Pregnant women's dreams bring issues to the surface
By Samantha Critchell
It makes sense that a woman eating for two and dressing for two also would dream for two.
Expectant mothers, it seems, often have the same dreams at the same points in their pregnancy. This happens, according to the authors of "Dreaming for Two" (Dutton, $22.95), because the women have similar questions and concerns, and are often without an outlet to express them.
Society's rules say pregnancy should be a happy time, and the mothers-to-be shouldn't have any doubts, says Sindy Greenberg, one of the book's three authors. But, in reality, many women are worried about changes in their identity and their bodies, and wonder if they'll be good mothers.
That leaves women to stew in their sleep about these issues, which can manifest as dreams ranging from odd to disturbing.
"Dreams are conduits. They come from the mouths of real women," Greenberg says.
For their book, Greenberg and co-authors Elyse Kroll, a former magazine editor, and Hillary Grill, a psychotherapist, interviewed scores of pregnant women about their dreams. At first most of the expectant mothers were reticent, but once they got talking, it seemed as if a veil covering many other topics was lifted, says Greenberg.
And while some pregnant women reported having happy dreams about their new lives with their babies, those were mostly daydreams, says Greenberg.
The vivid nighttime dreams were about giving birth to space aliens, ex-boyfriends and misplacing a baby in a busy store.
It might seem as if pregnant women dream more often, but they're usually just lighter sleepers and remember more of their dreams, according to the book. The more one's sleep is interrupted, the more likely one will awaken during a dream cycle, making it easier to remember the dream.
"For every woman, becoming a mother is an identity shift," Greenberg adds.
The most common dream among the interviewees was the "I-can't-find-the-baby dream." Greenberg says the majority of women interpreted that dream as a symbol of the simultaneous joy and apprehension about motherhood.
When expectant mothers dreamed mostly of their past, it was a way for them to say goodbye to their old, more independent life, according to the book, and if they dreamed about dead relatives, it was a way to seek approval to enter the next phase of their lives.
Dreaming about a child that resembles an alien allows a mother-to-be to wonder what her child will be like beyond the daytime visions of a perfect baby, the authors say.
Another issue is dependency, says Greenberg. Many women, even if they've been with their partner for years, have maintained at least an air of independence but they feel that will end the moment the baby will be born. The baby will be dependent on the mother, and the mother in turn will be more dependent on her partner and other caregivers.
That issue showed up in dreams about caring for other people's children, partners dying, and the mother being chased by someone in disguise.
The above dreams seem to occur mostly during the first and second trimesters, while the third trimester is often dominated by dreams about labor and delivery probably because the bulging belly begins to consume a woman's thoughts, says Greenberg.
She cautions that an expectant mother needs to be careful whom she brings her concerns to.
If her partner is open-minded and a good listener, she should start there, Grill advises, but if he is likely to dismiss it, then turn to a friend who is understanding, not judgmental. If the woman has a doctor who takes time to discuss emotional health besides physical health, that's another option.