Music as Memory

Muscle memory (noun): the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought

I’m always struck by how powerful music can be. One moment I can be absolutely fine, then a moment later a song can come on the radio and leave me completely floored. So, here’s my back catalogue to grief.

Aron Wright, Look After You:

The first time I heard this, I was in the cinema. We were waiting for Downton Abbey to start and I was discussing my first two miscarriages. Then this song came on as part of the Lloyds advert. The way the song builds just stabbed me that day, and it’s got me every time since. Sat in the cinema, I just started wailing, out of nowhere, completely bereft. The person I was with was visibly stunned. Her eyes grew wide, aghast. Tears streaming down my face. Since then, I’ve cried to this song in my kitchen, in the car, walking down the street. Most recently I cried to it at Summer’s cremation.

Ed Sheeran, Small Bump:

I adore this man. If I could only listen to one artist ever again, I think it would have to be Ed (but please give me two artists, as I really need Taylor in my life too). Have you ever heard Small Bump? It’s so hard to pick a favourite Ed album, but Plus (which I always jokingly call “add”) is pretty special. I love this song. For the longest time, I thought it was about having a baby, so I played it throughout my first two pregnancies. Never one to really hear song lyrics (memory like a sieve, I just gap fill with my own words), I eventually listened properly at the end and realised that it’s a song about miscarriage. We played this song, while holding a little white coffin, at My Baby’s cremation.

Taylor Swift, Love Story:

We spent a weekend saying goodbye to Summer. We lay in hospital, resting James’ phone on my bump and playing some of our favourite songs. We played our wedding song “Book of Love”, Taylor Swift’s “New Year’s Day” and Hamilton’s “Dear Theodosia”. Poor girl, it must have been pretty loud in there. Especially with mummy and daddy’s karaoke going on outside. When Summer was actually born, we had no idea she’d be alive. We had so little time, it was after midnight and I was groggy on pethidine. We sang to her and we played her one song: Taylor Swift’s Love Story. It was a rushed decision, but not one I regret. Every child should get to hear a fairy tale. Plus I feel rather smug that we managed to introduce her to Shakespeare too. Great parents, no?

Kelly Clarkson, Quiet Uptown (from the musical Hamilton):

We absolutely love Hamilton, this song was always the standout moment of the musical. The lyrics – incredible. It could melt the coldest heart. At Summer’s cremation, they played the “wrong” version of this song. It was loud and more upbeat, but even though I’m a perfectionist, I didn’t mind. It was still extremely poignant. I sat, whole body, trembling throughout the song. My bottom lip started to quiver. I couldn’t control it. You know how when that happens to babies, everyone loves it? The baby’s bottom lip shaking before they burst into tears? I used to think it so cute. I don’t anymore, not since I’ve felt the emotion it requires for that to happen.

Shawn Mendes, In My Blood:

This song! My friend S, sent me this link a few days after Summer passed away. She said “It isn’t in your blood either. Keep going. Little by little”. I listened to this song, day after day, lying in bed, every lyric resonating “help me!”. Days when I couldn’t even bring myself to get dressed. But it gave me hope and she was right: “Sometimes I feel like giving up, but I just can’t, it isn’t in my blood”.

Sam Smith and Demi Lovato, I’m ready:

I’ve put this song in here to emphasise that since Summer’s death, absolutely anything can set me off. I can hear a song about, I don’t know, a car crash and think it’s meant for me and that it’s somehow all about baby loss! The build on this song gets me really emotional. I find the “I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready” escalation really bittersweet. I’ve inexplicably linked it to preparing for parenthood: I’m ready to be a parent. The sentence ends with “I’m ready for someone to love me” and I always hear it as “I’m ready for Summer to love me”.

The Mariposa Trust Charity Single, Saying Goodbye:

Do you know how I consider songs now? I think “that would be a good song for the next cremation”. That’s actually the dark place that my mind goes to. If we do have to do it again, this song – which is actually all about baby loss – sums it up beautifully. I dare you to listen to it without crying. So far, I’ve found that impossible.

Playing music to the bump

(1) Comment

  1. Jasmine says:

    These songs are beautiful. I love Taylor Swift’s Love Song. I love listening to music and it really does evoke different emotions. I hope one day these songs mean something else for you. Sending love xx

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