In the first dream, the woman is in her childhood home with a flimsy glass door between her and the outside world. Her only choice is no choice. Staying with her baby in her childhood home means death for both of them. In the second dream, the woman's family is nearby, but they do not respond. When her father finally comes to her aid, he misunderstands the situation. He doesn't take care of her and the child but chats with the potential killers instead.
By examining these dreams, it became excruciatingly clear to the woman that as a child she never felt supported by her family. Just as in the dreams, she felt completely vulnerable, exposed, with no one to help her. The feeling of desolation and alarm present in the dreams woke her up to the reality of her own childhood, forcing her to face the feelings she still carried inside her while pregnant.
Driven by the desire to do what was best for her child and for herself, she chose to examine her past consciously in therapy. This journey was for her a very different experience from that she had during her first pregnancy. The first time around she was a career woman who had never been interested in babies, and although she was excited, becoming a mother was something she knew very little about. She was mostly involved in the physical process, the changes in her body, cravings and the like.
However, when she became pregnant the second time, she knew on a deeper level what was involved in becoming a mother. She had already gone through the process of giving birth. She knew what it felt like to have a soul connection with another being. She was now prepared to deal with the psychic baggage that had been revealed to her through her pregnancy dreams. The more she uncovered in therapy, the clearer the connection to her unborn child became.
Dayna's dreams during her first trimester were also peppered with dreams from the past.
I am in a big old ocean liner. It's kind of rundown. Rustic but comfortable. I am with my family. There is a great celebration going on... a wedding. It lasts at least two days because I remember eating breakfast while the sun was coming up on the horizon. Somehow the sunrise lets me know that however fun and comfortable this trip is, it's time for me to go. I decide to escape. I'm not the only one; some strangers are also getting into the lifeboats. They are crowded. The only way for me to get into a lifeboat is to jump into the ocean itself and swim to a boat that has room for me. I make it to a lifeboat and there are only strangers on it, but I feel calm, confident that I'm doing what I'm supposed to do, even if it doesn't seem to make sense that I'm leaving the comfort of my old family on the ship. The whole atmosphere of the dream is fairy-tale-like and the colors are very vivid. All the strangers seem to be people my age. I wake up thinking that I'm pregnant, I'm really pregnant!
After we looked at the dream together it became clear that Dayna was moving away from her familiar life, symbolized by the old rustic ocean liner. In doing this, she had to release the safety of her family in order to step into her new existence. Although there was a wedding going on (which is a great metaphor for the creation of a baby), something changed for her with the sunrise. She had suddenly become conscious that she was taking in the food of a new life. At that crucial moment of her "breaking the fast," eating breakfast, she decided to get off the old boat. She was literally getting into a whole new life by getting into a "lifeboat" without her family. In the dream, before getting into the lifeboat, she had to jump straight into the deep, unbounded ocean. This is the way the dream deals with what is happening in her body, a transformation as powerful and limitless as the ocean itself.
Some dreams of the past are not meant as a letting go but more as a nourishing memory that provides comfort for the soul of the pregnant woman. Such was the case for Gail. She had a dream of her childhood home where she lived with her now-deceased mother until she was 14 years old. In the dream she felt the same warmth and love from her mother as she did when she was alive.
In this case, the dream was experienced not as a letting go, but as a confirmation that her mother was part of the new life growing inside of her. She was not saying good-bye to a part of her childhood but rather integrating a facet of motherly love she thought she had lost forever. She realized from her dream that even though her mother was dead, she was still her baby's grandmother, and a connection could be maintained over time and space. The recurring presence of her mother in her pregnancy dreams helped Gail feel calm and confident even though it was her first baby. She never felt the level of anxiety about the birth process common among women giving birth for the first time. She was guided by the memory of her mother.
Some dreams of the past very clearly express to a mother-to-be that it is time to let go of old things and get ready for the wave of change that is sweeping in new life.
Such was the case for Hope. In her dream, the past was literally embodied by certain articles she had possessed in San Francisco before she met her husband. As you will see, the specific items chosen by the unconscious are not devoid of humor.
