To sleep, perchance to dream

The past nine months I’ve had a recurrent dream. I’m backstage at a play, waiting to go on, and I haven’t learned my lines. It’s okay, though, because I only have two and I’m confident I can blag it. A couple of minutes beforehand, I glance at the script and to my horror I have five pages of complex dialogue and I’m not ready and oh hell there’s my cue.

It’s obvious what that’s about. No matter how much you prepare, how many courses you attend and how many books you read, you never feel ready for the arrival of your baby. I’ve had that dream at least twice a week, often more.

I haven’t had it since Izzie was born. On the third day I dreamt I had boobs, but I couldn’t produce enough milk so the baby was crying. In the twilight before dawn this morning, in the 90 minutes between settling Izzie down to sleep and her waking up screaming, I dreamt I had just given birth to triplets, and again my boobs were empty. I’m noticing a pattern emerging here.

Izzie might only be twelve days old, but she’s already starting to grasp that while daddy might have a great beard, mummy’s the one with the breasts. I just can’t satisfy her on that one, although when she’s hungry she does seem to think I have a nipple somewhere on my left biceps. If I did, it would make things so much easier!

It makes me wonder what Izzie dreams about when she sleeps.

Apparently, babies don’t dream. Despite reaching the REM stage of sleep and spending around eight hours there each day, they have too few experiences upon which to call for creating genuine dreams. Instead, the brain uses this period of sleep to discover the body it inhabits, learning about the nervous system and creating neural links (this is what the jerking movements, distinct from the startle reaction, are all about). But how can they be sure?

Sometimes Izzie cringes in her sleep and whines as though having a nightmare. Sometimes her breathing comes in fits and starts like she’s excited. Her experiences might be limited, but all of our sensations, emotions, thoughts and behaviours are played out in our dreams, even if all we know is milk, and pooping, and cuddles.

I like to think that Izzie dreams of a man with a great beard and a nipple on his arm. As for myself, I have a feeling I’ll be dreaming of my empty boobs for quite some time to come.

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