Are You Sleep Deprived?
If you look at a photo of a friend that was taken a few days after the birth of her child, she probably looks pretty good, in that new-mom sort of way. She's likely exhausted and nowhere near ready for a night out, but she's dreamy-eyed and glowing, caught up in the wonder of this awesome life experience and the brand new person she made happen.
Fast forward a bit and take a look at a picture of her when her baby was about 3 weeks old. What, she doesn't want you to see those? She tossed them, lost them, or accidentally dropped them in the shredder? I don't blame her. The red-eyed, sallow, slumped over woman in those photos isn't really your friend; it's the person who appears after a solid stretch of sleepless nights.
Sleep derivation is often shrugged off or laughed about by our culture; it's seen as the "breaks of the game" for new parents, but in reality sleep deprivation is a serious problem. Some moms are affected more than others. How well you fare sleep-wise following the birth of your baby depends on a lot of factors, including your mental state, your physical health, your sleep patterns prior to the birth, and more.
Of course, your baby's sleeping habits figure largely into the equation. Most of us know a mother whose newborn slept for 4-hour stretches, and fell right back asleep following a feeding. If you end up with this type of baby, congratulations! However, most moms have it a bit tougher.
That's not to say that every baby is an all-night colic screamer who can't be comforted; most infants fall somewhere in the middle, and all babies go through periods where their sleep patterns don't match those of the mother.