I have a confession to make.
It is very hard for me to reveal this, and I ask you, please, not to judge me.
My baby is a good sleeper.
I am not one of those smug parents who brag about how she has slept through the night since she was six weeks old, or goes on about how much energy I have had since giving birth.
Make no mistake, I still feel pretty tired. Looking after a baby is hard work, draining even. But I do average six to eight hours sleep a night.
And I feel guilty.
We met up with some friends recently for the first time since my daughter was born, parents to two young children themselves.
“You don’t look tired enough!”, they complained.
My baby has been known to sleep through the night, sometimes several times a week.
If she does wake it is usually just once around 4am. Her whimpers of complaint and shuffles in the cot, which is still right at the end of our bed, will in turn rouse me from my slumber and I will roll over and haul myself out of bed.
I pick her up and sit in the comfy chair I have padded with pillows, wrapping myself in a thick baggy cardigan and use a support pillow to feed her, and I often nod back off before she does. (Please don’t tell the health visitor!)
After about an hour she is ready to go back down and I return to bed until she gives us her gurgling alarm call just before 7am.
Some may say I put her to bed too late – about 8.30pm or 9pm. But our compact life in a studio flat has made establishing a bedtime routine that works for all a little more complicated. And she often doesn’t sleep that much in the day.
But until now I have kept my daughter’s sleep patterns close to my chest.
The other parents I speak to all seem to relish sharing their stories of being woken every hour throughout the night. Or wax lyrical on the torment of not being able to get their baby to go back down in the very early hours.
They brandish their dark circles like badges of honour, and indulge in their yawns, exclaiming, “I could just go to sleep right here, right now!”, while everyone else groans in understanding.
When some fool dares to pipe up about how well rested they are feeling thanks to their little darling’s perfect routine, dagger stares are flashed and teeth are gnashed.
And so I have learned to nod along in empathy with the sleep deprived.
I would never dare admit the truth about how many hours of REM I clock up.
Further still, if I am ever I am quizzed on my baby’s nighttime habits, I immediately become apologetic. And my vague description is probably closer to a little white lie than it is the truth.
“I’m very lucky,” I say quietly and guiltily. “She only wakes up a couple of times a night.”
And then I feel I must compensate before I lose these people’s trust and companionship entirely.
“But she doesn’t sleep at all during the day”, I add more assertively. “So I can’t get anything done around the house,” I moan, rolling my eyes.
“And I put her to bed far too late.” Now I’m in full swing.
“I’m always waking her up watching unsuitable shows like The People Vs OJ Simpson and then I have to resettle her all over again, so she’s probably exhausted, poor thing.”
And so I keep my terrible secret to myself.
But she is only five months old, and she is just starting to teeth. In fact last night she woke up three times. And she hasn’t slept through for a whole week.
So perhaps the Sandman has had enough of me bending the truth.
And then I can claim official membership to the Sleep Deprivation Society without feeling like a fraud.