Greetings from Portland, Oregon! I hope wherever you are, you're having a beautiful October 15.
My third new single of 2019, "Butterfly," is now available! Today you can listen, stream, and purchase in online musical places...
This song was made possible by my patrons over at Patreon. It's not too late to jump in on the fun! Click below to join the team.
The story behind the song:
Pregnancy loss, and infant loss, are often very hushed topics and difficult to discuss. When women lose a pregnancy, most won't share their grief openly. The experience is painful and intensely private. Yet the grief is real and more wide-spread than most of us realize. For women who know they're pregnant, approximately 1 in 4 pregnancies are lost.
I’ve long believed artistic expression to be an effective spotlight into human challenges and a potential healer of suffering. For years, I've felt a tug in my heart to write a song about this grief as I have many close friends who have endured losing a baby. While I haven’t experienced this grief personally, their stories have broken my heart. Many friends described how these babies were and always will be their children even though they don’t have a birth certificate. Many were named, held, blessed and cried over. No matter how far along they were, from a positive pregnancy test to full-term, the loss was utterly devastating.
My intention with the song “Butterfly” is to expand our culture's empathy and send bereavement support to the many women who feel this grief for the rest of their lives. I hope this song both honors their babies and helps them to know they are not alone. I also hope it motivates more people to provide support and comfort to women and their families who experience this loss. It’s a song that may cause tears, but sometimes that’s what we need to do in the grief process.
October is recognized as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. I’m releasing “Butterfly” on October 15, 2019, which is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, a day to remember children lost by miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, or the death of a newborn. At 7 pm on October 15, there is a global “wave of light,” when people light candles all over the world in memory of babies who were lost. May “Butterfly” be a soundtrack of empathy for this somber day of remembrance, as well as a comfort to those who have experienced infant loss.
You showed up one day like a butterfly landing on my skin
You were part of me just a flutter of life deep within
But then I lost you in the wind
And I didn't think I'd ever breathe again
There was no use in holding on
'Cause you were gone, you were gone, you were gone
To me, you were magic, you were beautiful
And you had become my little miracle
I had to let you fly, I had to say goodbye
That was goodbye
Do you know that I cried, I cried, I cried?
My little butterfly
Out in the dark night I can see a cluster of stars
And I wonder if that's where you are, where you are
I thank the heavens for you
And hope that in someway, somehow, you see me too
I had to let you fly, I had to say goodbye
It was goodbye
But forever I’m yours, and you are mine
My little butterfly
Fly, little butterfly
Naomi LaViolette: composition, vocal, guitar, and piano
Peter Frajola: violin, ukelele
Kiel Bishop: engineering, mixing, programming
I asked by dear friend and talented artist Christine Neill to create the artwork to accompany “Butterfly.” She has captured the lyrics exquisitely in this piece. She is offering prints for sale in a variety of sizes, with the option of a customized infant dedication.
To order prints or find out more about her artistic process, email Christine: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or visit: www.instagram.com/livingheartart
It brings me so much joy to feature talented visual artists alongside my songs. Thank you, thank you, to Christine!
Finally, for any of you curious about my creative process, I thought I’d share a few notes about the composition of this song and musical choices in the writing, arrangement and recording.
“You showed up one day like a butterfly landing on my skin”
“But then I lost you in the wind”
“There was no use in holding on”
“To me, you were magic, you were beautiful”
There are many stories and legends about what it means when a butterfly lands on you - transformation, rebirth, luck, and even death. A butterfly landing on skin feels magical, fragile, and completely out of our control. It eventually flies off, and we are left with its memory. I thought this could be a sad, but fitting metaphor for infant loss. These babies are like beautiful butterflies, lost in the wind.
“You were part of me, just a flutter of life deep within”
During a pre-natal ultrasound, a baby’s heartbeat looks and sounds like a flutter of wings. It’s fast, delicate, and what every mom hopes for during pregnancy check-ups.
“I didn't think I'd ever breathe again”
When a mom receives the words, “There is no heartbeat,” I imagine it’s hard for her to keep breathing. The trauma of delivering and holding a stillborn baby or one that won’t survive, must feel unbearable.
“You were gone, you were gone, you were gone”
Infant loss is often blindsiding to a mother, as it is difficult to express and rarely discussed. These repeating lyrics are meant to express the shock and immense sorrow.
“You had become my little miracle”
“My little butterfly”
Many women have an intense connection to their babies while in-utero. It also feels miraculous, as the woman’s body intuitively encompasses the growth of a new human being inside of her. This new life is her dearly loved child.
