Most of my life, I’ve had bad dreams.
I remember having nightmares when I was as young as four or five. I had a recurring dream where Elmer Fudd chased me through a warehouse of huge wooden crates. I still remember the desperation with which my little body pressed against the air, straining to run in that dream, in my little pink, footie pjs. Of course it sounds silly now, but as a preschooler, it was terrifying.
I woke paralyzed with fear.
As an adult, the dreams were more about violence, about being stalked, beaten, threatened, about watching other people die in front of me. The villain of these dreams was almost always a male serial killer. Even as a grown-up woman, I would wake unable to move from pure fright. Sometimes I would wake with a bladder screaming to urinate, but would stay in bed, utterly uncomfortable, until dawn. I was certain Hannibal Lector was in my shower, just waiting to jump out and bite me up as soon as I went into the bathroom to relieve myself.
When I was about 30 the dreams became so frequent and troublesome I actually sought professional help. I contacted a therapist who did EMDR therapy, but I got distracted by life and never went.
And then a funny thing happened.
I got pregnant.
And the dreams stopped.
I don’t know if it was the tectonic hormonal shift of being pregnant. I don’t know if it was the sudden, aching fatigue left me too tired to dream, or if I was so tired and sleeping too deep to actually remember any dreams. Whatever the reason, since I was first pregnant with my son, I’ve not had the same types of dreams. Sure, I occasionally have a bad dream. There are also nights where I wake up and don’t want to get out of bed because I just feel scared. But overall, I do not have the same level of terror plaguing my nights.
I think part of my cure was being forced by a crying baby to rise in the middle of the night, leave my bed, and tend to a tiny human. It was basically what we would call exposure therapy. I’m guessing another part of the decrease in nightmares has to do with simply becoming a mother and getting in touch with the primal, ferocious strength a mama animal must possess to care for her offspring. In creating a safe space for my young, I’ve also managed to create a safer space for myself. Or at least a space that feels a lot safer.
It’s just another gift I’ve been given by becoming a mom.