Dreaming for Two: The Hidden Emotional Life of Expectant Mothers

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9780525946557: Dreaming for Two: The Hidden Emotional Life of Expectant Mothers

The first book to comprehensively explore the emotional life of expectant mothers.

The brainchild of three women-a journalist, an editor, and a psychotherapist-Dreaming for Two explores the dreams of expectant mothers and what they reveal about the complex emotions that accompany pregnancy. Filled with a wide-ranging collection of real-life dreams, this one-of-a-kind book analyzes the unconscious thoughts and feelings behind the vivid, frequently intense visions experienced by expectant mothers. From their changing sense of identity to their evolving relationships with family, friends, and their unborn child, Dreaming for Two helps pregnant women understand what dreams tell them about their deepest hopes and fears about their imminent motherhood.

The enormous transformations that take place during pregnancy-psychological, emotional, and physical-often cause women to dream more intensely. During this time of heightened sensitivity and widely varied emotions, these images can provide an important key to an expectant mother's state of mind and innermost feelings. Dreaming for Two helps the expectant mother develop the tools to examine her dreams, discover new ways to cope with the vast changes pregnancy brings, and confront concerns about everything from her career, to her sexuality, to giving birth, and whether or not she will be an effective mother.

Dreaming for Two is a fascinating, accessible book that belongs on every expectant mother's bookshelf.

"Sinopsis" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.

About the Author:

Sindy Greenberg is a journalist who has written for The New York Times, The New York Observer, and Gourmet, among other publications.

Hillary Grill, M.S.W. is a psychotherapist in private practice. She has been on staff at the Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Elyse Kroll is a senior editor at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

An Introduction to Your Dreams

If dreams are, as Freud claimed, the royal road to the unconscious, then for expectant mothers, dreams are a high-speed expressway. If you're pregnant, your dream life has probably changed. Your dreams may have become richer, more vivid, and deeply entangled with the new life growing within you. Like dreaming, venturing into motherhood can seem like a journey to a faraway, mysterious, and sometimes frightening place. While doctors and scientists have charted the physical road we travel during pregnancy, the psychological and emotional changes that confront us on this journey are still shrouded in mystery.

Since the end of the nineteenth century, when Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams, psychotherapists of diverse schools of thought have acknowledged the connection between our dream lives and our conscious, emotional lives. When we sleep, our usual psychological and emotional defenses weaken, as do our inhibitions. This relaxing of the mind allows our dreams to depict a more honest version of our conflicts and of ourselves than we may be willing to acknowledge in our waking hours. But what exactly are dreams?

Dreams occur during the periods of sleep characterized by rapid eye movement, known as REM sleep, which begins about ninety minutes after falling asleep and occurs at regular intervals about four times a night. During REM sleep, the brain blocks out external stimuli (with the occasional exception of a ringing phone or alarm clock, which can find its way into a dream) and relates wildly disparate events, emotions, and images that wouldn't necessarily be associated with one another. Recalled in the light of day, these often bizarre and surreal nocturnal visions can provide access to the deepest recesses of the psyche. It's worth noting that we appear in nearly all our dreams and we almost always play the starring role.

Dreams are thought to represent an amalgam of unconscious conflicts, usually old, unresolved issues; conscious conflicts, generally current issues; and what Freud called the "day residue," events and images from the day. By allowing ourselves to review our conflicts while we sleep, we're attempting to work through and cope with the issues that trouble us. During pregnancy, this means our dream lives can help ease our transition to motherhood.

Each night we have an average of four to five dreams, one during each cycle of REM sleep. If you're expecting, it may seem like you're dreaming more frequently, but actually, you're just remembering more of your dreams. There are physical and psychological reasons for this. During pregnancy, we're often light sleepers. This can simply be the result of frequent trips to the bathroom, as well as the difficulty of finding a comfortable position in which to sleep. But it can also be caused by the new issues and concerns facing us-issues that are channeled into our dreams because we may be unable to confront them at any other time. The more our sleep is interrupted, the more likely we are to awaken during or close to an REM cycle, which makes it easier for us to remember our dreams.

Our dream lives during pregnancy can reveal the deep issues and concerns facing us. It can make us question everything about ourselves, including our suitability for motherhood. For example, a woman dreams she's with her baby at the supermarket, but when she looks for the baby in her shopping cart, she realizes she's left it somewhere else. Panicked, she begins ripping boxes of diapers off the shelves, looking for her baby in the spaces left behind them. The imagery of this dream-a lost or misplaced baby-can be read as feeling unprepared for motherhood. This is a common theme in the dreams of expectant mothers, so if you've dreamt similarly, rest assured that you have company and that you can be a good mother.

