Taemong

Parents, grandparents and other family members report dreams about children-to-be. Most often it is women who experience such dreams, typically occurring around the time of conception or during pregnancy. These episodes have been referred to as conceptions dreams, fertility dreams, and even announcing dreams. I consider announcing dreams to not only feature the child-to-be metaphorically (a small furry animal or a seed are examples), but to also serve as a communication between the baby and dreamer.

Taemong, or Korean birth dreams, first came to my attention from the 1989 book Oriental Birth Dreams by Fred Jeremy Seligson. Later, Associate professor, Loren Goodman, PhD, of Yonsei University expanded my view significantly. Taemong are part of a long oral history within Korean culture. They typically do not feature the child-to-be as a human baby, but instead as an animal or jewel for example. As the saying goes, “One cannot come into this world without first having been dreamt.” We can show the dreamer a lot about who we are and who we will become from such powerful dreams.

Not so long ago, Koreans, and others interested in taemong, have begun to collect and transcribe these stories. Dr. Goodman told me that taemong are not usually written down, but instead, passed on orally. He is one among many who recognize the importance of recording this extensive tradition so it does not become lost. Without doing so, it may very well likely die out as we become an evermore globalized society, abandoning traditional practices and culturally-specific ways of knowing.

Dr. Goodman expanded my view and understanding of this rich cultural tradition. He told me that many narrative elements emerge from taemong. Some of the elements stood out to me because I noticed that these elements also emerged from the announcing dream reports I have been collecting for the past decade. These ‘shared’ narrative elements are suddenness, brightness, brilliance or illumination, enormity (size) or miraculous proportions, vividness or a quality of being unforgettable, and reciprocal gaze. Consider the following dream (the full version was posted in June 2017). The dreamer saw an adult size baby boy kneeling on the floor by her bedside. The dreamer stated,

“He was leaning on my bed, watching my husband and I sleeping. When I got up to look at 17800279_10154857591042949_1533489294192211638_nhim, he calmly whispered, “I’m coming.” This freaked me out, because it was the first time a baby had ever appeared…”

This dreamer told me that the dream-baby appeared suddenly, out of nowhere, and was huge – nothing like the size of a typical baby. She said that the dream was vivid and truly unforgettable. The elements of suddenness, enormity, and quality of being unforgettable/vividness all exist here – these are common among taemong. Here, though, the baby-to-be speaks to the dreaming mother.

The following taemong was provided by Yoon Ha Park, a student of Dr. Goodman:

As I am walking alongside a lake, I see the clear sky suddenly change dark. I try to get a better look at what is happening above. From high above the sky, I spot an enormous dragon gracefully, yet powerfully, make its way towards the lake in front of me. It sinks in the lake and pulls out its head and looks at me directly in the eyes. Strangely, despite its vast size and figure, I don’t feel afraid.

The narrative elements here are suddenness, enormity, and reciprocal gaze.

The two dreams shared here (the first an announcing dream, and the second a taemong) share similar elements. This appears to be the case for many dreams that are recalled around the time of pregnancy, whether they are categorized as conception dreams, fertility dreams, announcing dreams, or Korean birth dreams. A thorough analysis to encompass all of these categories could provide an expanded understanding and further clarity. Until that happens, it is clear that these types of episodes are common and meaningful for so many families.

I wish to thank Fred Jeremy Seligson, Loren Goodman, Yoon Ha Park and the anonymous dreamer for their assistance, guidance and for sharing with me their experiences.

 

In the Spirit of Peace,

Kim

dreaming at conception…and beyond

Dreams that indicate conception or fertility are more common than one might think. This informal category of dreams is shared among men and women across the globe. Some cultures expect such a dream before a child can be conceived or even born. For other groups, such dreams may come as a surprise. The following story was told to me recently and is filled with emotion for this dreamer.

Newly wed Amalia loves her job as a school teacher and adores children. She planned to start a family not long after the wedding because she is in her mid-30s and has been very excited, for quite some time, to have her first child. Amalia said that that year was filled with frustration because conceiving did not occur as easily or quickly as she expected. As time passed, however, Amalia experienced a striking dream in which an adult size baby boy knelt on the floor by her bedside. “He was leaning on my bed, watching my husband and I sleeping. When I got up to look at him, he calmly whispered, “I’m coming.” This freaked me out, because it was the first time a baby had ever appeared in my dreams,” she said.

