The perils of pregnesia

Finding the remote in the freezer, soap in the fridge and the car keys in the oven… all in a days work for an expectant mum suffering pregnancy-induced brain fog 

“My car is broken!” I screamed down the phone at Gary, one of Toyota’s Service Department employees. “And I have an appointment at the spa in 15 minutes!”

“Now just take a deep breath and let’s talk through this,” said a calm and sympathetic Gary, “What happens when you turn the key?”

“Nothing! Nothing happens! The air con and radio start but the engine is dead! It’s like the engine is flooded or something!”

“Ok, ok. Is the car a manual or an automatic?”


“Right, ok, do you have your foot on the clutch?”

“…Um, no.”

“Ok, a manual won’t start unless you have your foot on the clutch.”

“I know, I’ve been driving a manual for 14 years!”

“Ok, ok, now put your foot on the clutch and turn the key. Is the car starting now?”

“Um, yes, thanks Gary. It’s all good. Sorry, I’m pregnant. Um, bye.”

The day I forgot how to drive was the day I began to believe in pregnancy brain, also referred to as ‘pregnesia’, ‘momnesia’, ‘placenta brain’ and ‘I-think-I-am-losing-my-mind syndrome’. Urban Dictionary describes it as “confusion and short term memory loss that happens during pregnancy” offering the following examples of the term being used in a sentence:

“Hey placenta brain, what’s the soap doing in the fridge?”

“My wife is such a placenta brain. Yesterday I caught her eating chalk. She said she needed the calcium.”

While I have yet to feature on My Strange Addiction chomping on chalk, my lapses in brain function didn’t stop at Clutchgate. During my pregnancy, I not only forgot how to drive, I also frequently found the TV remote in the freezer, my car keys in the oven and managed to stock pile six rolls of tin foil after forgetting to throw away the post-it note on the fridge that said “buy tin foil” (and forgetting that I had in fact bought tin foil on my last five trips to the supermarket).

I’m not alone. 80% of pregnant women experience some form of impaired cognitive function during pregnancy so it’s no surprise that pregnancy discussion forums are full of hormonal women complaining about their brain capacity diminishing as their bellies expand. As if nine months of kankles, back pain and an overzealous bladder wasn’t enough.

At about 22 weeks pregnant, I remember standing at an ATM on my lunch break trying desperately to remember my PIN number. When the digits failed to come to me I waddled around the block before returning to the ATM with chafed thighs and a restored memory.

On another occasion I managed to remember my PIN but I forgot to take the money out of the ATM dispenser. I then went to lunch with the girls and ended up red-faced when the bill came as the 80 bucks I had withdrawn had apparently evaporated along with my ability to string a cohesive sentence together without punctuating it with “Um…”.

A lot of research has been done into pregnancy brain with many different theories emerging on the potential cause.

Heidi Murkoff, author of the ‘pregnancy bible’ What to Expect When You’re Expecting, blames those pesky hormones which are responsible for a plethora of other unwanted pregnancy symptoms including snoring, water retention, foot growth and farting like a tortilla-loving truck driver.

Some blame the fact that growing babies absorb a lot of Omega 3 fatty acids that are essential for brain function, others think it may be due to a lack of sleep as pregnant women try to find a horizontal position that accommodates their growing bump.

A more controversial theory is that the brain actually shrinks during pregnancy, which would make it the only part of the anatomy that doesn’t do the opposite.

Other experts are adamant that pregnant women do not have any cognitive defects and should be able to perform functions just as well as their flat-bellied contemporaries. To that, Gary and I say codswallop.


Me at about 6 months pregnant no doubt mistaking the dog for my husband

So what can be done about these bouts of cringe-worthy idiocracy?

Well, not much. You can try and write things down but you’ll probably forget where you put the piece of paper. You can delegate jobs to your husband but you’ll probably forget you asked him to pick up a parcel and end up abusing the unsuspecting post office attendant and leaving empty-handed (Huan, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry).

The best thing to do is accept that pregnancy brain is as inevitable as your feet resembling 10 pork sausages sticking out of two giant burger buns. So put them up, maintain your sense of humour and try not to kill anyone.

