A new study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience shows that pregnancy reduces certain areas of our brain’s gray matter. It looks like the areas being reduced probably affect how a pregnant woman interprets the actions, intentions, and feelings of others — and these symptoms can last up to two years.
And to that I say, well, no shit, science. New mothers are so focused on keeping people alive and not dying ourselves, that the “feelings” of others besides our new sweet bundle of work…don’t really matter to us.
You know what matters to us?
Sleep matters to us. Surviving another 10 hours with a baby who thinks your body is an all-night buffet matters to us. Producing more milk matters. Avoiding the bitch that is mastitis matters. Mesh panties matter. Making sure that our partners bring home takeout for the rest of their lives matters. Not wetting our pants in public matters. The feelings of others, unless it’s our cranky 3-year-old and we need to make it out of the grocery store with all of our limbs intact, not so much.
This study also said that other than processing faces and assessing emotional cues, they weren’t totally sure about which areas of gray matter are being chiseled down.
Well, after being the proud owner of a pregnant body twice in my lifetime, I have a few ideas about which areas of our brains just might be affected.
1. The area that reminds you of when it’s time to wash your hair. I’m pretty sure that it was a pregnant person who invented the miracle that is dry shampoo. And can I get a collective “hell yeah” that the messy bun (topknot?) is back in style? Thank you.
2. Your sense of smell. But only with regards to your own hulking unwashed form and your baby’s special stinkiness. Otherwise, you could probably smell a rogue M&M from a passing minivan.
3. The area that says you should be polite when strangers try to touch your protruding belly. Yes, I get that it’s giant and scary right now, but touching people’s bodies whom you don’t know in public is still not okay. Never okay. Don’t do this.
4. The amount of shits you give when trying on a bathing suit. Those are just pretty much gone.
5. The inability to not get completely annoyed with anyone who isn’t as excited about your pregnancy as you. If you don’t think my cervical dilation isn’t the most fascinating thing you’ve ever heard, you’re dead to me.
6. The area that allows you to tolerate the smell of frying meat. Oh god, I can still feel the underlying nausea that assaulted me when walking into all-day-breakfast diners.
7. And also the area that says when you should stop eating nachos with sour cream before you scare someone. “Limits are for losers” was usually my motto.
8. The place in your brain that says you shouldn’t murder anyone who asks if you are having twins. Unless you have heard someone tell you they are having twins or held the ultrasound picture in your hand, assume no and keep your mouth shut.
9. The part that says you shouldn’t leave the house wearing the same T-shirt you’ve worn for a week because it’s the only thing that fits. You look like a junk-show and you could seriously not care.
10. The urge to kill strangers in aisle 4 of the grocery store who think they need to tell you pregnancy horror stories. I’m looking at you random lady in Whole Foods that one Tuesday when I was 9 months pregnant. That story was not cool.
11. Your brain zone of being able to perform or care about any and all hair removal from your person.
12. The part that might have once envied celebrities’ flawless post-baby pictures. We know what’s really happening behind all of those filters and photoshopping. We know, dammit.
13. The area that used to be able to tune out a crying baby. I think that since becoming a mother, I will forever get a little jolt of anxiety every time I hear a baby cry. And I just might start to spontaneously bounce and hum. No, you’re weird. Whatever.
14. The ability to focus on pretty much anything besides staring at the human who came out of you and who you’ve been imagining ever since you played Life as a kid and started filling up your car with all of those pink and blue pegs. (Just me?)
15. And…the part of you that would never dream of wanting to smother your snoring husband at 3 a.m. I think that the soundly sleeping partners of wide-awake pregnant women are probably the most vulnerable people on the planet. Sleep with one eye open, pal.
Those were probably just some of the areas of our brains that were affected by pregnancy. I can’t remember everything because I’ve been pregnant twice, remember? Our kids will steal our memories, our bodies, our sleep, and now, I guess, our brains too. Good thing those adorable little bundles of anxiety are totally worth it.