Saturday, February 4, 2012

Do cyborg babies dream of intubated sheep?

Especially when you were completely conked out, I couldn't help but wonder what was going through your tiny little mind. With only a few days of consciousness, but months of ambient potential sentience in utero, what information do you have with which to construct dreams? Clearly something is happening in your brain, because your hands and legs twitch around, you shrug and wiggle, and sometimes you even get pretty distinct expressions of some kind of emotion, but is it dreaming or just biomechanics in action?

The internet (which we all know to be a frequently crappy source for credentialed, factual information) has many opinions on this matter. I explored some parenting websites this morning to get some opinions. One - which boasted a massive banner advertising Tyson breaded chicken products - suggested that infants do dream, but only in images. Another - which is moderated by "experienced parents," a title that means about as much as "hobbyist brain surgeons" when you consider the alleged credentials and potential experience of the claimants - purports the theory that infants dream far more (and more vividly) than adults, or even other children. One of the most heavily-trafficked parenting sites is dubious that really teeny babies even dream at all; if they do, this site postulates that infant dreams are silent and probably not about anything too specific. Suffice to say, I'm left wondering.

Hudson, you've spent so much time unconscious since you popped out that I can't imagine that time was spent simply executing vital functions. Maybe I'm romanticizing because I don't like the idea of you spending the bulk of your first week of life actually doing nothing. With that idealistic view, though, comes the questions of what your dreams would be. You've had so much time to absorb sounds and vibrations that there must be something that processes through your brain. I've personally only seen your eyes open for a cumulative two hours or so of your life, so you've only seen so much of me and even less of your Dad. I know you've been more awake some of the time we haven't been at the hospital in the last few days, and I'm sure you must have been awake at all before your surgery, but that hasn't been a lot of time no matter how you stack it. Given how little visual data you've got stored up at this point, do your dreams have slideshow flickers of us and a slew of nurses and doctors? When you close your eyes, do you just continue to see your hospital room?

On the other hand, there's the theory of the collective subconscious. Human beings instinctively know to fear wolves, snakes, and water-dwelling nasties even if we have never seen them before; we're hardwired to know that these things are bad. At roughly the same time in history on every continent, people built pyramidal structures that were meant to somehow elevate either man or man's spiritual presence to the heavens. Did we send a letter describing our awesome, structurally approachable idea to one another? Heck no. Many believe that the idea was rooted somewhere in the human brain, and that it was bound to come to fruition eventually regardless of context. I absolutely believe that there is some data already sitting there in our brains when we're born (even beforehand), so it would make sense for you to have something to dream about, even if only architecture and instinctual knowledge.

There's also the whole past life notion. That would give you so much different information to play with that I can't imagine there would be any limit to what you dreamed. It's been very hard to get a sense of your personality with the limited time we've had to see you really in action, but if this theory holds any water, who were you? You don't seem to have bad dreams, so I have to imagine you were someone peaceful and reasonably happy. I'd love to think that you carry bits of your Dad and my ancestors around with you somehow (other than just genetics: sorry if your hair doesn't make it), given that for the most part they have been genuinely good and loving people. Maybe your dreams are last flickers of experiences that you won't consciously remember, but that your former self or selves wanted to impart to you before instinctual preoccupations took over your consciousness.

I was listening to the most recent Guster album ("Easy Wonderful," which made up the bulk of the concert I took us to with your Aunt Katie and Aunt Erin when you were only a few months into existence) in the car this morning, and can't help but wonder if you'll respond to that music when you hear it now. Given that I've played that album half to death, could that be part of the soundtrack to your dreams? You clearly respond to my Dad and my voices, so if your dreams do have some audio component, is it us complaining about school or laughing about dumb things we find on the internet?

Right now, your Dad and I are sitting in the waiting room down the hall from the PICU while your breathing tube is taken out. This is a really good, fairly big step, so your Dad feels entirely comfortable just playing Minecraft to pass the time, and I've let myself get lost in thought over a completely normal baby thing. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to actually be bored here. The attending physician on call for the rest of the week insisted that she and all the nurses are going to try to adopt you because you are so cute and sweet, so we'll clearly have to head back down soon to fight her off and reclaim you. Until then, I'm sure you're awake and likely protesting what they're doing to you (even though it's very good), but when you nod off again, I wonder if you'll have some residual instinctive knowledge of barnyard critters to help you sleep...?

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if newborns dream of being back in the womb, hearing their parents' voices and the soft murmur of their mother's heartbeat?