Baby brain, what’s the weirdest thing you’ve done?

gascoignes-62.jpg

I’ve always been prone to a Bridget Jones style moment.  I’m partial to day dreaming and my brain is constantly workshopping too many things, all at once, meaning that a task at hand may not always be getting sufficient attention.  Luckily, important things get my direct focus, however, less significant things can often turn into a clumsy moment. 

When I fell pregnant for the first time, my tendency for the ridiculous grew. I would grab my garage door remote and confidently point it towards the boom gate at the entrance to a shopping centre and look on perplexed as the boom gate sat unresponsive.  I would completely forget pin numbers to bank accounts I used daily (for years, mind) and be stuck on the bank hotline for an age trying to remember security questions I had chosen, to recover the pin that I had forgotten.  The lovely lady on the bank hotline would assure me that I had once chosen these security questions myself (in a former life, with a former brain, I hasten to add).   “What was your middle brother’s first girlfriend?”, “What was your favourite song in school?” she recites.  I explain to lovely hotline lady, there must be some kind of misunderstanding, these must be someone else’s questions.  We end up having to go through my credit card transactions to prove I am, in fact, me.  Luckily, after five transactions, I recognise one of them and I can retrieve my pin.  I am still, however, locked out of my hotmail account, they deemed my knowledge of myself to be too poor to reinstate my access. 

I had vaguely heard about ‘baby brain’ but I had also heard people, mainly men in my workplace staffroom, poo-pooing the phenomenon.   To my great relief, I read this year that researchers at Deakin university have since declared that baby brain is in fact a real condition, their studies showed that “General cognitive functioning, memory, and executive functioning were significantly reduced during the third trimester of pregnancy” (Pregnancy really does make women more forgetful: Study, SMH, January 15, 2018).

As I reached my due date for my first baby, I thought it was crucial to get my hair done, as from what I’d heard, leaving the house after having a baby was going to be impossible.  I booked in with my local Toni and Guy, as my regular hairdresser was booked out and I had convinced myself the baby was going to come early (I wish!) and the hair situation was dire.  The lovely English hairdresser was chatty and helpful and as he finished my foils and went to prep for my blow dry, I took the free moment to grab my phone and check on my messages.  As I reached into my bag my fingers suddenly felt icy cold, and my hand brushed a wet plastic bag as I fumbled around to locate my phone.  How on earth did ice get in my bag I thought?! I hoisted the sack of a handbag onto my lap, I may have grunted, such was the size of my girth at this point and opened the bag wide open to get a good look at what on earth was going on.  There, tangled between my headphones, sunglasses and tissues was a plastic bag housing a very large, frozen, fillet of salmon.  Bemused by the fish in my bag, I tried hard to think about how it could have gotten there. My brain felt like marshmallow,  it seemed impossible to spark the neural pathways into gear to get to the bottom of this caper.  As I stared at my sodden hair in the mirror I willed my brain to get into gear but I was getting bupkis.  I decided to utilise the ‘retrace your steps’ method that had become common place in the last nine months and went through every action since leaving the house that morning.  Shower, check, breakfast, check, getting dinner out of the freezer and putting it on the bench. Bingo! I remember putting the salmon out to defrost. Thank Christ. I had absolutely no recollection of putting the frozen fillet in my hand bag but after taking stock of my recent brain fog it was entirely believable.  The relief of finally solving the fish in bag scenario was quickly replaced with sheer terror as I realised I had been sitting in the hairdressers with a piece of defrosting fish at my feet.  What if the hairdresser had smelt something fishy and thought it was me!?  He’d have to assume it was, as what kind of lunatic walks around with fish in their handbag!?  Maybe he would be compassionate because I was with child. One could only hope.  I was grateful that I only had to sit through a blow dry and then I could flee, post haste.  What good luck it was that it wasn’t my regular hairdresser.  I could potentially be safe in the knowledge I would never see this dude again.  I placated myself with these thoughts as I sat through the final moments of my blow-dry.  Nevertheless, I slowly and discreetly used my foot to push my handbag as far from my seat as I could manage, just in case any pungent fish fumes happened to catch his nostrils. 

The fish incident was my first foray into motherhood brain meltdown.  As the years passed in a blur and I had subsequent children, things like buying a sandwich and leaving it on my car bonnet and bolting off to rhyme time were common place.  Strange men would gesticulate from their car windows when we were stopped at an intersection, I’d in turn lock my doors in fear of some kind of car jacking, only to realise after, that they were trying to alert me to the coffee I had left on my roof.  Then there was the time a man sidled up to my table in a coffee shop, I had braced myself for the usual pleasantries of “oh your son looks so much like mine” or “you’ve got your hands full” but instead he started describing the exact make of my car and said I’d left the door to the passenger side wide open on the street. I certainly hadn’t remembered doing it but it definitely sounded like a bad case of baby brain. 

Do I feel better knowing that the smart folks at Deakin have proven it to be a real thing?

