When I was just a few months old I was having a particularly rough time and my poor mother had been up half the night with me trying to calm me down. She said that she had tried everything: fed me, rocked me, changed me, held me, but nothing seemed to be helping. She was exhausted.
Then all of sudden she found herself rocking me and singing me a little song. The tune was one she’d never heard before, but it came naturally to her lips, as did the simple words of the song.
“Little Heather, Little Heather,
You’re my little Heather Lynne,
How I love you, How I love you,
You’re my little Heather Lynne.”
As she started to sing I immediately stopped crying and calmed down. She sang the song over and over again, changing and adding new words in, until I finally drifted off to sleep.
After that evening that little song became her “secret weapon” and she said that singing it never failed to calm me down and put me to sleep. As I got older she continued to sing it to me and it was always my favorite lullaby. Still to this day there are times when I, a grown woman, curl up on her lap and have her stroke my hair and sing “my song” to me. That simple little song brings a lot of peace to my soul.
Over the years I’ve pondered a lot about why that song is so special to me but I haven’t ever been able to explain it. Then a few weeks ago a good friend sent me this quote by N’Shama Sterling. She said:
“When a woman in a certain African tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness with a few friends and together they pray and meditate until they hear the song of the child. They recognize that every soul has its own vibration that expresses its unique flavor and purpose. When the women attune to the song, they sing it out loud. They then return to the tribe and teach the song of the child to the village.
When the child is born, the community gathers and sings the child’s song to him or her. Later, when the child enters education, the village gathers and chants the child’s song. When the child passes through initiation to adulthood, the people would again come together and sing. At the time of marriage, the person hears his or her song. Finally when the soul is about to pass from this world, the family and friends gather at the person’s bed, just as they had at birth and they sing the person into the next life.
In this African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. They sing their song to them. The tribe recognized that the correction for anti-social behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of your true identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.” (In “Music and Aromatherapy” by Karyn Grant)
There is so much in this quote that I love but I am espeically entranced with the idea that each soul has its own song, its own unique vibration, and that if a mother listens for it she can get “in tune” with it even before her child is born.
I think that on that long hard evening so many years ago my mother must have inadvertently tuned into the song of my soul. Because it isn’t the words of the song that are so meaningful to me (my mother often changed them as she sang to me) it is the tune that I love. Somehow that incredibly simple tune touches something inside of me and reminds me, like N’Shama Sterling said in her quote, of my true identity as a beloved daughter of not only earthly parents but Heavenly Parents as well.
Singing to your child, even before he/she is born, can be a powerful way to bond with them and to teach them, or remind them, that they are loved, cherished, and of divine heritage.
Penny Simkin, the “mother” of the modern doula movement, is also passionate about encouraging prospective parents to sing to a specific song to their babies in utero and soon after birth. In her article “Ask Penny: Singing to the Baby Before and After Birth”) she says:
“There’s one thing… that promotes closeness between parents and baby in almost any situation in any environment – parents’ arms, birthing room, infant warmer, operating room, free-standing birth center, or the family home. This wonderful thing is to sing a familiar song out loud to greet and soothe the baby, from birth onward whenever the baby seems upset or uncomfortable.
This is one of my passions. Singing to the baby is a lovely and unique way to reassure the baby and promote a sense of safety and familiarity during this strange, stressful, and not so gentle time. The parents feel special and competent, because only they have the familiar voices and the familiar song. Even though the parents may not be skilled as the staff in handling babies, changing diapers, and bathing, those skills (which will be mastered in a few days) mean nothing to the baby in comparison with the familiar song and the familiar voices. Of course, being held skin to skin at the same time would be ideal, but the song in itself is remarkably soothing and calming… Even those who are not “good singers” should know that the baby loves their voices, whether on key or not.”
In her article she also shares several powerful stories of parents who were able to use song as a powerful way to bond with their babies, especially during c-sections and prolonged stays in the NICU. As a result of what she has seen Penny Simkin encourages all of her clients and expectant parents to:
- Any time after about 32 weeks of pregnancy (when the baby’s hearing is developed), pick a song that is easy to sing and that you like a lot.
- Every day either one or both parents sing that song aloud to your baby in utero.
- Sing it at birth to greet your baby, and frequently thereafter, to soothe, reassure, and calm your baby.
And I would add that even if your “baby” is much older, or even grown up, it isn’t too late to start tuning into the song of their soul. It may take more work but everyone has a song that is worth learning.
My husband and I haven’t consistently sung to our children before they were born and I don’t think that I have yet to discover the songs of each of my children’s souls. Though it is something that I am certainly going to start listening for more carefully! It may be a song I already know (I do know that one of my children loves a certain lullaby), it may be one that ( like my mother experience) just comes naturally from my lips, or it might be one that they discover for themselves when they are older. No matter what it is I want to tune into it. Not only to be able to calm and soothe them now, but so that someday when they have gone astray, I can remind them that they are loved, cherished and of infinite worth. Because as N’Shama Sterling said in her quote, “When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.”
Have you sung to your children before and after they were born? What did you sing?