The Longest Shortest Time

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy

Yesterday I interviewed Kate Bowman-Johnston, who recently wrote an article on LST for Catapult magazine. In the article she mentions a song from her childbirth mix that made her cry often after her daughter Adelle was born. It reminded me of the mix that I’d made for Sasha’s arrival.

The view from my hospital window the day Sasha was born

The view from my hospital window the day Sasha was born

Before things went awry, I got to labor in the hot tub in my hospital’s birthing suite. It’s one of the fond memories I have of giving birth. Yes, I was in pain. But there was something sort of romantic about the whole thing. There was a blizzard outside and I could see snow slanting down against the window. The music I’d picked for this crazy, crazy event was playing on the laptop nearby. “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” from Cannonball Adderley’s Live at the Club came on. I remember sitting there in the bubbly hot water, trying to tell myself what my midwife had told me: that the more you give in to each contraction, the sooner the baby will come. And that today was my baby’s birthday. (It wasn’t; that came the following day.)

Anyway. I was thinking about what Kate wrote in her article because I found that after Sasha was born, I couldn’t bring myself to listen to the music from my labor mix. Every time one of those songs popped up on shuffle, I had to make a mad dash to switch to the next track because otherwise I’d be sobbing uncontrollably. There were enough things that made me sob uncontrollably and I figured I didn’t need to add another thing to the list.

Here’s the thing. As I write this, I’m listening to “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” for the first time in 14 months—for the first time since I was in that hot tub. And . . . no tears. I’m sure one day I’ll hear that song and it’ll hit me just at the right (or wrong) moment and it’ll send me straight back to the dark days after childbirth. But it’s nice to know that a song can just be a song again. Or a song with a little snow in the background.

For me it was “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”; for Kate it was “Burt and Elvis” by Sarah Masen. What’s your song?

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