For a lot of people, thinking of birth preparation involves images of expectant parents doing yoga, drinking smoothies, or learning about the stages of labor. For others, birth preparation is more about preparing spaces and getting stuff: the nursery, the birth space, the house renovation or perhaps even moving to a different house altogether.
What all those things have in common is their outwards focus. These things are all valuable and important parts of preparing for the big life change of bringing a new human into the world, but in the busyness of our day-to-day life, it's not uncommon for the inner landscape to go unnoticed.
During pregnancy, the body goes through many noticeable physical changes as it grows and expands to accommodate a baby, but there are also a lot of invisible changes happening in places that get a lot less attention than the belly. Some of the most fascinating changes are actually happening in the brain. As different areas of the brain get enhanced and brain waves slow down, one of the most common effects is for pregnant people to remember their dreams, which tend to be very vivid, strange and sometimes even disruptive. For some people pregnancy might be the first time in their life that they have this much awareness of their dreams.
Dreams are one of those aspects of life that remain mysterious. There are books about their interpretations, psychoanalysis tools and some scientific studies about them, but at the bottom of it, we are left with the beauty, chaos and ambiguity of them.
Since the beginning of time, many cultures around the world have used dreams as guides to deeper understanding of the world and of the self. They were part of ceremony, rites of passage and even the preparation of warriors.
So, how can you harness the potential of dreams as part of your birth preparation?
WHAT YOU NEED TO START EXPLORING YOUR DREAMS
1. WRITE THEM DOWN: Start this practice in early pregnancy for better results, but starting at any point will have benefits.
You can enhance your ability to remember dreams by mentally repeating to yourself, as you drift off to sleep, that you wish to remember your dreams.
Keep a dream journal and pen next to your bed and when you wake up, take some time to write it down. If you don’t have time to go into details or you don’t remember much, jolt down the main subject or most memorable images about your dream. Write all dreams, not just the ones that relate to your pregnancy. They will all help you understand the things that are going on in your subconscious and how your mind and soul are absorbing the new experiences you’re going through.
Some of the dreams might make you uncomfortable and that’s okay. It’s the way of the brain to deal with unspoken and often unexplored fears and worries, which sometimes seem irrational to the conscious mind. Some commonly disturbing dream themes during pregnancy include dreaming of your partner leaving, dreaming of giving birth to an animal or a deformed baby, or dreaming about your birth fears. There might also be a lot of water themes in your dreams.
2. REVIEW YOUR DREAM JOURNAL: Every month or so, sit down and review your dream journal. Are there common threads that keep on showing up? Are there new questions that arise about yourself, about your relationship with your body and your environment? Are there any worries manifesting in your dreams? Are there some images or dreams that evoque comfort even if it doesn’t make logical sense? Are there some images or dreams that evoque fear even if it doesn’t make logical sense? You don't need to focus too much in general dream interpretation tools as much as focusing on the feelings and thoughts that you personally associate with these dreams.
3. TAKE A STEP FURTHER BY MAKING ART: Dreams can help you dig deeper. When thinking about the questions in the last paragraph, avoid superficial answers.
Think about some of the images present in your dreams as they relate to your changing body, to your relationship, to your sense of peace and comfort or fear and dread, and make some art with them. You will learn new things about yourself.
4. TAKE BREAKS BUT DON'T GIVE UP: Sometimes you might forget to write down your dreams for many days or even weeks. It’s okay, every night, when your mind rests and decompresses, offers a new opportunity to open a door to more inner knowledge.
During labor, when you are finally pushing your baby out after the hard work of dilation, you might feel scared of the intensity of sensations, scared of the openness that your body is experiencing. Some people feel like their body might split in half, and that feeling can be absolutely overwhelming. Learning to dig deeper, to embrace the intensity, to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone, are all part of a holistic birth preparation. And your dreams have the power to take you beyond your limits if you allow them to.
What are some of the dreams you remember having that relate to pregnancy and birth? What do you think they are trying to tell you?