Week 36: Music While Pregnant

Where words fail, music speaks.
— Hans Christian Andersen

More than ever before, I am starting to imagine the upcoming birth and my life after pregnancy. In just a few days, we will have our Home Visit with our midwife and doula. We’ll walk through the “Day Of” and start to visualize where things will be, what we will do, and prepare for any potential diversions from the plan. I’m frantically working to put together all the required items and organize them the way our midwife requested, which feels great and also reminds me how little I am prepared with less than 30 days to go.

Even though I have a lot to do, things are starting to feel like they are calming down in preparation: work has slowed down (we settled a big case right before trial last week) and the only other “event” planned between now and the next few months is the baby’s arrival. I can focus all my energy on getting things ready.

Since I’ve been so busy and there’s been a lot piled on me this month, I’ve neglected reading through my Birthing From Within book until just this week. In the book are lots of exercises to help moms like me prepare for birth. One of the exercises asks moms to visualize their birth, and then draw it. The practice helps expose any underlying fears regarding labor, as a way to get them out in the open and neutralize them. I can’t really visualize my birth and, with my due date right around the corner, that makes me nervous. The one thing lately that has really been helping center me, relieve me, and bring me some peace, is music. This has motivated me to relive my mid-2000 glory days and make a mixtape style playlist for my labor.

Photo Credit: The Bradley Method of Childbirth

In our birthing class, we talked about the different stages of labor. Each stage has its own clear distinction markers and naturally progress in intensity. So, a playlist should encourage and mirror the dynamic of each stage.

The first stage has three sub-parts (Early First Stage, First Stage/Active Labor, and Late First Stage/Hard Labor). Early First Stage can last many hours, 8 to 15 hours! During this time, Mom often feels excited and anxious as she starts to wonder if "this is it" but isn't sure either. It’s important, though, to try to relax, and sleep if possible to help preserve your energy for the real work. Our Bradley Method class recommended going for a walk, having a drink of wine or an alcoholic beverage of your choosing, and going to sleep. A playlist for this phase of labor should then encourage relaxation, peace, and calm.

These are the songs I’ve been listening to the past few days while I work that bring me joy when I’ve gotten sad about my dog mostly because of the memories they induce.

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Early First Stage Playlist

  1. Arms - Christina Perri
  2. Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Chello version
  3. Sea of Love - Cat Power
  4. Hotel California – Eagles
  5. Peaceful Easy Feeling - Eagles
  6. Everything’s Gonna Be Alright - Bob Marley
  7. Georgia On My Mind – Ray Charles
  8. Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley

Next is First Stage Labor or Active Labor. This is the point in time when Mom realizes that “This is it.” Mom is actively searching for ways to get more comfortable between contractions, and will start losing modesty. This is when I imagine I’ll need some Girl Power music as motivation. Something to help me focus but also distract me from getting overwhelmed. A lot of this music is the kind of music I like to work out to. Fitting?

First Stage Playlist

  1. Cheap Thrills – Sia
  2. Just Like Fire – Pink
  3. Fighter - Christina Aguilera
  4. Just Dance - Lady Gaga
  5. Survivor - Destiny's Child
  6. Elastic Heart - Sia
  7. Hair - Lady Gaga
  8. Formation – Beyonce
  9. Stronger - Britney Spears
  10. The Greatest – Sia
  11. Try - Pink

Next is Late First Stage or Hard Labor. This is when movement starts to slow down for Mom. She is getting more inward, losing more modesty, and stops talking. She’s concentrating.

Hard Labor Playlist

All I can think about musically for this part of labor is Sound Machine music - white noise, rain, ocean waves. If I’m trying to concentrate on breathing and making sure my body is relaxing, lyrics could get in the way of that.

Transition - All beats are off. No playlist necessary

Transition comes next. This is when control is essentially lost. Mom has let go of inhibitions and is making her own sounds/music now. Oftentimes, at this stage, is when Mom might throw up or get the shakes because of the frequency and intensity of her contractions, which come on top of one another. This phase can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour and a half typically. Something encouraging about this phase is that it is the shortest one.

After Transition, labor progresses to Second Stage or the more familiar “Pushing” Stage. Now that I’m typing this out, my playlist seems a bit silly. But, since I’m really feeling this music lately, this is what I envision for my Second Stage playlist (judge away):

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Second Stage Playlist  

  1. Flawless - Beyonce
  2. Stronger - Kanye West
  3. Mask Off – Future
  4. Humble - Kendrick Lamar
  5. Bounce Back – Big Sean
  6. Trap Queen - Fetty Wap
  7. Portland - Drake ft. Quavo & Travis Scott
  8. Starboy – The Weeknd

With the pushing comes baby (at least I am told). Eventually a baby arrives. Even when it may seem as though it never ends, there will be an end and that end will produce a baby. This reality gives me comfort whenever I get anxious about how labor will unfold. After the baby is born, there is still more laboring to be done. Though celebratory, Mom still needs to focus on delivering the placenta, which signals Third Stage.

Third Stage Playlist

  1. Anything Can Happen – Ellie Goulding
  2. Halo - Beyonce
  3. First Day of My Life - Bright Eyes
  4. Signed, Sealed, Delivered - Stevie Wonder
  5. Coldplay - Yellow
  6. XO - Beyonce
  7. In My Life - The Beatles
  8. Starting Over - John Lennon
  9. You Are The Best Thing - Ray LaMontagne
  10. Forever Young – Youth Group
  11. All You Need is Love – The Beatles

It’s so hard to plan for something when you have no idea how it will unfold. You’re preparing for something that will most certainly not go according to plan. There is no plan when it comes to labor. No one can tell me or foresee exactly how it will go down or even when it will go down.

For the longest time, I’ve had a feeling that this baby will come early, but more and more, people are reminding me lately that first babies almost always come later than the due date.

I keep planning for my labor based on my August 25 due date. I keep thinking, “Oh, in three weeks, I’ll be at home with the baby” or “I have to go do ___________ next week because after a few weeks, the baby will be coming any day.” But, really, he could arrive now. He could arrive tomorrow. Whenever I remind myself of this, I freak out. Then again, he can choose to arrive in September! The uncertainty of it all and not knowing when labor will start is so mind-boggling to me. What happens if I start labor at work? What happens if I’m driving? What if it takes days? What if it happens super fast like it did for our childbirth instructor? What if my husband is out of town? What if it’s before 37 weeks (I’m only a few days away, but if it’s not officially 37 weeks, I have to be admitted to hospital)? What if I am over two weeks due and nothing has happened?!

With all this uncertainty, there are little words to really describe how I’m feeling or how I envision what my labor will look like. This is where music has helped fill in some blanks, as music always has throughout my life. Whether or not I am actually playing these songs during my upcoming labor, this music has helped me visualize the events unfolding how I best can see them happening. I imagine, that can’t hurt.