The Dream Worlds of Pregnancy

Reviewed Publisher: 
New York: Quill. 1985.
Reviewed Title: 
The Dream Worlds of Pregnancy
Reviewed Author: 

During the first part of my pregnancy, I avoided this book. I wasn't having any dreams myself that seemed any different from normal times and I didn't trust that there was any valid material in it. During my second trimester, however, babies began to appear in my dreams, babies being dropped on their heads, big, baby Huey babies and soft cuddly babies. And my mother appeared to help me. The book started looking more interesting and, now that I've read it, I see that the dreams I had are not at all uncommon in pregnant women, especially during the second trimester.

Eileen Stukane herself didn't think there was any difference between the dreams of expectant parents and those of nonpregnant people. Until she assigned her class a project requiring them to collect dreams from pregnant women. When the reports were in, she noticed a significant number of nontypical dreams. And yet, there was a consistency of the dream content among the pregnant women. She became curious about the dreams of the husbands of pregnant women and found that Dr. Alan Siegel, a Berkeley psychologist had reported on an amazing scope of expectant fathers' dreams. And so this book, a first in its field, was born.

Expectant parents don't commonly talk about their dreams unless they are asked. And then they display an amazing recall, even years later. What sets the women's dreams apart is their intense body awareness and the abundance of baby imagery that often goes hand in hand with anxiety. The fathers, even though they don't experience physical change, do encounter psychological change.

There are common fears that run through the dreams, fears of losing babies, fear for their safety, of not being able to care for them, of miscarriage. Newborns often appear as walking, talking children. Dreams of architectural structures become more frequent with women. And dependence/independence conflicts surface for both parents. Women dream more about their mothers and men about their fathers. Sometimes the parent is seen in a supportive role and sometimes old conflicts surface.

A few facts about dreaming-the dream period for all people happens in about four to six rapid eye movement (REM) periods a night. This totals about 90 minutes of dreaming. After 32 weeks in utero, it has been proven that the fetus has REM periods and the conclusions have been that she is dreaming. And Arthur Colman, who has written many works on pregnancy, says he can almost always tell how far along a woman is by her dreams. Stukane also mentions-more than once-that since dreams are an attempt to put issues into perspective, happy dreams are more the exception than the rule.

During the first trimester, women may find they dream of soft, fuzzy baby animals; little creatures that are about the size of the developing fetus. They may begin to have dreams with a lot of windows in them and water images frequently appear. Men dream more than ever of sex and nurturing.

It is during the second trimester that dreams commonly surface about the person's competency as a parent and small children may appear instead of infants. Conflicts begin to arise during this period over baby vs. career. Men's sex dreams often decrease but dreams of protectiveness increase. Men may also dream of being pregnant and giving birth. And more than half the pregnant men interviewed had dreams of being excluded or left alone compared with only 2% of the men dream-interviewed from the general population.

The third trimester may see an increase for both men and women in dreams in which something will go wrong with the birth of their baby or babies suffering deformities, miscarriages or stillbirths. Men may still dream of giving birth but more often they find or are given babies or acquire them through some kind of ceremony. Women especially have been known to have both prodromal and precognitive dreams. Prodromal dreams concern internal conditions like having a very clear dream about the sex of the child or a birth defect. Precognitive dreams have predicted external events surrounding the birth. One woman, for instance, had a dream of herself sitting in the hospital room the day after the birth and the nurse coming in and handing her the baby and saying, "Here's your little one." The exact sequence of events occurred. The nurse was even the one she had seen in her dream.

What I found particularly interesting was a description in the last chapter of the book of how one professional goes about interviewing people about their dreams. The questions focus on specifics of the dream, rather than on trying to interpret the general meaning, which is what I would have thought one would do. When I tried this dream analysis myself, interviewing my husband and him interviewing me about two dreams we had had on the same night, I was amazed at the insight that came from using her methods of discovery. My husband's dream was a classic pregnancy dream, dealing with conflicts with his father. He has been having a number of these dreams for the last couple of months. What was amazing was that this particular dream did not seem to be about this topic at all, but during the course of the interview, it became quite clear that his conflict was indeed at the base of the dream and that the feeling was related to several other events in his life. It was quite exciting. 1 feel that this book has given me another tool to use.

Publication Date: 
05/1987