An excerpt from The New Mom's Companion
by Debra Gilbert Rosenberg
Question and Answer from the section
Emotional Ups and Downs
I can't seem to concentrate on anything; I can't read or stay awake through a whole movie. Does childbirth cause maternal brain damage?
No, it only seems that way. The early weeks of motherhood do seem to turn your mind to oatmeal. You are physically and emotionally exhausted and you have no opportunity to recover. You are working twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and there is no predictable schedule or even time to relax. Of course you are having trouble concentrating!
This is temporary. I remember Natalie, when her first baby was six weeks old, worrying she would never be able to read another novel for the rest of her life. Only weeks later, the baby was sleeping through the night, and Natalie's ability to concentrate improved. Every woman adjusts to motherhood at her own pace. Your physical recovery from childbirth and your ability to handle sleeplessness affects your powers of concentration.. Your attention span, anxiety level, and ability to handle frustration will impact your ability to focus. Even the temperament of your baby may influence the recovery of your mental capacity, as a needy or fussy baby takes more energy and attention than a come or self-soothing sweetie.
Keeping your newborn alive, reasonably clean, and content is a full time job. When you learn how to do it more efficiently, and the baby becomes less demanding, you will notice that your mind has just been on stand-by, patiently waiting for a chance to be used for something not baby-related. Over the next few months, you will regain your ability to concentrate for longer periods of time. You will graduate from catalog reading to magazines, and from sitcom reruns the movie of the week. Before you know it, you will be able to read a book cover to cover (other than Good Night Moon). Maybe not all in one sitting, and maybe not War and Peace, but your brain will return once you are well rested, more confident, and more efficient. Your intelligence is not diminished; it's just sleeping while you aren't.