I woke up with a start at 2:45 a.m., breathing the heavy, panicked breath I'd never quite gotten used to during the last trimester of my pregnancy with Ben. As I surfaced from another anxious dream/nightmare, I slowly sat up in bed, trying to decide whether I should get up or go back to sleep. The familiarity of the feeling didn't make it any more welcome, or provide any calming comfort for my racing heart and breath.
The dream was like many I'd had in my third trimester: I was alone with my baby, traveling somewhere or spending time in a place that wasn't home, and then, suddenly, my baby was gone. In one dream, I was driving somewhere, and then suddenly found myself standing on the side of the road, watching my car drive away with someone else at the wheel and my baby in the back seat. In another, I was in a strange house, hearing my baby cry but unable to find him behind any of the doors I opened.
This time, I was on vacation with my sisters, mother, and grandmother. My mother was holding Ben at the dining room table, bouncing him up and down for my grandmother's delight, who was taking pictures and making faces to get him to smile and giggle at her. I watched from the bedroom as I unpacked our things. Then, beyond the table, through the sliding doors to the pool, I saw a bear slip over the fence and into the water. Two more bears followed, one carrying a cub on its back.
I ran into the bedroom to grab my camera, and as I walked toward the locked sliding door, I saw my mother, carrying Ben, entering the yard from the door in her bedroom. Unable to shout to her about the imminent danger, I watched as she became aware of the bears' presence in the pool. In what I can only guess was a survival tactic, she slowly joined the bears in the water, swimming slowly around the pool with them--and my baby.
I watched, frozen with terror, as she interacted with the bears, and then, handed my baby to the mother bear, who let her own cub swim toward my own mother. Afraid to spook the bears into mauling my mother and child, I watched as the mother bear swam underwater with my son, who smiled, unaware of the threat they posed. As they continued to play--underwater--I found myself holding my breath along with my son, desperate to save him from drowning, and wondering how long before he would.
And then, I woke up.
I don't need Freud to tell me that these dreams represent my desire to keep my children safe from harm. That they illustrate my mistrust in anyone else--even my own mother--to keep them safe, secure, and content. That they manifest my "mama bear" instinct to keep my children close to me at all times, especially now as I face the end of my maternity leave. And as confident as I am in my husband, our daycare provider, and babysitters to love my children--and even, often, have more patience with them than I do--I still fear the transition as much as I'd feared the transition from growing a baby to raising one.