Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” Meaning
Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” has been interpreted in a number of ways, as to be expected if a listener doesn’t know its backstory. But in reality, it was written for a particular movie and more specifically a pivotal scene therein.
Said scene features the male protagonist present at the birth of his child. However, the baby is in what is known as the breech position. More ideally, when a child is set to be born, his head would be facing downward and feet upward. But as far as breech babies go, the opposite is true, thus making normal birth a lot more difficult in some cases.
Lyrics of “This Woman’s Work”
So with that in mind, these lyrics are actually relayed from the perspective of the aforementioned male. And “this woman’s work”, as he calls it, would actually be bringing a child into the world under such less-than-ideal physical circumstances, with labor already being difficult enough as is.
In the first verse, he also acknowledges that in this particular situation, the vocalist is in fact stressed out as there’s really nothing he can do.
So the pre-chorus witnesses said protagonist encouraging his wife to be strong in the face of this ordeal. And as the song transitions into the main chorus, we see that he is very much shook. However, he refuses to “let it show”, presumably so that the woman won’t be compelled to follow his lead and become weak herself.
And in reality, he is able to recognize that the situation is such that his wife may not even survive the labor. So now, furthermore, the vocalist is regretting certain perceived mistakes he made in their relationship. More specifically it can be said that he is remorseful for not making things right when the opportunities presented themselves.
It is that sentiment which prevails in the second verse, one in which he wishes he could go back in time and not only rectify those issues but also experience the love of his significant other once again. So yes, the vocalist is very much entertaining the possibility that his wife may not make it.
Just as a side note, well first of all, spoiler alert ahead. In the movie, both the woman and child do survive.
However, the lyrics of this piece, as implied earlier, are not specific to the point where a listener would automatically know that they were inspired by a movie. Also, they do not specify if the titular woman actually survives.
So conclusively, what we are dealing with here is the lamentations of a man. This is a man who, let’s say unexpectedly, is placed in a predicament where the woman he loves may be permanently taken away from him. Furthermore, on top of being apologetic, what he is most pointedly desiring is for all of this bad luck, if you will, to expeditiously go away.
“Pray God you can cope
I stand outside this woman’s work
This woman’s world
Ooh, it’s hard on the man
Now his part is over
Now starts the craft of the father”
Facts about “This Woman’s Work”
Kate Bush may not rank amongst the highest echelons of top-selling singers. But she is one of those rare musicians who has actually managed to consistently put out platinum selling albums over four decades (from the late 1970s into the early aughts). And “This Woman’s Work”, which EMI released as a single on 8 February 1988, is from one of those projects, 1989’s “The Sensual World”.
This song was made public well over a year before the album itself. This is because it served as part of the soundtrack to a movie that came out in early 1988, She’s Having a Baby starring Kevin Bacon. To note, the track was specifically written for said purpose. Beyond that, it also went on to be featured on a couple of other movies and quite a few TV shows including, in the latter regard:
- Party of Five (1997)
- CSI: Miami (2010)
- The Cleveland Show (2011)
Whereas Kate Bush’s 20th century albums tended to perform exceptionally well, the same cannot be necessarily said for her singles. And with that sense, this song’s most impressive accolade to date has been achieving silver certification across the pond. It also peaked at number 3 on the UK Official Download Chart in 2005.
American singer Maxwell released a cover of this piece in 2001, which also performed moderately well.
Kate, herself being from England, wrote and produced this song herself. The songstress also co-directed the track’s music video with John Alexander.
A version of this song can also be found on Kate Bush’s 2011 studio album “Director’s Cut”.
“‘This Woman’s Work’ is an absolute gem! I’ve been listening to it since its release in November, 1989, and I must admit I was a bit disappointed when Maxwell’s version came out in 2001. I felt concerned that subsequent generations might only associate the song with his rendition, unaware that Kate Bush is the original creator of this brilliant masterpiece. I feel disheartened to witness the overshadowing of the original artist’s work all in the name of covers.”
“When I lost my daughter a few years ago, I was devastated with grief. To help cope, I found solace in ‘This Woman’s Work’, which I played repeatedly as a tribute to her. Certain parts of the song reminded me of her, especially the lyrics ‘give me that little kiss‘ and ‘give me your hand‘. They brought back memories of when she was younger, and how her face would light up when she saw me, running over to give me a little kiss and hold my hand as we walked back to the car after daycare. This song spoke to me on an unimaginable level, showing how music has the power to move us in ways that not many things can. I’m grateful to Kate for enriching my life with this beautiful song.”
In December of 2020, my wife lost her battle with breast cancer at the age of 39. It was around that same time that I discovered Kate‘s ‘This Woman’s Work’. I love how it pulls me in through the lyrics, ‘Ooh, it’s hard on the man’. The song in general reminds me of my wife’s courage and resilience during her battle with the disease, and how wonderful and loving she was as a partner and mother. I wish we could have had more time together, and I miss her terribly.”
EMMA SUNNINGAN says:
“In 2018, this song became a source of solace for me during what I refer to as the most difficult period of my life. My daughter was rushed to the hospital with severe stomach pain, and after an ultrasound, it was discovered that she had an ectopic pregnancy. As she underwent surgery, I waited anxiously, feeling helpless, all I could do was listen to this song repeatedly, having already loved it for many years. It reminded me of the incredible sacrifice women make to bring life into the world. Despite facing multiple high-risk pregnancies resulting in C-sections over the years, my daughter now has three wonderful children. This song still holds a special place in my heart and brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it.”
GEORGE ANDREWS says:
“As a singer and songwriter myself, I’m here to share my thoughts on this song. It’s very rare for a song to truly touch my heart, but ‘This Woman’s Work’ has that power. This is an indication of the amount of work Kate put into its composition. There’s something so hauntingly melancholic about it, yet it’s also fragile and feminine in the undertones. The lyrics capture the feeling of watching someone’s life slip away, or seeing their dreams and hopes shattered. And Kate’s beautiful voice just takes your breath away. As I listen to the song, I’m reminded of the American singer Cyndi Lauper and her music from the ’80s. But this classic is still in a class of its own. It’s a masterpiece that speaks to the heart of what it means to be human.”
Kate Bush’s “The Sensual World”
English singer, musician and songwriter, Kate Bush released “The Sensual World” on the 16th of October, 1989. It was released as her sixth studio album and shares the same name with its first track, “The Sensual World”.
The album was recorded in Dublin, Ireland and Welling, England.
“The Sensual World” was produced by Kate herself and officially released through Universal Music Group’s EMI Records.
It peaked at No. 43 on the Billboard 200. In the singer’s home country, the UK, it peaked at an impressive No. 2 on the OCC and ranked top-10 in the following countries:
- Norway – 7
- Germany – 10
- Finland – 3
“The Sensual World” received a platinum certification from the UK’s BPI and gold from the RIAA in the United States. France’s SNEP as well as Canada’s Music Canada also certified it, gold.
In 2012, US based online publication, Slant Magazine, placed the album at No. 55 on its list of top albums of the 1980s.
In February of 1991, “The Sensual World” received a nomination for the award, “Best Alternative Music Performance” at the 33rd edition of the annual Grammy Awards. It however lost the said award to Sinéad O’Connor’s “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got”.