My Birth Playlist

My Birth Playlist


At some point late in this pregnancy, I decided that I wanted music playing during my labor.

More specifically, I decided that I wanted to craft a “birth playlist.”

This is not all that unusual.  Lots of women create playlists for their labors.  (Long ago in the dark ages, did they also create mix tapes???  Oh, how I miss the days of mix tapes!)

But even as a self-declared music lover, I never once considered choosing music to accompany my other labors.  I knew that I’d want quiet, even absolute silence, and that is indeed what I wanted and received when I gave birth to Alec.

Something shifted during this pregnancy, however.  Instead of wanting to turn completely inward during labor, I’ve found myself desiring to reach out and latch onto something–to music, as it turns out.  And though this shift is unexpected (for I am a notorious “inward-turner”), it’s not all that shocking either.

I’ve played piano since I was five and guitar since I was fourteen.  I once held dreams of being a rockstar (and had a brief stint in a band during college).  But more than that, I’ve holed myself up in my room, or driven in my car, or even just zoned out with a walkman/discman/iPod and literally melted into my favorite songs for as long as I can remember.  (And yes, I did this even as a little girl–the sort of little girl who, at five years old, said that all she wanted for Christmas was a Beatles tape and a Beethoven tape.  And I still have those tapes, by the way.)

So.  I’ve spent lots of time and thought putting together this playlist.  And mostly, what I’ve looked for were evocative songs: songs whose lyrics or rhythms or moods evoked something that I want to, or expect to feel during labor.

Not all of them are quiet songs.  (Iggy and the Stooges, anyone?)  Not all of them have lyrics that are happy or inspiring.  But I have chosen all of them very carefully.

And at the risk of hyperbole (which, let’s face it, is one of my best friends), the songs themselves are pretty much one of the most intimate portraits you’ll get of me at this moment in time.


My Birth Playlist (as of 1/18/12, for I add a few each day)

“All Apologies” – Nirvana  (Evokes: me at fifteen, spacing out to music in my bedroom for hours at a time)

“All These Things that I’ve Done” – The Killers  (Evokes: an emotion that I can’t name, but that I like)

“Baby Hold On” – Dixie Chicks  (Evokes: beauty, and a little badassery, for I was one of those people who bought my first Dixie Chicks CD because of all the “controversy” surrounding Natalie Maines’s political statements)

“Bad” – U2  (Evokes: lyrics that suggest surrender are a “good thing” during labor)

“Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” – John Lennon  (Evokes: well, duh, right?)

“Born to Run” – Bruce Springsteen  (Evokes: my wanderlust, and some of my pre-mother self…which is not necessarily a bad thing to remember during labor)

“Both Sides Now” – Joni Mitchell  (Evokes: a moodiness and melancholy that has been present for much of this pregnancy)

“Bridge over Troubled Water” – Simon and Garfunkel  (Evokes: the calm, quiet, inspiration that I just might need)

“Calling all Angels” – Jane Siberry, with k.d. lang  (Evokes: peace, and everything I felt after watching The Business of Being Born [the song is playing at the end of the film])

“Concierto de Aranjuez (Adagio)” – Miles Davis  (Evokes: the mystery and dance of labor; Sketches of Spain was also one of my favorite albums when I was pregnant with my own Miles)

“A Dustland Fairytale” – The Killers  (Evokes: everything that is bombastic and desperate and lovely about Killers’ songs)

“Eet” – Regina Spektor  (Evokes: whimsy and beauty, for it is a whimsical and beautiful song)

“Everest” – Ani DiFranco  (Evokes: the pace and heights and depths of labor; many thanks to the reader who suggested this song, which I had all but forgotten about since my days of listening to it ad nauseum!)

“Exit Music (For a Film)” – Radiohead  (Evokes: holing up in my room and zoning out to music–particularly this song–during college)

“The Face of Love” – Eddie Vedder with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan  (Evokes: a beautiful, hypnotic pace)

“Falling Slowly” – Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova  (Evokes: oh, just one of the most beautiful love songs ever, and one that could easily be sung to my unborn child)

“Fire and Rain” – James Taylor  (Evokes: so much that I’ll simply wait to explain until after the baby is born)

“The Gambler” – Kenny Rogers  (Evokes: a great attitude about labor, and a song that will probably bring a smile to my face too)

“Heaven is 10 Zillion Light Years Away” – Stevie Wonder  (Evokes: an absolutely splendid, upbeat labor rhythm)

“Here with Me” – Dido  (Evokes: lyrics to remind me that all of the work of labor is bringing me to my baby)

“Holocene” – Bon Iver  (Evokes: tranquility)

“Independence Day” – Ani DiFranco  (Evokes: a good rhythm and pace to fall into during labor)

“In My Life” – The Beatles  (Evokes: love and loss, friends and family come and gone)

