Beyond the Egg Timer

An insider's guide to having children in your thirties and forties.

Misadventures in Baby Making

We explain the effects of laughter and offer you some reasons to laugh.

"How long did it take you to get pregnant?” 

"About 20 minutes."

Couples who have difficulty conceiving often have a lot to laugh about—in retrospect.  The process can be grueling and humiliating.  Procreation is something that we are wired to do.  When our body fails at something not only so basic, but something many people accomplish while intoxicated, it’s a bit demoralizing. The holiday season with its multiple gatherings, joyful family photo greeting cards, and stories of improbable conception can add to our melancholy as well.   

Humor has long been touted as the antidote for the blues.  Although this seems obvious, it is actually not well proven by science as our fellow blogger explains in his post.  However, we did find some research that associates laughter with reduced stress levels and improved immune function (very important during flu season!). Bennett and her nursing colleagues at Indiana State University studied a small group of healthy adult women by measuring their stress level and natural killer (NK) cell activity (which is a marker of immune function), before and after watching a funny video of their choice. This group was compared to a control group that watched a neutral tourism video.  The intensity of the women’s laughter was measured in both groups while watching the video. Self-reported stress scores decreased in both groups, with a greater effect in the humor group.  This is not surprising as both groups had the opportunity to kick back and relax.  What was interesting, though, was that the NK cell activity significantly improved in the group that watched the humor video AND had the highest laughter scores.  Simply watching something funny was not enough; one had to have a good belly laugh as well.

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Anyone who has dealt with a fertility clinic knows that they are ripe with comedic relief.  The early morning sonogram “conveyor belt” and voicemails instructing you when to have sex are, at least in hindsight, pretty funny. Couples who are fortunate enough to conceive on their own also have their share of laughs. The situation may be serious but you don’t have to take yourself so seriously.  We offer you some of our favorite tales of conception and hope you have a good hearty laugh!

“Oscar and I were married 8 years before Sarah (was born).  We obviously received lots of inquiries. I found that my irreverent response ended most of them:  'I am frigid and Oscar is impotent. Any other personal questions I can answer for you?'  Of course this could be considered tasteless and rude, but it always worked!”  -Hannah, age 69

Rose was a law student at Catholic University when her wife became pregnant with their first child: “She came running in one morning announcing 'I’m pregnant' and the first thing I thought was 'Wow she’s pregnant' and the second thought was 'Oh, crap it's right at exam time'.  I was right; her due date was on my family law exam. So I had to talk to Catholic University about moving the exam. You need a really good reason to move an exam (in law school).  So I sat down with the administrator, a 55-year-old woman, and she asks 'What can I help you with?' And I say, 'Well, my partner is having our first child and her due date is on one of my exams.'  She leans back in her chair, slowly puts her glasses down on her desk, and says 'Well, we like life.' "  -Rose, 36

“In particular, though, I love to tell the story of  how my OBGYN wrote 'AMA' on my ultra sound paper in the medical conditions category.  I looked endlessly at it trying to figure out what it meant... did they misprint someone else’s disease on my chart (I couldn't figure out what AMA meant)? I couldn't think of any medical condition that they would think I might have. I tried all combinations of nonsensical medical words I knew in a string to try to figure out what disease this poor person had that they accidentally wrote on my order form: adult myelocytic anemia.....acute myopic angular...angular myasthenia association...abdominal mesenteric artery...acetabular muscular aneurysm. Then, I thought 'Great, I bet it means against medical advice which means I am going to have to pay for this blasted ultra sound because someone thinks this 12 week screening is unnecessary.'  Then I thought 'No, no, that can't be...this is standard of care for people my age...since I am a geriatric primigravida!'  Just then it dawned on me 'AMA is an abbreviation for OLD...advanced maternal age...they called me OLD!'   -Leslie, 40

What are some funny things that have happened to you? What do you do to keep laughing?

 

Sharon I. Praissman is an adult (medical) and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

Emma Williams is a public health researcher and writer.

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