I guess, but I already knew it was real.  

image by Martine Payne 

Four places you’ll ‘find yourself’ during the toddler years

toddler

It is the eve of our third baby’s first birthday and I am surprised how quickly we are being catapulted out of the baby stage and into toddler town.  He is mere days away from officially being a toddler and is exhibiting the tell tale signs. He is suddenly very taken with a book about a little train. The train does things like go through a tunnel and puff puffs on tracks, there’s even a bit were it goes ‘toot, toot’, are you excited yet?  He routinely lurches out of my arms to grab it, flapping the beautiful and more imaginative story books out of my hands.  It feels like it was only yesterday that I was reading ‘diggers and dumpers’ and ‘emergency vehicles’ board books every. single. day. Both cracking reads as you can imagine. They were often teamed with real life excursions too, if there was a jack hammer pounding through cement nearby, or a garbage truck or a fire engine in sight, we’d be there front row and centre, toddler in nirvana and me wondering how my life had come to this. 

It’s been years since we’ve had a toddler in the house, my eldest two children are now in primary school and as we prepare to celebrate this milestone, the memories of the toddler years from baby number one (boy) and baby number two (girl) are flooding back.  If you are about to embark on the toddler stage too, allow me to shed a little light, on four places you will be spending some of your time:

The Park

Ah, the park, where shall I start?

The park is the place that evokes unadulterated joy in a toddler but slightly different feelings in you.  On some days it can be mind numbing, you might find yourself wishing for some tumble weeds to appear so as to at least have something to entertain yourself with.  You won’t want to look at that tumbleweed for too long though, as the park can sometimes come with a side serving of anxiety and sheer terror if you have a particularly adventurous toddler.  In saying that, I’ve seen the most tranquil of kids get completely taken out by a rogue swing.  Toddlers and swings, like bees to honey. 

At times,  you may be lucky enough to meet up with friends which definitely quells the isolation but as soon as you are getting into really scintillating conversation you could well be interrupted by the sight of your little person dangling off the climbing frame inches from a broken arm or heading for the hole in the park fence that leads onto train tracks.  You then have to drop the coffee and sprint for dear life.  In my experience, this scenario could happen up to five times in one park visit. 

The home play date

Next you try playdates with your friends and their beautiful toddlers.  You’ve been friends since your kids were babies, they are like family.  Surely this will be a bit relaxing, you can sit and drink tea while your cherubs play.  Now that they are no longer babies, their play style has suddenly morphed into something you don’t quite recognise.  They aren’t sharing and have started throwing trains at each other, one might have even bitten the other, but one of them has definitely bitten the button off the TV remote.  They didn’t get the memo that you are best friends and you want them to be too.  You haven’t had an uninterrupted conversation for most of the visit and the biscuit you ate is somehow stuck in your throat and won’t loosen, just like the planking toddler you are now trying to fold in half, so you can get them into their carseat and home in time for their nap.  You drive home praying they won’t fall asleep as even 10mins means there will be no day nap and you sing Old MacDonald at full pelt, all the way home, to stall any drooping eyes. 

The non-baby-proof visit:

A visit to a friend or relative’s house can often be a NIGHTMARE.  Fancy hotels can also be in this category, so many seem to love abstract art and there is nothing quiet like a statue made out of cast iron spikes to get your toddler excited and RUNNING at breakneck speed in its direction.   Then there is the visit to your great Aunty Flo’s.  She has a great passion for knick knacks, especially the expensive porcelain kind, nestled all over the house on small toddler height tables, perfection.  As soon as you enter the door your toddler lurches forward to swipe an entire table to the ground.  You laugh nervously and proceed to spend the rest of the visit shadowing your toddler, walking inches behind them the entire time telling everyone there that you’d rather drink your tea and biscuit standing, thanks very much.

The toddler bedroom floor:

Toddlers often see no point in wearing anything more than an Emma wiggles tutu or a Batman outfit. To get your toddler out the door on time and properly attired for any event means you will have to get creative.  I was often reduced to a barn animal. With one of our toddlers it was much speedier to get on all fours, twirk and cock my head to the side, ‘bow wow’, I’d pant. “Puppy wants to you to put your shoes on wuff wuff”. They in turn giggle and jump, “again, again!” they squeal.  Round and round it then goes until you can hardly breathe and are sweating like a pig BUT the shoes are on, win!

Before having children I could never imagine how zipping up a simple hoodie on a two year old could leave you perspiring and as red as a beetroot.  The comedian Michael Mcintyre’s side splitting bit ‘People with no kids don’t know’ showcases this scenario brilliantly.  While you are there, watch the whole thing, it’s the perfect therapy after a long day with a toddler, you might want to snuffle up a box of chocolates too.

There is no doubt the toddler years are challenging.  Even Robin Barker the bestselling author of Baby Love and The Mighty Toddler admits that she didn’t find the toddler years easy and preferred the teenage ones. Or maybe they will be a breeze for you and there will be other stages that pose more challenges.  The thing is, the toddler years bring with them a rich tapestry of emotions but one thing is for sure, there will be moments, knock the wind out of you ones, that will be so beautiful and heart throbbingly exquisite that you will hold them in your heart forever more.  I’ll gladly do all four things on this list again, just to get to see that chubby little toddler finger pointing out every single new thing with an emphatic ‘dair’ (there!), eyes shining with more wonder and excitement than you ever thought humanly possible.  I’ll remember this very sentiment the next time a tumbleweed passes me by.   

