Music has always been a part of Destiny Martin’s life. So it made sense to bring her first child into the world with song. She even had the perfect one selected: the Beatles’ “In My Life.”
The mix CD she prepared for her delivery had a sampling of loving and peaceful music, from “Seasons of Love” from the “Rent” soundtrack to “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.
So three years later, Martin, 29, still finds it funny that baby Jolie entered the world not to Paul McCartney, but to Metallica.
Martin had put the song “Nothing Else Matters” on the CD as a nod to her metal-loving husband, and that’s what happened to be playing when their daughter was born. Martin said she finds the song’s message appropriate.
“Nothing else matters, that’s the whole point,” she said. “It never works out like you expect it.”
Martin’s efforts to usher her child into the world with music, down to having the song selected, are yet another way mothers are customizing their labor and delivery environment. And hospitals are doing their part to accommodate the trend, from piping in music to providing CD players or allowing parents to bring iPod docks and laptops.
Childbirth experts say couples are increasingly making music a part of their births, and the emergence of MP3 players allow them to draw from a wide variety of songs.
Tina Cassidy, author of “Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born” (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006), said it’s natural for women to want music around them during labor.
“If you go way back into history, singing was always a part of giving birth,” Cassidy said.
In cultures around the world, a birth was traditionally a social time for women, who would gather to offer their support to the mother, including singing hymns and other songs of encouragement, she said. Sometimes the mother would even sing along.
Today’s moms are using music in a variety of ways in the delivery room, bringing everything from meditative tapes to help them relax, to Salt-N-Pepa to help them, literally, “Push It.”
Siobhan Mueller, 36, of Arlington, Va., made an iTunes playlist of her favorite mellow comfort songs for the birth of her first child, including a W Hotel CD that conjured memories of a great trip she and her husband had taken.
“I had heard that this whole ‘childbirth thing’ was painful, so I knew that I wanted to be comfortable, and bring as many comfort items as possible,” Mueller said.
And a comfortable mother can make for a healthier baby.
“The benefits are that (music) does, in a lot of patients, blunt the stress response, which actually can contribute to some problems during labor, such as decreased blood flow to the fetus,” said Dr. Fred Schwartz, an Atlanta physician considered a pioneer in using music as medicine.
Schwartz is the producer of Transitions, a series of CDs that use instrumental music, actual womb sounds and a soothing woman’s voice to help infants sleep and women relax during childbirth.
“Music is extremely effective to decrease their discomfort,” he said.
Hospitals allowing women to create their own birthing environment is a far cry from the days when women were expected to give birth alone, cut off from their husbands and at the mercy of male doctors, Cassidy said.
“We’re so used to controlling every aspect of our lives, and birth is the final frontier of that,” Cassidy said. “We go into it with this feeling of control and of keeping the same level of control we have in our work life.”
That need to be in control can get moms into trouble, however, especially if they think the birth will go precisely according to their plans. Trying to deliver to a certain song is a sweet idea but highly unlikely, experts said.
“You’re cruising for a bruising if you’re laying your expectations on everything going by the numbers,” said Scott Adler, managing editor of BabyCenter.com.
Cassidy was even more direct: “At the end of the day, the best laid plans tend to go out the window — along with the iPod,” she said.
Keep in mind these tips for making a mix:
Do be prepared with eight or more hours of music. “The biggest mistake people make is they make one CD, and it’s not long enough,” said certified nurse-midwife Susan Huser. “By the 10th time they’ve heard that song, they’ve had it.”
Do make playlists or CDs for different stages of labor. The first phase is time for cheerful, upbeat music, while later stages require more focus and meditative tunes.
Do prepare songs for the down time between contractions and pushing, when music can ease relaxation.
Do discuss your musical choices with your birthing partner beforehand.
“In My Life,” Beatles
“Seasons of Love,” the cast of “Rent”
“These Are Days,” 10,000 Maniacs
“Push It,” Salt-N-Pepa
“I’ll Be There for You,” Bon Jovi
“Beautiful Boy,” John Lennon
“Beautiful Little Girl,” Cherie Keaggy
“The Luckiest,” Ben Folds
“Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor (Pathetique),” Beethoven
“Freebird,” Lynyrd Skynard
“You’ll be Blessed,” Elton John
“Pennies from Heaven,” Louis Prima
“I’m Coming Out,” Diana Ross
“The First Cut is the Deepest,” Sheryl Crow