A social work alum and her impact on maternal health through music and healing.
Photos and story by Montinique Monroe
Lauren Bruno always wanted to be a mother. Her entry into motherhood, however, was not what she thought it would be. Bruno has ulcerative colitis, a stomach disease that has kept her in and out of the hospital and on bedrest throughout her pregnancy.
As a soon-to-be mother with no income making extensive hospital visits, Bruno felt overwhelmed. She began to look for resources and found Any Baby Can, a nonprofit in Austin supporting children and families through access to healthcare programs and services.
At Any Baby Can, Dyane Avila (MSSW ’97), is directly involved with helping mothers like Bruno. Avila is the maternal-mental-health lead for No Estás Solo (You’re Not Alone), a program that helps families seeking parental support or facing medical needs and developmental delays.
“I knew early on I wanted to be involved in community mental health, and social work seemed like a really good avenue,”Avila said. “In my social work career I’ve had many roles. This is a really good fit.”
Through Any Baby Can’s partnership with Austin Classical Guitar, Avila introduced Bruno to the Lullaby Project—Carnegie Hall’s national arts initiative for new and expecting mothers facing challenging circumstances. The project gives mothers an opportunity to write and record personal songs for their children.
“Every mom has a different story of how she came to be a mother, about her own mother, and going generations back,” Avila said. “There’s narrative in the lullaby and that’s therapeutic. Music is considered healing and so is the act of singing. The lullaby is a tool for co-regulation, a tool for narrative.”
As Bruno holds her baby Ryland, she begins her first lullaby session as every mother does—working her way through the lullaby workbook. The first session serves as a time for mothers to become familiar with their lullaby specialists through workbook prompts. Mothers answer questions about the desired tone and style for their lullaby and write a letter to their babies, which will later be used to create poetry and musical phrases. Bruno is a natural-born singer, so it was no surprise that by the end of her session she was ready to find the perfect melody for her lullaby.
The Lullaby Project intends to serve mothers, but it’s proven to benefit the artists as well. Travis Marcum, ACG’s Lullaby Project director, said it’s been powerful to witness mothers regaining their individuality and identity while making art for their children.
“The Lullaby Project really transforms the lives and perspectives of the artists,” Marcum said. “We meet people from our community that we would’ve never met and hear stories about people living in our city that we wouldn’t have had access to if there wasn’t a guitar and a song there.”
Avila said her hope is for more families to continue to experience the healing and strength offered through the Lullaby Project. She said Any Baby Can in partnership with the Lullaby Project can make a deep, lasting and multigenerational impact on families.
“Any Baby Can walks alongside a lot of mothers and they’ll share their dreams and their hopes for their babies and out of that will come a lullaby,” she said. “The lullaby is healing and it’s a beautiful way for moms to connect with their babies.”