Amalia wasn’t sure if the dream was supposed to reassure her, inspire hope, or encourage her to keep trying. She had many feelings, including anger and sadness. Amalia said, “I felt like that dream was a tease and maybe just a sign of my subconscious longing for a baby. To our surprise, I conceived the next month.”

“The entire thing sure has been a miracle,” she continued. At 10 weeks pregnant, Amalia openly spoke about how she hoped for a baby girl, even though her husband desired a boy. She said, “I had gone to the doctor for a check up and was a little upset that they didn’t do a sonogram – just a heartbeat check. I wanted to see the baby, as I was honestly still shocked that I was pregnant. I didn’t believe it. As if the 15 extra pounds, constant exhaustion, profound hunger, nausea, and stiffness wasn’t enough to convince me!” Upon returning home, after the check-up, Amalia rested, meditated, and thought about how much she wanted to see the baby growing inside her. That night she had another dream.

Amalia reported, “In my dream, I was laying in my bed right next to my husband. Then my husband put his hand on my belly and his hand turned into a sonogram. Immediately, my husband and I both went into my body and into my uterus. It was so intense and real looking. When we were in there, we saw the baby hooked to the umbilical cord and everything. I saw the face and all of its body. I then looked down between the legs and saw a little pee pee.”

She continued, “Right then, my husband was just crawling into the bed for real [in the physical waking state]. He comes home from work after midnight. I suddenly woke up and with eyes still closed, I casually muttered to him, “Papi, I just met the baby, it’s a boy.” He chuckled a little bit and held me to fall back asleep. When we woke up, he said I was talking in my sleep, and I told him, “No, I really did meet the baby” and shared what I remembered. I explained that it seemed so real and that I even remember his face. He thinks I’m crazy. I was hoping that I was losing it too and that the dream was nothing.”

Three weeks later, the genetics test came back to show that Amalia was carrying a male fetus. This affirmed what was ‘seen’ in the first and second dream. Amalia told me that her and her husband cannot agree on a name and that they have only come up with a handful of possibilities. Amalia hopes that the baby boy will return to her in another dream and share his name, or possibly, a name he would like.

Dreams around the time of conception can mean so many things. For Amalia, uncertainty, a range of strong emotions, hope and inspiration were intermingled. In addition, what might such occurrences imply about the baby him/herself? This all depends on culture, of course, and whether one integrates dreaming into larger life concepts of meaning, purpose, and existence.

 

Here’s to dreaming,

Kim

announcing dreams

The voice was crystal clear and he could be seen sitting, just a few feet in the distance. “I’m your baby, and my name is Todd,” said the dream child to the sleeping woman. Upon awakening, she knew that this strikingly vivid dream would be remembered always.

Across time and place, in some form or another, reports of extraordinary experiences, such as vivid, memorable dreams, visions (both in or out of hypnopompic and hypnagogic states), out-of-body experiences or lucid projections, and even near-death experiences, have included communication with, or the announcement of, a future child or a baby-to-be. Such “annunciations” often take place in the dream state and are referred to as announcing dreams. It’s a fairly common phenomenon, even today.

Announcing dreams, similar to fertility or conception dreams, take place during pregnancy or soon before it. Men, women, and grandparents have reported such memorable experiences, which may be visual, sensory or auditory, or a combination. Announcing dreams are usually more vivid than ordinary dreams and often leave the dreamer with the belief that genuine communication has taken place – they are more than just mundane dreams about babies. Fertility and conception dreams refer to something more broad, such as a dream of ripe fruit, or animals, implying that conception has taken place. Tae mong, for example, has a long history – they are conception dreams often reported by expectant mothers and fathers in Korea. One study from the early 1990s found that 57.5% of pregnant women had experienced Tae mong. That percentage increases when expectant men and other family members are included. Such dreams, confirming pregnancy, were reported to Kitzinger during her fieldwork in Jamaica during the 1970s. Some very early examples are found in the bible, but usually involve an angel proclaiming conception has taken place.