As for me, I wish my pregnancy-related car troubles had ended when I hung up on Gary. After Clutchgate, my husband and I decided to buy a family-sized 4WD with automatic transmission (sorry environment). No clutch, perfect, right? Well…

At about 30 weeks pregnant I attended a work conference. At the end of the day, I found myself staring at a vacant car spot in disbelief. In a panic, I rang my husband and left a message on his voicemail, “The car has been stolen! Call me immediately!”

As I prepared to dial the police a faintly familiar number plate invaded my peripheral vision. My car it appeared had taken a day trip to the opposite end of the car park only to be stopped in its tracks by a ‘No Entry’ sign that it had knocked over to a 45 degree angle. I toddled over, opened the car door and realised I had forgotten to put the car in park and also failed to engage the park brake.

I texted two short words to my husband that seemed to sum it up, “Never mind.”


Another year older and full of gratitude

WARNING: soppy post ahead…

This week I am turning 33. As someone who is prone to complaining and focusing on the negative, I thought my birthday was a good time to take stock of my life and focus on the positives because in the words of one of my favourite composers, John Bucchino, “grateful, grateful, truly grateful I am”.

Today –

I am grateful for my close friends who invest their time and love into moulding a caring and meaningful relationship with me.

I am grateful for my sense of humour that has turned dark times into memories I can laugh at over a glass of sauv.

I am grateful for all the shitty, tumultuous and sometimes abusive relationships that made me recognise and appreciate a good man.

I am grateful that after seven years I call that good man my husband and that every time I see him tickle our baby boy, I fall more in love with him.

I am grateful for my imperfect body that grew and continues to nurture a beautiful new life.

I am grateful for our often messy home that is filled with warmth, laughter and personality, and for our street full of talkative and supportive neighbours (bar one).

I am grateful to have spent 21 years of my life in the magnificent, vibrant and culturally diverse South Africa and to have witnessed the end of apartheid.

I am grateful for the organic supermarket in Seddon that always has stock of Joe’s Chocolate Ripple ice cream when I’ve had a bad day and for acknowledging my patronage with a 5% discount.

I am grateful that despite being given a 5-10% chance of conceiving naturally, we managed to fall pregnant without the heartache and stress of IVF that so many people we love have had to face.


I am grateful for our ‘defective’ pedigree fluff child Wilbur who loves burrowing into the back of my knees each night to share my love of trashy TV.

I am grateful that I married a man whose family is as loveable as he is.

I am grateful that my biggest financial worry is how I am going to afford a monthly facial, an over-priced maxi dress and our dog’s annual Christmas portrait.

I am grateful for Mondays spent with my mothers group who have alleviated the loneliness of being a stay-at-home mum.

I am grateful to live in a country where I can go for long walks with my baby and never feel unsafe.

I am grateful to have travelled extensively and seen sights that will remain perfect snapshots in my memory, that sunset in Santorini, walking through the villages of Cinque Terre…

I am grateful for a mother who can make me laugh like no other person in the world and who stays up past midnight every year so she can be the first to wish me a happy birthday.

I am grateful for a father whose intelligence, stability and love has created the foundation for my abundant and confident life.

I am grateful for my sister whose marathon Skype chats always remind me that I am a powerful and capable woman and a great Mum, and for my nieces who emanate all that is right with the world.

I am grateful for my son who moves me every day and who has redefined my life in the best possible way.

I am grateful that at (nearly) 33, my life is all that I imagined and hoped it would be.

The pursuit of pregnancy perfection – how obsessing about weight can make a girl go cray cray

The news has been abuzz with the prevalence of pregorexia after a UK study surveyed more than 700 pregnant women and found that a quarter were highly concerned about their weight and shape. It got me thinking about my own battles with body image and how much energy I wasted in the pursuit of pregnancy perfection.

The day I got married I was a size 8. I’d spent the months leading up to our wedding eating lettuce, dry chicken and protein bars that tasted like paper mache. I’d also chained myself to a treadmill every day and pec-decked till my breasts resembled stunned mandarins. I kept telling myself that nobody gasps at a fat bride and that if I couldn’t be picture perfect on my wedding day I would have failed at life. Dinner invitations sent me into a flat panic, I’d check out restaurant menus online to plan out the evening –  if I ordered the 250g steak, I could eat half of it, ask for salad on the side with no dressing and no fries. Then I could fill my champagne glass with sparkling water and pretend it was alcohol. Yes, I was a barrel of laughs in the lead up to the big day, as I struggled to look nothing like the curvy girl my husband had fallen in love with.

