When My Toddler Remembered The Song I Played For Him In Utero

by Tonilyn Hornung
Originally Published: 
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My son and I have a song. Like any tight-knit couple, it’s a song that instantly connects us to a special time in our lives together. Well, connects me. I played this song for my little boy while he was still a tiny growing baby inside my belly. So, I suppose it’s really just my song, because there’s no way my little guy was ever going to remember hearing it while he was still growing his fingers, toes, and ears. Or so I thought.

Like any nervous first-time mom, I read all the pregnant lady books I was supposed to. Confession: I read one of the pregnant lady books I was supposed too—between sleeping for 22 hours a day and my many trips to the bathroom. The book mentioned that if I played soothing music for my baby in utero the likelihood that he would be soothed by the same music once out in the world was fairly high. Washing of the Water by Peter Gabriel became our song. I tried other songs (Like a Virgin just seemed untrue), but Washing of the Water with its poetic lyrics and haunting melody worked for us.

Playing our song always made the small cantaloupe in my stomach stop his summersaults and listen. When the quarters in my tummy started getting too close and sitting on my diaphragm became a constant thing, that baby would move down closer to the phone I was holding low so he hear the song! Sure, he was now resting on my bladder, but I’d take being able to take a deep breath over peeing every five minutes any day.

This song was like our first conversation. We had a physical connection, but our emotional connection was just developing, and this song helped foster that. When I played this song, all went still. We listened quietly together, and it was just the two us, and nothing else and no one else mattered.

Once my son was born, I played our song, but it didn’t seem to get any recognition. At 4 months, I put it on, and instead of sending us to that magical calming place, I burst into tears. Looking at him in my arms, I missed the baby in my belly. I missed the special connection we had when everything was secret and just us. I wished that he could remember those special times too, and the song became more bittersweet than uplifting for me. I stopped listening to it. It went the way of our 4 a.m. feedings and our size 2 diapers, and I forgot about it. Apparently, though, my son did not.

“Play the river song,” a tiny 2 ½-year-old voice asked from the backseat.

My husband and I were silent. I was confused. He must have been asking for some other song that had to do with water or rain.

“You mean Singin’ in the Rain?” my husband corrected.

“No, the river song,” he demanded.

In total disbelief, I got out my phone and played the song I hadn’t heard in almost two years.

“Is this the one you mean?” I asked.


Amazing and unexpected things happen all the time—like the time Colin Firth smiled at me (I swear!), which was amazing and certainly unexpected. This was one of those times. I will always have a connection to my son, and this moment was one of those special and unexplainable ones between mother and child. The randomness of it all proves its truth for me.

But to be fair, he is a 2-year-old. There are times that my little guy answers “yes” if I ask him if he wants to play with some rusty nails and a stack of bricks. (Don’t worry—I never gave him rusty nails to play with. The ones I gave him weren’t rusty.) But if for some reason he doesn’t remember our song, I’m hoping that somewhere deep down he can he still recall the feeling it generated. Song or not, I’m hoping he always remembers the love.

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