Family cooks we salute you!

Brogans_Print-80

In a world where the celebrity chef reigns supreme there is one cook who needs a bit of love, a warm hug and a lie down.  The family cook, the most unglamorous chef, rarely in the spot light despite beating the odds and dishing up family meals three hundred and sixty five days a year. 

My mum was the family cook when we were small and my dad took on the mantle in our teenage years.  He was home by 5.30pm every night and headed straight to the kitchen to prepare our family meal. I now sympathise with his withered look as he presented the wholesome meal to the table and saw our collective eyes fall as we weren’t quite feeling his vegetable curry.  As we pushed the food around our plate for the next twenty minutes, it often became evident that some of us, may have bought a large kebab meal on the way home from school, and were no longer hungry.

I am now the family cook in our household, ain’t karma grand? I actually love cooking, I find it relaxing and would even call it a hobby.  HOWEVER, cooking dinner for the family, everyday, is none of these! It is in a category all on it’s own. Most nights it feels akin to being a soldier trying to get through enemy lines. 

Some meals are gobbled with gusto and there are resounding cheers for more, however, if I dare go off-piste and introduce something new, I fear the neighbours may call the authorities.  Forget thinking about the ratio of protein to carbohydrate or wether or not the meal promotes good gut flora or has the appropriate amount of plant protein or utilises locally grown, sustainable produce.  Some nights the mere lunge to the pantry door can often feel impossibly hard.

So, I’ve tried to prep more.  The idea being, when hangry o’clock begins, I only have a couple of small jobs left to do; boil the pasta, and cook the corn.  How hard could boiling pasta be? Cue middle child, ‘Mum, Muuuum can you help me stick up my gazelle?” Me: “Honey, I need to get the pasta on, I’ll do it after dinner” middle child: “I need the gazelle on the wall NOW, I need it above the ant eater on my mural, NOOOW” Me: “Please be patient, I will help you when I’m finished”.  Eldest child “Which do you think is better….a threadfin snapper, a bat that uses echo location to try and catch a moth or a blue marlin slashing a fish in half?” Me: “What?! Honey, is this homework?! I can’t now, I need to boil the pasta” eldest child:  “Mural mum, it’s for the mural”.  A crash is audible below, the baby has gotten through my make-shift barrier of cushions and has rolled into the kitchen (I cannot install a safety gate because the layout of the kitchen doesn’t allow it, because, well, because of course it doesn’t!). Baby is now kicking the dishwasher and he’s dismantled the lower section so the pump is visible.  Another bang, this one comes from the living room. “What’s that?!” I yell, not wanting to leave the boiling pasta and the baby who is now under the open pantry door. Middle child: “I fell off the chair trying to hang my gazelle up mum”.  I quickly check with eldest child that middle child is ok and push on with straining the pasta, baby is now wrapped around my legs.  Have not got to the corn yet, decide to scrap it.  The bolognese has enough veggies in it, surely?!  As I crane my head into the living room to call them to dinner I spy reams of sticky tape on the ground.   On further inspection, the walls are covered with the kids pictures of animals that have been stuck on with said tape. Rather than admiring their ‘mural’, my mind suddenly wonders if all the wall paint will be removed by the tape.  Baby is screaming, he has become stuck between pantry door and wall.  As middle child and eldest child tuck into their bolognese they ask, where is the corn? And can they have a drink? And where are the drinks? And do I know what is for dessert? I can hardly speak as I’m prostrate on the floor, picking up nearly all the pasta I dished up for the baby.  I thought those suction cup plates were supposed to stay suctioned to the table?!   

Jools Oliver, wife of celebrity chef Jamie,  isn’t immune to this kind of palaver either.   In an interview with Zoe Hardman and Georgia Dayton she comments on the challenges of feeding her brood and the way her heart sinks when her youngest River, drops his jam toast face down on the floor.   “How disrespectful” she says to herself, completely in jest of course, however, it taps into that relentlessness and exhaustion you can feel when you are preparing never-ending meals that can regularly end up straight on the floor. 

Jessica Rowe’s instagram, The Crap Housewife, generously serves up her nightly dinner offerings, which by the way are really not that crap, my kids would be cheering for schnitty that regularly!  Scrolling through her feed you’ll see many of her go-to dinner staples and in turn you can feel a little better if you find those Pinterest worthy meals completely unattainable.  As any worn out family cook knows, it’s often the very simplest of meals that the family end up liking best.  It is a cruel truth that the ones you’ve slaved over, like the special kale and fetta baby fritters, are most likely the ones to end up being frizbeed across the room.

To all the everyday family cooks out there, we salute you.  In case nobody has told you lately, you are doing a FANTASTIC job.  You are on the front line, growing the humans of tomorrow and are infinitely more important than you will ever get credit for.