WeddingdayOn my wedding day after a three months of no carbs

I’ve always been a complete basket case when it comes to my weight. Growing up as the chubby daughter of a skinny dance teacher will do that to you. While my older sister always managed to stay slim, I would put on a kilo every time I glanced at a marshmallow. Ever since I went on my first soup diet at the age of 11, photos of me have been a series of before and after pictures as my desire to be thinner has controlled every event and every day of my life. There is no middle ground with me, I either starve myself or eat everything in sight. When I’m in starvation mode, I’m constantly panicking that I’m going to fall off the wagon and when I’m in hungry hippo mode I feel nauseatingly guilty 24/7. Am I obese? Hell to the no. If I let my body settle into its natural state, I’m a size 12, which in many people’s eyes is perfect.

When my husband and I started trying for a baby, we’d just returned from our dream holiday in Europe. Six weeks of eating gnocchi and drinking pinot had puffed out my thighs and when I looked in the mirror I saw a bowling ball of a face on top of a hessian bag of flab. Each month the negative pregnancy result brought tears of disappointment, but also a sense of relief – I’d think, I have four more weeks to lose weight before I’m not allowed to anymore!  But the next month I weighed the same as the month before and I hated myself for not being disciplined enough to break up with carbs and hook up with celery, because if I could be super skinny when I fell pregnant, I wouldn’t be too fat at the end. I would diet for four days then find myself snorkeled up with a chocolate wafer and diving headfirst into a bowl of macadamia and caramel ice-cream. Without a white dress egging me on, I had false start after false start in the pursuit of pre-pregnancy perfection.

IMG_4781Enjoying the sunset (and cocktails) in Europe

Eight months and no dropped kilos later, I fell pregnant. My husband and I were ecstatic but my elation was tainted with the anger I felt for not losing the junk in my trunk. I grilled my obstetrician on how many kilos he expected me to put on. He told me I was a perfectly healthy weight and should put on between 11 and 16 kilos but everyone is different he said, so don’t worry if you gain more than that. I was angry with him for not being harder on me, so I went home and put together an Excel spreadsheet that mapped out the weeks of my pregnancy. I divided 11 kilos across the second and third trimester to try and set myself a limit of how many grams I should allow myself to put on each week. I wanted to be a hot mama with a perfect round bump, not a bloated tracksuit pants wearing slob.

After the first trimester, I’d already gained four kilos, so I recalculated the spreadsheet. Two weeks later, I’d gained another two kilos, I recalculated again. Operation pregnancy perfection was not going to plan.

I Googled ‘pregnancy diet’ and found the details of a dietician who could stop me falling down the rapid gain rabbit hole. She gave me a list of foods to eat and foods to avoid but no strict eating plan. I walked away furious. Where were my super strict parameters? How was I going to regain control? The pressure sent me straight to the pantry. It didn’t help that my husband would come home with treats, “I got my gorgeous wife a Freddo frog” he’d say. I’d scream at him, eat the frog and then collapse into a bawling, hormonal mess.

At prenatal aqua aerobics, I’d ask each girl how far along she was then mentally measure my belly size against each of theirs. Every week while paddling and straddling a pool noodle, I would diagnose myself as gargantuan. I only care about these things because I want to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy bub I told myself. But I knew it was more than that, it was that chubby 11-year-old chaffing in her Mickey Mouse shorts and miserably eating her fifth cup of soup who was screwing with my head.

Blog-Bodyimage2 On honeymoon in Bali and three days before I had Moo (it took 40 deleted photos before I approved this one)

By the time I reached the final weeks of my pregnancy I had gained 24 kilos. My Mum came out from South Africa to help me prepare for the bub but her camera stayed in her handbag as I refused to let her take any photos of me looking like a whale. My Mum kept telling me I looked gorgeous and was “all belly” but I knew she was just being kind.  I put the Excel spreadsheet in the trash folder, slid the scale under the bathroom cupboard and opened a pack of Tim Tams. I was too far gone I told myself, I’d just have to be super strict once bubba was born. If Beyonce could rock sequined hot pants weeks after giving birth, it couldn’t be that hard.

