Pregnant Dream Life

All last week S and I both had vivid, often anxious, dreams.

There’s a logical explanation for this. At this point in the pregnancy, S is still getting up to pee in the middle of night. She also has to sleep on her side, which isn’t always comfortable, instead of her back, because the uterus could put pressure on some vein and block blood flow to important places. All this waking and sleeping means she has more opportunities to remember her dreams, and she’s disturbing my sleep cycle so I end up remembering my dreams too.

But let’s put logic aside for a moment. I like to think that the phase of the moon or what we’ve eaten affects our dreams, and that our mental energy is like a scent that oozes into the air and affects those around us. I know, I know – this sounds a little X-Files-ish. Common sense would say that the pregnancy has us both keyed up with excitement and anxiety and that those emotions are playing out in our dreams, which might only get more intense as the baby grows and the due date approaches. But still a part of me wonders: what if the baby’s presence itself, this new third brain in the bed, affects our dream life?

The outside world definitely affects the fetus. After the ultrasound on Monday, when S’s tummy was prodded and rubbed more than usual, he became extremely active, shifting around and kicking. He also responds to mental distress. Last night, for example, S felt a little stressed, and the baby became active and moved around for a bit. It’s not a big step to imagine that the baby can tell when she’s having an anxiety dream or nightmare from her heartbeat, or temperature, or some other subtle physical change, and that he responds. Could our anxiety be having an adverse affect on him? Can he pick up on it already, the way most kids are sensitive to their parents’ moods and emotions?

And if her dreams affect him, then why wouldn’t his dreams affect her, if he dreams at all. I’ve found some information online that suggests fetuses begin dreaming around 28 weeks, though some of the sources are suspect because they write with a political stance. (As in: If a fetus dreams then it has a mental life not dissimilar from a baby, so then it shouldn’t be aborted because that would be like killing a baby, yadda yadda.) Politics aside, the fetus’ movements are a result of his developing brain activity. According to all of our baby books, he can perceive touch and sound and probably light behind his closed eyelids. Doesn’t seem like such a leap to think he experiences REM sleep, even if his dreams are wildly different from our own, just a flurry of muffled noises and the sensation of movement.

Maybe the fetus’ mental life, such as it is, explains why our subconscious minds have been so active recently. Parents often say that they have a sixth sense about their child. They can sometimes tell when the kid’s not feeling well or in need of help before the kid verbalizes it. Is that what’s happening now? Is the fetus making contact? Alright, now I’m definitely in Fox Mulder territory.

Still, it’s fascinating to think about how much S and I and what we do affect the developing fetus, and how much he affects us. I guess I’m starting to personify him a bit, and think of him more as an active element in the family dynamics, with his own identity.

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