Let's talk about birth playlists that don't revolve around Enya

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Photo by Stephanie Kaloi.

Jill sent us a question about labor playlists — you know, music to birth by! She specifically wondered what kind of lists you guys have made that DIDN'T include Enya (Enya fans: she means no harm!). I never got to make one, so here's some of the songs that I would pick if I were giving birth like, right now.

Personally, I feel like birth is WAY too unpredictable to have a perfectly organized playlist (what if you want to listen to something in a different order? Or nothing at all?), so I just tried to stick with my faves. You'll notice this is heavy on the sixties and seventies flower-child lullabies (Dylan, George Harrison, Led Zeppelin) and singer-songwriters (I can't help it!), but I tried to keep it diverse. Who wouldn't want to try to dance through labor?

These are a few of my favorites songs divided up into hopefully labor-and-birthing-appropriate categories:

Happy, Fun, "This isn't as bad as I thought it would be!" Tunes

When you need something to make you comfortable/zen you out.

"Oh, shit. Labor might be hard."

When labor gets really hard.

"YAY MY BABY IS SO AMAZING! I AM SO IN LOVE!"

So, what (if anything) did you guys listen to? If you have a playlist saved or blogged online, link to it!

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  1. I listened to Cocteau Twins' "Heaven or Las Vegas" on repeat when I was in a rocking chair, going through contractions. It was soothing, soaring, not overwhelming, beautiful and seemed to flow with the flow of my body. It didn't hurt that I had an emotional attachment to the album.

    1 agrees
  2. This made me LOL since people kept suggesting Enya to me. I had Dead Can Dance, Sinead O' Conner, Azam Ali, even Depeche Mode, The Cure and a variety6 of other music.

    5 agree
  3. I was going to push to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture … only I ended up having to have a C-section. But I felt like building up to the rout of the French army would be a great crescendo for pushing and keep me motivated.

    5 agree
  4. I love this post, because a few years ago I was asked by some friends to make a birth mix CD for them with "Calm but Purposeful music" on it. I'll have to dig up the whole playlist later today but I do remember that the first song on the CD was "Let's Get it On" – because if you take the "Baby" in the long literally, it's quite good for labor!

    "I've been really tryin', baby
    Tryin' to hold back this feelin' for so long
    And if you feel like I feel, baby
    Then come on, oh, come on"

    7 agree
  5. In the begining, I listened to my favorite pagan music, Damh the bard.

    Then, when I needed something to distract me after I got in the labor pool, I watched Friends on DVD.

    1 agrees
  6. I only had music for the first little while, and then wanted silence in the room. But I listened to really calming stuff, not Enya…Sigur Ros, Cybo, Fleet Foxes, Air, and M83.

    1 agrees
  7. At first I took my playlist very seriously. I pondered themes and song order. Eventually I surrendered to my every idea and had a playlist packed w. a variety of stuff. I had everything from the Beastie Boys to the Cure to the Allman Brothers Band. I even had Motley Crue…Home Sweet Home, I can't help it – I just love it. And of course, the song we named our daugher after (Little Lilly – Widespread Panic). It worked out great as I was in labor for a long time and went through many moods! Plus I could just yell to my husband "skip it" and instantly I was in a better place!

    7 agree
  8. I listened to Toots and the Maytals for the first hour of my 2-hour labor, and couldn't hear anything but myself after that πŸ™‚

    4 agree
  9. I had a playlist consisting of Viva Voce, Iron and Wine and Kings of Convenience when I wasn't watching Comedy Central.

    2 agree
  10. I listened to the Beatles greatest hits, just mellow enough to keep me calm for 38 hours of baby escape!

    2 agree
  11. I've still got to make mine (I have-hopefully- about ten weeks left!), but I know it will have plenty of Bob Marley because he relaxes me. Also some Hootie and the Blowfish because for some reason when I hear a Hootie song I get really, really happy. The rest will just be a mix of my favorites (my taste in music is all over the map so there will be plenty of variety). No Enya. For some reason, Enya is like nails on a chalkboard to me. No clue what it is- my husband loves her!
    (Oh, and to the poster who mentioned 'let's get it on', in our birthing class a couple weeks ago we were talking about playlists and our instructor told us about a woman who- totally unexpectedly- could ONLY listen to that song on repeat during labor. At one point her husband got embarrassed and turned it and it took her over an hour to get back into her rhythm! Yikes!

  12. We put our Pandora account on random and just went with what ever came on. The only songs we skipped over were the Christmas ones -she was born in February- and anything Michael Buble. Our stations are so random and include just about everything. It sparked some fun conversations with my family and midwives and kept the laughter up which was a big help.

  13. I think I'd want some of my motivational favorites like Harry Connick Jr. "With Imagination (I'll Get There)" Indigo Girls "Hammer and a Nail" and Flaming Lips "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah." Okay, so some of those are about activism, not birth, but they inspire me and get me pumped and ready to get stuff done! πŸ™‚

  14. I was pushing through Slipknot, Jack Off Jill, The Eagles, Tenacious D, Stevie Ray, CCR, Blue Oyster Cult, The Beatles, Buddy Wasisname, and a horde of other Newfie/Irish songs, metal and classic rock songs. I don't remember much, but I do recall it being like a kitchen party, including the some nurses and my sisters doing a little jig. It was apparently a very fun 36 hours, until they said I needed a c-section, anyway.

