I’ve been away from work and the internet for a while working on a massive project – building a baby! Having always been completely fascinated by music’s power to move us and change our perceptions, I thought there would be lots of music specifically for giving birth – but nothing came up. Which was ironic, I thought, considering that for conceiving a baby there are any number of musical accompaniments available! So I created music especially for me and anyone else going through the intense experience of labour, birth and early parenthood.
This album is very special to me – I wanted music that had calmness at its heart to support the incredible and inevitable journey from pregnancy to parent, but I think it’s also a very enjoyable listen if I just want to zone out and remember how to breathe.
Talking of which, this instrumental music complements all kinds of breathing rhythms during stages of labour and birth. I composed it while pregnant and only completed it half an hour before labour!
Originally I wasn’t going to release this music or talk publicly about my experience (it’s so personal!) but below I explain exactly why I chose to do so.
So yes, I had a baby – he is awesome. And for anyone interested in why I wrote such an album, I’ve shared my very personal story about conquering a lifelong phobia of giving birth below the track listing. If you’re not interested that’s fine too – in any case it’s good to be back, baby! Normal streaming, tweeting and writing about music, inventions, technology and synaesthesia will soon resume.
Relaxing Music for Giving Birth Tracklist
TRACK 1: Incarnation. Labour, Birth and Calm
Over an hour long and can be repeated seamlessly throughout labour. will play on multiple devices and speakers without sounding out of tune or out of time. It also works as a continuous loop. I didn’t want music to get in the way of my breathing or the physiological process of giving birth – this was actually the hardest part, making sure it was musical and rhythmic while still leaving space for getting into the zone. I had this track on repeat throughout my labour.
Plus – Bonus Tracks for after the big day to give the new family a gentle soundtrack for those first utterly indescribable weeks….
TRACK 2: Serenity. Soundtrack to a Contented Baby
Serene piano sounds soothe and support a calm environment – contains a unique ‘white noise blanket’ – to soften any unexpected sudden sounds from outside that might startle a new baby. It seems to soothe my little one!
TRACK 3: Relaxation: Sleepy Parents, Sleepy Baby
Encouraging even breathing; aims to elongate any rare moments of calmness and sleep – not that you’ll get much sleep over the first months of parenthood! I found this really helped my little one settle. A sleepy soundtrack to chill out with the new arrival. For babies AND parents.
No apologies for massive wall of text below!
HOW THIS ALBUM WAS BORN
(NB don’t worry there are no scary bits. It contains music, a little tech and a deeply personal story behind the album)
During my pregnancy I made the dramatic transition from lifelong tocophobia (fear of giving birth to the extent of insisting on a C-section under a general anaesthetic) – to Active Birth enthusiast – being conscious throughout a completely natural water birth using hypnobirthing and active birthing techniques in a birth centre.
If you are struggling with tokophobia you are not alone, and there are lots of great resources that helped me – at the bottom of the article I’ve added some links in case you would like to explore different approaches.
the start: terrified mum-to-be
At 5 months pregnant and incredibly tocophobic, I felt trapped and stuck – my lifelong fear of natural childbirth had me crying at every clinic appointment and insisting on a C-section under a general anaesthetic even though I was also petrified of medical procedures. At the hospital, when the midwife mentioned how an epidural worked I fainted. As I regained consciousness, the consultant midwife’s face swam into view, sitting by the bed. He sounded kind – and asked me in his gentle B Flat voice to tell him everything.
It all came out – as a kid I’d lost my mum to cancer and had to spend way too much time in hospital, especially near the end. Add to that those horrible ‘educational videos’ and the terrifying depiction of women giving birth in the media – always involving screaming in pain or dying – lying on their backs, passive and helpless – Nope! No way did I want any part of that thank you. “Just knock me out and get it out without me having to be involved”, I said, shakily drinking warm water from one of those conical paper cups that you can’t put down.
The consultant midwife listened patiently and amongst other things suggested I look into using the birth centre – a much less medicalised environment which historically had higher outcomes with little medical intervention. He gave me a tour of the rooms – and even through the tears I could see there were things to bounce on, soft areas to chill out in, a big bath – the opposite of a hospital bed.
Being science-led I started to research into alternative ways to give birth – surely there was a better way than submitting to a C-section? Could this be something I could learn? I liked learning! I’d learned to solder a few years ago and was now quite confident. Surely there’s a way out through knowledge? At 29 weeks pregnant the sense of inevitability was growing: the baby’s got to come out somehow. And I reckoned this birth centre looked so much more approachable than the sterile bright lights of a delivery suite shown in many fictional birth scenarios. This was when hypnobirthing and active birth techniques started to intrigue me. I was reading about women who gave birth and could walk around afterwards. During labour they seemed intensely emotional – not in pain – not shouting – just being in the moment during labour. And many of these women didn’t use medication during the process, saying they didn’t feel they needed it.
What?! I didn’t believe this for a second.
How was this even possible? My phobia kept reminding me I would die or split in two giving birth. But evidence to the contrary was piling up once I crunched the facts – birth centres and home births were more likely to have good outcomes in normal straightforward pregnancies like mine.
Luckily my path crossed with a few very special people. One of whom was Janet Balaskas, a formidable and incredibly passionate woman who pioneered the Active Birth movement. She believes that women can have better outcomes if they become more informed and therefore empowered about what happens during labour, and that instead of lying back on a bed, there are many other positions to give birth in that are much easier for mother and baby. Janet holds regular pregnancy yoga classes at her practice in North London. At the first few lessons I was still crying at the thought of the baby coming out. She smiled at me, gave me a very sweet hug and said “LJ, you’re stronger than you think,” and mentioned I might benefit from learning a little about hypnobirthing and what our body actually does when we get ready to give birth.
