Bad Dreams

Both the LP and I grew up having bad nightmares (the LP night terrors). He still lets out blood curdling screams while still dead asleep and embroiled in nightmare sometimes. My affliction worsened – severely – after Baby A’s birth and I was later advised they were symptomatic of PPA (postpartum anxiety, related to and sometimes experienced together with post partum depression (PPD) but sometimes experienced independent of PPD). 

While Baby A was still very young I was offered medication not recommended while breastfeeding. I declined. Breastfeeding Baby A has never been easy so I opted to ride out the daytime anxiety, for which I had some tools in my arsenal, and suffering through the nighttime anxiety, for which I’ve never found tools apart from the training I got after a brain injury that triggered a flood of childhood sexual abuse memories and corresponding nightmares. 

Most of the PPA nightmares involved drowning – of my dog and my children mostly though occasionally of other people’s children. They knocked me flat. Every time. I never went back up bed or sleep on the nights when they struck. 

The MT seems afflicted with the nightmare gene too. He says almost every night before bed “I hope I don’t have a bad dream”. “Me too” I always respond. I hope not too. And then I make the same wish for myself and the LP. 

Wishes are just that. Obviously. Sometimes they come true (like dreams). Sometimes they don’t. 

Early this morning I awoke from a bad dream that was muddled and disjointed. I only recall that it ended with Baby A being struck (and dismembered? I made myself wake up and cannot take my mind back there) by a vehicle while I ran out (in slow motion – why can we only move in slow motion when something awful is afoot?). The fear and gore took my breath away. And got me out of bed. Immediately. 

If I had to live with these sort of nightmares again often (as occurred for a while after Baby A’s birth) I would readily drug myself into a stupor. I would wantto eliminate any opportunity to recall such horrors. 

I sometimes wonder how parents of violently or tragically killed children survive. I have often wondered (still do) how my own mother survived after her first born son died – in somewhat suspicious and utterly tragic circumstances. I know she struggled mightily. For ever. His death shaped my childhood. And has resurfaced from time to time my entire life. 

On that note, is it moot to describe such circumstances as utterly tragic? When is the death of a child not utterly tragic? In the case of my mom’s son the tragedy – for me – is amplified by the fact what happened could readily have been avoided but for the foolish or perhaps malicious acts of another. And that the other was himself a child. From tragic circumstances. 

I digress. 

I don’t know why I’m writing this post except to exorcise the demon of this morning’s awful dream. I hope I don’t have (any more) bad dreams. 

Do you ever have nightmares about your children being harmed? How do you reground yourself after them?


14 thoughts on “Bad Dreams

  1. Great post! The only nightmares I recall vividly is when I was pregnant with my 1st son. Every night was a battle, I would be fighting people who wanted to stab me and I would be fighting and protecting my tummy. This will go on for hours in my sleep with me escaping and winning the fight against the person wanting to kill my unborn child. I had similar nightmare with my daughter where I would be running and someone was chasing me whilst pregnant and wanting to hurt my child. These were the only times I had nightmares about my children. Sorry about the essay, how grounded myself was not taking it too personally and realizing it was only a dream. Your vivid nightmares could be your subconscious trying to notify you of potential risk. However what you saw in your nightmare may never come true. I also regrounded myself by being vigilant and taking extra care of myself and protecting my bump during my pregnancy. In your case it could be the fear of the unknown coupled with the experience of your mum losing her son. Your nightmares could be your unconscious fear of your son being hurt like your brother and this is being replayed to you in your nightmares. Best wishes and hope you get rest in your sleep.

    • Thank you. I agree with you that this and many of my nightmares are warnings to be vigilant and that they likely stem in part from my hyper awareness of risk given my mom’s losses (she had a still born daughter after her first son). I hope the bad dreams stay away bone for a while. Your pregnancy seems make sense but I’m sure they were exhausting at the time.

      • You’re welcome! Yes it was very exhausting at the time, as the dreams were so vivid. This carried on until I delivered and once I had my baby the nightmares stopped and a different nightmare started. The mind is so crazy if you allow it to run wild lol. I wish you all the best 🙏

  2. Gwen doesn’t feature in many of my dreams — yet. I’m sure that will change. I go through cycles of having awful dreams more and less frequently; it’s been pretty good now for awhile, but around the end of summer 2014 I was having night after night of a specific trope of dream — a huge group of people are relying on me to help them escape. Some times we made it, sometimes we didn’t.

    I ended up exorcising the dreams by mining them for a fiction project. I set myself a goal of writing 400 words, exactly, a day, without any other constraint. I kept the goal for about two months before I finally faltered, but I kept writing in 400 word increments whenever I needed, and ended up with 80,000 words of something relatively coherent, and steeped with dreams. Interestingly, since I finished it up (last summer), I have had very few dreams of that ilk.

  3. Oh man, that sounds awful. Hugs ❤ I would have "intrusive thoughts" during my PPA, but those aren't dreams because I'm fully awake. I ocassionally have nightmares involving my Mom when she was terminaly ill, where she doesn't recognize me and I feel helpless and grieved. I hope you and the LP and MT find some peace. XOXO

  4. Your nightmares are far more severe than mine, but I have had the occasional “nightmare” about something happening to my dogs, other people’s dogs, and my kids (usually animal abuse, child abuse, kidnappings, armed robber, serial killer… you get the gist). I put “nightmare” in apostrophes because they are usually bad thoughts or images that infiltrate my consciousness when I’m attempting to go to sleep, or close to it. The only thing that gives me peace of mind those nights is getting up to check on all living beings in my home. I check the kids, I pet both dogs, and I check the locks and the alarm. Then if the images still haunt me, i work on visualization exercises my therapist taught me. I visualize red balloons (but they can be anything you can let go of) and I put those thoughts in the balloon and release them watching them float away until I can’t see them anymore. Along with focusing on breathing, it usually does the trick. When it doesn’t, I resort to over-the-counter sleep aids like uni.som. Massive hugs.

  5. I’m sorry to read your nightmares persist. I am sure sleep is elusive enough as it is with two little ones. I used to have recurring dreams about something unsavory from my childhood that I thought was just a dream. Later on, while in college, I learned it was something that actually happened to me – something I must have repressed. Since then, I’ve had incredibly vivid dreams – one recently involving my son and him hitting his head so hard on the crib the slat came loose and impaled him. The dream was a few days after he tried to run and fell (he got a goose egg from the fall) so him hitting his head must have been still in my mind bothering me. I woke up from that dream and ran into his room I was so affected by it. It took a solid hour for me to calm down and shake the image from my mind and get back to bed myself. It was awful and I pray my mind never shows me anything like that horror ever again. I dont have any tips – but am sharing so you know you are not alone for what that’s worth. May you find some peaceful sleeps soon. Hugs to you.

  6. Sounds terrible and scary. I’m sorry. In the past I’ve had nightmares of my dog being harmed by humans. And nightmares of losing pregnancies but nothing so severe as my living son. I can’t imagine how waking up from that must feel.

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