“I had to let you fly, I had to say goodbye”
A mom has no choice, but to let go, physically, when a pregnancy ends. The loss of control is often frightening and paradigm-shifting. She must say goodbye to everything she had hoped for with this baby.
“Do you know that I cried, I cried, I cried?”
These repeating lyrics express a deep sadness, and the reality that women feel the pain of infant loss for a long time.
“Out in the dark night I can see a cluster of stars”
There are two things going on in this line. First, a dark night. Infant and pregnancy loss is a true dark night of the soul. If a woman has faith, often she questions everything she ever believed, feeling anger and spiritual abandonment. She may feel as if her body has failed, but then still experience the effects of giving birth: bleeding, C-section incisions, labor recovery, postpartum depression, and sore breasts full of milk with no baby to feed. It is an all-consuming, painful darkness. The latter half of this line mentions a cluster of stars. During my research for this song, I discovered that there is a group of stars called the “Butterfly Cluster,” shaped like a butterfly and located just above the Scorpius constellation. Many people feel peace and connection while looking at the stars, and I wanted to include star-gazing in the song as a simple and hopefully universal way for mothers to feel connected to their lost babies.
“I wonder if that's where you are”
When I first wrote this line, it was “I believe that’s where you are.” One of my friends, who generously shared her baby loss story with me, told me that the word “believe” made it too strong of a statement. She said she felt weak and sure of absolutely nothing at that time. She suggested “wonder” as a more appropriate feeling. Thank you, dear friend, you know who you are.
“I thank the heavens for you”
“hope that in someway, somehow, you see me too”
As much as anyone would never want to experience of infant loss, the moms I spoke to were deeply grateful for their babies and the moments they were able to share with them. One of my dear friends, who still cries whenever she thinks of the son she lost, expressed that the experience has profoundly deepened her understanding of the thin veil between life and death. Sometimes she senses his presence near her on the other side of that veil. She doesn’t fear her own death, and believes that when she does pass away, she will be fully reunited with her son. Wow. I admire her confidence and perspective so much, because life and death can be so confusing. There are many spiritual traditions and practices that we turn to for guidance as humans. My approach here is spiritually broad (“I thank the heavens”) on purpose; I hope that people of all beliefs and religions can find comfort with this song.
“Forever I’m yours, and you are mine”
This sense of belonging is so important to the women that experience infant loss. They are mothers and those babies are their children. Often it feels like the world around them forgets that they had a child. But a mother never forgets.
Now, about the music and recording process: this song is sung from the perspective of the mother to her baby, so I really wanted it to feel like a lullaby. Lullabies are the intuitive, first songs that mothers of all cultures sing to their babies. The melodies and soothing guitar finger-picking patterns are crafted to be relaxing and repetitive, like a lullaby.
The ukulele is also included in the song, as it has a childlike, delicate tone. Ukuleles are often used in childhood music instruction as a first instrument.
We used a piano sound called “Felt Piano.” It imitates the sound of a piano when the celeste or soft pedal is down, and it creates a delicate, emotional piano tone. The celeste pedal consists of a piece of felt or cloth on a rack moving into place between the hammers and strings when pressed to produce the softer tone.
Finally, the violin. A single violin has a mournful quality to it. There are sections in the song when the violin track sounds like a butterfly floating off into the wind. I’m always amazed how musical sounds can sometimes paint a picture better than words. I feel so lucky to have Peter Frajola, Associate Concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony, providing the violin performance!
After I finished the song, I discovered that butterflies are commonly used as images for infant and pregnancy loss. Go to any infant loss support group or website, and butterflies often pop up somewhere in statements or pictures. This was so validating to my creative process, and I made me feel honored to join the community of people supporting women who experience baby loss. I hope with all my heart that women everywhere feel my love and care for them when they hear this song.
So much thanks to my patrons over at Patreon; it's because of their support that I'm able to write, record, and release new music throughout the year. Extra shout out to patrons pledged at $15/month and above (their names go on everything I make): Lauren Rykert, Wayne Richards, Steve & Joni Goodwin, Tom & Karol Rykert, Caryn Tilton, Dwight & Penny Van Vleet, Melissa Canaday, Grace & Mike Rich, Jan Schaeffer, Jennifer Davis, Jeri Haskins, & Pat Reser.
Friends, Thank YOU, for your interest in my journey of making music at the intersection of creativity and empathy. It means so much to me to share it with you. If you think this song would help anyone that has struggled with infant loss, please forward this email along to them. I will also give the song to anyone that has suffered with this type of grief.