Momnesia, Anyone?

Have you all been hearing lately, as I have, about the postpartum syndrome called “momnesia”? I’m not sure how rigorously it is supported by hard medical research. But don’t you think it’s heartening that at least some researchers are finally recognizing a reality that all of us moms have known for years? Being a mom takes a real toll on your memory (among other things)!

This could explain a lot about the daily traumas of motherhood: like walking to the kitchen, standing before a cupboard, and having no idea at all what you are supposed to be looking for. Or leaving a bag or two of groceries at the store. Or completely forgetting a pediatric appointment—or jury duty—or your telephone number. Or your husband’s name. Little things like that.

Personally, I find it comforting that there’s now a label to describe some of what we moms go through. And perhaps some explanation of the cause—hormones and all that. What I don’t find comforting is how long this condition persists. In my case, a very long time. Far beyond postpartum, post-toddlerhood, and even post-teen years.

Yet it does explain why, for example, I once arrived at a retreat I was to teach on “Biblical Self-Worth for Women” without either my makeup bag or any toiletries at all. Yep, that’s right: No blush, no lipstick—no toothbrush, even. It did, however provide me an opportunity to practice what I preach: A great personal example, as it turned out, of not relying on outward appearance for our sense of worth!

Momnesia may also help explain why I left on another weekend trip to visit one of our kids at college without packing a single piece of underwear. Or why I have been known to drive off with things like a purse or my wallet or—once—a beautifully frosted angel food cake on the roof of my car.

Still, I can’t help but be concerned—especially now that I’m a grandmother—at the persistence of this condition. And I have a feeling it could create some pangs of insecurity in some of my children over leaving the grandkids with me.

However, I want to point out that there is a positive side to momnesia. There really is. Let’s face it: there are some things about motherhood that are better forgotten. For example, I have pretty much blocked out large segments of my years of toilet training my sons (and believe me, I mean years).

It was also recently brought to my attention that I had completely forgotten (repressed, maybe?) a major event in the lives of my two younger children. It was the time a town of Lexington police officer came to our front door to ask me whether I was aware that two of my children were hanging out an upstairs window. I really, truly had no memory of this event. But my daughter insists it created major trauma in her life (fear of jail, wondering if parents were allowed to visit, etc)—despite the fact that her version does not actually involve “hanging out the window” so much as “waving at passers-by through an open window.” Not exactly a “magnificent mom” moment. Definitely better forgotten. (Come to think of it, why did my kids have to bring it up?)

So I’m curious: Any of you experiencing momnesia these days? Any good stories to share?

Or how about your personal list of things you hope you’ll forget?

Recently when I was visiting Bjorn, Abby, and Soren, we all shared one of those moments. It happened in the middle of the night. And no, it wasn’t a baby who wouldn’t stop crying. Soren, at 15 months, is actually a very good sleeper these days. It was a quacking in the night. Yes, that’s right—a quacking. We awoke around 3 a.m. to the sounds—very loud sounds—of “quack quack,” “quack quack,” “quack quack,” spaced out at regular intervals. As I lay there wondering if I was imagining things (or dreaming of a farm), Bjorn and Abby slowly groped their way into the living room where I was sleeping, saying “What is that noise? It’s driving us crazy!” It took a surprisingly long time to locate the source.

We searched the toy shelf, the book stack, the diaper bag. Bjorn was sure it was that offensive little duck in the diaper bag. But no, that duck was completely innocent. Finally we found it: a little play farm whose battery had apparently burned out or gone crazy, setting off one very persistent little duck who was quacking away. Poor thing—he spent the rest of the night out on the back porch in the cold. Ever tried to locate the battery in one of your kids’ toys in the middle of the night?

Though this is good for a laugh now, it didn’t seem all that funny at 3 a.m. Who needs a duck quacking at you when your baby is finally sleeping all through the night? Could be a moment Bjorn and Abby won’t remember long. (Do dads get some version of “momnesia” too?) But then again, maybe it’s worth remembering. If there’s anything we need to keep doing as moms, it’s to keep laughing!

Got any good stories to share?