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Rock Blocking: Sade's voice is perfect when the contractions come five minutes apart.

Push It

Don't put off making a birthing soundtrack to the last minute

By Todd Inoue

'LOVELY DAY" by Bill Withers—that was the song I wanted playing when my son, Maceo, was born two weeks ago.* Of all the preparations—birthing classes, breastfeeding tutorials, hospital tour, pain/anger management, etc.—my wife and I were stumped by one important detail: the "birthing soundtrack." It sets the mood in the delivery room, and it is the first music a baby hears when he exits the womb, instantly exposing him to the good stuff before Barney, the Wiggles or Britney gain a foothold.

This was my expertise, I thought. Withers' upbeat, summery ode to joy bathed in cool '70s soul spoke volumes without being cloying or sappy. Maceo is named in honor of James Brown and Prince saxophonist Maceo Parker, after all, and we couldn't fake the funk.

It was a priority for me to come up with the playlist, but I kept putting it off. I settled on "Lovely Day" but knew I had to have some songs that would divert attention from the pain. I imagined a mix with plenty of Sade ("By Your Side" was first runner-up), Roy Ayers ("Everybody Loves the Sunshine," "Daylight"), Björk, Maxwell and Marvin Gaye. I imagined chill-out stuff like Matmos, Polyphonic Spree or Asobi Seksu. I've long enjoyed the sustained crush of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Maps" and thought it would be good bear-down material. I joked that when labor got real heavy, I'd have Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It" or Bone Crusher's "Never Scared" ready to get her over the hump. I was definitely overthinking but wasn't stressing. He was due on July 29. Plenty of time.

Or so we thought.

Being part Japanese, Maceo came to the party early—two weeks early, to be exact—before I could get a list of songs together and burn a CD. Heck, he arrived before most of the baby furniture could be assembled. Labor was an ordeal; I could write a second column about our misdiagnosed pre-labor signs. "Dehydration cramps" we were told by the on-call labor and delivery nurse up until her water broke in our bedroom at 1:30am Thursday. It was a delusional 2am drive to the Redwood City hospital—rerouted from the Santa Teresa hospital five minutes away. Friends and family were appalled. Don't worry, we're over it now.

I managed to get the directions, pack the car, toss in the infant seat (still sitting in a bag in the garage) and mash the pedal. CDs? Radio? iPod? Forget it. The soundtrack instead was a steady churn of uterine contractions every three minutes, wifey's strained groans broken up by "hee-hee-hee, huh-huh-huh" breathing techniques and a gurgling train wreck about to dock in my pants. Within 45 minutes of arriving at the hospital, Maceo pierced the atmosphere around 3am after five sets of hard pushes. Mom and babe came through fine.

I returned home to tidy up after the CSI: Hard Labor episode we experienced the night before. I installed the car seat and pulled the Bill Withers CD from the rack. We discharged on Friday, strapped Maceo in, cued up "Lovely Day" and hit the diamond lane headed for home—tired, happy and content.

*This is the first and last baby-related music story I'll write. I promise.

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From the July 27-August 2, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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