On 21 January our gorgeous baby boy was born. He was a healthy 3.86kgs and perfect in every way. When we got home from hospital, I Ajaxed the dust off the scales and was thrilled to discover that I’d lost 13kgs since my last weigh in. Out came the Excel spreadsheet and according to my calculations I’d be thin again by June.

I’d love to say that becoming a mother has made me view my body with awe and wonder, but that’s not 100% true. I am still fighting with my body and I’m tired. It’s now September and I’ve just fallen off post-pregnancy wagon number six. I hate that despite being completely obsessed with my weight, I can’t get a handle on it. I hate that the more I stress about it, the more likely I am to eat crap. I hate that I can’t occasionally eat a burger without feeling like shit. I hate how the number on the scales each morning has the power to make or break my day.

I know I need to stop. I know I need to be thankful and stop obsessing over a body that really isn’t all that bad. I’m going to try. Because I don’t want something so superficial to have so much power over me anymore. I want to tell that 11-year-old girl eating soup and dreaming of ice-cream that she is beautiful. Because she is. We all are.

Moo’s Mum’s Must-Haves: The Basics

If you’re about to have a baby and wondering what you might need, or if you’re looking for a gift for a friend’s baby shower, here are my humble recommendations.

Bright Starts Bouncer
Put your baby in the box seat as you do your daily ablutions. The bouncer is essential for any mum who wants to shower and go to the loo without listening to bubba scream incessantly from the living room. It will also come in handy if you’d like to eat anything other than Thai takeaway after bub’s arrival as it’ll keep him occupied on the kitchen floor. Available at Target for $49.95 (about the same price as a red duck curry, two roti, coconut rice and a prawn pad thai).

Bright Starts Bouncer

Organic Hub-a-Bub wrap
You rock your newborn for 20 minutes to get her to sleep then place her gently in the cot and hold your breath. As you tip toe out the room, you hear an inhale that becomes a squawk that becomes a waaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Repeat x3. Eventually you accept defeat and wonder how you’re going to get anything done while having to hold your bub through her nap. Enter the Hug-a-Bub. People always told me to just relax and forget the housework while bub was young. That’s all well and good if you want to live in a sty, stink from a lack of clean clothes and die of salmonella because you don’t have a clean plate to eat off. Reality is, shit needs to get done and the Hub-a-Bub will help you knock off a few duties while baby sleeps nuzzled into your sweaty boob crack.  The Organic Hug-a-Bub baby wrap is available online for $99 or at most large baby stores.

Hugabub baby wrap

Sophie the giraffe
This French long-necked plastic mammal has become the staple baby shower gift. Long before Moo started teething he was slobbering all over her little brown ears. Sophie now lives in the car, where she provides Moo with endless chewing and squeaking joy when we go on trips. Word of advice, if Sophie finds herself having a sleepover in the dog’s bed, don’t put her in boiling water. While it will serve to disinfect her, she will also end up mute. Moo is now on Sophie number 3…Sophie is available at most baby stores including Babies R Us for $26.99.

Sophie the Giraffe

Mimco nappy bag
Just because you have to wear elasticated pants and tent-like tops to hide your post-baby jelly belly, doesn’t mean you have to forgo fashionable accessories. I’ve always loved Mimco products and their nappy bags are gorgeous and reasonably-priced for an item you will use everyday. Splurge on yourself and get a matching wallet. It’ll probably be empty for a while (or for a long while if you’re on 12 months maternity leave like me) but you can fill it with passport photos of your baby, Coles petrol dockets and maxed-out credit cards. Mimco nappy bags are available instore and online for $249.

