Hope and Heartache: A Playlist for the Baby Blues

I live music. It symphonizes moods. The rhythm of a song can serve as a metronome for our level of adrenaline. The cacophonous or euphonious combination of instruments can mirror the conversational tones in our heads. The lyrics vocalize our truths when we lack the ability to do so.

Music. Is. Therapy.

And, luckily, the myriad of musicians and genres makes it easy to find songs to match every mood…including baby blues. When I was experiencing baby blues, I was a wreck. It felt like an unending loop of doubt and anxiety, tapered by moments of perseverance and hope, only to cycle back into depression. It was is exhausting.

During this turbulent time in my life, I found myself searching for songs that shared my discontent while simultaneously offering hope that things can get better. Sometimes, I knew exactly where to go (Lana Del Rey had my back here), and sometimes songs appeared by chance over the radio or through Pandora.

Some of songs I found myself listening to — and sometimes singing — are listed in this blog. While music is definitely not a cure all, it did provide words of encouragement during my pitfalls of depression…just enough to get me through the next day (or, let’s face it, the next minute).

As I share my baby blue playlist, I will note that I was sometimes drawn to songs for specific verses, and not always the whole song. I also did not choose songs based on their origin. (For example, “Hey Jude” was a song written by Paul McCartney for John Lennon’s son, when Lennon left his mother for another woman…ouch!)

So, let’s go ahead and start with that one.

The Beatles “Hey Jude”

Hey Jude, don’t make it bad / Take a sad song and make it better / Remember to let her under your skin / Then you’ll begin to make it better / Better better better better better, ah!

The Beatles have a variety of uplifting songs, but “Hey Jude” captures the moments when we need to tell ourselves the “sad song” in our life can be made “better.” No it may not occur that day, week, or even month. But, this moment is only one song in lifelong tracklist and — I promise — the tune will, in time, change.

John Butler Trio “Spring to Come”

And I wait for spring to come / But how long, tell me how long / ‘Cause I wither at my post / I’m walking like a ghost, alone / How long tell me how long, how long / Out of the darkness, only light can come / After a lonely long night comes the sun

Ah, this one. This song was one I played often when I was driving around in the yucky month of March (my son was born early March), waiting for spring — and the growth spurts I hoped they would bring in my son. Feeling like a ghost myself, in the haze of newfound sleep deprivation, I found this one easy to relate to.

Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington “I Like the Sunrise”

I like the sunrise ’cause it brings a new day / I like a new day, it brings new hope, they say / I like the sunrise blazing in the new sky / Night time is weary, oh and so am I / Every evening I wish upon a star / That my brand new bright tomorrow isn’t very far / When that heavy blue curtain of night is raised up high / Out of sight, I like the sunrise, oh heavenly day / I like the sunrise, I hope it lights for me

There are a few versions of this song (original composition by Duke Ellington), including one from Nina Simone and a fairly recent version from Sutton Foster. This gentle, slow-paced, bluesy song is great to listen to at night, when your baby is napping. If you can, grab a cup of tea or hot chocolate and soak in the evening; tomorrow’s sunrise isn’t too far away and — with any luck — so is your happiness.

Foo Fighters “Times Like These”

I am a new day rising / I’m a brand new sky / to hang the stars upon tonight / I am a little divided / do I stay or run away / and leave it all behind? / It’s times like these you learn to live again / it’s times like these you give and give again / it’s times like these you learn to love again / it’s times like these time and time again

Unlike some of the other songs I listened to, this one I saved for the moments when I was angry. The times when I was sick of my newly formed life as a mother and wanted to throw in the towel. (Peace Out! Husband, you are on your own!) In my “times like these” I paced around my house — or if I was lucky enough, blasted the song as I drove around the block — allowing the fast pace and the energetic vocals to absorb some of my frustration. It did not always resolve my anger, but it did placate doubts that I wouldn’t be able to eventually move past it.

Lana Del Rey “Get Free”

Sometimes it feels like I’ve got a war in my mind / I want to get off but I keep riding the ride / I never really notice that I had to decide / To play someone’s game or to live my own life and now I do / I want to move / Out of the black (out of the black) / Into to the blue (into the blue)

Lana Del Rey is really good at vocalizing the blues. (Afterall, she states in “The Blackest Day” that it is “her favorite color” and her “favorite tone of song.”) Perhaps that is why she spoke to me during my baby blues phase, particularly this song. I, too, felt like there was a “war in my mind” as my depression and anxiety fought against my sanity and rationality. But, the ending of this song — which is a euphoric combination of beach waves, bird calls, and meditative notes — was a reminder that the baby blues will fade and the ride will, eventually, stop.

Celtic Women “Faith’s Song”

But I gave my heart whole, I did / I gave my heart / And although it’s broken / It is still beating / But I gave my whole soul, I did / I gave my soul / And although it’s lost / I am still breathing

When I first heard this song, I cried. Technically, the lyrics are more about the ending of a relationship, but the chorus hit the mark on my internal dichotomy between caring for my child and breaking down during my baby blues phase. The song also, however, provides perseverance — the hope that things will get better — which is something all mothers can use from time to time.

Nat King Cole “Smile”

Smile though your heart is aching / Smile even though it’s breaking / When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by / If you smile through your fear and sorrow / Smile and maybe tomorrow / You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

Oh, if only a smile could truly banish the baby blues! While that is a bit idealistic, this song reminds us that we have to take it day-by-day. Yes, we are breaking, but there will be tomorrow. And, maybe, we will find a smile won’t be all that difficult.

Radiohead “Karma Police”

Karma police / I’ve given all I can / It’s not enough / I’ve given all I can / But we’re still on the payroll / This is what you’ll get / This is what you’ll get / This is what you’ll get / When you mess with us / For a minute there / I lost myself, I lost myself / Phew, for a minute there / I lost myself, I lost myself

Okay, you may think I’m really stretching this one…and I may agree with you. But, I have to admit that I played that song, repeatedly, for the ending chorus (and sang it in the shower while bawling my eyes out) because sometimes I had to tell myself that the baby blues — this storm that sabotages our lives and leaves us shipwrecked — is not who we are; it is just a time when we “lost” ourselves.

Time to Start Your Own

You may have (or had) your own playlist to combat baby blues, and if you don’t, I encourage you to make one. If you are not sure where to start, take a listen to one I mentioned if any of the excerpts spoke to you. If not, I strongly suggest checking out this link by The Mighty, titled “37 Songs That Help People With Depression at Night” — lots of goodies there!

And if you are struggling with baby blues, hang in there. Know that you are not alone — this will eventually pass! If you are looking for support, Postpartum Support International is a great place to start. Call the hotline, leave a message, and within a day a trained professional will call you to offer support and guidance as to what to do next. If you want to speak with someone immediately, call SAMHSA’s National Helpline — it is open 24/7, 365 days of the year.