    1 agrees
  15. My labor playlist was crucial for me. Some how when I was putting it together I just knew I'd want rhythmic, repetitive stuff, so my playlist was heavily Radiohead and trip hop centric.

    I had the majority of Radiohead's "Hail to the Thief", some Muse, some Ratatat, some Massive Attack. The music was exactly what I needed!

    • Thanks to this comment I 'Googled' Trip Hop which I'd never heard of before. I've got to say that I'm liking the songs I've found so far, so thanks for sharing! πŸ˜€

      1 agrees
  16. I would say to just pick out music you LOVE. I wanted to be active during labor and have been a singer my whole life. So I picked groovin' songs I knew all the words too. Lots of Aretha, Sharon Jones, Weezer, Led Zeppelin, Heather Nova, Ben Folds, on and on and on! then we just put the list on shuffle. There were some slow songs in the mix for sure, but in the end My doctor kept telling my husband to turn up the music because he could tell it was helping me! I even remember the Doc rocking out to some Hendrix at one point. The first song to play after my son was born? Wagon Wheel By Old Crow.

    2 agree
  17. For my first son, all I remember is Dolly Parton's Little Sparrow playing the moment he was born. I know I had GNR in there and some hip hop though too. For my second go 'round, I'm compiling mostly "womyn with a Y" music to which I can hopefully zen out: Indigo Girls, Brandi Carlisle, Ani, the Butchies, the Duke Spirit, Hope for a Golden Summer, Tift Merritt, Neko Case, Cat Power, Patty Griffin, PJ Harvey, and of course, Dolly. My plan is to draw on the collective strength and brilliance of all of these women. We'll see how that works.

    1 agrees
  18. it was a mixture of Green Day's American Idiot, Beck's Sea Change and a cover of the Beatles "Blackbird" by Elliott Smith. πŸ™‚

    3 agree
  19. my husband made an awesome mix we kept on shuffle for 12 hours…

    some made me laugh, dance and i even had a happy cry during pushing when i was moved by a particular goldfrapp song

    vibrate by outkast, happiness, clowns, little bird, headfirst by goldfrapp, nothin' on you, b.o.b., love you girl by robin thicke, prince, badu, it's good to be here by digable planets… everyone loves the sunshine by roy ayers, somewhere of the rainbow by israel k, fix up look sharp by dizzee rascal, the seed by the roots, something, norwegian wood, the word (and more) by the beatles, tears for fears, some arrested development, pure imagination medley from willy wonka, ALPHABEAT!, ghetto musik by outkast, brand new colony by postal service, some bjork… Hey Ya – obidiah parker version… lovely day by bill withers…

    after the little lady came he made a mix cd called 'mommy's smile maker'

    1 agrees
  20. I ended up with Brian Eno's Another Green World on repeat for about 4 hours. That album, particularly the first track Sky Saw can for some reason help me float through the world and is what i needed for labor.

  21. I listened to Dead Can Dances 'SpiritChaser' through two labors. Helped me relax and concentrate at the same time (and as a side note I used my husbands crazy eyebrows as a focal point LMAO!)

  22. I had a planned c-section due to a hip defect… I bought along one CD of William Byrd's beautiful Masses for 4 and 5 voices and one of my favourite pieces of all time, Vaughan-William's 'Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis' for string orchestra, which they put on just as my daughter was ready to be hauled out, leading to a nice chat with the anaesthetist, who was a Vaughan-Williams fan!

    I might make a mix CD for the next one… thinking of some Lamb, Orbital, Underworld (mellower moments of!) among others.

  23. this is all awesome! i'm due tomorrow and working on my playlists tonight (oops). glad my question ran today!

  24. My daughter was born to "Rubberband Man" by the Spinners, but the rest of the playlist was pretty eclectic. There was a LOT of Morcheeba, as well as tracks from Hot Chip, Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend, Moby, Daft Punk, Bill Withers, Basement Jaxx and Portishead to name a few. I made my playlist weeks ahead of time and listened to it for a couple of days to weed out the songs that I felt would bug me. After my daughters birth my midwife and doula both told me how much they really like my playlist. I'm working on baby #2's list right now and still listen to baby #1's all the time.

  25. Yay! Flaming Lips for the win!

    Like many of you, my wife had the playlist all ready to go on her iPod, but when it came to it we ended up with Radio 4 (we're in the UK. Good old BBC). Contractions started around 3am, so we switched it on and left it on right through our wonderful home-birth. You know you're up too early when you hear Farming Today.

    Around 11:30 a new series of Ed Reardon's Week started (a comedy programme on Radio 4). Shuffling into the bathroom for the final few contractions, my wife curses the fact that she can't listen to it properly. That's the woman I married!

    James

    2 agree
  26. I adore Muse (and have done for many years), and have all their albums which provide the perfect mix of slow/bombastic music so will have the albums on loop on my ipod. I also recently discovered (thanks to OBBT) Vitamin String Quartet who have done amazing covers of Muse songs and will probably put a pile of them in the list also for instumental music.

