Melody of life: Brahms’ Lullaby played when baby born at Avera St. Luke’s Hospital
The sounds of Brahms’ Lullaby play over the public announcement system.
Anita Malsom, a housekeeper, stops what she’s doing in whatever department she is in for a brief moment. Switchboard operator Stacy Maunu excitedly listens to the music after she presses the button on the switchboard.
Biomedical technician Kent Jones sees patients smiling on the medical-surgical floor. Nurse manager Susan Deibert looks out to the waiting room of the Birthplace to view grandparents crying tears of joy.
A baby is born at Avera St. Luke’s Hospital.
Once a baby is born, the obstetrics and gynecology staff send a request to the hospital’s main switchboard. There, the operator pulls the request off a printer and hits the key that plays Brahms’ Lullaby over the public announcement system for everyone in the hospital to hear.
The tradition started about 18 years ago when Joan Haak, a former employee who now volunteers at the hospital, brought the idea back after a visit to a hospital in Bismarck, N.D.
“It was chilling knowing that a baby was being born,” she said.
Patty Kirkpatrick, marketing and public relations director, then carried the idea out. She listened to multiple versions of the lullaby before settling on the one that is played to this day.
It’s a version that sounds like bell chimes.
“Everyone has their story with the bells,” she said.
Recently, Deibert got to see the reactions of expectant grandparents in the waiting room of the Birthplace wing.
They stood up out of their seats to listen and started crying and hugging one another, Deibert said.
“I got to go up to them and tell them, ‘those were your bells,’ ” she said.
On the morning of Aug. 20, Joanna Brandlee of Groton sat in the waiting area with her daughter as she awaited for news of the birth of her twin grandchildren. She said she was anticipating the music.
When twins are born, the lullaby is played twice in a row.
Brandlee said hearing the tones always brings her hope and joy, especially if she is in the hospital as a patient.
“It was so meaningful when I was in the hospital for surgery,” she said. “It’s almost more for other patients because it’s just calming and you know that it’s from the good place in the hospital.”
Kirkpatrick said hearing the bells is a different experience for grandparents and other family members, since expectant parents are generally experiencing so much excitement already.
Other patients in the hospital ask staffers what the music is for, she said.
“We wanted to be sensitive to families experiencing end-of-life issues,” Kirkpatrick said. “It’s always a comforting thing, though.”
Jones’ children were born in the hospital, so he has a connection to the song. Through his work on various machines in the hospital, he sees patient reactions to the lullaby.
“It affects patients because they respond,” Jones said. “Even if they’re not feeling the best, it will still make them smile.”
It’s special even to nurses on the Birthplace floor, where they experience the miracle of life firsthand.
“They pause and know it’s a new life being born,” Deibert said.
It’s an experience for the St. Luke’s family, too. If a staffer from another hospital department is having a baby, the department will listen intently for the music on the public announcement system.
Yvonne Gillick, a nurse in the Birthplace, said the lullaby was played when one of her coworkers adopted a baby.
“It just means a good thing is happening, ” Maunu said. “It doesn’t matter what’s going on that day. Everyone smiles and stops.”
Traditional English version of Brahms’ Lullaby
Lullaby and good night,
With roses bedight,
With lilies o’er spread
Is baby’s wee bed.
Lay thee down now and rest,
May thy slumber be blessed.
Lullaby and good night,
Thy mother’s delight,
Bright angels beside
My darling abide.
They will guard thee at rest,
Thou shalt wake on my breast.
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