Night shift. It’s too simple to say I hate it, but of course, I do hate it. I hate that I leave my husband when we should be climbing into bed together. I hate that the girls until very very recently would cry and beg me not to go- yes they are natural night owls, the eldest in particular, who, at 8 years old, has been known to be awake in her bed when I arrive home from an afternoon shift around 11:30pm. Yes. For reals. I hate that I crawl into bed in the morning, feeling like death, without even seeing the kids on a school morning because they’ve been woken at the crack of dawn to get to before school care at 6:30 so hubby can get to work on time. Did I mention hubby works shifts too? I particularly hate that my husband sleeps very badly without me by his side. He is Algerian and grew up amidst brutal terrorism that plagued the country throughout the ’90s. To be at home alone at any time, day or night, was unheard of and incredibly dangerous. His mind knows he’s safe but the cells in his body retain the memory of fear and hyper vigilance. I asked him how he was feeling tonight about my shift. He said “Ok..” and with a laugh, “I’m putting on my brave pants.”
But I actually love it too. There is a sense of camaraderie amongst your colleagues on a night shift, especially when you’re on a string of night shifts together. There is something very unnatural about gearing up for work at 10:30pm and being awake- and functional!- all night. There is always an element of struggle, even for the most seasoned shift worker, and you’re all in it together. You can’t help but bond. You also can’t help but feel a like a little bit of a super hero (or is that the sleep deprivation talking?), being there in the dead of night while the world sleeps, to help the mum and bubs on the ward feed and settle their babies, manage their pain, allay their fears and anxiety and help them sleep. It’s a good feeling. So is the feeling of drawing the curtains at 8am, sliding under the sheets, popping the earplugs in and snuggling up for sleep. At this point in time, you may have been awake for over 24 hours if it’s your first night shift, and nothing will come between you and sleep. Nothing. And that, to me, feels utterly luxurious.
The best part of night shifts though, is the end of them. Imagine how good it feels after living like a vampire for days, to actually go to bed, at night, warm and cosy, with your partner if you have one, teddy if you don’t, and sleep together like normal, civilised, human people. The joyous relief of that return to normality, makes the departure from it almost worthwhile. Maybe.