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How having a baby with Down syndrome changed this rock star’s music

Cormac Neeson
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The premature birth of Cormac Neeson’s son with Down syndrome had a profoundly positive effect on the musician.

In 2014, Cormac Neeson, from the Northern Irish rock group The Answer, became a dad for the first time. The arrival of his son Dabhog literally rocked his world and changed not only his perspective in life, but his creative output.

In an interview with Martin Vennard for the BBC, Neeson explained how his son’s premature birth led him to an “incredibly dark and troubled time.” Baby Dabhog was born weighing just 1 lb 12 ozs and was taken to intensive care in Belfast, where he stayed for four months. During this time every day was touch and go.

To add to their concerns, Neeson and his wife, Louise, discovered their baby had Down syndrome which “added to the whole very intense experience.” At the same time, Neeson’s band had released a new album and he’d have to fit in short promotional interviews so he could stay next to his son’s incubator.

Meanwhile little Dabhog grew stronger and was able to go home. Although he had to undergo surgery for a hole in the heart at one year old, the little boy became a source of joy for the musician. The whole experience though had a major effect on the rocker’s creativity. For a man who’s toured with huge rock groups such as The Who, Rolling Stones and AC/DC, Neeson felt he couldn’t continue writing the same sort of music.

The Irishman flew to Nashville where he wrote a “collection of songs that was so introspective and intense and so truthful that they really could only be part of a solo project.”

Far from his usual work, Neeson wrote songs inspired by his son. Broken Wing is a tribute to Dabhog, a song that raises awareness about Down syndrome but it also is a way “to celebrate my son for being the individual that he is.”

Neeson also explained to the BBC that he hoped the song would be a source of comfort to other parents dealing with a Down syndrome diagnosis:

If your child has Down’s syndrome that is not what defines your child. Your child is unique and amazing like every other child. I’ve never met a person like my son, Dabhog.

The singer also shared: “The joy that he brings into our lives is something that I could not have anticipated when we were just worrying day to day about his health and getting him out of that hospital alive.”

The new album, White Feather, also pays reference to the early stages of his wife’s pregnancy. In the beginning doctors told the couple the pregnancy was ectopic, therefore not viable as the embryo was growing in the Fallopian tubes instead of the womb. Booked in for surgery, doctors discovered that the pregnancy was not ectopic but they’d still have to wait a few weeks to make sure there was a heartbeat.

One night, Neeson went out for a walk saying “I need a sign.” There he saw a white feather, which signifies life in Ireland. The very next day baby Dabhog, nestled in his mom’s womb, had a “gigantic” heartbeat.

Five years on, Neeson can look back at what was a very challenging and stressful pregnancy and birth. Dabhog is now five, a big brother and is doing well at school. He’s made friends, is getting awards for being a star pupil and is a true gift to his parents.

“Just to be able to experience our little boy thriving like that and being so communicative and being such a life-affirming character and for him to bring so much joy into our lives, it’s a massively positive experience for us and we’re thankful for that,” the musician explains.

From what Neeson describes as his more selfish days, to being a dad of two, he says he’s got through this set of obstacles and it feels like a “real sense of victory.”

To listen to the song Neeson dedicated to his “beautifully perfect” son, just click below:

 

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