One of my favorite labor preparation activities was creating a birth playlist. I knew that I’d be laboring primarily at home, and as all the books and our childbirth class suggested, I wanted to create a cozy, comforting environment, filled with sights, sounds, and smells that were relaxing to me. As physical as I knew labor would be, I anticipated a lot of emotions (I was right!) and favorite music can be a great way to channel those emotions. The key to a great labor playlist is using songs that strike a chord within you, songs that affect you and have meant something to you over the years. My list incorporates tons of different songs from a million poignant moments in my life and it was comforting to gather those moments around me and use them to help me through such an insane, intense experience. The list below is divided into two parts–phase one is relaxing, intended for early labor, and phase two is energetic and motivating, for when things get real. really real. pushing a baby out real.
Selections from Phase One (the whole thing is four hours long, so this is a truncated version)
For the Widowers in Paradise, for the Fatherless in Ypsilanti, Sufjan Stevens–This is such a gorgeous and heart rending song. The repetitive lyrics “I’ll do anything for you” are great motivation during labor.
Sweet Disposition, The Temper Trap–Sunny and beautiful. I dare you not to like this song.
Such Great Heights, The Postal Service–Totally zen.
Hyperballad, Bjork–Charged with emotion.
Please, Before I Go, Derek Webb–I get misty just hearing the opening bars of this song. This song played alongside the slideshow at our wedding.
Treefingers, Radiohead–It doesn’t get more relaxing than this.
Let Go, Frou Frou–A great reminder.
Please Forgive Me, David Gray–So romantic.
Kingdom Come, Coldplay–Optimistic.
Things I’ve Prayed For, Eli–Old school CCM. Goofy in its honesty, just like me.
Your Hand in Mine, Explosions in the Sky–The song Evan and I danced to at our wedding. If you think a song without words can’t make you cry, try this one out.
I Wish, R. Kelly–Sad song. Mostly makes me think of good times in college.
Afraid of Everyone, The National–I love this song. It has the words “I don’t have the drugs to sort it out,” which seemed especially apt for a natural labor.
Brothers on a Hotel Bed, Death Cab for Cutie–sad and beautiful.
Hold You in My Arms, Ray LaMontagne–Makes me think of my man.
Love Comes Quickly, Memphis–Oddly enough, I first heard this song playing in rotation when I worked at Ann Taylor (I know, I can’t believe I ever worked there either) and whenever I would hear it I would have to stop and listen.
Yawny at the Apocalypse, Andrew Bird–Another one that’s totally zen.
Have a Little Faith in Me, Joe Cocker–This was on a great friend’s wedding playlist from many years ago. I love this song and I still love that playlist.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Sufjan Stevens–My favorite Christmas song. Malcolm was a Christmas baby.
The Park, Feist–I used to play this song when I worked as a live musician. Evan would come and watch me play and this song always makes me think of him.
Soldier On, The Temper Trap–Perfect message for labor.
Picture in a Frame, Tom Waits–I love Tom Waits and this is one of the first songs I played for Evan for him to like Tom Waits too. I’m still working on that one, but we both love this song.
Fix You, Coldplay–Such a tearjerker.
Quiet, Rachael Yamagata–Another one I used to play at Potbelly’s. An apt title.
Lay, Lady, Lay, Bob Dylan–Dreamy and romantic.
Slow Show, The National–perfection.
Selections from Phase Two
Feel Good, Inc., Gorillaz–The maniacal laughter at the beginning of this song actually makes me think of labor.
Kids, MGMT–kind of frenetic and also kind of poignant.
Work It, Missy Elliot–If you knew me in college this song needs no explanation.
Poker Face, Lady Gaga–This song takes itself too seriously. Which is good when you have to get serious.
Barracuda, Heart–Hardcore ladies WORKING IT OUT. This song rocks.
Push, Madonna–needs no explanation.
Beautiful, Snoop Dogg–There will always be a tiny place in my heart for Snoop Dogg.
Little Secrets, Passion Pit–This song will get anyone going.
1901, Phoenix–Great pop.
Ready to Start, Arcade Fire–let’s do this.
Love Lost, The Temper Trap–sweet and energetic.
Shut Up and Let Me Go, the Ting Tings–no seriously, shut up and let me go, I’m in labor.
We listened to Phase One many, many times during labor, and it was awesome. We never got around to listening to Phase Two, though, because by the time I was pushing in the hospital, I was too far gone to listen to music. Besides, I wouldn’t have been able to hear it over my own screaming. But I love that anytime I hear any of these songs now it reminds me of that crazy, gorgeous moment. And when Malcolm’s older I’ll make him listen to it and he’ll think I’m really old and roll his eyes when I start crying. But that’s ok.