I was on the beach in Malibu... not a place I go very often. There is a beach party going on. My ex-boyfriend is there but we are unable to connect. Strange things are coming in on the surf. A bookcase from Frisco, a pink hippie scarf also from Frisco, and finally a pair of underpants I recognize immediately... also from that period of my life. I try to collect my belongings, but the waves are not letting me do this. Suddenly I know that it is time to let that stuff go. I had some resistance because it was such personal stuff, but it is very clear that the ocean is allowing me to have a last look and that's it.
Upon looking at the dream more closely it became evident that Hope's unconscious had orchestrated the dream masterfully. First off, it was impossible for her to connect with her ex lover, a definite sign that it was time for her to move on. Then there were the items that washed up on the shore. The bookcase stood for a time in Hope's past when she was exploring new ways of thinking and living; at this point in her life she was going to school and enjoying a greater sense of freedom than she ever had before.
The pink hippie scarf was like a gauzy memory of life unencumbered by adult responsibilities, such as marriage and children. It infused her with a sense of youthful beauty; Hope felt pretty wearing it. The underpants that came in on the waves was an intimate reminder of the sexual freedom and experimentation she went through at that time. So you see, the message of the dream is concrete and direct. It leaves no room for doubt. It shows clearly that a new phase of life is about to begin. It is time to say good-bye to the past. It can be looked at and mourned, but don't hang onto it.
The desire of the psyche to make room for the new is expressed just as effectively and directly in the following dream. This dream also happens to be a literal request for more space.
I am in our one-bedroom apartment. My baby is all swaddled, lying on top of the TV set. There is no space to put her anywhere else. I am holding her with my index finger. I can't do this forever. It's ridiculous. It's obvious that we need more space for the baby.
At the time of the dream, Alexis had actually begun to look for a new home that would include a separate room for her baby. The above dream was s confirmation that she indeed needed to create space for her new child and that her old apartment was insufficient. In the dream, Alexis's index finger is not only holding the baby, but also pointing at it. It's as if the baby is saying "Look, here I am, make room for me."
On the same note, 90 percent of the women we interviewed were in the process of looking for a bigger home or moving into a new one during their first, second and even third trimester. Anybody would think that being pregnant is the worst time for such a move (think big boxes and heavy furniture), but when a woman is preparing to give birth to her child, certain nesting instincts take over, manifesting both in the mother-to-be's dreams and in real life.
Dreams of lost love
Dreams of "lost love" or former lovers are another important aspect of dreams of the past. In order for a woman to make room for the new life she is carrying, she has to have some closure with unfinished or old relationships. There are two categories in this realm.
The first one has to do with mourning the loss of what could have been, the "what ifs" of life. What if I had married Jeff instead of Mark? What if I had accepted his invitation to his country home, etc.? The unconscious mind revisits these fantasies in dream time to finish stories that were left incomplete in the heart and mind of a pregnant woman. It is a cleansing cycle necessary in order to make room for the newly conceived child. It is an area of background baggage, a sort of lost and found of the psyche, wherein old material is processed so that new depths of love may be reached. A woman's pregnancy is the catalyst for such a clearance.
The second category of dreams involves past relationships and significant former lovers. These dreams can be a little more ruthless. Several women we interviewed had dreams in which their old lovers were killed off. In these cases, the women's psyches were making a harsh break between the past and the future. On an unconscious level they were exterminating old forms of love so that they could have more psychic space in which to care for their child.
Both Karine and Tracy -- two women we interviewed --had a series of dreams in which their ex-lovers became injured or died. In their waking lives, they had not even been thinking of these men, but in their subconscious memory banks, the cleansing process was well under way. Tracy's dreams of the past were particularly interesting in that they included all of her ex-lovers, her stepfather and even her husband. They all got killed off in her first trimester.
Clearly, Mother Nature, the feminine principle of life, was taking over and making a clean sweep of all male energies. These inner characters had become superfluous; they were not necessary for the successful creation of a baby. The amount of rage present in Tracy's dreams was another manifestation of the power of Nature. In her sleep she was consumed with anger toward her husband, and she also believed her husband to be charged with a similar rage toward her. These feelings were so vivid in her dreams that she often woke up and had to ask her husband if he was angry at her. Of course, he said no. Still, she was astounded by the intensity of the feelings expressed in her dreams during that time. Fortunately this pattern of rage subsided by the end of the first trimester, and her dreams became more even keeled.
