The Lullaby Diaries (Part 2)

In February 2010 Vital Arts and Spitalfields Music worked together to bring live music to families and new born babies on the maternity ward at the Royal London Hospital.  The musicians performed and taught a selection of lullabies from around the world. With the help of willing families they also wrote simple songs in Arabic, Bengali, Somali and English.

The following are the second lot of excerpts from the diary that was kept during our visits:

Session 2

Everyone is much more relaxed today and there is a wonderful welcome from staff following Wednesday’s session.

On arrival we received some feedback:  One of the babies, from transitional care was having trouble feeding and that evening, following our first session, he was well enough to go home. The Baby Care Specialist,  believed this to be directly linked to the singing.

At the start of the session there seemed to be less participation with many of the curtains closed. We found out later that this was due to mothers sleeping or feeding their babies in privacy. Something we are fast learning about working in hospital is being flexible and taking each session as it comes. However, the fathers were very engaged with their feet tapping and babes in arms. A baby started crying but stopped quickly as we started a lullaby– was it the music?

On the way to the second room we met a father from a Russian family in the first session who shook John’s hand and said how much he had loved the music and looked forward to seeing us again. This was such a lovely way to go into our next session and filled the artists full of pride!

There was a very relaxed atmosphere in the second room so the artists responded with a set of calmer pieces – I learnt that not all lullabies are calm and soothing but can be bright and uplifting! One mother came in to join the group from a separate room and I noticed that the staff were also enjoying a moment of calm.  There is lots of space in this room today as one bed has been removed which makes the session much easier. We were greeted by one of the mothers from last week with big smiles and happiness. One particular lady was overcome with new motherhood and found the songs a welcome mode of expressing her happiness. She also said, “It was bedlam on the labour ward. This is paradise”. The artists wrote the song Calm Baby with this room which has since become one of the project favourites!

Today in room three all the curtains were closed apart from one family. The older brother of one of the babies was there with his family. His face lit up when artists sang and he asked lots of questions. He joined in playing the gendar and learnt songs we had made in other rooms. He added ‘Stop crying, stop crying’ to Calm Baby.  This was a great opportunity for elder child to have some attention and feel included in the arrival of his little sister as we told him he would be able to sing these songs to her when they were home. He also taught everyone a new version of Twinkle Twinkle.

Some of the comments we received at the end of the session were:

“I feel privileged to see the responses for the mothers coming to terms with what they have just done. There is such a quality of openness in the families. We are seeing them at their most vulnerable” – Zoe Palmer

“We are giving them a tool to work with and engaging with their needs” – Sonia Mehta

Tamsin Oldham
Programme Manager: Learning & Participation

Keep your eyes peeled over the next few weeks for Part 3 of Tamsin’s Lullaby Diaries.

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