“Into the Mystic” – Van Morrison  (Evokes: Tim, who gave me my first Van Morrison album as a birthday present a mere three days before our first kiss)

“Just Breathe” – Pearl Jam  (Evokes: tenderness and bittersweetness)

“Learning to Hunt” – Guided by Voices  (Evokes: all the wishes I have for my children; they are lyrics worth posting on here some day)

“Many Rivers to Cross” – Annie Lennox  (Evokes: some sadness, which is alright–I might need to delve into some sadness during this labor)

“Mary’s Waltz” – Over the Rhine  (Evokes: just downright gorgeous vocals)

“Moonlight Sonata” – Beethoven  (Evokes: a simple song that I’ve always loved to play)

“Moonshadow” – Cat Stevens  (Evokes: a song that I simply like–need I say more?)

“Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters – Elton John  (Evokes: a beauty and sadness that I love; probably my very favorite Elton John song)

“My Funny Valentine” – Frank Sinatra  (Evokes: the little one we lost on Valentine’s Day last year)

“Nocturne No. 2 in E Flat Major” – Chopin  (Evokes: peace and beauty, like so many Chopin pieces do for me)

“Oh! You Pretty Things” – David Bowie  (Evokes: a nice rhythm, and a little bit of humor)

“Orange Sky” – Alexi Murdoch  (Evokes: an almost meditative pace)

“Sail” – Awolnation  (Evokes: another great labor rhythm, and a little bit of “rocking out”–which is exactly how I plan to approach this birth)

“Scared at Night” – Kathleen Edwards  (Evokes: that place of darkness that I’ll need to confront before I can come out “on the other side” and greet my baby)

“School Spirit” – Kanye West  (Evokes: the pace of the second stage of labor; I listened to this song a lot when I was pregnant with Alec)

“Search and Destroy” – Iggy and the Stooges  (Evokes: balls to the walls rocking out)

“Shake it Out” – Florence + the Machine  (Evokes: inspiration and confidence)

“She’s Got a Way” – Billy Joel  (Evokes: the way I wanted my future spouse to think of me some day, and the way I think of my own spouse now)

“Silent all these Years” – Tori Amos  (Evokes: everything that Tori songs evoke in Tori fans like me)

“Silent Night” – Sarah MacLachhlan  (Evokes: peace, heavenly peace even)

“Songs without Words (Op. 30 No. 1)” – Mendelssohn  (Evokes: a gorgeous piece, and another one that I adore playing)

“Sweet Thing” – Van Morrison  (Evokes: the first song we danced to at our wedding)

“Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 in G Major” – Bach, performed by Yo-Yo Ma  (Evokes: the sound of the cello, which might very well be my favorite instrument to listen to)

“These are the Days of our Lives” – Queen  (Evokes: quite possibly one of the cheesiest songs that Queen ever wrote…but one that just seemed appropriate for my playlist)

“This Woman’s Work” – Greg Laswell  (Evokes: the power of birth, and the surrender to it)

“Time has Told Me” – Nick Drake  (Evokes: that melancholy again, a feeling or even atmosphere that, strangely, I love visiting in music)

“Try a Little Tenderness” – Otis Redding  (Evokes: sway and swagger, and a different way of rocking out a labor)

“What a Wonderful World” – Louis Armstrong  (Evokes: our wedding day, for we played this song as everyone walked down the outdoor “aisle”)

“With a Little Help from my Friends” – Joe Cocker  (Evokes: pitch perfect lyrics, and a version of the song that I can just melt into)

“You Got Me” – Crash Kings  (Evokes: a little sexiness, and a lot of rock n roll)

“You’ve Got the Love” – Florence + the Machine  (Evokes: are there any Florence + the Machine songs that don’t make you want to go out and kick some butt?!)


If you created a labor playlist, what songs did you include on yours?

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  1. Sarah (Well Rounded Birth Prep)
    Sarah (Well Rounded Birth Prep)01-12-2012

    Very interesting. I had been jotting down my labor playlist ideas for 6 months, but didn’t actually put the playlist together on our iPad until pre/early-labor the night before I had our last baby (Christmas Eve 2011).

    Many of the songs I chose (or had on my wish list but didn’t want to shell out the $ to download) evoked memories/feelings of pre-motherhood freedom, strength, independence, identity. It was interesting to me that you mentioned the same.

    Here was my list:

    Have a beautiful birth! I look forward to hearing your story. I’m still trying to type up my birth story. You know how that goes. It’s too big to put words to.

  2. Kami

    No Salt n’ Peppa- Push it ?

  3. Heather

    How timely! I am just today starting to think about what songs I want to put on a play list or play lists for birth. So far I have just a few thoughts, including:

    Bjork “All Neon Like” (I love the calm strength in a lot of this album, and the lyrics on this one are just right)

    Ani Difranco “Everest” (For the calm meditative tone more than anything else. There are a few of her songs that fall into this category).