Mimco nappy bag
Sangenic nappy disposal system
I applaud the environmentally-friendly hemp-wearing Prius-driving vegan hippies who can handle scooping poop out of cloth nappies. I’m not one of them. Once that Huggie full of mustard-coloured cottage cheese has been removed from my bub’s bum, I want it (and its odour) to disappear as quickly as possible. The Sangenic nappy disposal system allows you to pop the nappy in the top and wind the lever so it seals off the offensive odour. Once the bowel movement has been sealed off, the film neutralises the smell and fights the bacteria. No more running out to the garbage bin squealing in your PJs. The cassette refills are a bit pricey at $15 each but your nasal cavity will thank you. The Sangenic Starter Kit includes 6 cassettes and is available from Baby Bunting for $75.

Sangenic nappy systemCloth nappies
No, I am not retracting my aversion to cloth nappies as stipulated above. These aren’t for poop, they’re for puke. I was lucky enough to be blessed with a baby who suffered from severe reflux until he was about five months old. After each feed, Moo would projectile three litres of breastmilk across the room sometimes drenching our dog (and almost always saturating the couch) in the process. I would go through about ten of these spew rags a day. Even if your bub only does mild spews, a pack of cloth nappies will always come in handy. They’re super absorbent and if cupped in front of baby’s mouth they ensure minimal splash back…and they’re a lot cheaper than buying a new couch. A pack of 12 cloth nappies costs $20 at Baby Bunting.

Cloth nappies

Where for art thou sleep?

Free to a good home: Baby boy. Comes with built-in alarm clock guaranteed to go off every hour from 1am. Mute button faulty. Repair doubtful.

Sleep is one of my favourite past-times. I love curling up in fresh sheets, nuzzling into my over-priced chiropractor-approved pillow and dreaming about Colin Firth exiting the water in Pride and Prejudice the miniseries. Sleep is like finding out that a chocolate Tasti D-Lite contains only 70 calories. It’s like flipping through New Idea and discovering Heidi Klum has stretch marks, saddle bags and crows feet. It’s like being told your cheating ex ended up with an obese bogan who infected him with gonorrhea. Ultimate bliss.

Dear God how I miss it.

It’s ironic that I decorated Moo’s nursery in owls because he has proven to be a big fan of the nocturnal lifestyle. In eight months I can count the number of times he has ‘slept through’ on one hand which has left me feeling (and looking) like a pensioner who has lost their passion for the pokies.

This morning Moo was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 4.55am after calling for cuddles at 1, 2 and 3am. Boob used to get him back to sleep relatively quickly but now, after 30 minutes of hydration he looks at me as if to say, “Let’s get up and watch ads for the Ab Circle Pro”.

I’ve followed the books, introduced a strict routine and done the self-settling thing. I’ve Googled the gigs out of the issue, rung helplines, joined support groups and taken on every bit of ludicrous advice thrown at me from friends, relatives and the 60-year-old childless Italian lady I run into at the coffee shop every second day. Yes, I’ve cut out yoghurt and bumped up protein, added fifty layers of bamboo blankets and cranked up the oil heater, changed the mattress protector and sweated on a muslin cloth then placed it in his cot. I’ve patted his tummy while counting to 500, chanted Tibetan sleep inducing hymns and prayed to Morpheus, Buddha and the Easter Bunny.

I’d love to say I’ve coped with eight months of sleep deprivation with zen-like serenity but the truth is, I’ve oscillated between Ms Rational and a crazy, ranting “sterilise me now” psycho. I mourn the stamina of my twenties when I’d drink my bodyweight in cocktails till 4am, sleep for two hours and skip to work fuelled by caffeine and Tic Tacs. These days if I get any less than a four hour block of slumber, I get a lazy eye and can’t manage much more than shuffling through the day in my slippers and watching repeat episodes of Say Yes to the Dress.

On the opposite end of the strung-out spectrum is my husband who handles the lack of sleep with the patience of a celibate Christian looking for love. He just nods as I rant about the pros of China’s one child policy in the middle of the night and says, “Babe, he’s a baby. He’ll sleep eventually.” I’ve done extremely well marrying someone who is the calm to my crazy. Encouraging him to take on a new job that requires him to travel overseas a lot was probably not my finest decision. If he asks any of you where his passport is hiding, please don’t tell him it’s at the bottom of the nappy disposal bin.

People tell me Moo will sleep better once he turns one. Until then I’m going to try and cherish those early morning snuggles because I know I’ll miss them when he’s a sullen 16-year-old passed out on the couch stinking of UDLs. And let’s face it, sleep is a fair trade off when you peer into the cot and see your bub beaming at you with squeezy cheeks full of dimples…even if it is 4am.


