I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve
my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
‘Cause you’ve deepened
the conviction in my soul
Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to
I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman
I was 6 years old and singing and dancing to Helen Reddy’s amazing words and message. I grew up with these words. They were instilled in my body.
As a birth doula for over 14 years and a prenatal yoga instructor for the past 10, I sometimes have a gentle, quiet laugh inside when moms talk about their “birth playlist.” I chuckle because for many mamas, those songs are never played for one reason or another. I certainly didn’t have any expectations of hearing a specific song on my birthing day.
This past fall, at 38 years old it was finally my turn to stretch, move, transform, and walk the walk that I have been teaching for over a decade. I knew so much about how to support others’ birthing, but wasn’t sure how I was going to do it myself. I had seen mamas birth in so many ways using so many different techniques and tools, that the mystery of what it was going to be like for me was daunting. I hoped for ways in which I could experience pleasure while birthing my daughter, Metta.
May you be the rockstar at the birth of your child, and doulas, midwives, partners, friends and family be the backup singers and dancers to rock you through.
I listened to hours and hours of Hypnobirthing and Hypnobabies meditations. I drew images with the help of Pam England and Birthing From Within. I spoke to Debra Pascali-Bonaro about ways to get “juicy” and enjoy the sensations of birth. I spent hundreds of hours (yes, really!) on my yoga mat doing strong powerful warriors and goddess pose, dancing and relaxing and breathing deep.
Never in a million years did I think that my pleasure in birth would come from my playlist.
After a full 24 hours of intensity, my midwife checked me for the first time while I labored at my father’s farm, in the beautiful sunroom. I was thrilled to hear I was 9.5 centimeters and ready to birth. Little did I know that at 12:30 a.m., 14 hours later, I would still be with child.
I hit the wall many times—wondering if I could really do this and did I have the strength, love, energy, focus? I always came back up, and I did so with the help of my husband, my birth doula, my midwives, my sister and my step-daughter and step-son.
One of the most pleasurable, memorable moments of my birth was around noon, just four hours before Metta’s birth. That favorite childhood song of mine “I am Woman, Hear Me Roar” streamed through the speakers. I’ve played that anthem for years in my prenatal yoga classes. Finally, that triumphant song played for me: My doula and midwives danced, grooved, and sang along with me and Helen … now that was pleasure!
I will never forget when my midwife flung her arm straight up in the air with a clenched fist as she said, “YOU ARE STRONG! YOU ARE INVINCIBLE! YOU ARE WOMAN!” I believed her wholeheartedly as I dipped into the pleasure of the perfect song at the perfect moment.
Soon enough, Metta was born. Her entrance song was Snatam Kaur’s holy tribute “Ong Namo” … I bow to the divine within. Remarkably, this is the same song that played as my husband and I walked down the aisle on our wedding day the previous September.
My birthing day was full. Not what I’d call painful, but full of hard, beautiful work. Full of love and music and letting go. Full of musical pleasure. The 44 hours it took to bring Metta into my arms was not the kind of pleasure I had imagined it might be. Instead, birthing my girl was the pleasure that a mama knows when she is called into the embrace of the birthing goddess within … stronger than she realizes she is, for longer than she imagines she can be.
I hope that someday Metta will have her own birth soundtrack — one that roars with power and pleasure. I wonder what will be on it? Maybe she’ll have Helen Reddy’s encouragement pulse through the speakers once again. Maybe Metta will invite Katy Perry to add her “Roar” to the mix, too: You hear my voice / you hear that sound / Like thunder gonna shake the ground … I got the eye of the tiger / a fighter / dancing through the fire/ ‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar!
“Ong Namo” by Snatam Kaur
Oh, my beloved
Kindness of the heart
Breath of life
I bow to you
And I’m coming home
Sarah Longacre is the Founder of Blooma in Minneapolis as well as an educator and yoga instructor there- learn more about Yoga at Home. O Birth’s Debra Pascali-Bonaro teaches Post-Partum Doula Workshops at Blooma annually, to learn more about Blooma workshop, please visit their event page.