By Rai Rojas
Editor’s note. While my family and I are on vacation, we are running some of our favorite NRL News Today stories from the last four months, entries from our “Roe at 40″ series, and an occasional update.
When he was about six months old, my grandson and his mom came to my home for a highly-anticipated week-long visit. In the middle of one of the nights he was there, he roused and entire household out of our collective sleeps with his screams. These were not normal newborn cries – this child sounded as if he were in serious distress.
My daughter and I arrived at his crib at almost the same time. She immediately picked him up and attempted to comfort him. But he was inconsolable, he wasn’t soothed by his mom’s voice, or smell, or even her just being there.
Amid his screaming and as she rocked him back and forth, I lit a dim light in the corner of the room so we could wake him up gently. When he opened his eyes and saw familiar faces and sounds he immediately began to calm. There were a few deep sighs, an occasional quick sob, but he fell back to sleep almost immediately.
My six month old grandson had just experienced a nightmare and I couldn’t imagine what a 6 month old could have been dreaming about. I was ignorant as to what could have caused such a small baby to have a night terror. My ignorance led to a bit of research, and what I discovered was enlightening and interesting, but that knowledge in the context of what I do was sobering.
I found several articles on infant nightmares but a peer reviewed article by Dr. Alan Green, M.D. is the one who stood out and from which I will quote heavily.
Dr. Greene quoted a study by scientific research group Roffwarg and Associates who at the start of their research believed that they would find that infants do not have REM sleep because they do not dream.
But by the end of their study the researchers were startled to discover that not only do newborns dream – even on the first day of life – they actually dream more than the college students in those same studies. (Science, 1966; 152:604)
“This study has been repeated several times,” writes Dr. Greene, “confirming and expanding our knowledge. We dream more in the first 2 weeks of life than at any other time. The visual part of the brain is more active during newborn REM sleep than during adult sleep.”
Then Dr. Greene asks and answers the question that is as amazing as it is troubling:
“If children dream from the moment that they are born, might they dream before that time?”
“We now know that they [unborn children] begin to sleep at as early as 4 weeks of gestation (Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 1975;38:175). Dreams appear to be a kind of parallel processing by which we integrate our experience, making new connections in our brains. In the uterus, babies probably dream about the muted light they see and the sounds they hear such as heartbeats, voices and music. Shortly after birth, they dream about the explosion of new sights, sounds, tastes, smells and textures as they delight in getting to know their parents.”
Here was scientific, peer reviewed proof that unborn children dream. I read those articles over and over again and I couldn’t shake-off the thought of those children who survive late term abortions, and who dreamt as they were placed in linen or broom closets to die.
I’m sickened with the thought of an unborn child’s dream being interrupted by the slice of a curette, or the ingestion of poison, or the “snip” of her neck.
We fight, we work, we live in the trenches, so that our youngest dreamers can survive. Please join us.