Shortly after Baby No. 1 was born, I started have a recurring dream that—to this day, almost seven years later—still scares me to think about. In this dream, I wake from my peaceful 45-minute slumber and am 100 percent convinced that the baby is in the bed with me. But I can’t find her anywhere.
Then I would wake up from the dream for real and begin thrashing about in the bed, throwing the covers around, looking, searching, desperately trying to find the baby. She’s here! I know it! But where?!? Sometimes I’d wake up holding something, and would feel so totally relieved that I had found the baby before she suffocated. Then I’d realize that I was holding the cat. You should have seen the look on poor cat’s face after I wrestled him from his comfy resting place atop the bed, as I tried to “save” him. After a few rounds of this, you probably won’t be shocked to learn that the cat stopped sleeping in the bed.
The first several weeks after Baby No. 1 was born, I had this dream literally every night. In the dream I would be in a total panic because I knew the baby was in the bed, but I couldn’t find her—and I knew she wasn’t supposed to be in the bed for this very reason. She is going to suffocate! Where is she? Why can’t I find her? The bed’s not that big! WHERE IS THE BABY?!? I’d pat the area around me, searching for baby-sized lumps. When I couldn’t find her, I’d expand my patting area, reaching out and thumping my husband’s back (don’t worry, he never even woke up) to try to determine if he was the missing baby I was so desperately searching for. I’d pat my own legs under the blankets and have a hard time deciding if they were actually my legs or if they were a baby.
And then I would wake up for real and still in a panic because, wait a minute, was I dreaming or is the baby really in the bed? I hadn’t slept in weeks. I had lost my ability to tell the difference between dreams and real life. My mind would race: When was the last time I fed the baby? Where did I put her after I fed her? Is it my shift—am I supposed to be watching her right now and I fell asleep on duty? Or is it my husband’s turn? Where is my husband? Is he in the bed? Can I hear the baby crying? And at that point I hadn’t slept for more than two hours in a row since Baby No. 1 was born, so these questions were real mind-benders.
I would have to sit up and focus all of my energy on figuring out what in God’s name was going on. And it was always the case that the baby was not actually in the bed, but good Lord, the dream was so real. Every time.
In the months that followed, the dream slowed down to just a once in awhile occurrence but was always still totally disturbing. Blessedly, I don’t remember having this nightmare (because let’s face it, that’s what it was) after Baby No. 2. But I still remember the sheer panic I would feel when I woke up—total confusion as I desperately tried to figure out where I was, where the baby was and WHAT WAS GOING ON.
The brain can be a cruel trickster sometimes.