While birth work is a passion of mine, my first love was music. I started taking piano lessons at 7 years old and progressed at lightning speed, eventually picking up the flute and singing as well. I grew to realize that music is the universal language, the expression of life itself, and that everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, is impacted by the power of it.
Take movies, for example. The music in movies shapes how you view the events that are unfolding before you. Do you ever wonder why you feel uneasy in certain parts? It's likely because of the music is low, filled out with string instruments that are playing an eerie repeated pattern. Why do you laugh when bad things happen to certain characters? Because maybe the music features a light-hearted saxophone playing a ridiculous melody in double time.
There's a YouTube video I found years ago that illustrates this point perfectly. It's a scene from Lord of the Rings where Legolas, Aragorn, and Gimli are doing some cross-country running near a cliff face that leads down to a ravine with a river flowing through it. The background music is a beautiful symphony of brass featuring a warm trumpet triumphantly expressing the melody. This clip is replayed several times, but the music is changed to something drastically different each time. Take a look and note how the music changes your perception of what is happening. (I'll wait.)
They way that music shapes your movie-watching experience is the same way that music can shape your birthing experience. What do you want your birthing experience to feel like? How do you want to view it when you look back on it years later? Here are some tips you can use when creating your labor playlist.
Create More Than ONe List
For me personally, I had two different labor playlists. One was for early labor, and it was filled with upbeat jams that made me want to get up and dance (Tonight, Tonight, by Hot Chelle Rae for example). I knew I had to stay busy so I wasn't focusing on timing contractions, how long it was going to take for baby to arrive, or a million other things that could put me in a sour mood. Going about my normal day while in early labor, but jamming out to my favorite songs was the best way to start labor. It feels so good to let your hair down and dance!
My other playlist was serious but encouraging. Gentle music that I connected with on a deeper level. For my third birth I had a lot of Enya on that playlist (don't judge--her voice is magical). When labor started picking up and I had to really focus on each contraction, I switched to this playlist. I needed something quiet but emotional, strong but gentle, in order to feel safe and in control. I needed to be able to reach down deep inside of myself to find the strength and power I possessed to birth my babies, and having a beautiful soundtrack playing helped shape that experience for me.
Don't Wait Till Labor to Use Your Playlist
One mistake a lot of people make is making their labor playlist and not touching it again until they're in labor. When I was pregnant with my third (first planned home birth), I spent weeks (nearly months) combing through music and selecting just the right songs for my playlists. Nearly every night before bed I would dim the lights, get comfortable, and practice relaxation techniques with my husband while listening to my calming playlist. I practiced getting "in the zone" so that when that music came on my body was trained to be relaxed.
It got to the point that as soon as the first song came on, my body was in instant relaxation mode. I didn't have to work to be relaxed, it just happened naturally because of the connections I'd formed between relaxation and those songs. When I went into labor I knew that I would be able to relax because I'd spent so much time practicing and forming positive associations with the music on that playlist, and it turned out to be the easiest birth of my four! (You can read that birth story here)
So the moral of the story is practice, practice, practice. Pump up your upbeat labor playlist while you're making dinner. Turn in on in the morning while you're getting ready for the day. Play your calming playlist while you're in the shower or getting ready for bed. But spend the time to form positive associations with your music so you can frame your labor and birth in a positive way.
Practice Your Tech Setup Ahead of Time
For some reason I get unusually irritated when technology doesn't work the way I expect it to, and because my husband is a tech geek I have lots of opportunities to practice patience. Make sure you have a simple setup that is easy for anyone to operate so that your doula, a nurse, or whatever other birth attendants you have can easily help with it. You don't want to have to worry about troubleshooting while you're laboring. A simple bluetooth speaker connected to one of our old phones was what we used for our last two births (pictured above), and before that we had a laptop playing music through Google Music (which isn't even a thing anymore). Whatever you choose, figure out how it's going to work ahead of time and practice with it that way so you're all set for labor day.
We are Birth Boot Camp certified doulas and childbirth educators. we are passionate about birth, education, and a couple's right to be informed about their options.