  27. Through the easy part of the labor I just had the Beatles playing. It kept me motivated because my daughter's name is Penelope-Lane : ) But once the shit hit the fan, i wanted absolute silence, that meant no heavy breathing or rapid movement! roar!

    1 agrees
  28. I didn't listen to much until it was time to push. I remember them telling me I was fully dilated and me saying 'Wait, wait! I need Bob Marley!' Four songs in our baby boy was born. Three Little Birds was the first song the little man ever heard with his own ears. I was definitely super grateful that I had music with me.

    • That's my baby's in-utero favorite song! He loves all reggae, but he always dances like mad to that one. πŸ™‚

  29. I listened to entire albums of Do Make Say Think; Radiohead; Clap your Hands Say Yeah; and Broken Social Scene during my labour. While I pushed and when my daughter was born I had Cat Power's version of 'sea of love' Music was a key part of my process.

  30. I had HOURS of music put together. One energetic playlist (that I never listened to) full of all of my favorite songs to sing and dance to, mostly oldies. And the other was all slow stuff. I didn't pay attention to the mood or lyrics, just whether they sounded relaxing if you weren't really paying attention to them. So lots of Iron & Wine and the Beatles. "Perfect Day" by Loud Reed played right after Atticus was born. Nobody remembers what was playing while he was being born, though. Probably something awesome.

  31. I'm not pregnant yet, but I was able to jot down a few songs off the top of my head: Hey Jude by The Beatles, Can't Take My Eyes Off of You by Lauryn Hill, Hand in My Pocket (acoustic) by Alanis Morissette, The Scientist by Cold Play, Hallelujah by Rufus Wainwright, and Brighter Than Sunshine by Aqualung (the song my husband and I danced to at our wedding.)

  32. My friend swears that "Alive With The Glory of Love" by Say Anything is what got her through the birth of her son last year. She had that song on repeat for 13 hours. Her fiance now jokes that only a song about getting freaky & falling in love during the holocaust could make a woman in labor feel better about her situation.

  33. I ended up heading to the hospital while on a date with my hubby and didn't have anything with me. I had to have an emergency c-section and they had a top 40 station playing in the OR. I was worried that my son would enter the world to a Lil Wayne or Enrique tune, but the moment he came out, it was Colbie Caillet's "Bubbly" I was ok with that.

  34. My first labor was a 12+ hour induction… the first half was mostly sleeping and television, and the second half was all dub, especially Augustus Pablo, and some Black Uhuru, etc. It was all very meditative and rhythmic, so I guess you could say it was the Enya of reggae?

    For both of my labors, I wanted nothing to do with sound from transition through pushing. No matter how peaceful the music, it felt like it was weighing down on me.

  35. I actually never had a playlist per-say. I played the Beatles constantly during my pregnancy and even put head phones on my belly playing the Beatles while I was pregnant so during labor all I did was take my laptop and play the Beatles. I also had them playing constantly while we were in the hospital after boogie was born.

  36. A lil' bit close to Enya, but one of my mine would definitely be The Mummers Dance by Loreena McKennitt. I am one of those people who hate listening to music when I am in pain, but that one is an exception.

    Plus it has to do with the tradition of "mumming" which from what I understand took place during spring and was linked to fertility and such. Fits for me ;-)!

    2 agree
  37. This cracked me up because I DID have Enya on my list and somehow did not realize it was so cliche. The funny thing is, I never listen to new agey music normally, but it was perfect for laboring because it helped me get into the hypno-birthing state I wanted. I also had violin by Joshua Bell, Enigma, Mark Isham, Michael Nyman, and Solas (Irish). I would suggest a few different playlists b/c you can't predict what you will want to hear if you've not been in labor before (and it might not be anything like what you normally listen to, like it was with me). Also, I suggest practicing listening to your playlists and relaxing to them because–at least for me–it created an association so that I automatically relaxed when listening to the songs during labor.

  38. I didn't have anything planned. So, it just happened that my husband was listening to Johnny Cash during the early part of labor. I have to say that I love peace and quiet, so after that there was nothing but silence for me.

  39. Gravity by A Perfect Circle for both baby #3 & #4, got me through a 4 hour fast labor and a 44.5 hours slow labor, and continues to be a lullaby to both. Baby #4's labor, I sang with, sometimes yelling with the song, and I know I got some odd looks as I would yell out "I choose to live, I choose to live!"

    Thrown into the mix was NIN, Type O Negative, The Cure, Led Zep, Ozzy, Ministry, Skinny Puppy, Tool, basically anything I knew the lyrics by heart and could sing/screech/yell with the song, became my focal point. Gravity is the one that got played the most.

    1 agrees
  40. We did Pink Floyd's Echoes. It worked, although the doctor made us turn it down when he came in the room.

  41. I am always down for some Bon Iver. I like how you divided it into categories like that!

  42. My little boy was born to Morning Yearning – By Ben Harper.. I recommend a listen if you don't know it !

    But every year I i also play him , Ben Folds Five – the luckiest .
    πŸ™‚

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