Get Your Freak On

by Kejal Macdonald | 03/18/16

Kejal Macdonald

Last spring, as I was preparing for the birth of my daughter, I started building a delivery playlist. Yes, it's exactly what it sounds like: music to have playing while giving birth. Labor can be a marathon, and for me, five minutes on the treadmill without music is agonizing enough. I wanted to be pumped up when push literally came to shove and I was expelling a human out of my vagina. 

I knew the right music would give me energy to transcend those grueling hours of labor and help me approach birth with more enthusiasm than fear. With a mix of old-school rap and current hip-hop favorites, I planned to dance that baby out under the watchful eye of my doula, Missy Elliott.

But then, as I gleefully added tracks to my playlist, "Drop It Like It's Tot," a twinge of worry crept in. What would my nurses and doctors think if I timed my contractions to the steady beat of M.I.A.? Would other soon-to-be mothers be appalled when they heard DMX barking from my delivery room? In less time than it takes Busta Rhymes to motor mouth through Break Ya Neck, my mood went from Adele rapping Monster to Drake reading mean tweets.

Fortunately, my defiant, self-protective voice piped up. So what if a nurse raised an eyebrow at Nicki Minaj feeling herself? And on the flip side, what if she didn’t? What if she thought coaxing my daughter out to a Lauryn Hill lullaby was actually helpful? What if the soothing croon of Usher's voice got my doctor into his  groove? I was giving birth in the same hospital as Beyonce, after all, and you KNOW she and Jay weren’t bumping Enya in their luxury birthing suite.

In hindsight, it's clear this Biggie vs. Tupac-sized internal struggle was between my existing personality and my new role as a mother. Listening to rap while giving birth isn't something moms typically do. And there it was. I was buying into the very idea I wanted to rebel so hard against: that women have to censor or water down their personalities when they become mothers. That corners need to be rounded off to protect babies. That the act of creating another human life somehow robs you of your own. 

That's when I had my aha! Oprah Moment™ (Trademark pending). I realized that if I don't want to crumble every time I get the side eye in my new role as mom, I have to completely have my own back 100% of the time in order to avoid the unnecessary guilt and expectations that are flung around so readily in parenthood.

Now, you might be wondering, "Ok, but did she rock the playlist like a boss or wimp out??" I'm glad you asked. When the day arrived, my water broke at home, and the first thing I did was....order some bahn mi from Seamless. What? A girls gotta eat! Then we scooted over to the hospital, and got settled into the delivery room.

As the contractions started coming on stronger and faster, I knew the time had come for some rhythmic respite. I breathed through the next wave of pain and then nodded to my husband to turn on the tunes. But instead of a steady baseline coming through the speakers, we heard the loud beeping of my fetal heart rate monitor alarm. Six minutes later our daughter smashed through the front wall of my stomach like the Kool Aid man. I didn't even get a chance to plug in my playlist. 

When I came across this video recently, I had a major case of #DeliveryGoals envy. Next time, time. 

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