“Childbirth is more admirable than conquest, more amazing than self-defense, and as courageous as either one.” – Gloria Steinem

Your birth playlist: a hospital bag essential

Lest you start thinking my doula blog is actually a food blog…

Let me change gears a little bit here.*

We all know how profoundly music can shape our experiences. You might put on a mix of certain songs for your ‘50s-housewife-themed dinner party, or plug into your 6am-sunrise-chaser playlist while you lace up your running shoes, to help you get motivated and focused. Lots of yoga teachers use recorded or live music to enhance their classes or create a particular vibe.

Why not put a birth playlist in your bag?

I made a playlist in preparation for the birth of my second baby. Well, I started one. It was really short (1 hour, 10 minutes), and I had planned to add to it. A couple of weeks later, I went into labour five weeks early, which was such a surprise that I forgot all about the playlist. In the delivery room, when I stopped denying that I truly was in active labour and there was no turning back, my husband asked me if I wanted him to turn on the music. I think I said sure, whatever. Suddenly A Tribe Called Quest and Bad Plus were there helping me get through each contraction, and they turned out to be fabulous labour companions. Crazily coincidentally, my son was born as the last song on my list (Ong Namo by Snatam Kaur) was playing. Now whenever I hear any of the songs on that list, I’m instantly transported back to that brief, joyful, euphoric time in my life.

Of course, you may not feel like hearing music at all while you’re in labour—it might be sensory overload. Or you might decide that the tunes you picked out while hanging out a month ago in your living room with a cup of tea while in no pain whatsoever totally do not work at all now that you’re in the birthing centre. That’s OK. Make one anyway, just in case.

Consider putting together a mix that’s longer than mine was, at least four or five hours long.

(Yes, that’s a lot of music.) Don’t overthink it. Just brainstorm, and include songs or entire albums that you love: music that gives you joy, makes your spirit soar, reminds you of a time in your life when you felt like your best self, takes you back to a happy childhood. Absolutely any genre. Don’t worry about whether the songs are “appropriate” for something as sacred as the birth of your child.

You can arrange them in order from, say, more mellow to more energetic, like Spotify did when crafting their birthing playlist. (I’m listening to it now, by the way, and REALLY liking it. In fact, I may use it for my next long run. 🙂 ) I think that’s too much work, though, especially since it’s impossible to predict what, if anything, you’ll truly want to listen to, and when, during labour. Just throw everything you love on the list, then press Shuffle on your big day. If it works for you, you’ll have another cherished memento. And if you don’t end up using it during the birth, you can retitle it Baby’s First Playlist or something like that, similar to what this parent did.

*And in case you ARE a food lover, be sure to check out my useful recipes for birth and postpartum: Raw truffles: the perfect postpartum snack? and I’m only here for the cake.

About the author: I’m Heather Marr, a certified birth doula in Montreal, mom of two, and eternal wanderluster. When it comes to pregnancy, birth, and new parenthood, it’s about the journey AND the destination. I’ll support you every step of the way.

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