My teacher Marc Bregman often taught that children in dreams are your soul, your deepest self, your ‘real’ self. This concept, that there is such a thing as a my soul, and that I can get to know it through paying attention to the children in my dreams, was the first deeply transformative realization I had in dreamwork. I think everyone has this sense on one level or another, a place inside of themselves that they can experience as more or less authentic, more or less visceral, more or less savoring the fullness of their existence. We say it in speech—I wasn’t being myself…or, I finally felt like myself.
Dreams guide us toward the visceral, present-moment sense of ourselves, patient in revealing all the ways we turn away from that place and breathtaking in the majesty used to reveal us.
As with all symbols, this understanding of babies and children in dreams is simply a frame of reference, not an absolute definition. With some knowledge of the frame, a bit of the dream can unravel, but only with rigorous and individual exploration can the rich wisdom of your dream can begin to unfold in all of its haunting and tantalizing depth. So where should you start, if you dream of a baby?
Begin with a keen eye to the situation of your baby in the dream, your relationship to it, your feelings around it, the feelings you perceive it has. Do you have a sense of whether the baby is a boy or a girl? In the dreamwork I learned, we understood a difference between the feminine and masculine aspects of the soul. The feminine represented the aspect of the soul in direct relationship with the divine, and the masculine represented the aspect of the soul in direct relationship with the external world, concerned with manifesting itself in material reality. As I have continued to study dreams, I’ve found that this basic division can hold a lot of explanatory power in dreams, if you sense that your baby has a gender.
As you are exploring all the details surrounding the baby in your dream, remember to be as open and non-judgmental as you can be about what is present in the dream. The more we judge, the more we block the reality the dream is trying to bring to light. This is especially true with baby dreams, since we often are more judgmental of ourselves than anything else. I’ve seen this baby pop up for people in a lot of different ways—whether it is simply remembering the baby—I dreamt that I was supposed to be taking care of my baby, but I couldn’t find it…Or some kind of anxiety—I dreamt I was taking care of a baby but I couldn’t take care of it, it wanted too much from me, was too overwhelming, etc. Once you have a clear, detailed sense of what is going on with the baby in the dream and you’ve spent some time feeling into that moment, it’s a good point to bring in the framework of the ‘real’ self, the ‘authentic’ self, etc. Feel free to use whatever language works for you, but the purpose is to filter the potent experience you’ve cultivated with your baby dream through the lens of understanding this baby as your ‘true’ self. What comes up for you when you do this? What does it make you feel? What does it make you think?
A few years ago I had a terrible nightmare involving a baby boy. In the dream, I am wandering around what seems like some kind of mix between New York City and Moscow with my older sister. For some reason, I have her baby son strapped to my chest in one of those baby carriers as we are walking. Suddenly, I look down at the baby, realizing I hadn’t paid him any attention in a long time. I realize that he is completely blue—dead from suffocation. Apparently I had put him in the carrier incorrectly, too tight to my chest, and he had died from not being able to breathe. I am completely devastated and overwhelmed by guilt and pain. How could I have done this? What is my sister going to do to me?
Feeling into this dream, right away it strikes me that I don’t even believe the baby is mine. Using the framework that the baby represents an aspect of my own deepest self, the question becomes, is there a way that I am living as if my life is not truly mine, but instead someone else’s? Do I compare myself to others, or do I somehow project my deepest self onto other people in my life (in this case, my sister) instead of living completely and fully for myself?
The fact that I am taking responsibility for the baby even though I don’t think it is mine shows an even bigger strain in my relationship to myself, my deepest self. It would be one thing if I thought the baby was my sister’s so I didn’t care about it. It’s quite another that I take responsibility for carrying the baby even though I don’t think it’s mine. I feel the hit of this even now, as it has been a pattern over and over again in my life–to become so absorbed in and responsible for the lives of others that I completely lose myself. For so long, the idea ‘what makes me happy is what makes the group happy’ was my operating principle, doing everything I could to appease others desires while completely disregarding my own. This has certainly been an aspect of my relationship to my sister, and many others, at times. The point is hammered home when I discover the baby is dead. By refusing to acknowledge my own soul and my own desires, my soul is suffocated.
The pain at the death of my baby immediately turns to guilt—I have done this horrible thing, killed my sister’s baby. Now I will be imprisoned forever, things will never be the same. Since our minds are so damning and judgmental of us, sometimes clients come in with dreams like this, where they have done terrible things, and believe it means that they are truly bad people, that there is something deeply wrong with them.
I certainly have that voice that lingers in my head, but when I really take the time to feel into it, it becomes clear that the pain is deeper than the guilt. Yes it is because of me that my baby has not been thriving—that I don’t take the time to nurture it, treasure it, know it as my own. But allowing myself to feel guilty for this simply perpetuates the cycle—I am not enough, I am bad, I am a failure, I can’t do this. To be brave, I have to allow the pain of this loss. There’s already been a lot of time lost and energy lost to things that weren’t truly me. If I don’t feel the pain of this loss, I’ll never have the true motivation I need to move forward on a new path.
Whew. It still rocks me sometimes how a dream from years ago can still feel so potent and present in the moment. I hope this helped you get some understanding about babies in your dreams! Please let me know over on the facebook page if you have had any baby dreams lately! I’d love to hear them…
And as always, if you’ve got a dream that you’re interested in, consider ordering a dream reading! They can help unlock mysteries within your dream that may have been lingering there for a long time.