Because he does not speak, and most likely never will, my son Dominic and I communicate through music.
It began as an early act of desperation, as we drove home from the hospital, two exhausted parents and one round, red faced baby, crying inconsolably in his car seat. I cushioned my belly full of staples and leaned forward to turn up the car radio, helpless and desperate to calm my 2-day-old’s sobs. Within the first few bars of music from the oldies station, my son closed his eyes and slept a placid sleep. It was the most peaceful I had seen him since he had emerged from my womb. And it was the first time since his birth that I, too, could close my eyes.
As the first few weeks of Dominic’s life unfolded, he became an expert at crying. As morning stretched into afternoon, he was impossible to satiate. His sobs weaved into the soft strains of evening and later, they followed me unshakably, as I paced his bedroom, cradling his small shape in the night-time darkness. So I took comfort under a blanket of music, covering the house at all times, to soften the blows of his screams and to keep me from losing my mind. It quickly seemed that the music was the only way to calm us both. And the more the music seemed to calm us, the more I played it.
At first, it was Chopin, because his piano nocturnes took me from the nursery, into 19th century Paris and far away from the painful feedings. But as Dominic was awake more during the day, I experimented. We tried pop and old school R&B; we moved on to soundtracks. Often my husband would leave the baby and me for work in the morning, the strains of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” trailing him out the door and he would return, 10 hours later, to the imposing beat of the “Imperial Death March” echoing on the walls.
Shhh, I would whisper to my husband, holding up my hand, as he walked into our apartment. The baby really likes this part.