BELMONT, Maine — Amy Robbins-Wilson was five months pregnant with her son, Clayton, and sewing a quilt one day in the spring of 2005 when a haunting melody and lyrics came into her head — a lullaby she later wrote and named “Angels Watch Over My Baby.”
In part, the song goes: “Angels watch over my baby; grant him a lifetime of your care, so that even when I cannot be with him, I’ll know you will always be there.”
At the time, Robbins-Wilson, a musician planning a natural birth, couldn’t have predicted that her lullaby would have huge significance for her family.
Or that it would become a nationally broadcast inspirational song for families of children hospitalized with serious illnesses at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Her pregnancy was progressing normally, until she suffered a placental abruption during a July 4 visit home to Belfast from New Hampshire, where she and her husband, Tim Wilson, were living at the time.
When the placenta detaches from the womb, it can be fatal for mother and baby. It very nearly was, Robbins-Wilson said.
“Clayton was born six weeks prematurely, and he and I both almost died here,” she said. “I didn’t get to hold him until the day after he was born.”
Her tiny newborn son had to be transported from Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor to be placed on a ventilator for 24 hours. His mother was able to see him in the hospital, where the lullaby that had come to her suddenly took on new and poignant meaning.
“It’s the song I sang to him when he was in his big incubator, all wrapped up like an astronaut,” Robbins-Wilson said. “It just made me feel like, you know, angels are going to watch over my baby.”
While still in the hospital with Clayton, she said she held her baby son and made a decision.
“I made God a promise that I would use my talents and abilities to serve sick children,” she said.
Over the years, Robbins-Wilson has worked to make good on that promise.
This summer, she got a call that seemed to be an answer to a prayer. An advertising agency executive found her lullaby on the Internet — Robbins-Wilson had posted her song on her lullaby-link.com website — and decided it was the perfect fit for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s coming advertising television campaign.
Eric Hughes of Mad Genius Creative Fusion in Ridgeland, Miss., said recently that the campaign’s theme is “Lullaby,” and will show the bedtime rituals of families with children at St. Jude. The hospital treats children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases.
“We wanted the viewer to feel the emotion of a parent who is saying goodnight to their child who fights every day to live another day,” he wrote in an email sent at the end of September. “For them, there is no bedtime story or tuck-in time that can be taken for granted.”
He said that while the agency staffers knew they had the right words and images, they were missing the right song — until they discovered Robbins-Wilson’s lullaby.
“By the time I heard Amy sing the fifth word, I knew I was hearing someone who understood the message,” Hughes wrote.
That was true.
In addition to Clayton’s birth scare, Robbins-Wilson and her husband endured another life-threatening event when their son was just 10 months old. He had a blood disorder which doctors initially thought was leukemia.
While he was being treated at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland, his mom sang the lullaby every night.
“That was our continuity piece,” she said.
Today, 7-year-old Clayton has recovered from his early childhood health problems and is a lively, boisterous little boy.
“He is a bright light,” his mom said. “He loves cars. He knows more about Hot Wheels and cars than I will ever know. He’s a little charmer. He’s a great little boy.”
But even though Robbins-Wilson now spends a lot of time reading to her son, playing with him and just generally keeping busy as a mom, she has never forgotten her promise. In 2010, the family was chosen to represent the Children’s Miracle Network as their “Champion Family” for the state of Maine.
Additionally, she has written a book called “Transformational Mothering: A Prayerful Companion for New Mothers,” and donates a portion of the proceeds to the Children’s Miracle Network and the Angelsong Endowment, which benefits children and families in the neonatal intensive care unit at Eastern Maine Medical Center. Robbins-Wilson also has recorded several albums of healing music, and streams live vocal concerts onto the Internet geared toward parents who have lost a child.
The St. Jude advertising campaign will be a way to take this passion for helping families and children and give it a larger, national stage.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Tim Wilson, the singer’s husband. “For us, it’s an answer to prayer. We’ve always worked to support organizations like St. Jude — so we’re delighted.”
The advertising campaign is expected to be broadcast nationally sometime this fall, said Robbins-Wilson, who finalized the licensing for her song Friday.
Her song, but not her family, will be featured in the campaign. And while Clayton seemed too busy being a kid to pay much attention to his parents’ big news, his mom said that angels have been special to him, too.
She told the story of something Clayton had said to her when he was about 3 years old, just after he had started to talk. He pointed to one of the many angel pictures she has around the house, and said something that gave her pause.
“‘Look, mama. That me,’” she remembered him telling her.
“I said, ‘When was that you?’ He said, ‘When I in the hospital, mama. When I born,’” Robbins-Wilson said, getting a little teary over the memory. “He remembered the angels watching over him.”
To purchase the song, visit Amazon.com and search for “Angels Watch Over My Baby.”