ADD-ing new perspectives

My daughter is sailing rather gracefully through her pregnancy — well, as gracefully as one can when they have reached the “beached whale” stage that is the third trimester.

And yet, as with many pregnant women, she is experiencing some “third trimester brain rot”, that intermittent or semi-chronic reduction in frontal-lobe functioning.  Meaning:

  • forgetting important things you meant to do
  • not packing things you meant to take with you somewhere
  • getting sidetracked and forgetting what you were doing a few minutes ago
  • moments of being adrift when you lose track of what you were about to do
  • dysnomic moments of losing words or names you normally have on the tip of your tongue
  • being spectacular at some higher cognitive facitilities (“Look at this great post-colonialist literary critique I just wrote!”) and then realising that you suddenly can’t remember how to do something really simple (“Why are my pants pockets wrong? Oh, my pants are on backwards.”)

I’ve yet to read why this happens, aside from sleep issues or “It’s The Hormones”, that generic disclaimer for all things annoying during pregnancy (or indeed, between menarche and menopause).

The good news is that the brain fog isn’t permanent.  I reassured her that “third trimester brain rot” usually starts to go away after the baby sleeps through the night.  She looked at me suspiciously; surely “third trimester brain rot” should go away after the baby is born?  But then I reminded her about the chronic sleep deprivation that is nursing a baby every two hours.  (Were it not a normal part of human development, such sleep deprivation would surely be outlawed under the Geneva Convention.)

Of course, it doesn’t help that she’s finishing up her college senior capstone project, and it would really be useful to get a solid night’s sleep, or to wake up from a long night’s sleep feeling more rested, or to be able to schlep all those literary refs around campus more easily, or to not spend 33.3% of her life preoccupied with peeing. But, there it is.

On the other hand, we have had some bonding moments that go beyond shared maternity.  One day she was complaining about the general forgetfulness and fogginess, and I pointed out, “Hey, now you know what it’s like for someone with ADD.”

“Omigosh, I couldn’t stand it,” she replied, dismayed at the idea of being permanently stuck in such a state.

“But the thing is,” I explained (somewhat defensively) “when you have ADD or ADHD, that’s what it’s always been like.  That’s what you’re used to.”  The point being that one doesn’t feel the same sense of loss when it’s a life-long condition, compared to a late-onset disability.

And despite the obvious impairments, there are some positive aspects to AD/HD, due to the different functioning patterns of the brain.  There’s the hyperfocus, abilities to make different associative and intuitive leaps, and often a visual thinking style that lends to a variety of design strengths.

Having done through a few re-iterations of this conversation, there seems to be less of an “Oh noes!” reaction, and more of an appreciation of the chronic difficulties that I and other people with ADD or ADHD face.  Not only that, but I think the reasons for some of my demands for structure and routines that I developed as she and her brother were young, are becoming more apparent to her.

Maybe there are just some “mom-things” that one doesn’t appreciate in quite the same way until becoming a parent.

On the other hand, there are still a lot of things I do that bug her, and we must ever keep re-negotiating our relationship, especially as we continue to live in the same house, but with changing roles.


  1. 31 March 2010 at 14:50

    […] Buzzing About * ADD-ing new perspectives ‘“But the thing is,” I explained (somewhat defensively) “when you have ADD or ADHD, […]

  2. Anne Healy said,

    22 April 2009 at 1:56

    I just turned 50. I’m starting to hear people my age and older talk about the things that cause them to realize they are finally hitting old age, such as going into a room to get something, and forgetting what it was they were going to get, or losing things, or forgetting things.

    Welcome to my world. Old age isn’t going to be inconvenient for me. I already know how to live like that. :)

  3. tw said,

    20 April 2009 at 12:10

    My own thought on the brain rot is that it must have some evolutionary advantage for the species, unadvantageous though it may be for modern humans. Maybe it’s linked with the famous “nesting” instinct, in which our foremothers most likely prepared an actual nest of sorts, and which we moderns tend to shop and scrub. The brain rot prepares us for becoming a primary caregiver to a small, incontinent, nonverbal being (except for the crying) who will be 100% dependent on us for absolutely everything. I’d say the post natal sleep deprivation just extends this same thing, Basically, it helps us get into baby mode. As with the nesting, though, the way this plays out for twenty first century mothers is difficult at best. For me, the brain rot has always been the first significant stage of the process in which I’m faced with the primal nature of it all. We’re definitely animals, mammals, primates- all our attempts to remove or elevate ourselves with TV and text messages and board meetings notwithstanding! Best wishes to your daughter. Here’s hoping her baby comes right after school finishes for the year.

%d bloggers like this: