Monday, February 11, 2008

An Old Family Favorite

A recent post on Blog Segullah really got me thinking.

The deepest, and scariest, depression I ever experienced occurred right after my oldest was born. I had been mildly depressed while pregnant and I really went south after the difficult birth. My baby was a sensitive, colicky little one and the only thing I seemed to be able to do about her cry was to start crying myself.

One late night when she was about a month old I was sitting in her dreary apartment nursery in the dark crying, which was beginning to be a daily occurence, and hoping that the neighbors wouldn't start complaining about her wailing. I was exhausted and confused and all I wanted to do was to sleep--preferably until my baby was at least a year old. As her crying overwhelmed me and the room began to feel smaller and smaller, I knew I was coming unhinged inside and I was scared. Frantically, fervently, I prayed, "Dear God, give me something. Throw me a bone. What can I do?"

The answer seemed so nonsensical I doubted it was any answer at all. After all, only a single word had occured to me: Sing. Weren't promptings supposed to be more than that?

I searched my memory for what on earth I could squeak out of my tear-drenched mouth. The song my mind seemed to settle on had been a family favorite for generations. When I was eight years old my father had actually paid me $5 to learn to play it on the piano. Family members had sung it at funerals, mission farewells, and reunions. It seemed like a logical choice--really like the only choice. I took a deep breath.

"As I have loved you, love one another." I hicupped between the phrases. "This new commandement: Love one another." Imagining the flowing accompanient, I tried to smooth out my own voice. "By this shall men know ye are my disciples, if ye have love on to another."

Remembering something I had read in a parenting magazine I positioned my still crying baby on my chest and started again hoping the bodily vibrations of my singing would combine with the sound to calm her. I sang the song again. And again. And . . . my baby kept crying.

But what was amazing to me was that I felt calmer. Maybe it was the meaning of the song combined with all the memories of my family singing it that did it. Maybe it was a blessing from the Lord for following a prompting. Maybe it was both, but whatever it was for a moment that I wasn't alone. For the duration of that song I didn't feel quite as bereft of hope.

I was grateful for those feelings, but I wondered why the Lord didn't give me an answer that would calm my baby. Maybe nothing would have calmed her that night or maybe I needed to suffer through her sadness with her. I wasn't sure, but I kept singing it to her every time she needed to go to sleep. She still cried a lot, but after a couple weeks the song began to be familiar enough to her that she would stop and listen. And then at eight weeks, wonder of wonders, she tried to sing a long. As I bounced her and patted her back and sang, she tried to catch my eye. I slowed down a little and gazed, probably for the first time, into her chocolate eyes. (When I am in the midst of a depressive episode I hate to look at people's faces, especially their eyes.) As our eyes met her impossibly small lips made a perfect O and she ooed along with me. My heart swelled with awe as I listened to her voice and I thought to myself, "This must be what other mothers feel all the time."

We haven't sang that song together for a long time--she chooses other songs at bedtime now-- but I still love it and I think she does too. Hopefully, it is somewhere inside her so that when she needs some comfort it will be there for her like it was for me.


Charlotte said...

Such a beautiful post, Lou! I remember coming to a similar conclusion about singing - except mine was in the car when I was trapped with Joe who stop crying. I'd sing hymns to keep myself and Sam calm. Like Omi, it never quieted Joe. Thanks for sharing this:)

Heathie said...

I love this! Music is so powerful; I get a lot of answers to prayers through music. At the very least, it calms me and helps me get through something, even if everything else is still mayhem.