Tuesday, October 21, 2008

RSVP: Enya or Salt N' Pepa? Classic Dilemma.

I am thrilled to present another fabulous guest post, courtesy of my dear friend Actchy. Back in 1994, a young woman from Jersey headed to the Midwest for college and ended up living down the hall from me. My friends and I (sophomores) and hers (freshmen) hit it off and have been "letting the dawgs out" ever since. Actchy and I have shared many laughs in many locations--from our dorm's study lounge (a funnier place than you'd think) to the arcade at the Santa Monica Pier where we showed the assembled crowd what was what on the Dance, Dance Revolution Machine. She authors her own blog, where you can read an account of a dentist visit that will have you crying with laughter or a story of singing that will make you smile and fill you with joy. Actchy is a writer, a foodie, an environmentalist, a musical theater geek, and an awesome friend. Enjoy her post . . .

I am expecting a baby. This baby, gender unknown, is due to arrive on Christmas Day. As I don’t have any other children, I’m not entirely sure what to expect in the delivery room. I’m not exactly scared, per se, but I have been thinking of ways to approach labor, of coping mechanisms, if you will.

You might suggest that the best way to cope would be to plan on a nice healthy dose of pain medication. You might be right. But I’m up in the air as to whether to have an epidural, or whether to go it alone. I’ve heard good and bad sides of both approaches. My sister, who is so woozy with respect to all things medical that she won’t let her husband watch “E.R.”, despised the after-effects of the epidural she had with her first child. She went natural for her second two. Other friends, including, I believe, NTB’s own MEP, found the epidural to be the best comfort-providing invention since they came up with the brassiere.

So I figure that I’ll play “wait and see.” Which probably means that I will, in fact, have an epidural.*

Irrespective of this, one thing I have decided will be helpful during labor is an Ipod stocked with appropriate childbirth music.

Now, as I have mentioned once or twice over at Beyond Pickles I don’t have particularly terrific taste in music However, I freaking love music. I will listen to and allow my mood to be shaped by just about anything: from classical music to classical rock, I’m all over the map. You can ask my husband. He is eternally bemoaning how annoying it is that we share an Itunes library:

“Seriously? You downloaded the live version of Sonny and Cher singing ‘I got you, Babe’… purposely?”

For the most part, I try to limit my listening to Barbara Streisand’s “The Broadway Album” to times when my husband is not at home. It’s only fair. Especially since there are some artists we like equally (read: Springsteen, Dave Matthews, Coldplay.) However, if there is one time when I get carte blanche to listen to whatever the hell I deem appropriate, it’s while I’m in labor.


Of course right.

And that’s where I’d like to appeal to the general readership of Not To Brag… Did you listen to music while you or your partner was in labor? What did you find helpful? Even if you have never given birth, are there certain songs you find inspirational? Ones that egg you on for another mile when you go running?

I really would love to know.

I’m not exactly sure what I’m looking for, so really, all suggestions are welcome. I know that in college, when a roommate would leave for an exam, we’d often play “The River” by Garth Brooks.** Inspirational, yes. But to me, this seems a little too slow for purposes of childbirth.

Who knows? My sister ended up listening to Enya, and that’s nothing if not slow. Actually, for the record, she continually asked her husband to turn the volume up on the Enya, for she “couldn’t hear it.” My poor brother-in-law, who is actually legitimately hard of hearing, ended up with ringing in his ears for two days, and had to apologize to the entire floor for the super-loud New Age dance party going down in Room 213. (Again, no pain meds…methinks the contractions took over her senses.)

When I jog on the treadmill, something I haven’t done for, oh, half a year now, I must admit that I am inspired by “Gonna Fly Now,” i.e., Rocky’s theme. (What do you want from me; I grew up just outside Philly.) However, I think if that were playing while I was in the throws of a contraction, it might be a little too…appropriate. Especially during the parts when there are actual words to the song: “Trying hard now…it’s so hard now…” I do sort of want to avoid the maudlin, if at all possible.

I’ve also always loved “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves,” by Aretha Franklin and the Eurythmics. It’s very powerful, and this sort of up-with-women message seems appropriate for the task at hand. Kind of Red Tent-ish, even. However, I don’t necessarily want my husband to feel…unnecessary. Or excluded. I mean, clearly I didn’t get myself into this condition by myself.

At this point, the only songs I know for sure I’m going to include on the playlist are the Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” and “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. Both are just so thrilling, but seem to allow me to concentrate when I’m listening to them.

Right. So, I won’t go through every song on earth; you catch my drift.

I hope you will help.

And really: no suggestions for “Push It.” We are above that kind of pun, no?

*Indeed, when I awoke in the middle of the night last week by a vicious charley horse, my first thought was, “Well, clearly I can’t handle natural child birth, for this leg cramp is about my threshold for pain tolerance.” Um, okay. Actually my first thought was, “WHAT THE @#*% IS WRONG WITH MY CALF? Followed by the aforementioned.