One noteworthy exception in the murderous trend of Tracy's early pregnancy dreams was the harmonious connection with her ex-lover Derek. In real life he was the only one who had made the difficult transition from lover to friend. And in her dreamscape, he remained that faithful friend, someone she could count on and trust. Derek represented the type of safe male energy she wanted to keep around while her body was getting used to its new duties.
Lynda was another interesting case. She is the mother of three boys all under the age of 4. During all her pregnancies, she had recurring dreams of an ex-boyfriend she had loved for many years.
"He was bad for me," Lynda said. "But I loved him so much I thought I would die when it was over." Consciously, Lynda thought her ties with this man had been broken a long time ago, but her unconscious believed otherwise. There was a lot more letting go to be done. It took all three pregnancies for him to be cleared from her psyche.
Lynda's dreams showed her repeatedly that he was not interested in her anymore. He ignored her or treated her like a stranger in all the dreams she had of him. Her psyche was making it clear to her that the relationship was over. She could not believe that she was still dreaming of him while carrying her third child. So many years had passed. But she was relieved to find out that during her final pregnancy the dreams were not so intense or long.
"I only had a few dreams," said Lynda. "And they weren't as vivid or disturbing as the first two pregnancies. It was as if he was fading away."
Another variation we found in the dreams relating to ex-lovers was in Jenny's dream of a fire station. When she walked into it, there was a party going on. A fireman she had dated in real life was there, and he asked her permission to walk her outside to her car so that she could go home. It was a very dark night and quite scary.
In this case, the past, in the guise of the fireman, was symbolically escorting her to her new life. She was getting a nice send-off party. It was a celebration. But the journey she was embarking on was still scary and no one from her past could come with her. The fireman didn't get killed off, but she had to say good-bye to him and get into her car alone and do her own driving. This is Nature's way of saying, "Certain aspects of your old life are over. It's time for you to become a mother."
Preparing you for motherhood
When many women become pregnant for the first time, there is a feeling of "no turning back," "this is for real." Terminating old relationships through dreams of the past is the psyche's way of dealing with the new evolution of a woman's life. It is the way the soul prepares for tomorrow.
Dreams of the past are a powerful expression of a woman's inner desire to become as whole and free as she can to bear a healthy child. They are, if you will, the psychological equivalent of a woman's concern for her own physical well-being. For example, a woman quitting smoking and/or drinking and eating more healthfully when she becomes pregnant carries the same force as a dream of the past. Although the former are voluntary actions and the latter is subconscious, all are similar attempts made by the soul to prepare a woman for motherhood.
If a woman follows through with the guidance she receives from a dream of the past, she will greatly affect the relationship between herself and her child. A new bond will be created, one in which the patterns of the past no longer have an adverse effect on the present.
We have all heard of the sensitivity of unborn babies to loud noises, arguments, music, etc. This sensitivity also exists at a level of consciousness. When a dream of the past occurs and a woman responds to it consciously, the baby can feel the shift in the mother's awareness. It is as if the psychic link between the mother and child is suddenly more clear. This happens because the mother is responding to the flow of Nature; she is yielding to the natural cycle of healing in which the past is drawn into the present for clarification and analysis.
When a mother ignores this process, her relationship with her child becomes burdened by projections. The past clouds the present and prevents the two souls from meeting each other with unhindered closeness.
What is natural is for the mother's childhood issues to surface, as well as any and all important relationships that she has experienced in her life. This is Nature's way of preparing the woman for motherhood. The more lingering feelings from her past a woman can resolve through her dreams, the more room she will have for the child, not only in her body but in her heart and mind as well. It is a simple equation. There must be some measure of peace about the past in order to freely embrace the future.
Healing childhood dreams
The following exercises are meant to assist the mother-to-be in becoming more aware of what childhood feelings or old relationships are coming to the surface through her dreams. They are based on the first trimester and show the woman how to integrate these nightly experiences into the present landscape of her pregnancy.
