A few weeks ago, when I was potentially going to be stuck in urgent care all afternoon, and feared I wouldn’t have time to write before work, I asked a friend whether she’d consider doing a post for me. I ended up not needing it that day, but what I got out of the deal was a timeless post I could use at will, whenever I found myself without time to write my own.
First, let me tell you a little about Saundra. She was the first person I met at my college freshman orientation: I was planning on doing some nude modeling for my school’s art department, and so she taught me a few yogic breathing exercises I might employ, in order to reduce anxiety and/or stand more still. And this is the sort of relationship we’ve had ever since: we compare notes on our digestive tracts, urinary tracts, and dating track-records; we call on each other when we need a completely biased ally in any affair; and we are occasionally penpals, sending each other little care packages between California and Oregon. She is a ridiculously gifted writer – sometimes too smart even for me – and I’m honored to have her words gracing my page. Oh, and ladies? If you want something brilliant to show your man in the next two days before he’s required to perform (I mean Valentine’s Day), check out this letter she wrote to the “Boyfriends of the World.”
And now my excuses for not writing my own post tonight: I have none. It’s late, and I’m tired, and I have to wake up early tomorrow, and I frittered away the afternoon reading zombie literature and hanging out with my boyfriend’s sisters.
So without further ado, here is Saundra, pontificating on her history of stress-related pregnancy dreams:
Used to be your subconscious was ok slapping you with a public nudity dream, then calling it a night. (Mine ran more the side of “Oh, has this toilet always been in the very public part of the café where I wait for my coffee? Huh. Well, when in Rome…”) And that had a refreshing sort of innocence about it, you know? Feelings of exposure, inadequacy, a nascent suspicion that my bladder was a bit more hair-trigger than most people’s – I get it! Thanks, Dream-Me!
But around college, my subconscious started to tell me I was stressed by slapping me with a baby or far-along pregnancy. As though I needed reminding that I was overwhelmed.
Pregnancy dreams continue, but the tone has changed. In college, I might have dreamed of saving a young child…and then being forced to adopt her, then crying out of desperation when I had to come up with a name. In some dreams I had already had the baby, convinced myself it would be a laugh – only to spend Saturday nights on the couch in my childhood home, clutching a well-behaved infant and watching “Jeopardy!” while a flurry of texts invited me out and I tried to find a way to pawn the kid off on my mother. Pregnancies weighed me down, made me take a hard look at my financial situation. (The one wedding dream I had at that time was equally unromantic, but served much more obvious purpose – the man in my life was kind of a bummer, and I was kind of over it.)
After I moved to Oregon, my pregnancy dream was a strange meditation on what had been an overly active dating life…and also, an off-putting examination of my relationship with mom and dad. I was pregnant by a guy I’d only ever had dinner with. My mother began making weekend trips from California to Oregon, despite never having visited in real life. And an old fling with this annoying, faux-sagelike attitude to him showed up to therapist me into the realization that I barely had enough money to raise myself, and that continuing the pregnancy felt like giving in. I called my parents to let them know the baby wasn’t happening, and they were surprisingly (though not uncharacteristically) ok with it.
About a year ago, the flavor of these dreams changed – perhaps because of the dad potential in the guy I was dating in waking life. Our relationship was remarkably unagonized. We shared rides to work every morning, crossed paths at the office throughout the day, so work and romance blended a little. And so I dreamed that I was standing in the courtyard for a solidarity smokebreak with friend and coworker Nate. “Hey, aren’t you having a baby soon?” Nate reminded me, to which I cried, “Oh! Yes! My leave starts tomorrow” and there was no horror, and there was no angst. And then I crossed paths with the excited daddy-to-be. And it was sunny, even in Portland.
So these dreams of mine underscored my lack of (or perception of lack of) maturity, relationship malaise, and financial insecurity, and then one of them was unprecedentedly optimistic. The next one came fast on the heels of my lay-off, and it was a ham-fisted metaphor for all the ways my job had been pushing me into the realm of panic attack – “full catastrophe living,” to borrow the title of a book off my mother’s shelf.
Losing my job was a relief, and hopefully that gives a feel for how toxic the office was, that I would opt for uncertainty and a major demotion in income. The weekend before it happened, I’d cut my hair short and, high on a mix of Adderall and cheap cabernet, sat on my balcony, revamping my resume and praying to the goddess of whatever clutch-cargo full moon was going on: “Please, let it happen soon, let it happen quick, and let me be eligible for unemployment.”
But losing one’s job isn’t the biggest self-esteem booster, and both me and my out-of-work, one-time dream baby-daddy were haunted. A few months of work-related dreams preceded boats of insomnia for both of us. I reasoned, “If either of us had just ended a shitty two-year relationship – we wouldn’t expect to be over it yet, would we?” He agreed.
But I still passed out in the arms of Melatonin, only to find myself in the twisting hellscape of cubicles I’d recently flipped off over my shoulder. Sometimes the cubicles made a path to my bedroom, and I’d look up to find my old supervisor standing in my doorway, mustering an only slightly-less-eloquent dismissal than the one she’d slapped on me in real life – “Bitch,” say. Sometimes I was there because “two weeks’ notice” for them meant I had to show up for ten working days in order to get my severance.
The one that struck me in the babymaker, though, made it all so very personal – and made for a bit of a hiccup when I was enjoying a Montana getaway with Mr. He-Could-Knock-Me-Up-and-I-Wouldn’t-Be-Offended.
In this dream, my old company was in the business of manufacturing houses. My parents had bought one. In waking life, I was trying to scrape together cash for a particularly expensive car repair; in my dream, it was rent I was after. I delicately asked my mother if I could move home, and wouldn’t you know it, she had a room waiting for me. She’d even had it outfitted as…half nursery.
Knee-jerk Freudian interpretation: I was failing as an adult.
Obviously, moving home at my age would only be acceptable if I had a dependent. But even more painful was realizing how far from baby I really was: the professional setback was a blow to the ego, to finances, and it was making me lag in the life milestone department, too.
It’s worth nothing that every baby I dream about is female (representative of…me?) – but also that “baby” is my go-to symbol for gauging where I am in life.
Unlike Marie, I’ve always seen myself as an older mother. I have no desire to be pregnant before I’m 30, and it blows my mind that I would find a contender to knock me up before I felt I was prepared professionally and financially to have a baby. I always figured it would be the other way around. And if you want to know the truth, my one happy maternity leave dream wasn’t all that sunny; I woke up horrified that any child of mine would have to watch me trek off to a workplace where backstabbing was accepted managerial protocol – and where my job duties were at once the most mindless I’d experienced since college, but also the most demanding.
But then babies have always been real perspective-givers. The idea of them has been a useful bellwether when I’m on the fence about a relationship – and interestingly, that’s always been true for my boyfriend too. One telling moment: I became mildly annoyed when, at a party, a friend asked if he planned on staying in Portland and he responded that he would eventually want to move back to Montana…marking the second time an inquisitive friend would get that info before I ever did. So my boyfriend backpedalled, explained he would never leave me for Big Sky Country, then tried to sell me on Montana-style domesticity. Montana, as he told it, was a magical place where we could survive on one income – I could even stay home with the kids if I wanted.
Did I lock that statement down? You bet I locked it down.
Nevermind the alarming lack of Waldorf schools in rural Montana – with my parents planning a move to the Pacific Northwest, I call womb home court advantage. But babies measure my trajectory as an adult, reassure me that a relationship is serious-ish…
In other words, the specter of babies floating, discombobulated, haunts my dreams and keeps me in line the rest of time.