Saturday, July 30, 2011

Songs for Birth

Many of us have playlists for a variety of occasions. In my own music collection, I have the following playlists, among others:
  • Run
  • Chill
  • Wake Up!
  • Pissed (sorry for the language...that's really what I called it!)
  • Avett Brothers Mix
  • Worship music
  • Christmas
  • Birth 1
  • Marc's Mix
  • Wedding Music
  • Pop
They help me get in the groove of whatever I'm doing, or in some cases, get through the emotions of a frustrating situation. Some of them work for multiple situations; for instance, sometimes I listen to my "Run" mix at work because I associate that collection of songs with getting focused and getting the work done. And often I listen to the "Birth 1" mix when I'm just hanging around the house because, to me, it's relaxing and calming - easy listening!

Yesterday I heard a great bit on, you guessed it, npr! You really must listen to it because it includes snippets of music from Alison Macadam's playlist she created for her birthing experience, and there's only so much you can write about music without actually hearing it! What was so interesting to me is that she mentions that she needed a beat in her music. She viewed birth as an athletic, energetic experience and she needed her background music to be something that fed her that energy and kept her going through the marathon of labor and delivery.

In my two personal birth experiences, I craved soothing, steady, relaxing tunes, not without beats necessarily, but nothing particularly upbeat, if that makes sense. I chose velvety voices like Norah Jones, instrumental pieces, Tracey Chapman, Damien Rice, and everything by Enter the Worship Circle. I chose songs that reminded me of God's love, as well as love songs that were meaningful to myself and my children's father.

Quickly after I heard Alison say, "I wanted a beat," and initially though that was strange, I then remembered my "Run" mix. Many people have dance music, techno, heavy metal, and other energetic music on their workout mixes; I on the other hand have pretty laid back picks on mine, for the most part. I have everything from Matt Nathanson and Jason Reeves to Def Leppard, the Avett Brothers and P!nk. Running (more like slow jogging or trotting) is actually a very relaxing exercise for me. I'm able to think through things, release pent up energy and stress, and the steady stream of acoustic melodies and feel-good songs I can sing along to keep me going for miles. That particular mix has been my companion for two 15k races, and a half marathon.

So I got to rethinking the advice I've generally given to friends and clients about birth music, especially women who have yet to experience labor and may not have a real clear picture of how they'll feel emotionally and physically in the real moments of intensity before welcoming their children into the world. Who am I to tell anyone, "choose songs you find relaxing and calming...?" What works for me certainly won't work for everyone else. Some women may not want music around at all, and may prefer quiet, or stimulating conversation and laughter. Some women prefer watching movies instead!

There are several stages of labor, many moods, and every woman's experience is different. Some women move so quickly through labor, they can barely get to the hospital on time, while other women experience very long and slow first stages of labor for days before delivering. More often than not, it's a combination of both, with contractions stopping and starting up again.

From now on, my advice is this: make two or three collections of music so that you have more than one option in the moment. And do try to do this yourself, rather than placing this responsibility on your doula, midwife, spouse or family members. No one else can know what songs might be meaningful to you. Make one collection of music that has slower, soothing tones, and another that has energetic, upbeat music that you may listen to while cleaning your house or entertaining friends. You may even have that third option available with songs similar to what you might find on my "Pissed" mix - I think I could have used it during transition when I shrieked in pain and told my mother it was time to push!

I would also suggest that you collect several hours of tunes, if you can. I think Alison's playlist might be a bit short, but she may not have included the entire thing. You probably want to allow for a lengthy labor, if it occurs, as well as the option to skip and fast forward through something that all of the sudden seems annoying when you had anticipated it being helpful!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on birth music. Do you like it quiet or do you like big band music? What helps you breathe, or get your mind free of fear? I'd love to know; please share!


MS said...

The idea of having music during labor seems like a luxury to me. With both my babies coming fast I can't imagine having a moment to say, 'Hey, how about some music?' However, I can see the great inspiration and help music could be if in a long labor scenario. I hope it does help because labor needs all the help it can get!!!

Missy Rose said...

you're absolutely right, MS. i'm sure it has a lot do with perspective. music might be a luxury to some, but not the long labor! and some may rather have a long and slow labor than a fast and intense one. one thing's for sure, we don't get to choose it; labor chooses us!


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