'Lullaby Project' helps mothers bond with babies through song

BOSTON — An innovative program at Boston Medical Center is teaching expectant mothers how to write and record original songs to help them form a bond with their babies before they’re born.

It’s called “The Lullaby Project” and it’s changing lives one note at a time. Social workers suggest women attend who might need help adjusting to the idea of becoming a mother.

Caitlin Gillespie wrote a lullaby for her daughter Harper Rose when she was pregnant.

“I was just sort of struggling with a connection and it was going to be this whole new thing, being a mom,” she said. “It was just not kind of real to me. But having this experience of writing and singing, and then hearing the song back afterward, just made it more real.”

Watching Gillespie with Harper Rose makes it hard to believe she ever doubted she should be a mother.

The women attend a song writing session with professional musicians from Palaver Strings, a Boston-based ensemble.

The process starts with the mother writing a letter to her unborn child.

“The song writers and the musicians of Palaver work with the mother to pull segments of that letter out to create a chorus and then they move on to the verses,” explained Maya French, Palaver’s co-executive director and artistic director.

Creating music can provide a mechanism for expressing feelings that might not otherwise come to the surface.

“Music is extremely transformative and I think the connection between the mother and child, when you are using a lullaby, can be used as a calming process, or a loving process,” added French.

Betsy Correia, who is expecting a daughter in January, said the process changed her. Shy by nature, she believes the song writing process allowed her to easily discuss her hopes and dreams for her daughter.

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“I want her to smile. I want her, once I play it, to be happy,” she explained. “If she’s crying, I want her to be happy when I play it.”

Correia will be able to play it for her daughter anytime. With the help of the musicians and engineers, each lullaby is professionally recorded and mixed.

“What comes out of it is totally unexpected and beautiful,” said Brianna Fischler, who played the violin during Correira’s lullaby.

“It’s a way of talking without actually talking, with sharing your feelings without specifically speaking to another person,” songwriter and engineer Matthew Brady added.

Nervous at first, Correia said she’s happy she attended the song writing session.

On Wednesday, Dec. 20, Palaver Strings will perform at the Huntington Theater and several of the mothers will be there to sing their lullabies.

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