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I don't remember when they started, but I've been having them my entire adult life, I know: These recurring nightmares where I have a baby that I'm supposed to take care of and somehow I lose it, or don't protect it, or it just disappears with no explanation. I've never had a child, never been pregnant, never even had a time when I thought I might be pregnant, so it's hard to see how these dreams could stem from any real-life past event. I'm still pretty young and in my waking life I don't give much thought to child rearing, so I don't think this is my biological clock. And yet these dreams come more and more often, especially when I'm under a lot of stress.

I'm holding my new baby, and its head is too big for its body. I know I'm supposed to always support the baby's head, and remembering to do so is causing me great agitation. Finally I forget, just once, and the baby's neck snaps.

I'm holding a baby to my chest and running for my life. There is a man after us and I know if he catches us he'll kill the baby. He catches us, takes the baby from me and starts to eat it (at least I know where this image comes from: Saturn Devouring his Children by Goya). I wake up screaming.

I lie down to take a nap with my baby on my chest. As I lie down I'm very careful to place the baby where I won't roll over on it and I'm very worried about this. I fall asleep and when I wake up the baby is gone, with no explanation.

I'm going about my day and people keep stopping me and asking me where my baby is. I don't remember having one, but according to them I did. I seem to have lost the baby and all memory of it ever having existed, and I feel agonizingly guilty.

These are just the ones from the last month or so. Any armchair psychologists in the audience? One friend of mine is convinced that the baby is really my creative efforts, which I'm afraid will be destroyed (plausable. sometimes I swear my clients are out to sabotage their own projects.) Another friend says I just haven't acknowledged the fact that I really want children because I'm afraid of the responsibility they'll bring. (less plausable. I think I know myself better than that.) I've always known that because of my endometriosis it will be very difficult for me to conceive, if I ever decide to try. Could the dreams be related to that even though consciously this fact doesn't bother me that much? I'm at a loss and I'm starting to dread bedtime.

I hope no one minds my using everything as group therapy. I feel a lot better after writing this down and knowing someone else will read it.

When I became a parent, these dreams started. I lost many hours of potential sleep to these dreams (in addition to the expected hours lost to baby-wakes-up-and-wants-to-play/eat/cry/be changed).

My dreams usually involved the car. Usually, I'd be walking into a mall and, with a jolt of adrenaline, I would remember that my baby was still in the car. I'd try to run back but I could never get there. Sometimes, I dreamt that we were in a car accident and I couldn't get my kids out of the wreck. Who knows? That heart-pumping fear may have saved my children's lives. The dreams faded over time probably because my kids were old enough to be not so helpless if they were left in the car.

Then a year or so back, out of the blue, I had a dream that really messed me up for days. I dreamt that our whole family was walking to our car through a complicated parking structure. I was pissed because my now-almost-teenaged daughter was sassing back to show off for her friends (even though they weren't there -- go figure). I told her to wait right there while the rest of us went to get the car. She hates to be left alone. By the time we got the car, though, the parking structure was closed and we couldn't get back up to where she was. I woke up out of that one and never did get back to sleep.

The lesson I decided to take from that one was to reform my relationship with my kids because we had been getting pretty confrontational.

I realise that this doesn't address your question, eldritch, but you are not alone in having dreams like that.

My mother has had these rather often, especially the last several years. Perhaps it is stress related to her job as a child care provider (or child development manager, whichever term you'd care to use). She has told me that they really started after she gave birth to my sisters, but that they were not connected to any given child.

My personal thoughts are that they are a form of night terrors, a vague sense of fear without the solidity of a nightmare.

To look at ScottMGS's experiences: some danger is presented, but now he has another being to take care of besides himself. Perhaps in the dream, he takes care of himself, but does not remember the child until after he has come awake and can reason about the danger.

eldritch's case does not parallel nicely with my mother's, but perhaps her comment about it occurring near times of stress lends itself to the idea. It may be just a general feeling of loss, that she must recover, and her mind interperates whatever signals it is getting that the object of loss was a child or child-like. Again, whatever stimulus is given, she may think that she has not provided for this other being once she has escaped from the danger.

I suppose my 2 cents worth exchanges to around $0.0175, but I give it freely.

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