Before going to sleep
Turn off the lights. Lie comfortably on a flat surface, with all limbs untangled, in an open and receptive posture. Close your eyes. Breathe once or twice deeply. Let go of tension. Pay particular attention to your neck and shoulders, to your jaw, and to your stomach; these are all areas where anxiety and worry can build up, often undetected.
Feel your worried mental chatter fade away as if someone was turning down the volume of a radio until it is completely inaudible. Be aware of your beating heart pumping blood, not only for yourself, but also for the other life being created at this very moment in your womb. You are in the process of creation right now. You are the embodiment of life itself. Allow the womb of life to hold you as your own womb holds your baby, safely. Be aware that everything that has ever happened in your life has led you to this moment here and now. Be in the present and know that all of your life is contained in this moment. All of your life experience is available to you right now. All of the wisdom of your ancestors is available to you right now. Feel their support.
In this receptive stillness, ask your unconscious to reveal to you the places in yourself where love is lacking, where there is an emotional knot that needs to be untied so that life can flow, where space needs to be made for the new life that is emerging. Trust that your dreams will lead you safely where you need to go, and let sleep nourish both your body and your soul so that you, in turn, may nourish the life of your unborn child.
After you wake up
Take your time transitioning from sleep to being awake. Let the images from your dreams drift into your consciousness unimpeded by the concerns of your daytime responsibilities. Be still with your thoughts. Let the dreams surface to the forefront of your conscious mind. If you are confronted with a dream from the past, let the landscape and the characters tell you what they mean. Ask them and yourself these questions:
- What are you doing in my dream? What are you trying to show me or tell me?
- Do I need to tell these characters how they make me feel? Was something left unsaid or undone?
- What do I need from the characters in the dream, if anything?
- How do I feel in the dream? Did something happen that bothered me?
- If I could, would I change the ending or even the whole story?
- How? What would I say or do? What would the other characters say or do?
Give yourself time to hear the answers and allow yourself to be surprised. Write them down if you think you will forget them. Then proceed to the next step: reliving the dream but changing the ending or outcome so that the resolution is more harmonious and creates peace of mind. You can even change the reactions of the characters involved. Create your ideal scenario. You are the producer, director and screenwriter, not to mention the actor of every part.
I recommend doing the exercise twice. Often new elements appear at the second go-around that were overlooked the first time. Begin by re-creating and reliving the dream as completely as possible, remembering the feelings that went along with it. Once you feel that you are fully entrenched in the world of the dream, start to guide the dream into new directions that feel more satisfying, more healing. Bestow a different tone to the landscape. Select new reactions and new words for the characters. Make yourself the heroine of your dream. Give yourself what you need to feel successful or safe or simply more whole by the end of the dream.
Making room for the new
The dream is offering you something to look at in your own psyche, a challenge if you will. "This is the stuff you carry in your body and in your mind. What should you do with it? Do you want to keep it, dump it, integrate it?"
When you actively engage your dream in this way and bring it to a satisfying conclusion, you have answered the call to bring your consciousness up to date. You are participating in your own healing and providing a safer psychic space for your child to grow in. You could call it "spring cleaning for the psyche" or "clearing the cobwebs from the past." It certainly gives a hint or even a push to your unconscious mind to keep clearing the old and making room for the new.
You can apply this procedure to dreams concerning childhood issues as well as ones involving old love and relationships. What you want to keep in mind in dreams involving past relationships is that the people you were intimate with played a role in your evolution as a human being. You were with them for a very good reason: to learn something, to let go of something, etc. Sometimes such dreams of the past are about unfinished business, in which case the above exercise will be extremely useful, so that you may give your story with that person a satisfying ending.
The other thing to keep in mind is that the love you felt for those people is real, and that love is never lost, even if the person is out of your life forever. In fact, all we are ever learning to do is love well. When you accept that the love is yours to keep, not only do you expand your capacity to love, but you also free up the love that was stored in your mind, in the knots of your body, and make it available to yourself and others who are ready to receive it now. Love is love. It is the other feelings we surround love with that need to be let go of, to be healed.