Interesting, I thought – most of us don’t worry about physiological activities like going to the loo, or swallowing food – we generally leave our body to it – the process happens on its own, and when it doesn’t, well that’s when most of us get a medical professional involved. Janet talks about how giving birth is just another physiological process that fits the same criteria, and that our brains just need to be aware and trust our bodies to get on with it. I thought this was very much like composing music, a balance of allowing this primal and natural process to occur while being gently mindful of the whole composition evolving.
preparing for the big day
Anyhow, at 30 weeks I threw myself into further research, learning about the progression of labour – signs of what was going to happen when – and how to speak to medical professionals in a way that was respectful and helpful to everyone involved. I wrote a birth preferences plan with the help of the consultant midwife to help whoever was on call the day I came in. I reasoned I could learn to fix my fear in the same way I learned to fix my iPad. Keep learning and find help when stuck. At my yoga classes every week there was another story about a birth that was not painful and traumatic but joyful and exciting. Of course there were some stories which had complications but in each case the mum was involved in all the decision making (instead of being passive) and got the best possible outcome for both her and baby.
After a few more weeks of immersion in the active birth culture (and in giant contrast to the medicalised delivery I had previously thought was the only way out of my predicament) I wished nothing more than to go to the birth centre.
D major belly!
As I was planning to be conscious for the delivery I composed this album – beginning at 32 weeks pregnant. I guess this was my version of ‘nesting’; a phenomenon where pregnant women get their place ready for the new arrival. For inspiration I wanted to hear what the baby was hearing – the closest I managed was pretty good – a friend of mine lent me a foetal doppler which I rigged up to my computer using a microphone passthrough and a USB audio converter. I recorded the inside of my womb because I wanted the music for birth to be in the same key that the baby had become used to, a gentle introduction to the world! It was in D Major! Strangely while I was writing, the baby in my tummy seemed to gently swim around in approval when I got the chords right, so I guess they should get a co-writing credit!
At 33 weeks I’d listened lots to the hypnobirthing tracks, practiced my breathing and generally found out lots of information about what really happens when you have a baby… and then through another fabulous stroke of luck an extraordinary lady called Jill Benjoya Miller introduced me to Wendy Green, a Doula (professional birth helper) who had accompanied many women through this process. Amazingly with 6 weeks to go she was available to be with me on the big day.
36 weeks in, composing was in full flow – I now had my bag packed: nappies, cheap pyjamas, slippers and an impressive selection of chocolates and snacks in case I got peckish. The bag was mainly snacks.
So at 39 weeks and 5 days I and my massive tummy put the finishing musical touches on ‘Incarnation: Labour, Birth and Calm’ – the music especially for giving birth. I was so wide I could barely reach the keyboard. It was definitely happening, and soon. Now I was finally ready for what was to come. I was equipped with three very powerful things to have at one’s disposal: knowledge, music and a willingness to be kind.
I transferred that music file to my devices – and half an hour later applied the TENS machine to my lower back as I could feel a gentle buzzing in a lower D octave. Such a musical call to action! That night I went to the birth centre – the midwives were of course amazing. They’d read my birth preference document requesting a quiet dimly lit environment, and for no-one to talk about needles or pushing or pain meds. I felt ‘in the zone’ in the same way when I compose – a sense of being nothing and everything. I saw colours of green, yellow and blue. Majestic waterfalls made of ice and stars. A symphony of deep indigo and crispy diamonds. Music of indescribable beauty in harmony with the music I was playing. Before too long this impossible little baby swam up to meet us after a straightforward water birth. You know what, the process was not painful – just intense. I’m surprised to report that I actually sang during the last few minutes of my labour. I sang my baby out! His first sound heard through the air was me singing – of course in D-Major! The team around me were so supportive – plus I really felt like the music helped me stay ‘in the zone’ and relax into the experience. I ate all the chocolate and snacks during labour, and would have eaten more.
As mentioned at the top, I wasn’t going to release this music or talk publicly about my experience (it’s so personal!) but I decided to for these reasons:
1 14% of women suffer from tocophobia and I was one of them. Let me stress I was most certainly terrified at a phobic level, not just normal pregnancy anxiety. I would cry myself to sleep. But gradually things started to shift. And over the weeks I started to explore new possibilities – what if I was a woman who could do this? And it turned out – I was! So if my story helps just one person have the courage to question whether they could think differently about their own tokophobia then I’m glad I’ve shared it. We all have the power to explore alternatives to being restricted by fear.
2. So many people I’ve spoken to suggested that a LOT of women are searching for music to help create a suitable atmosphere for such a life-changing experience – something that’s more than a playlist of popular tunes, something made especially for a unique moment in life. That’s exactly who this album is for! If this music is enjoyed by just one family, if it’s helped them create a gentle supportive environment – that would make me indescribably happy. I love that idea. So please let me know, and thanks so much for reading this story. To anyone (pregnant or otherwise) who’s also attempting to climb over an impossible looking obstacle, keep going! You’re stronger than you think.
Actually I would be incredibly grateful if you have time to write a lovely review (that is, if you liked the music!) I hear that it has a positive impact on visibility in search results!
NOTE: If you are pregnant and phobic and reading this I want to re-iterate; I’m a real person (not being paid to write this post!) and thought that getting over my fear of giving birth was impossible. Even now I am amazed and proud that I managed to gain power over a lifelong and ingrained fear. And if I can, then perhaps you might like to think that you can do it too.
Other Music by LJ Rich
Thanks for listening ! LJ
p.s. Of course being a parent is an incredible learning experience, I’m glad I did it – though I happen to think it’s equally valid to choose not to be a parent too. You don’t have to be pregnant or have a baby to chill out listening to this !