TWO days ago, my best friend and I engaged in a sweaty ballet familiar to mothers across the Western world. We spent two hours looking for my car keys. We marched, we huffed, we swore. We second-guessed our children and looked under furniture, in the freezer, through drawers, even the fireplace. Periodically we would halt the hunt to gasp at one another through clenched teeth,
"They're in plain sight. I know they are. We are looking right at them. This happens to me all the time."
And, of course, they were. My car keys were cleverly disguised as car keys and were hidden at eye level, in full sunlight. I know this because the following morning I woke up, walked out into the chilly dawn and retrieved them from exactly where I had "lost" them. It had taken a whole night to sleep off the incandescent rage, reshuffle my memory deck and reconnect with the image of my car keys sitting on top of the car, shining happily in the sun.
It's only recently that I've come to accept this state of cognitive impairment. And I've realised that, as with many personal shortcomings, people are surprisingly accommodating once you are honest about your problem.
I say to my husband, "I'm just popping out to the supermarket for some milk. I'll be back in 20 minutes with a packet of neon highlighters and some popcorn."
When it comes to "mummy brain", the scientific jury is well and truly out. Loss of memory is recognised as a medical consequence of pregnancy, but I've also heard that mummy brain impairs cognitive function beyond memory. In my experience, neither description quite nails it.
For me, post-partum brain fade is a perfect storm of extreme tiredness, hormones and the crippling realisation that even your prettiest bras have hatches in them.
I finished my PhD in the first few months of my daughter's life. Although I found my ability to comprehend difficult concepts was perhaps better than it had ever been, leaving the house with pants outfoxed me every time. Not that it mattered, of course, because you can't go far without the car keys.
Ironically, it's not the loss of function that is the most distressing; it's the complete relegation of the condition itself.
Even the term "mummy brain" attests to its infantilisation and dismissal. Had I not spoken to numerous other women with similar experiences, I would have been seriously concerned. Its widespread incidence should be evidence enough to justify some serious research.
And, for those of you who say that it passes fairly quickly, or that it's not that serious, well, you try feeding your kid a packet of highlighters for dinner (Hint: tomato sauce).
Do you suffer from "mummy brain"? Have your say below.