When I am on-call, sleeping is so light and frequent. I nap whenever I possibly can, go to bed early, forego outings, beg off parties or family gatherings so I can sleep - all in case I have a baby coming.
And then all the babies have come and I sleep like... no, not like a baby, but deep and full and so completely I don't even wake to pee anymore in the middle of the night - even when I do get up to pee.
All of a sudden, I am able to stay up all day long without a nap, working at the office, cleaning at the house and office, doing the work I had put off during call time. It really is as if I store up the energy for the birth.
The funny thing is, I don't even think it works that way. I was still so tired after all those hours of resting/sleeping/storing.
For me, I have to remember I am chronically ill. It is different for me than for many other midwives. I deal with more than just fatigue. I also have to contend with the cocci and the intense fatigue that comes with that. My dear apprentice and assistant spell me at births so I can sleep for a couple three hours at a stretch so I can awaken with a body that doesn't ache and a mind that remains clear and sharp. Part of why we travel in packs is to be able to allow each of us to move to different parts of the house to sleep for a few hours so a clear head can cover while another sleeps for awhile.
Except when birth is imminent, then no one sleeps. Then the stored energy is used and utilized.
When I was at Birth #2 the other day, before the second midwife relieved me, the client's water broke and there was some moderate meconium. The assistant was listening the baby's heartrate immediately and it was going down. I woke UP and immediately threw on gloves and readied to get into her vagina to see where her cervix was dilated, rub up that baby's head, see if she was ready to push a baby out, see if we needed to call 911, etc. As she was listening, it began to climb, so I began clearing a path in case EMS was going to come in. I moved the birth ball and all the sheets and bathrobe and towels and such and tossed them behind the rocking chair in the far corner of the room. The baby's heart rate continued to remain stable and then the doppler's battery began to falter, so I got a new battery and we changed it out fast and listened for another few minutes as she changed positions.
When the baby was born, the meconium had been in there so long the cord was stained (longer than 6 hours - before labor had even started). When we were at home, though, after the initial moosh of moderate mec, the fluid ran clear and it seemed okay.
In discussions with dad afterwards, he wondered if we should have done something... gone to the hospital or something... we didn't seem to even care about the meconium. I smiled and asked him if he noticed the things I highlighted above. He said he did, what did that have to do with anything? I explained the relevance of each step from a midwifery standpoint and he began to see that we merely did not panic and scream, "OH, NO! Meconium! Let's clear the path in case EMS comes! Let's listen to the baby in case she crashes! Let's do a vaginal exam to see if she might have a cervical lip that needs pushing away to allow a distressed baby to be born!" We merely did our jobs quickly and calmly - and because he didn't know there was anything wrong, we did them wonderfully. He smiled and said he understood and was glad he didn't know and really glad we didn't panic.
The point of that was that even in my really tired state, I knew exactly what to do... I pulled myself out of my exhaustion to act and BE present with a mama for what she needed. I believe that comes with practice and years of being able to do that by rote. I don't think I would have been able to do it early in my practice as a doula/assistant... might have, but doubt it.
I think that working at Casa (de Nacimiento) helped train me for working in a completely overwhelmed state. I still call it Boot Camp for Midwives. It's a place where you work 12 hour shifts and run from beginning to end, hot, sweaty, from cita (appointments) to births to citas to births and labor checks to births. I thrived. Granted, I wasn't sick there, either. I was fat fat there once... and thin thin there once. I loved being there thin thin... I ran around a lot faster then! Now I'm right in-between. I loved being off-call there, too. Sleeping so deeply I didn't hear births being called. Who knew I'd blow off going to a birth!
I'm back to my old schedule of waking at 5am now, too. I am heading to work about 6:30am (unless blogging like now), working, heading home around 8pm then going to bed around 11pm. I like that schedule. I love my early morning hours. No one else seems to like them but me, so it's quiet and peace-full.
If I weren't awake, it'd be a nice time for a nap.