Tired doesn’t even begin to describe it, actually. Exhaustion. Weariness. A deep, gut-wrenching physical ache that fogs my brain and fills my body with despair. I can feel the ache arise somewhere in the vicinity of my stomach, worm its way past my heart, and drive deep into my forehead. I close my eyes and imagine the bliss of sleep.
I’m so tired.
A small cry breaks the silence of the night, and I open my eyes. Before me lie my newborn twins, identical girls born a month early. They are two weeks old, finally out of the hospital, gaining weight. But this also means cluster feeding and pumping as I supplement their premature attempts at breastfeeding.
The cry grows louder, and her sister starts to whimper. I sit up and exhale, driving the fog out of my mind. I feel a surge of resentment towards my babies. All I need is sleep. Why can’t they give that to me? Even just one hour would be heaven. But their cries grow louder, and I have a job to do. I settle them on my lap, grabbing two bottles I pumped twenty minutes ago. They quickly suck it down, and my emotions swirl, unchecked. Pride: I am breastfeeding twins, albeit by pump. Anger that the last hour of pumping and washing dishes could be ingested this quickly. And despair, thinking of the long night still ahead of me.
In all of my night shifts and twenty-four-hour call in residency, I had never experienced sleep deprivation like this. I thought I was prepared. After all, what could be harder than residency? I had my answer: having twins in residency. I have six weeks of paid maternity leave, which feels like a joke with premature twins. You would think a medical institution would understand the benefits of longer maternity leave. Residency is a rigid system, but I would gladly return to work today if it meant more sleep.
I burp my girls and lay them back in their bassinet. Luckily they do not cry, and I have time to go to the bathroom, pump and wash dishes. By the time I’m done an hour has passed, and I know I have another ten minutes until they want to feed again. I lie down and close my eyes, feeling fatigue wash over me. But before blissful sleep has a chance to embrace me, I hear the twins start to stir again. My stomach sinks, and a tear falls down my cheek.
I’m. So. Tired.