On Becoming a Father

Eighteen years ago, I learned that we were expecting. 

That moment was imprinted on my memory in complete and utter detail: the time of day, where we were, the expression on my wife’s face. 

I remember when I heard that it was ‘official’, everything changed. 

Suddenly, I had become aware of a presence that had never existed before. I sensed a glimmer of something entirely new that would ultimately have a significant impact on my life.

Then I realized: I was going to be a father!

From that point on, throughout the pregnancy, all the music that came out of me—everything I composed, everything I played on the piano, every song I sang—became an offering to this new being, a tribute to this miraculous mystery that had entered our lives and who would soon be known as my beloved daughter, Genevieve Rose. 

Somehow, even when she was as small as a zygote, I sensed that she was deeply listening in rapt attention. It was when we first saw the blurry images of our child on the sonogram that I started to sing to her, intentionally. I remember snuggling up to my wife’s belly, in

a prayerful pose, singing to our baby in utero as if I were E.T. phoning home. I did this as many times as my wife would let me, without driving her insane.

By singing to Genevieve early on, I intuitively felt that we might be able to “imprint” her with the voices she would find familiar when she came into this world. I instinctively believed that music—this astonishing language to which I had devoted my entire life—might serve as a kind of rudder for her soul, as it had for me. It was our firm belief that singing and talking to her would build a healthy “root system” that could support her as she faced our harsh world, with all its challenges and complexities. For me, singing, creating, and listening to music seemed to be the only way I could come close to the profundity of what was happening to our radically changing little world. We were careening down an unfamiliar river towards parenthood. Without the languages of Love, Music, and Beauty to guide, soothe and hold us, how could we ever prepare for such a metamorphosis in our psyches?

During the months of pregnancy we are given an opportunity to form a strong attachment to our child. By the time our little one comes into

the world, we’re ready to assume the responsibilities of parenthood. According to the newest brain research, there are few things more

important than staying deeply connected to our hearts throughout this process. No matter what our inner or outer life circumstances might

be, it’s vital to stay in touch with our deep love for our baby. Such steadfast love supports the child’s healthy psychological and emotional development. Astonishingly, it can also make the difference between life and death, as I soon found out.

Our pregnancy proceeded smoothly, without any indication of the challenges that lay ahead. But as often happens in life, things took a turn that we never could have anticipated. We had a very difficult birth.

My wife endured herculean, life-threatening challenges during her thirty-five hours of labor. Our precious baby, struggling for her life as well, had to be rushed to the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit moments after her birth, During those tense hours, as my wife was receiving medical attention, we didn’t know if our precious child would survive. I remained by Genevieve’s side as I watched her shaking from the trauma of entering the world in this way.

Tubes were attached to seemingly every part of her tiny body as she rested in her little bed. I gently placed my left hand on the top of her tiny head, and put my right hand’s pinky finger out for her to grasp. My tiny child, literally minutes old, grabbed onto my finger and wouldn’t let go. 

Time seemed to stop in mid-air. I sang to her. I whispered to her. I told her how much we loved her, how much were looking forward to getting to know her, how much we couldn’t wait to watch her grow. I don’t know how many hours passed in this way.

Suddenly I saw a marked change in the color of her skin. It turned from pale grey to a beautiful, bright pink. Seeing this change, the nurse gave me an assuring, comforting smile as she checked in on how she was doing. Our beloved daughter had finally turned a corner. 

I found myself taking a deep breath for the first time in hours. Genny was going to make it. I felt certain that the relationship we had formed

during all those times we sang and spoke to her before she was born had somehow helped her to grab onto life, as firmly as she had grasped my little finger as I sang to her. 

The birth process asks us to stretch our hearts wider than they have ever been stretched before. I learned that bringing a new life into this world is as primal as anything I would ever know. It took us to the very depths of our abilities to be present, to love and care for one another, and to be all that we can be.” 

Going through this life-altering experience left us deeply exhausted. When we were finally able to come home, we constantly played background music as a way to keep our hearts open and soothe our shattered nerves.

The music told us—as only music can—that with time, all would be well. Throughout those tender months, especially during the hours of nursing, soothing music continually filled our home. I remember those days and nights as luminous and precious, feeling gratitude beyond imagining. Ever since then, I had often dreamed of creating something that could serve both parent and child during that special time after birth. I wanted to create something that would affirm the healing power of unconditional love, no matter what the birth experience was.

When my friend Lisa Rafel invited me to collaborate with her and her husband on the book and CD set, Safe in the Arms of Love,  I jumped at the opportunity. 

Like beautiful gemstones, one by one she brought forward new songs more loving and meaningful.  Listen to these songs with your heart and your whole being. If you let yourself bathe in this experience and you will be nourished. 

The journey of parenting our daughter from the moment she was born has molded me into the man I have now become. I’ve learned that there is nothing more important than devoting yourself to the love

you have for your child. While life will always have challenges, you can make no wiser choice than taking the time to establish this one-of-a kind loving connection. This primal love is the epicenter of your connection with the source of life itself. By nurturing this connection of unconditional love, you can expand the muscle that never ceases growing—your miraculous heart.

May this music remind you, like a dream, of when you were a newborn yourself. Allow it to rock you into a remembrance of what we all are in this life, Safe, in the Arms of Love, these inspired, touching songs that held within them so much innocence, wisdom, and tenderness. These were not just songs, but a kind of medicine music for the heart, designed for a time when we are most transparent and intimate with life. 

The great portals at the beginning and end of life require wisdom, compassion, and tenderness. How we behave during these life passages defines what we value most in our lives. If we can use the gift of music to soothe, deepen, and connect us during these important times, our lives and the lives of those around us might be more loving and meaningful. 

After all, there’s only one force that matters in this life, the one we take with us when we die—Love.

 

“Among the Pueblos of New Mexico, part of the childbirth ritual

requires that the woman who delivers the baby greets the infant with a song.” – Mitchell Gaynor, M.D. 

 

June 21, 2011
Marin County, California

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