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.