    Leonard Cohen “Dance Me To The End Of Love” or maybe “You Have Loved Enough” (I love the mystical quality of his lyrics. It is hard to find songs that aren’t too dark. These are two that hit the right balance for me.)

    Tori Amos (Haven’t figured out what song/s yet but she will definitely be invited to the party. Considering “Little Earthquakes” purely for the line “Give me life, give me pain…”)

    Well this is just early thoughts at this point. Trying to strike a balance between calm/melow and strong/empowering and inspiring/mystical. Maybe when I have a finished list I’ll come back and post here.

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas

      I can’t thank you enough for reminding me of “Everest”–YES, I SHOULD have this on my list!!! And I definitely need some Leonard Cohen, and probably some more Tori Amos too. (I have seriously considered including “Little Earthquakes.”)

  4. Molly

    How interesting–I’m in the midst of doing this too, with a funny sort of seriousness. I’m calling mine my oxytocin list and making judgments based on whether songs inspire that … um … hard-to-describe flying open oxytocin feeling for me. We listened (and danced) to our wedding music during my first labor but had zero interest in putting together a tailored playlist the first time around.

    I’m totally embarrassed by the combination of songs that apparently remind me of oxytocin, but perhaps I’ll be inspired by you to share mine when it’s ready! Thanks for posting this.

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas

      I really like how you’ve framed your songs choices as ones that inspire that oxytocin feeling because that is very much what I’ve been trying to get at with this playlist. And yes, I’d love to see yours!

  5. Danielle

    I love your list! So many of those songs evoke the “oxytocin feelings” in me, too.
    I am really looking forward to putting together a labor playlist for my baby due in July. Your list was inspiring!
    Wishing you a beautiful, easy, and even fun birth!!

  6. Heather

    Oh and speaking of songs and pregnancy, the song I keep finding myself singing to him/her in the mean time is “Hang On Little Tomato” by Pink Martini

  7. Renee Smith
    Renee Smith01-12-2012

    I LOVE THAT YOU INCLUDED “SEARCH AND DESTROY”… that song plays when Steve Zissou freaks out on the Ping Island and takes out a ton of pirates in the film “The Life Aquatic” by Wes Anderson. That is a getting the baby out of the belly kind of a song. If you have not seen that scene or that film, may I strongly recommend it because I think you would like it a lot based on my time reading your blog.

    “All These Things that I’ve Done” is another awesome song, and it gives me the same excited/tingles-in-my-chest type of feeling every time I hear it.

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas

      YES!!! OMG, I love that scene, and I love the film too. And I love that you thought I would love it.

      See, this is why I’ve always said I want to have a blog slumber party some day. :)

  8. Anwen

    So many songs I love :-)

    Two suggestions:
    “Song for the Unborn” – Mari Boine (from the album ‘Eight Seasons’)

    “From Which I Came/ A Magic World” – Eels (from the album ‘Blinking Lights and Other Revelations’)

  9. Rachael

    I made a labor playlist for my son, but I never got to use it because my labor was crazy fast and I had him at home (unplanned). BUT I still like to listen to it sometimes. Here’s what was on it:

    “Drifting” by Sarah McLachlan
    “What a Wonderful World/Over the Rainbow” by IZ
    “House at Pooh Corner” by Kenny Loggins
    “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz
    “Baby Mine” from Dumbo by Alison Krauss
    “Soon Love Soon” by Vienna Teng
    “Let It Be” by The Beatles
    “Answer” by Sarah McLachlan
    “Lullaby” by The Dixie Chicks
    “Surrender” Contemporary Christian Song
    “Sway” by Bic Runga
    “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” and “When You Say Nothing At All” by Alison Krauss & Union Station
    “You’re My Home” by Billy Joel
    “Maybe In a Prayer” by Solas

    I also had “Calling All Angels” on mine – so beautiful!

    “Drifting” and “Let It Be” were particularly powerful for me. My first birth was very mellow – low lights, quiet, soft music. That’s sort of the feel of my playlist too.

  10. my birth playlist
    my birth playlist04-13-2012

    […] of Birthing Beautiful Ideas inspired me to be brave and share it when she wrote her own "My Birth Playlist" post back in January–so thanks, […]

  11. Daniel Betancourt
    Daniel Betancourt03-05-2013

    A wonderful mix of songs. This was a great help in finding some good songs for a playlist for my wife.

  12. Jessica Bartels
    Jessica Bartels07-10-2014

    What about Carly Simon's Let the river run!

  13. Amanda Varney
    Amanda Varney07-24-2014

    Such a good mix of songs! Has helped me piece my list together. Thanks so much!

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