**Yes, I like country music. I can’t help it. I have to admit, when I arrived at my undergraduate university, fresh from New Jersey, I was astounded to find out that there were people my age who actually listened to country music. Back home, the country station was all the way the hell down at the far end of the dial at 92.5, clearly reserved for Pineys But in South Bend, there were, like, multiple country radio stations – and I went to parties where everybody sang along to country songs. Anyway, by the time I graduated, I was a fan. What can you do?

Thanks, Actchy! You never have to apologize for listening to country music at NTB! So, how about it, readers? Any suggestions for Actchy and her husband as they prepare to enter the delivery room and the world of parenthood?


Anonymous said...

great post! i remember watching an episode of "ER" where the mother needed to hear "Blackbird by the beatles while delivering. it seemed appropriate. "I have always waited for this moment to arrive".
If that song is not your bag, i would suggest going thru your beatles collection or greatest hits cd( no matter what taste a requirement) and finding a fab four song that suits you. they have every kind of song for every kind of mood, and am sure one will strike the right chord.
i also have a strange connection to paul simons Graceland album and your family. South african rythems might mellow out a stressful situation. Congrats on your upcoming birthing event. i hope it goes just magicaly:)
stephen H.

LAP said...

I no doubt have worse taste in music than you so won't even attempt to guide you in that way. I am more of a tv girl, and I enjoyed watching tv during my first two labors (up until the pushing part).

To be honest though, the epidural proved a fantastic way to go for me personally. I could feel enough to know what was going on, but my husband and I just casually hung out in the hospital room until the doctor announced it was time to push. At that point, I was too focused on the doctor's instructions of when to push and when not to push that I am not sure I would have noticed if any music was playing.

Good luck in your decision. Perhaps make a few playlists and see where the moment takes you...

Bailey said...

I decided against bringing music because I too couldn't figure out what to bring. My musical tastes lean toward louder music and I did not think it would be comforting to bring an Ipod full of Faith No More. I went the TV route, although I was so tired I didn't end up watching much of it. My husband and mother watched CNBC most of the day bemoaning the state of the stock market.

I got an epidural and was glad I did. My contractions went all night long and I did not sleep a wink. We went to the hospital at 3 am, I was admitted at 4:30 am and my daughter didn't arrive until 6:47 pm. I got the epidural at 8:15 am and it allowed me to sleep most of the day.

Good luck with everything and congratulations on your pregnancy!

Anonymous said...

"Back in Black" by AC/DC & Metallica's "Enter Sandman" got me through the last few miles of the NY Marathon, but I'm not sure how well they translate here? I also have on my cardio playlist "Low Rider" and "Psycho Killer" - good for the treadmill, but maybe not so much for labor? What about "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" or "Closer to Fine"? Those always get me happy, and are perhaps a bit more appropos!
Good luck!
Beth B.

Anonymous said...

I have been known to tell people that the epidural was the best money I've spent in my life. FYI.

As far as music suggestions go, I have none, but I second LAP in regards to TV watching. I watched "Gilmore Girls" during my first labor experience (post-epidural, of course), but because my second baby came fast and we were still reading the baby name book, I had no time on that one. We did come prepared with a DVD ("Friday Night Lights"! Love it!), and the next day was nice to watch some tube that was not the hospital's how-to-change-a-diaper channel. So pack some DVDs with those iTunes.

Good luck!

Sara G.

Anonymous said...

I have to pull rank as the expert and the only OB/GYN reading this blog. I remember when in residency one of the patients delivered to "Jayne Says" the acoustic version and I said, "I always loved this version the best." and she said "I have a cool doctor". I don't think you can go wrong with music in the delivery room. Whatever helps would be the motto. My own wife was ready for some fifty-cent when it came time for the delivery. This was 3 hours into pushing. Good luck. It's much easier to go natural the second time. As I always think to myself when someone says "we're just going to play it by ear", they're going to get an epidural. BAMA

Actchy said...

Thanks, guys! I do appreciate all the helpful suggestions and commentary, and in particular, the well-wishes. Keep 'em coming: I am taking notes and have been borderline obsessive at checking in on this post.

Stephen: You are correct re: the Paul Simon Graceland connection to my family (a subject perhaps worthy of its own post over at BP...) And funny you mention Blackbird, as that song has pregnancy-related history in my family. It was very popular when my mom was pregnant with my sister, and the very sound of it turns her stomach to this day. She felt it was on her radio every morning when she was getting sick during the first trimester. I like it, though...

As for those of you who suggested hard rock, I think I feel you on this. I am definitely thinking of Insane in the Membrane, which I've always loved, as well as some Beasties.

Closer to Fine = genius. Ditto on Jayne Says.

I will keep in mind the idea of brining along a DVD or two; I'm not much of a TV girl, but if I go epidural, I may really be wishing I had some at my disposal, and given the time of year of my "confinement", I'm not sure how many times i"ll be able to stomach watching It's A Wonderful Life. (Note to self: get "Heatmieser" on DVD, pronto.)

I've also thought to buy a David Sedaris book that I'm hoping my hubby will read to me. Short, silly anecdotes would probably be more my speed...I sometimes get a little stressed by the small screen.

CaraBee said...

