It is a rare person who is unmoved by music or who doesn’t have a soundtrack to significant memories in their lives. Even if you’re unaware of it, suddenly a snatch of a tune on the radio or a song in the background of the general hum of a shopping centre can send you back to something wonderful in your past or even something sad.
Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz reminds me of dancing and peels of laughter in my parents kitchen in our first little house and all it’s gorgeous 70s burnt orange and brown decor. Sinead O’Connor’s You Made Me The Thief Of Your Heart brings me back to my bedroom on the morning of my Dad’s funeral. I had it up full blast while putting my make up on as one by one my siblings were drawn in by the music to sit on my bed and just be together. Horse Outside by The Rubberbandits still makes my stomach lurch as I’m jolted back to the winter of 2010 when the country was crippled by snow for weeks and I spent most of that time on my hands and knees heaving into the nearest toilet bowl with morning sickness.
I did my masters thesis on exploring the effectiveness of the Mozart Effect on babies in utero and although the claims of the phenomenon are dubious indeed, the research is conclusive that babies can recognise music that they heard frequently in the womb, just like their mothers’ voices.
When I was pregnant, myself and my husband carefully chose a piece of music that was important to us that we would make “the baby’s song”. My husband has fond memories of his father playing The Sound of Silence on guitar and singing him to sleep and I love the gentle harmonies of Simon & Garfunkel so I played it every night to the bump and sang along so the baby could feel the vibration of my voice through my chest and rib cage and through the waters surrounding him. If nothing else, it was a few minutes of stillness together everyday.
As we came closer to the big day, my husband was very keen for us to put together a playlist for the labour and birth. I always thought that I would love this idea but for some reason I was hesitant. I think I was afraid of forcing a moment but more importantly, as I was heavily engaged in my hypnobirthing at the time, I thought I might be too “inside” myself and the music would serve no purpose.
It turns out I was totally wrong. I put off putting together some songs until I was overdue. At my husband’s gentle encouragement and as a project to occupy me, we put together 13 hours of carefully chosen songs. Many of our favourites were discarded due to their unsuitability for a relaxed, calm, gentle birth either because of the lyrical content, the tempo or the timbre. Eventually we had something we were proud of and could be described in just one word – “lovely”.
The morning my contractions started, my husband set up the stereo in the kitchen and just let the music gently trickle into the background. It’s presence set an invisible tone of warmth and calm. Then as my labour progressed, the midwife used the music as an anchor to steady me when she felt I was losing my focus and needed to be grounded. When the contractions were coming hard and fast, I distinctly remember hearing her voice say “deep breathes, listen to the beautiful music”. My mind immediately snapped onto the soaring voice of Glen Hansard from The Frames, which had suddenly appeared from nowhere to soothe and sing directly to me.
My husband tells me that our son was born to the velvety tones of Nick Cave which I was delighted to hear but blissfully unaware of as all of my focus was on those last special moments of birthing my baby.
He also tells me he was secretly delighted that S wasn’t born to Adele who had been playing just moments before! Although the joke is on him in the end…
…Adele was on heavy rotation on the radio during my pregnancy and I used to crow along to Someone Like You while I washed the dishes. A couple of months after S was born, we made a trip all together to IKEA. As Adele popped up on the shop soundtrack, I turned to my husband and said “oh, this song reminds me of being pregnant” and suddenly noticed the baby. He was looking straight at me and smiling with what I can only describe as a knowing look, like we were looking into each other’s souls. My chest welled up and I started to cry. It was a magical moment. I honestly believe he recognised it.
But it was also embarrassing…oh the emotion of a post partum woman 😉