Monday, July 18, 2005

What we can learn from dolphins

My persistent complaint about parenthood is how tired I always am. I expected to be exhausted when I had a newborn (though who can anticipate the depth of that fatigue?). I could not have imagined that seven years later I'd still be punching my pillow in the morning and fantasizing about just ONE night of uninterrupted sleep and what the dollar value of that night was to me. But that's how it is.

So naturally I was drawn to this article: Sleepless in SeaWorld: Some newborns and moms forgo slumber. Forgo slumber ain't the half of it. Both mother and baby Orca whales and dolphins don't sleep for about a MONTH after the baby is born. This from animals who usually sleep 5-8 hours a night. Can you imagine?

Humans hallucinate when deprived of sleep. Not a good thing in a new parent (ask my spouse, who on our third night post-birth, dozing off with his pinkie in the wakeful newborn's mouth, was certain people were trying to jimmy open the window and spirit the baby away).

But with these aquatic mammals, apparently, no sleep is exactly what is needed. Is this because they need to remain on alert for predators during the baby's most vulnerable days? Is it that the babies need more oxygen initially and to sleep is to drown? The scientists don't seem to have any answers yet. The fact that their observations were made with captive animals raises the initial question in my mind whether wild animals behave similarly.

At any rate, this seems to lend credence to my stoic New England mother-in-law's famous quip when she visited us two weeks postpartum: "Nobody ever died from lack of sleep."

For newborn dolphins and Orcas this appears to be true.


Blogger 5 said...

My lovely one and only daughter, Stella, left Crystal and I sleepless for the first two years. It became dangerous for other parents to even mention how thier baby was an "all-nighter....argghh! She is closer to an all nighter now but her morning (and ours) starts at 4:30 am....
An aside, we used a midwife but she was a bit late and Crystal was in a hurry. Cindy, the midwife was so thorough with us during the pregnancy that we delivered stella ourselves with no worries. ( ok, a little worry) We both learned that pregnancy is not a disease!

3:39 PM  
Blogger Pink Lady said...

I actually remember hallucinating after the baby was born. I had a full on conversation with who I thought was my mother, only to find out in the morning, it was my husband. I don't even recall being that tired before in my life.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

I remember thinking I would happily curl up outside in the snow, in just my nightie, and sleep quite soundly there. If only the baby would let me.

8:21 AM  
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