Do you ever have anxiety dreams about your children that are so real, you wake up sweating, startled, and calling out? Last night, it happened to me. I had a terrible nightmare, just one of the many postpartum anxiety dreams I’ve experienced since having my daughter. I was walking into our local pool and scanning my ID card. I had my daughter with me and also my friend Stacey. A few seconds after I paid for Stacey’s pool guest pass, I turned around and we both realized my daughter G was gone. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of her in someone else’s arms being carried out of my sight. I immediately called for help and started screaming. The pool enacted its emergency procedures and called a lock down, but it was too late. My daughter was gone.
I’m getting chills even writing about this dream. It was so vivid and so, so horrible. I think what made it even worse was that it was such a realistic scenario. I couldn’t go back to sleep after it no matter how hard I tried. I even clicked on G’s baby monitor just to make sure she was still soundly sleeping in the next room.
I had some bizarre pregnancy dreams, and some anxiety dreams when my daughter was a newborn, but lately, my postpartum anxiety dreams are back with a vengeance. I think it’s ironic that I’m experiencing these dreams because I consider myself to be a pretty laid back mom. I do follow a schedule during the day, but I’m not one to panic when things don’t go as planned or even excessively worry about things like my daughter getting sick, hurt at the playground, or lost. I’d like to think I’m pretty far from having her put in a bubble. It’s funny I was recently reading a BabyCenter article talking about how children begin to develop fears and anxiety as they become toddlers. Well, my daughter is doing just fine; it’s me with the nighttime anxiety. So why am I having these anxiety dreams?
I’m not exactly sure why I’m having these dreams, but I have a few guesses. I think I’m subconsciously reacting to G’s growing independence. At 15 months old, she not a baby anymore. She wants to run around on her own, wriggle her hand out of mine, and make new friends on the playground. She’s seeing herself as a separate being from mom and dad. Consciously, I think that’s a wonderful thing. Subconsciously, I think I’m having trouble letting go of my precious newborn baby.
Then, there’s my impending return to teaching in September. I’ve been on an extended maternity leave since last March when G was born. Now, I’m feeling like my days as a SAHM are numbered and I’m so sad and anxious about leaving her. Although I’m blessed to have a job I love, the thought of “leaving” my daughter is definitely tucked away in my mind. I know she will be just fine, and I know I will be, too. Still, I think the nightmares reflect my brain’s way of coping with the big change I have ahead.
Finally, I think these postpartum anxiety dreams are a result of me thinking this wonderful life I have is just too good to be true. How many times a day are we bombarded with media coverage of the most heart-wrenching tragedies? I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful husband and the love I have for my daughter is off the charts. Is it all too good to be true? I think these nightmares are the way my brain sorts out an understanding of how all of this is possible for me.
It’s plain and simple, no matter how calm I think I am, I spend time worrying about my baby. I just didn’t realize I would worry during the day, and while asleep at night! But I refuse to let these fictional scenarios turn me into a panicky mess. If anything, these horrible nightmares have helped me focus more on the REAL and wonderful moments I have with my family each day. And let’s face it, no matter how bad these anxiety nightmares get, they’re not going to hold a candle to the reality of eventually having a dating, driving teenager on the loose!