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Dreaming for two

May 17, 2002|BY LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

Have you ever had a nightmare that you left a child behind?

Or that you lost a child in a crowded public place?

Your legs felt like lead as you desperately tried to track him down.

What about the dreams you had when you were expecting?

Is the baby going to be OK? Too big? Too small? Too smart? Too slow?

How will you ever be able to love your second child as much as your first? Is there enough love in your heart?

Of course there is. But that didn't stop those nagging thoughts, doubts and fears.

And, at times, dreams can be utterly outrageous.

One night when she was pregnant, Elyse Kroll dreamed she had a boy. But this was no ordinary boy. He was 18 at birth, part boy and part camel.

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Kroll, senior crafts editor at "Martha Stewart Living," didn't know what to feed him. She only had Christmas cookies shaped like Noah's Ark characters that she was arranging for a photo shoot.

Within minutes, the camel boy chomped off the heads of all the characters, even though she pleaded with him to stop.

"I felt like a terrible mother for not having the proper food for him and for not knowing how to control him, and like a terrible employee for letting my child destroy an expensive photo shoot," Kroll wrote in "Dreaming For Two - The Hidden Emotional Life of Expectant Mothers."

Kroll decided to write the book with psychotherapist Hillary Grill and journalist Sindy Greenberg after she told some friends about her dream. They confided that their dreams during pregnancy seemed to be more vivid and intense.

At the same time, Grill's patients were talking about the tumultuous feelings they had during pregnancy. They wanted to know what they could read.

Grill didn't know what to recommend. So when she was asked to write about the dreams of pregnant women, she hopped on board.

The book examines how dreams reveal a pregnant woman's evolving identity, changing relationships, fears and hopes about pregnancy and motherhood.

Women who are successful in their careers often are especially concerned that they will be able to transfer that success to motherhood, Grill says.

"There's something about pregnancy and motherhood that you don't have that sense of control," Grill says. "Having a baby feels like a less prescribed journey in a certain way."

Because of their sleep patterns - pregnant women wake frequently during the night - their dreams may seem more vivid and intense. The dreams we remember are the ones we have right before waking, Grill says.

The authors of "Dreaming For Two" attended childbirth classes and asked the students if they'd be willing to talk about their dreams. In exchange for their participation, Grill interpreted their dreams.

More than 100 women volunteered.

One of the most frequent dreams was about leaving the baby behind, misplacing it or forgetting to take it along, Grill says.

In essence, these dreams reflect a woman's concerns about whether she's up to the task of motherhood, Grill says.

A lot of women also fear that they will have to give up who they were before they became a mother, Grill says.

The book describes Kroll's camel-boy dream as an example of the balancing act women face as they try to reconcile the demands of a career with the demands of motherhood.

Women pregnant with their second or third child also may have dreams about neglecting their first-born.

It helps if you talk about the new baby early and often before he or she arrives, Grill says.

The older your first child is, the earlier you should tell him about the pregnancy. Approach it in the sense that there's a baby coming and it will enhance the family.

Your first child may feel he's only supposed to be happy about the baby and may be hesitant to share negative feelings, Grill says.

"It's up to the parents to allow kids to have questions and feelings," Grill says. "Allow them to have envy, fear."

Read them age-appropriate books about what it's like to have a baby sister or brother.

Tell them stories from your childhood. What was it like for you to be an only child? Oldest child? Youngest child? Middle child?

And give yourself permission to have mixed emotions.

"It's important for women to validate their feelings," Grill says. "Hey, this isn't so simple. There's a lot of emotion attached to it."

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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