It was the beginning of my second trimester—the golden trimester—when the dry-heaving is done and you can walk upright, keep your breakfast down and toss the half-eaten package of saltines into the trash. I was doing just that when I happened upon an old, scratched up Louis Armstrong CD beside a garbage bin that looked unplayable. It was a bit dirty and the cover was cracked and yet I couldn’t resist that darned CD.
I had read enough pregnancy books to know that the fetus can hear in utero and that this was the time to play Mozart concertos and read Wittgenstein to my little one. Instead, I polished the Louis Armstrong CD with a tissue and then listened to it once, and then again. And then one last time and I’d get back to work. Within a few days, Louis Armstrong Sings Back Through the Years became the anthem for my pregnancy.
Louis Armstrong is a musical genius. He not only plays the trumpet but he sings and composes and arranges music. And the best part about his singing—when he actually uses words, not sounds—is that he sings in big brassy tones just like a trumpet. So it’s like he’s playing the trumpet even when he’s singing. And when he’s not singing or playing, he’s making sounds like a trumpet. He’s not just a musical genius, he’s a feat of nature. Louis Armstrong is the Trumpet Man.
But there’s more. Louis Armstrong is an honest musician. He has witnessed the worst parts of human nature and yet, he still believes in goodness. You can tell because every one of his tunes makes you smile. Even though you’re crying while he sings the blues, you’re smiling too. That’s his gift. Everything about him—from his huge toothy grin to his toe-tapping shoes and his sweaty brow—makes you feel…happy.
And so I didn’t listen to Chopin or play audio books by Dostoevsky while I was pregnant. Instead, I listened to Louis Armstrong every day, and his trumpet made me, and my fetus, smile.