Announcing dreams appear to be common and even expected in Aboriginal Australia, especially among men. In the United States, men have reported announcing dreams as well, although few are found in the literature. One Brazilian man living in the U.K. recently dreamt that he was holding his daughter-to-be in his arms, which, upon awakening, enhanced his sense of excitement for the approaching birth. His daughter was born in spring of this year. Some announcing dream reports include future children expressing wishes and desires, asking questions, providing information, or simply watching or looking at the parent. Women often report announcing dreams and these reports are much easier to locate.

Announcing dreams are found among reincarnation cases as well. The father of reincarnation studies, the late Ian Stevenson, found announcing dreams to be present across just about every culture and nation he studied, although, as expected, their content and timing varied. Announcing dreams are among the most common signs of reincarnation in tribal societies and sometimes past-life identifications are made on the basis of them alone (Matlock, 2016). While announcing dreams are most often reported by women within the reincarnation literature, men, too, experience such dreams. The late anthropologist, Jane C. Goodale, spent about 50 years with the Tiwi, Melville Island’s aboriginal people. She asked a mother whether a man ever dreamed of his child before his wife told him she was pregnant. Goodale’s field notes included a unique dream that a mother had shared with her. A pitapitui (spirit child) told his father-to-be in a dream that he had been crippled during a World War II aerial attack and would be born after he was healed. In the meantime, the pitapitui would send his youngest siblings first. “When he was eventually born his father recognized him because of his crooked leg” (Jane C. Goodale’s 1954 Tiwi Island field notes).

For my doctoral dissertation, I conducted a study on the announcing dream experience and their impact. In 2012 and 2013 I solicited pregnant women or those working with them, such as doulas and midwives, to request participation in the study. Dream reports were collected online so the questionnaire was available world-wide, although fluency in English was necessary for inclusion in the study, in addition to other requirements. In the end, 22 participants were included in the study. While a variety of themes were present in the dream reports, after analysis it was evident that some of the dreams had a great impact on some of the pregnant dreamers. This was especially the case for first-time mothers and those with unplanned or unwanted pregnancies. Not only that, but these dreams appeared to be responsible for decisions made about the pregnancy. This was the case during my informal pilot study as well. For example, several women reported that contemplating abortion ceased, or plans to terminate the pregnancy were cancelled, as a result of the dream. Another woman made a prenatal medical decision as a result to her dream. Lower level decisions, such as the name of the child, were also influenced by dreams collected during the pilot study. For those uncertain about being pregnant, themes of confidence and affirmation, bonding and connection, emerged. A few years ago, a pregnant Native American woman living in the Southwest shared with me that she had reservations and generalized fears about being pregnant and becoming a mother, until several announcing dreams began. Her announcing dreams were recurrent and visual, instead of auditory. She claimed that during these dreams she always “saw” the same black-haired male toddler. She reported that he would just look at her with a smile, and then a sense of calmness and comfort would come over her. Even after awakening, these feelings lasted throughout the day. This young woman believed that her newly found sense of peace and joy at becoming a mother was the direct result of the dreams. She claimed that her fears and reservations severely diminished. This experience helped her; she decided that she could be a good mother after all. Prediction of fetal sex is common, as well, in announcing dreams. In almost every case that I have come across, the fetal sex in the dream matches the sex of the baby that is later born, just the the cases mentioned above.

In general, annunciations not only focus on the immediate moment, but may point to the past and to the future. This is indicated in reincarnation literature and within announcing dream reports recently collected. How might announcing dreams be of service to humanity? It is possible that announcing dreams support emotional investment, for both parents, and especially during early stages of pregnancy before the baby is felt moving or the woman’s body changes. This emotional investment can be thought of as a protective evolutionary factor because women that feel connected to the fetus are more likely to make healthy choices. Furthermore, pregnancy can be stressful – after all, it is a major life transition. With this in mind, announcing dreams may offer assurance and serve as an adaptive mechanism by helping to cope during such a transition.

 

Warmly,

Kim