Ask the Doctors: Alesha

Momnesia
"My memory's completely gone. I forget where I put my phone, my keys, my purse, the diaper bag," says Alesha, a young mother.


"She'll pack a diaper bag and won't put diapers in it. Sometimes she'll forget bottles," her husband, Tyler, explains. "Our power's been turned off twice. She'll forget to pay our insurance payments, truck payments."

Because Alesha forgets to pay bills, Tyler's truck has been repossessed. But sometimes she'll forget that she's paid a bill and pay it again.

Alesha has taken to putting notes everywhere to help her remember. "Half the time, I forget where I put my notes," she says. "People say words like typically, and I have to sit there and think what typically means. I do go to the store. I'll forget what I went in there for. I've gotten in the car many a times, and I'll forget where I'm going. If I'm calling somebody, the phone will start ringing and I'll forget whom I'm calling, so I'll hang up or wait until they answer to see who it is. I'll wake up in the morning, hear the babies, and I have to think oh yeah, I have twins. I'll make the babies' bottles, and I'll forget how many scoops of formula I put in their bottles, so I'll have to pour it out and start over. I have forgotten appointments for the babies to go to the doctor and get their check-ups. With the babies' asthma, they have to have breathing treatments every four hours. I have left the breathing machine at home when I've gone out of town so I'll have to cut the vacation short, because they can't be without their breathing machine. My memory loss makes me have anxiety attacks. I do get depressed a lot. I do get severe headaches."

"My worst fear is her forgetting about the kids somewhere," says Tyler.

Alesha shares Tyler's fear, and has an additional one for herself. She says tearfully, "My greatest fear is that I have a brain tumor or have cancer."

As Dr. Phil turns to Alesha, she wipes tears from her cheeks.

"This has been really tough for you," Dr. Phil acknowledges, "because you say you've gotten to the point that you will even look at your 3-year-old and have to think what his name is. And you know that's not normal, right?" Dr. Phil points out that although Alesha's husband theorizes that she's just not paying attention, the "momnesia" Alesha is experiencing is, in fact, real.

"Oh, absolutely," Dr. Masterson agrees. "So many mothers experience this, but you are 21, and you have a baby and twins, I mean, so you're going to experience it even more. But every mother goes through this. It's because of hormones, anxiety, stress, lack of sleep. I went through a residency program, and it's nothing compared to having a baby. And I tell all my patients one of the biggest things you can do for yourself after you deliver is have help. It takes a village to raise a baby."

Dr. Phil asks Alesha, "What do you think is going on?"

"I'm really not sure," she says. "It's like after I had them I kept forgetting everything. It went from forgetting simple things to dramatic things like how many scoops I put in a bottle, forget to put bottles in the diaper bag, get to church and have to leave because you don't have any formula." She also endures severe headaches.

"We need to make sure it's not something more serious," says Dr. Stork. "And by and large the most likely cause of this is momnesia. There's so much stress in your life. But at the same time, as doctors we have to think about other things." Dr. Phil adds that certain possibilities need to be ruled out.

"You do need to go to get a physical, and I think Dr Travis is going to do something as well, but you do need to get checked out for that and then we solve the other problem," says Dr. Masterson.

Dr. Phil notes that Alesha feels guilt for not always remembering her 3-year-old's name. "Have y'all ever been in a situation where you can't remember your own name? I have done that," he says. "We all catch that. But you're in a pattern of it, which says that there's probably some kind of hormonal impact from having the pregnancy, which goes on. People think this is over in six or eight weeks, because that's what maternity leave is."


"Yes," Dr. Masterson clarifies, "it takes at least six months to a year for your body to get back to normal. The body is not McDonald's. It takes time. It takes time for all of these things to go back to normal. You need a support system, because you can't do it all."

Dr. Phil acknowledges that not every woman has access to a support system. "Betty in Idaho is sitting there right now saying, 'Oh, yeah. I'd love to have a support system. Send one over.' But sometimes that's just not available," he says.

"No. And we used to live where our families lived, and you had a mother and a grandmother on both sides who could come and help you," says Dr. Masterson. "That's what I said: it takes a village. That was helpful. But now when we've moved away from our families, and your husband's not home because he's working, that's difficult."

Dr. Phil addresses Alesha. "You're not going crazy, OK, because that's one of your theories, right?"

"Kind of," she concedes. "And my husband's too."

"Yeah, well, we've been over that," says Dr. Phil. He turns to her husband and says with exaggerated sternness, "You're wrong."