As you read the following dreams, you'll find they range from hilarious to frightening to surreal. You'll also become familiar with the idea of associating thoughts and feelings to dreams, looking for their signals, and cracking the codes they contain. Hopefully, this will encourage you to explore your own dreams with a sense of freedom and fun as you enter this dramatically new and exciting time of your life. You may also be surprised to discover that no matter how far your imagination takes you, you're not alone-even in your dreams.

******

Section One-Identity

Old Self, New Self

As you become a mother, the identity that has taken you a lifetime to form is now entirely up for revision.

When I become a mother, will I have to leave my old self and my old life behind?<>/B>

The only dream I remember took place in an immense white house on a cliff near the ocean. It looked like the ones you would see in California and was several stories high. The dream started on the top floor of this massive house with me being chased down the stairs by a man and a woman. I'm not certain of their identities, but I was sure they were trying to kill me.

After running down the first flight of steps, I passed through an empty room. After the second flight, I landed in a room full of clocks. There were hundreds of them-alarm clocks, grandfather clocks, cuckoo clocks. The mix was very eclectic.

At the bottom of the stairs, I landed in an airy, modern foyer with picture windows looking out onto the ocean. I looked desperately for a hiding space, but the decorating scheme was very spare. Finally I found a small sofa, barely large enough for two, and crouched behind it. From my hiding spot, I could hear the man talking to the woman in the clock room. He said, "We can't find her. We have to go to the airport." And the dream ended.

-- Caryn, 34, dentist

As you begin to embrace motherhood-possibly the biggest change you'll ever experience-you'll find the identity that has taken you a lifetime to form is now entirely up for revision. You may feel pressure to leave parts of your old self, and your old life, behind. This can be pressure you put upon yourself or pressure applied by the people close to you. No matter how excited you are about the upcoming birth of your child, the magnitude of the changes you're experiencing can cause tremendous anxiety and conflicting emotions.

The forty weeks of pregnancy are like a ticking clock. In that finite period, you have to prepare yourself in so many ways. While your waking hours may be devoted to getting ready for the rigors of labor and setting up your home to accommodate a baby, your dreams may be the only place where you're allowed the luxury of exploring how you feel about the more personal transformations you're going through-not the least of which is who you are becoming and how much of yourself you'll need to leave behind.

When Caryn became pregnant, she was planning to go to California on vacation with her husband. Canceling the trip was the first concrete change she made in her life because of her baby. While she was disappointed about not going away, what really disturbed her was the sense that giving up the trip felt like giving up a part of herself. For the first time, she began to consider what else she'd have to give up to become a mother and the enormous changes that lie ahead of her. The images in her dream-the clocks, the mysterious pursuers, the California house and its rooms-reveal her feelings about change and entering this new phase of her life, feelings that are familiar to so many of us.

You're probably aware that your home, besides just being where you live, is a container for your life and that everything in it speaks in some way of who you are. This idea carries over into your dreams, where a house is often a symbol for the self-the top floor contains your conscious mind; the lower levels, your unconscious; and different rooms signify different aspects of your identity.

In Caryn's dream, there's a lot of activity and conflict going on in the house, just as there's a lot going on inside Caryn. The house's California style is a reminder of her canceled vacation; it represents her fear that her life and her sense of self will be radically transformed in the months ahead. The sea cliff where the house is perched describes her anxiety about the change.

There's a sense of dread throughout the dream, personified in the unknown couple pursuing Caryn. They're chasing her through the house, threatening her sense of self and even trying to kill it off. As Caryn runs down the stairs, it's as though she's attempting to run back in time, toward her old self. She passes through an empty room, which can be seen as an empty womb, and a wish to go back to a time in her life when there was no pregnancy. It also suggests her fears about the possibility of losing the baby.

On the next floor down, she finds the room full of clocks. This is where the baby makes itself known, as the ticking of the clocks is just like the reassuring sound of its heartbeat. On a darker note, ticking is also the sound of a bomb about to explode, and on some level this is what becoming a mother feels like for Caryn-an explosion of self after which nothing about her will ever be quite the same.

The airy, modern room at the bottom of the stairs conveys a sense of order that stands in stark contrast to the chaos of the clock room. This is where Caryn is finally able to see the future and feel okay about it. The picture windows overlooking the ocean give her a clear view of herself as part of nature-a creator of life. The foyer also symbolizes Caryn's unconscious, the space where she can resolve her feelings about having a baby and becoming a mother. When Caryn attempts to hide from her pursuers behind a sofa barely large enough for two, it suggests that she's begun to accept that she will soon have to make room in her life for her baby, as well as room in her psyche for her new identity as a mother.

As I travel toward motherhood, it sometimes feels like a bumpy ride.

I was in my hometown driving my car around a very hilly, curvy road. I've had the car since high school. It's a red Mustang convertible I call Scarlett. And I recog...

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