Opinion by Melissa Meehan
What even is sleep?I haven’t slept in three years.
Well… to be more specific I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in more than three years.
But it’s nice to round it down to an even number.
I have two beautiful daughters.
They are charming, funny and clever.
But they both hate sleep!
I have spent SO many sleepless nights shushing them to sleep, breastfeeding them at all hours and sitting up with them as they wriggled and whinged their way through the darkness of night.
In fact this has been my existence for the last three months.
I am so exhausted I could cry for days.
So you could imagine my rage when my colleague told me about a story she had written about a study that found sleep deprivation and fatigue was clearly interfering with fathers’ psychological wellbeing and daily functioning.
There was no mention of the sleep deprivation of new mothers.
Yes, my husband was very supportive when my first was screaming throughout the night.
He got up with us regularly to help change nappies or to help me early on with getting her latch right. He even sat up and held her when I was so tired I couldn’t trust myself not to fall asleep and drop her.
But he was able to go back to bed while the feeding was happening and all of his nutrients weren’t being taken by the tiny human who so heavily relied on me to survive.
She was underweight and we were told just to feed her whenever she woke.
So it became hourly and then pumping in between to increase my supply.
I hardly got a wink of sleep.
Her hatred of sleep still continues today – not every night. But some nights she can wake up to three times.
With our second, it was a different story.
When she arrived she was a dream sleeper.
And stayed that way until she was about 5 months old.
But she affected my sleep before she even arrived.
In the last six weeks of my pregnancy I was in threatened pre-term labour and was having real contractions every 10 minutes.
I was so tired and we hadn’t even met her yet.
So it was nice to catch up when she arrived.
She had the usual newborn wakeups, but nothing crazy like the hourly feeds her elder sister needed to gain weight.
But since 5 months, she has been shocking.
This week alone I’m up with her every two hours most nights.
Resettling, cuddling and feeding.
It is exhausting.
Sure I don’t have to get up and go to work a normal 9-5 job (whether it be from home or the office) in the morning.
But thanks to my very active toddler there is literally no down-time during the day.
The old adage “sleep when baby does” just doesn’t cut it in the real world.
Plus I do my work once they both are in bed (and inbetween wake-ups).
So yes, Dad’s may be missing out on sleep.
But it’s nothing compared to that of new mums (or even mums of older kids who don’t sleep).
I guess we don’t need a study on that – we all know mums are exhausted. But we just push through.