 Moo partaking in one of his least favourite activities

From Prada to Poo: The joys of being a fat and unfashionable new mum

If you’d asked me 12 months ago to describe myself in ‘elevator talk’ I would’ve said, “I’m a successful communications manager working in the health sector. I love travelling the world, splurging on $260 face cream and pouring myself into a taxi after too many mojitos.” I would happily debate the merits of BB creams vs. foundations, squatted till my glutes screamed to fit into skinny jeans and knew all about my hairdresser’s unfaithful ex. Between my job, social life, studying for my Masters degree and performing in the odd amateur musical, I never sat down and got off on thrill of meeting deadlines and celebrating successes.

Fast forward 12 months, one baby and 17 kilos and my life would take a broken elevator with a tardy repairman to describe.

As a previously fashion conscious compulsive shopper, I’m currently sitting at my computer in a mismatched tracksuit covered in breast milk, saliva and a blob of something that after a quick ‘scratch and sniff’ test is identified as regurgitated pumpkin. I used to fit into a size 28 jeans, now that’s my BMI. The last piece of jewellery I bought was a Baltic amber teething necklace and this Summer I’ll be chaffing in shorts fastened with a hair band thanks to my new tummy that hangs over my c-section scar like a zebra print moonbag. My mascara has coagulated past its use by date and my eyebrow plucker has cashed in its super and commenced an early retirement.

After eight months on maternity leave I don’t know if or when I’ll return to my previously satisfying job. Could I leave my gorgeous baby boy in the care of strangers while I fiddle with marketing plans and Photoshop double chins? I’m not sure. My role has been snapped up by a 20-something year old who is willing and able to spend 60 hours a week tied to her desk at the mercy of the constantly shrinking deadline. Would the executive group want to trade her in for a part-timer who’ll be doing the childcare dash at 4.30pm every afternoon? I doubt it. Search part-time marketing and communications roles on Seek and you don’t even need to scroll, a reduction in work hours brings up a short list of assistant roles paying less than a nugget fryer at Maccas. After years of fighting for promotions and working through weekends, I’ve stepped off the career escalator for a while and my bank balance is currently in debit of 86c.

Late nights socialising with friends and performing in sometimes dodgy theatre productions have become cosy nights in, dreaming up different accents for Mr Rubber Ducky, and singing Wallace the Wondrous Warthog to an audience of one. I go to bed at 8.30pm knowing I’ll be up at 12, 3 and 5 to nurse or cuddle and sometimes swear. My Masters, which I planned to finish at the end of this year, may take another five and I haven’t seen or heard from most of my gay mates as suburban mums with muffin top aren’t the trendiest club companions.

While I’d love to say that I still read three novels a month and am able to come up with witty one-liners and unique cultural observations, my bedside table is now piled with books on sleep training and last week I forgot how to spell “yoghurt”. I haven’t said anything remotely amusing since last November and when I hear myself talk about nappy contents and baby-led weaning, I start to wonder why no one has offered me a job as an aural anaesthetist.

I’m grateful that my husband and I travelled extensively as newlyweds because ever since flying to South Africa with a five-month-old, I’ve been Googling “self lobotomy” to rid my brain of the memory. I know Christmas in New York is lovely, but we’ll be spending the next 18 December’s in either Ballarat, Creswick or Geelong.

Now before the smoke starts rising from the keyboards of mummy trolls, let me say that I wouldn’t change a thing. Sticking my post-coital legs in the air for eights months was the best decision I ever made. My gorgeous little chicken-legged cherub has crept into deepest crevices of my heart and made my life fuller than I ever imagined it could be. Sure I’m fat and unfashionable and I haven’t waxed my legs in eight weeks, my career is in the toilet and a new grey hair just sprung up to say “Hi, you’re old”, but I’m the best goddamn frog impersonator in Melbourne and my little man thinks I’m Miranda Kerr. So if you ask me to describe myself between the Ground Floor and Level 2, I may just say, “I’m a new mum” and leave it at that. Because for now, that’s more than enough.