What’s a dad to do when a fetal monitor starts beeping out of control? If you’re Charles McDaniel, you train the video camera on your laboring wife and start freestyle rapping : “On the microphone — beep beep — heart murmur — uh, uh — dilated — cervix — whatcha doin’ … have a baybeh.”
McDaniel, who on Thursday celebrates 10 years of marriage — and five kids — with his wife, LaQuita, caught her smiling at the impromptu riff. She also shooed him away, but she probably later thanked him for helping her usher baby Kingston into the world with a bit of humor.
Research has found that laughter can indeed be one of the best medicines — and that holds true when birthing a baby. Cracking up can aid in controlling pain and relieving stress. “Not only is humor good for the mind, it’s good for the body, especially in labor,” according to The Birth Book by William and Martha Sears. “Laughter increases the level of endorphins, the body’s natural pain relievers and relaxers. It decreases levels of unwelcome stress hormones and relaxes muscles. Laughter is like an internal massage. As the ancient writings of Proverbs advise, ‘A cheerful spirit is health to the body and a strength to the soul.’ Bring a bit of humor to your birth.”
The website Bornfree has compiled a trove of quotations about the role that humor can play in labor, including midwife guru Ina May Gaskin’s observation in her book, Spiritual Midwifery, that “whenever Judith would laugh at something, she’d have a very good rush [contraction] right afterward, which would dilate her cervix a bunch more. So we all sat around and had a good time talking with each other, and after a few more rushes I checked Judith again and found that she was fully dilated and ready to push the baby out.”
Expectant dads out there may even want to go the all-out comedian route. Advises Midwifery Today: “Even a forced smile releases endorphins, the body’s natural pain medicine that is similar to morphine. When we are with a birthing woman who is in pain, it may help to tell some good jokes — or even some not so good ones, especially in early labor. Carry a joke book in your birth bag!”