Elissa C. Nysetvold

Pregnancy Brain—Is It a Thing?

Well, look at that: it’s been over two months since my last post, which was honestly a bit of a cop-out. I’ve been feeling guilty about this for awhile, but Tom managed to cheer me up: “There’s no way you can be worse at your blog,” he said, “than you are at Instrumental Analysis.”

Oh, that Tom. He always knows what to say.

(Instrumental Analysis is a 500-level chemistry class, and the first class in which I managed to score a 52% on a midterm. Thank goodness for the curve.)

To be honest, I’ve been having a lot of trouble blogging lately. I have four or five drafts that I’ve started and abandoned for various reasons:

“This post is so angry. Maybe you shouldn’t blog while you’re so angry.”
“This post is booooooring. Why can’t you write anything interesting?”
“This one is better, but still pretty lame. No one wants to read about that.”
“I don’t want to blog. I want to sit on the couch, eat chocolate, and watch Duck Dynasty. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”

If this silliness was localized to blogging, I wouldn’t be concerned. The problem is, it’s spilled over into my regular writing. I’ve spent the past month trying to brainstorm and plot my next project, and I’ve gotten nowhere beyond a few pages of summarized Wikipedia articles. If I can force myself to work through the fog, I feel like I’m getting somewhere, but as soon as I take a break, I immediately lose interest in the idea and wonder why I thought anyone else would be interested.

It’s been so frustrating that the other night I told Tom that maybe I should quit writing and do something else with my life. He told me that maybe now isn’t the time to be making sweeping statements about my career, given that I’m 7.something months pregnant and haven’t been feeling 100% lately.

That, along with spending some time with another pregnant woman who was obviously having trouble remembering things, got me thinking: could “pregnancy brain” be the cause of my writing problems? Instead of making me lose my keys or leave the house without pants, could New Friend be simply claiming all my creative energy? I can’t think of a worthier use for it (New Friend is certainly more important than my mediocre-at-best novels, after all), and Googling “pregnancy brain writing” indicates that lot of pregnant women have similar complaints. I even found some evidence that women’s brains physically shrink toward the end of pregnancy, which would explain a lot. I hate it when writers talk about “losing their muse” (it’s a pretentious excuse if I ever heard one), but I just had this mental image of New Friend sneaking up on an ancient Greek woman with a harp and hitting her in the head with a meat mallet.

Of course, I immediately found tons of conflicting information. This article claims that pregnancy actually improves women’s cognitive abilities, while this one extols the positive effects of pregnancy on a woman’s creativity. “You can claim brain shrinkage if you want,” these sites seem to tell me, “but science isn’t backing you up. Maybe you’re just lazy.” Thanks, internet.

The one common thread in these articles is that sleep deprivation and stress commonly contribute to the “brain fog,” which makes a little more sense. What, you mean my brain doesn’t like waking up every hour from 11 pm to 4 am so I can either go to the bathroom or break up the all-night dance party in my abdomen? You’re trying to tell me that juggling prenatal classes, two sets of doctor’s appointments, amped-up dietary requirements, medical insurance paperwork, and buying all the baby things on top of my normal responsibilities might be more than my brain is used to?

In some ways, I haven’t had this much stress in my life since I graduated from college. It doesn’t feel as stressful most of the time because instead of dealing with grouchy professors and TAs, I’m dealing with smiling doctors and nurses; instead of receiving disappointing midterm grades for my efforts, I’m being handed adorable sonogram printouts. I’d take pregnancy over P-chem any day, but still—there’s a lot going on.

Whether due to brain shrinkage or plain old sleep deprivation, something is definitely happening upstairs, and I’m not convinced it’s anything to worry about. Perhaps the most interesting article I found claims that the changes in pregnant women’s brains serve to make them better mothers, and that’s definitely something to embrace. Maybe I should take a nap and realize that while the next 6.3 weeks may not be the most productive writing weeks I’ve ever had, it’s all for a good cause. Plenty of women manage to write books after having multiple kids, and whether that’s my lot in life or not, raising New Friend and Future Friends is the most important thing I’ll ever do.

And because this post has been sort of a downer, here are some cute pictures to make up for it!

We got a crib! And I only maimed myself twice putting it together. The mobile was a gift from my family.
This is the New-Friend’s-eye view of the mobile. I sewed all the animals except the tiger, which was made by my dad. He has mad skills. New Friend also gets to look at our BYU diplomas. We try to stress the importance of education in this family…or something.
The bright side of seeing a perinatologist every few weeks: lots of ultrasounds! Sometimes Dr. Reiter will pull up the 3D sonogram just for kicks, probably to cheer me up when I’m looking especially nervous. Tom’s just happy that we’re finally using this photo holder a good family friend gave us for a wedding present.
I found this baby bathrobe at Ross and thought, “My child needs this.” Adorable/embarrassing pictures to come after New Friend is born.
I’m working on a baby blanket. This is actually the second blanket I’ve started, but the first, though awesome, doesn’t currently lend itself well to photography. Yet.

Anyone have crazy stories/advice about dealing with “pregnancy brain”? Drop me a line! I love comments!

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