Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mommy brain

I'm not a big fan of the phrase "mommy brain." Especially when there is no knowledge of what that means behind it. People throw the words around a lot. In my (limited) experience, I think it is used to describe the forgetful, scattered state that a new mom may find herself in when she is functioning on 1 hour of sleep a night. That's was my definition. However, I recently read an article that describes "Mother-Brain" in a whole new way. And I really enjoyed how she describes "mommy brain."

Excerpts from "Mother-Brain: Life on the isle of infant" by Leanna James.

Context in the article: upon being asked "How have you been? What have you been doing? What's it really like?"

"I try to explain, but it doesn't come out right, somehow. It's incredible, I tell my friends, anxious to share the news. My daughter cried, my daughter pooped, my daughter looked at me and laughed. I hear my own words and think, Is that all you have to say?

But wait, the mother-brain protests. Worlds within worlds unfolded in front of your eyes, universes the size of a pea appeared in your palm! Tell them about that. Tell them about Amanda's gaze, how there's nothing to compare with that. I look down into my daughter's eyes and she looks steadily back at me....

...Tell them, mother-brain whispers, about what it feels like to be looked at with those eyes. A baby's gaze that does not, cannot, assign value or make a label: pretty...plain...intelligent...dull...When was the last time you looked at a human being without filing the face? When was the last time you were looked at that way?

Amanda gazes at me calmly. She receives my face: it doesn't occur to her that my face could look any other way. It exists, and that is enough. So simple, but I find it earth-shattering. I can't get over it. My mother-brain reels in this pure perception. I dissolve into it; I forget about the thousands of names we have for things, the thousands of ways we separate one thing from another. For days at a time, I live outside the value system that calls one thing good and another thing bad, one thing beautiful, another thing worthless. I see shapes, colors, forms; I see tiny lights in my daughter's eyes. I smell the milk on her breath; I smell the sweat under my breasts;. I clean the urine and feces from my baby's body; I clean myself. I eat in the morning, she suckles, and the days slide by. There is nothing to analyze. There is nothing to dissect.

And then someone asks me a question, and I must summon my powers of language and logic.


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