The baby has hijacked my brain

Last night Mike asked me a work-related question during dinner.

“I can’t think about that right now,” I said, “I’m eating.”

There was silence. I figured that Mike was probably thinking that during the almost three years of our marriage I had heretofore shown myself capable of having a conversation over the dinner table and thus, presumably, thinking and eating at the same time.

“The baby is awake,” I said, taking a brief break from shoveling takeaway Indian food into my mouth as fast as possible to point to Dominic with my fork. Dominic was sitting in his stroller beside the dinner table, happily engaged trying to bat the purple toy cow I had strategically dangled beside him. I figured that he would be happily engaged for another 57 seconds, maybe 59 if we were lucky.

“The baby takes up 80% of my brain power,” I explained. “I can monitor the baby and focus on eating with that other 20%, but I can’t monitor the baby, eat, and think about your question all at the same time. When I’m finished eating I’ll use that leftover 20% to think.”

Mike may have been tempted to ask why I felt compelled to spend 80% of my brain-power monitoring a perfectly content baby when said baby was clearly in my line of sight and his other parent was sitting right beside him. If Mike was tempted to ask this, he didn’t. Wise man.

If, however, Mike had asked me this, I would have had two answers for him. The first would have been (cue slightly snarky tone here) that when your spouse is gone 30% of the time and you’re single parenting in a foreign country it gets to be a habit that is awfully hard to break. After I got done with this passive aggressive piece of venting, my second answer might have been a simple statement.

I don’t know.

I don’t know why my brain short circuits at his merest squeak, why I will immediately lose my ability to pay attention to any conversation I might have been having before that little lip pouted out and those doleful yelps began to mount. Why I will tense up when I am lying in bed and hear that faint and terrifying clink of plastic upon plastic that signals a pacifier falling out. Why I sometimes wake up thrashing in the middle of the night, still tangled up in a dream that I’m feeding or holding him, reaching out to find that small body and panicking when it’s not there.

I don’t know.

I was going to do all this online research about what pregnancy and new motherhood does to brain chemistry and weave that into this blog post so that: (a) we could all learn something new, and (b) (much more importantly) I had scientific proof that I’m not completely crazy.

But it’s 8pm. Mike’s been upstairs trying to settle Dominic for 45 minutes now and I can hear him crying (Dominic, that is, not Mike, though for all I know Mike’s up there crying as well). This means I have no brain space left for research or even a graceful wrap up. It means that I’m going to draw this to a close the way that I end a goodly number of my skype calls at the moment – with a hurried: “Baby’s crying. Gotta go.”

Catch you tomorrow for Writing Wednesday.

Oh, and other parents, did you experience a similar phenomenon when your first child was born (or should I be checking out what sort of anxiolytics I can buy over the counter here in Laos)?

What? Me? Needy? Never!

6 responses to “The baby has hijacked my brain

  1. Scrolling down to read your words, Dom’s very big brain cap came into view before I could get to his eyes and sweet pucker. Believe me, he’s using that top part to outsmart you and his daddy, to keep your attention strong. He’s social and he’s alone sometimes and that feels wrong after all that contact he’s been enjoying. You’re doing well…not just OK. Hang on. It’s a long ride but he will eventually need you less…like maybe in …nope, not going there.
    Thanks for staying in touch, Lisa. You’ll make it. Really. You will.

  2. A few years ago I was reading a great down to earth and funny book about early parenting ,,, and they called it the “mummy chip”. They’d interviewed hundred of couples in the early parenting years … pretty much all mums seemed to have developed a “mummy chip” just as you describe as soon as baby number one born (but not Dads … the obsessive edge seemed most definitely a Mum thing).. I reckon we can all relate – have to confess by the time you get to baby number three it’s a bit more chilled out – would need to be otherwise would be breakdown material if one had three of those crazy-making mummy chips! Meanwhile, you were on to something in one of you earlier posts when you mused about whether to mix parenting with gin & tonic. In a word – definitely! Hugs, Kylie xox

  3. absolutely. I wanted to be the laid back new mom, but as I described it, I felt I HAD to react to him in the same way you react instinctively if your head itches or your leg gets numb. You simply react and move your leg or scratch your head. It’s like that baby is an extension of your body and MUST be attended to, and if you attempt to ignore you will lose the ability to focus on anything else. It’s awfully inconvenient to have an extension of your body that does not automatically respond like our limbs do!

    It fades as he gets older, but I still jerk wide awake at night if I hear him start to move around as if he might wake up and cry.

  4. I have no idea what you’re talking about . . . Now, where’s my child again? Where are my keys? What was I saying?

  5. It proves ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ that you are his real and proper biological Mama! And that he’s not gonna grow up with attachment disorders… I can remember trying to explain it to my sympathetic (but none-the-wiser) husband too. At least 3 times- at 3-yearly intervals! (BTW, He says more than that.) You might not believe it but I hanker after those needy days now, oh how the mighty are fallen!

  6. Thanks all – these comments ranged from making me laugh, to making me feel not alone, to both :).

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