor, one week past the due date, and a lot of bafflement among the doctors and nurses as to why the baby was making no progress, they finally decided to cut him out with a knife. It turned out he was just shy of 12 pounds, which set some local records, if I remember correctly, and I believe my first words at the time were "Well, that explains a lot."
That said, my ability to carry out simple tasks got even worse, if possible, after the baby came out. I probably shouldn't even be writing this column, but that's the ironic thing, I guess: Reduced brain capacity also leads to poor decision making, which leads you to agree to things you don't have the brain capacity for.
So here's why I shouldn't be writing this.
Lack of Sleep
I know, I know, this is such a cliche. They even made an entire short-lived sitcom about it. It starred Will Arnett and Christina Applegate and was called Not Getting Any Sleep or Awake Because of the Baby or something. Sorry, it's hard to remember details when you've been up all night.
Dammit, it's on the tip of my tongue.
Anyway, you probably have the image of the baby waking up in the middle of the night crying, and this is what wakes up the new parents. Like it's all caused by the baby being unpredictable and disrupting this perfect schedule you want to set.
I don't know if a lot of people realize this, but even if everything goes right, it is impossible for a mom to get enough sleep under the recommended schedules. Even assuming the baby always goes to sleep immediately and sleeps as long as he wants, he needs to eat every two to three hours (for the first few months at least). If you're bottle-feeding, you can take turns with your spouse or nanny or undocumented indentured servant or whatever, but if you're breast-feeding, which all the doctors push pretty hard nowadays, that means every feeding requires the mom to be awake.
(Note: Apparently there is a big breast-feeding war on between two groups of angry people who think everyone who doesn't do it is murdering their baby or everyone who wants you to do it is the Gestapo. If you are on either of those sides, please don't hurt me, I am only a civilian passing through.)
"I don't want any trouble! Just take what you want!"
So if she's breast-feeding, in the best case scenario the mom sleeps no more than two hours at a time. She gets eight to 10 of these nap opportunities (napportunities?) in every 24-hour period. Three of them are lost because she has to eat. Maybe another one for a shower (once in a while at least). This is assuming the baby is a magical baby that goes to sleep immediately when he is supposed to and never cries. Since this is not the case, you can cross out a couple more. This leaves two to four two-hour napportunities, and due to stress and visitors and accidents and other factors, she could easily get less sleep in each two-hour window than the 90 minutes that experts say constitutes a full sleep cycle.
And if the baby should, by God's infinite grace, sleep more than three hours, just as you are starting to celebrate, medical professionals will tell you that you have to wake him up and feed him, because blood sugar, blah, blah, blah. You know that scene in The Shawshank Redemption where Andy gets out of the sewer pipe? This is like if someone pointed out he had to go back because he forgot his shoes.
It would be ironic because then Andy would have been guilty of murder.
So this isn't just lack of sleep due to accidents happening and random things waking you up at night. This is you being forced to use your own willpower to deprive yourself of sleep and stick to a horrible timeline because science. The only thing worse than an outside force making your life unpleasant is you having to do it to yourself.
Being Emotionally Compromised
I think everybody knows that after you have a baby you have some crazy hormones going on that are partially pregnancy hormones readjusting to not being pregnant and partially feel-good hormones to make you want to take care of the baby. I can't think of anything funny to say about this beyond cliche PMS-rage jokes and even more cliche woman-breaks-down-in-tears-about-ordinary-things jokes, so fill them in yourself.
And then make some jokes about airplane food, why not.
I think the reason everyone runs on those two same rails when it comes to making funny observations about post-pregnancy emotions is because postpartum depression really isn't very funny, as conditions that can lead to self-harm and baby-harm tend not to be laugh riots.
And the only personal anecdote I have about emotional breakdowns is when I had to go to the ER one week after the baby was born. I guess it's funny in the sense that all stories about the doctor forgetting something inside you during an operation are funny. Which is not really.
But you know what is funny? This video of the worst martial arts black belt candidates ever:
You really really need videos like that to keep you sane in the first month after the baby is born.
You Forget What You Were Saying in the Middle of ... Uh ...
When you're dating, the ability to finish each other's sentences is a cute trick, but when you're married and have a baby, it is an essential skill. Many of our conversations currently go something like this:
Me: So where is the, uh ...
Husband: Over there.
Me: Oh, thanks.
This usually goes pretty well, but sometimes there is a misfire. Like I wanted to know where my brush was and he thought I was asking for the scissors. Oh well, I didn't need all that hair anyway.
You Can't Remember What You Just Did
Wait, did I already make three points?
You Can't Remember What You Just Did
There's a reason that MilkBands exists as a product. Most new moms can't remember things like when they last fed their baby or which boob they used, even though, like I said, it was probably less than three hours ago.
I know everyone's had the experience of walking into a room and not remembering why you walked in there, but I often walk into a room and don't remember how I got in there. I just snap out of trances and go, "Hey, I'm in the garage!"
In a way, it's like recapturing the sense of wonder and unpredictability you had as a child. Or it's like having a drinking problem. Think about that. Nature or the divine plan or however you have it has made it so that at the most vulnerable moment of your child's life you are just slightly more dependable than a blackout drinker.
You Make Poor Decisions
This probably started the day my son was born, when I named him after a Breaking Bad character. Which is fitting in a way, I guess, because Breaking Bad is all about poor decisions. (Little Krazy-8 is doing well, thanks.)
Other than impulse buying a dishwasher and a Dyson heater, the rest of the bad decisions have been more on a day-to-day level, thank goodness. Drug trafficking has been pretty minor. I do remember one low point in the first month postpartum when Ghost Rider was on TV and I chose to keep watching it.
The reason is a pretty simple combination of lack of sleep, which has been proven repeatedly to do a lot of damage to your reasoning capacity, and that unbalanced hormone cocktail I was telling you about earlier. These work together to really do a number on your brain, rendering you unable to remember things, perform the simplest of tasks, or complete addsfa dksjffffffffla kdksfjheeeeeeefn fknn