Without going into the whole birth story, I will say that I went in with a NO EPIDURAL attitude but after 8 hours of contractions and the promise of many more, I called in the anesthesiologist. Bring on the painkillers, doc. I dont' regret it at all, but crazy enough I will try to go med-free for our next one. As far as music, although I brought my mp3 player, I didn't really use it. I watched TV mostly, it is more distracting to me than music.

I think I would go for a combo of soothing ballads, country would probably be good for that and upbeat rockin', techno, rap, whatever floats your boat, to get you motivated.

Anonymous said...

when i helped my friend and fellow blogger cake deliver, i found it to be much more of a Sweet Honey in the Rock kind of experience than an AC/DC kind of experience, but i know everyone's different.

that said, i agree that paul simon's graceland and indigo girls and maybe some cat stevens or john denver -- something that suggests home for you, something to welcome the child. may i suggest candles or soft lighting instead of DVDs or television? reading material that'll crack you up is a great idea, esp. as you begin. cake and i did a lot of laughing when we arrived in the delivery room.

whatever you choose, you're going to do great, actchy!

much love,
your brother

Christine said...

In what will likely be one of the more bizarre suggestions you will receive, I am throwing Missy Elliott's beloved "Get Your Freak On" into the ring....it's helped me on many a long run, and I think it may be oddly apropos in a childbirth scenario....Good luck (and, on the "drugs vs. no drugs debate," I quote the great Blanche Deveraux---"I plan to give birth the way God and nature intended; strapped to a table, numb from the waist down")

CJR said...

"You never even called me by my name" would be my first choice.

A complete works of Prince, Keith Sweat, Barry White and Marvin Gaye would allow you to focus your mind on the conception instead of the delivery.

If it is a Thursday-Saturday night, consider a live feed from the Linebacker where people also sweat and yell and spend a lot of time in uncomfortable positions.

Good luck, Love Regan

cake said...

I have to weigh in on this too, though your brother already mentioned my best choice:sweet honey.
i picked a stack of cd's including some meditation music, and some brian eno, thinking i'd want something relaxing, but when we put in the sweet honey (something i rarely listen to), i knew it was right, and at one point, the whole birthing team was in tears at how perfect to the moment one of the songs was ("On Children").

i guess the TV/no TV question is all about your approach to birthing. do you want to be distracted, or do you want to be fully present? i wanted to be fully present, in part because i was going the natural route, and in order to pull that off, i felt like i would need to really focus and be completely positive, and ready to work harder than i'd ever worked in my life. i was lucky to give birth after only 5 and a half hours of intense labor, and no drugs. i know that scenario is rare, but i like to share it anyway, because it really helped me to hear about positive natural birth experiences. it helped to ease my fears, and fear is your worst enemy in the birthing room.

if you are seriously considering going without the epidural, i suggest reading"Ecstactic Birth: the Hormonal Blueprint of Labor" (found online in _Mothering_ magazine)
and finding a birthing class that will guide you towards this as a real possibility. playing it by ear will probably, as you and others suggest, result in an epidural.

i was thrilled to feel so good, and be so clear headed, and for my baby to be clear headed too, so we could gaze into one another's eyes, moments after he emerged.

all that said i must add this: every woman is different, every pregnancy is different, and every birthing experience is unique. like i said, i was LUCKY, and i KNOW that. i don't judge any woman for choices she makes around delivery, breast feeding etc. you never know what complications each woman might be dealing with.

best of luck in your decision making.

MEP said...

My birthing experiences both times were positive and straightforward. Water broke at home, yet I did not start contracting on my own and was given meds to induce contractions. Had the epidural when I felt I needed it, slept/talked with my husband and mom for a few hours, woke up and pushed for less than an hour. No television (though my husband watched an ND basketball game the first time around while I slept) and no music either. I have to say that the epidural did not make me feel foggy or disconnected from the experience.

I would say that moment when you meet your child is miraculous no matter how you choose to spend the hours leading up to it.

cake said...

i completely agree with what you said at the end there, MEP. i couldn't figure out how to say it, you did a beautiful job of it. thank you.

Sarah D said...

Congrats on your first baby! My hubby and I struggled w infertility for years and went thru all kinds of stuff that I won't bore you with here. But, during some of our infertility stuff they told me to bring music. On one occastion on brought the soundtrack from 'Garden State' which is a nice mix. Anohter time, even thought it was not Xmas, I brought The Charlie Brown Christmas Album because it makes me happy. I wanted to listen to something that left me thinking happy thoughts. (ps, we got pregnant that time)
God bless you if you decide to go natural. I was asking for the epidural while they were checking me in at the front desk. It was the best thing EVER. (After hours of pushing, I ended up having a c-section, so it was a moot point for me anyway. My baby was 10 lbs 2 oz and she was stuck in the birth canal)
In the delivery room I didn't want to read or watch anything related to parenting or babies after 3 years of reading and watching and talking about everything baby. I had a nice stack of trashy gossip magazines. We also brought TV on DVD. We watched a lot of Arrested Development. We planned on watching more DVDs during our stay, but it hurt too much to laugh after my surgery. I had to tell my hubby to turn it off!
I hope you have a great birthing experience no matter which way you decide to go. I know meeting your baby will be the greatest thing that has ever happened to you and your husband!

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