We were done. As in, we had decided on two kids, and I knew we were done. Yet, there I was, pregnant as all get-out, swollen with impending motherhood – smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer.
In the dream (or the nightmare as the case may be), I’m sharing words of wisdom about baby-making and baby-raising with some of my best college buddies. They surround me and hang on my every word. Quite obviously, I am a parenting pro. Quite obviously, the lowly uninformed have sought me out for sage advice on child rearing.
Woot woot! Give that girl another Heineken. Her babies sleep through the night!
For months, I was baffled by this recurring dream when I finally put two and two together. And came up with three. We weren’t done after all. “Oh, honey…!” Our third daughters was born about a year later.
So what did the dream mean? Or more accurately, how in the world did I manage to interpret the dream to rationalize the fact that I had wanted our family to include three children all along? Quite obviously, the cigarette and the beer symbolized a basic principle of which anyone who is raising children should be keenly aware: No one is perfect. There is no right way to parent. Whether you have one baby or ten, mistakes will be made, and more often than not, children will mature into productive and honorable young people anyway. So go ahead and have one more.
See how this works?
I’d always given my dreams a lot of credit. The more complicated my life got, the more interesting the dream analysis became.
Of course, the very pregnant me, rockin’ a smoke and a beer in the dream, also could have meant that just having two kids was already stressful beyond words. It could have been my subconscious sending messages to my neocortex, advising that I not only stop having babies, but also chuck the nuclear family paragon, stalk my college boyfriend on Facebook, and join the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.
In the meantime, my girls have matured into productive and honorable young people. Or at least they’re well on their way. I’ve learned that everything’s relative. That the baby days are gone with a gurgle and a burp, and the things that seemed so incredibly important at four o’clock in the morning so many years ago pale in comparison to teaching your kids about respect, tolerance, and making good decisions. About not texting and driving.
A few months back, the dream rebooted. In it, I was still very pregnant, but the college friends had been replaced by young family members seeking my advice. The cigarette and the beer were gone. In this dream, I just knew the baby was a boy. Within minutes of waking, my mind concocted several plausible interpretations: We should get a male dog; we should foster a child; we should adopt a baby boy from the Congo who will one day be able to replace recessed lighting in the family room without the use of a stepstool.
“Oh, honey…!” He wasn’t buying it.
This was also about the time my niece, who had just had her first baby, began calling me with questions about breastfeeding and helping her baby girl sleep through the night – all of those things that seem so incredibly important to new parents at four o’clock in the morning. As I scanned my memory banks trying desperately to recall some of the strategies I used and lessons I learned from my babies, I realized how privileged I felt that she had asked me in the first place.
Turns out the dream didn’t require much deciphering. It wasn’t about making babies or even raising babies. It was about being kind enough, and yes, mom enough, to listen and answer a few questions, to offer some words of wisdom, and to be there for my niece without being preachy or snarky.
Woot woot! A new mom asked for my parenting advice. So did she use it? Did it work? In my dreams anyway.