New Baby

 Posted by on September 13, 2009 at 11:02 pm  Season 3, Television
Sep 132009

So it looks like Matt made a specific choice to tell this story; that of the journey of childbirth for women. Some of it, of the fog, was very specific to Betty; to her character–the inchworm, her father, etc. I’m not talking about any of that. I am talking about the experience of the period; the one that it seemed every woman had. Betty, Francine, the prison guard’s wife.

From the moment Betty entered that hospital her choices were taken away, her requests ignored. Her pen was empty. Her doctor wasn’t coming. One by one, whatever it was that Betty wanted was simply removed from the scene.

The other time I saw this so viscerally displayed was on thirtysomething, in an episode called New Baby.

That episode, like The Fog, had an oddness to its look and feel. In The Fog, camera angles were strange and gave the entire show, even before Betty’s labor began, a weird, dreamlike feel. That aspect actually reminded me of the Buffy, the Vampire Slayer episode The Body. The Body was all about death. These, The Fog and New Baby, are about birth. But you get awful close to death in order to make that happen. Gene mopping up that blood was not so subtle.

I am not a mom. I will likely never be a mom. I am writing this as a television viewer and as a woman. But not as a woman who has given birth.

New Baby didn’t have funky camera angles, but it did reverse the time–the episode opens with Susannah very late in her labor; depleted, in agony, and ready to give up, and then it cuts to an hour earlier (you literally see the clock move backwards). The entire episode goes this way, back hours and days. You watched as she made wonderful choices that you’d already witnessed not working out.

The Fog also has some time mentions–watches, specifically. Ken was bragging about his watch, a gift from his Birds Eye client. And you never wear a nice gold watch when you work in a prison camp.

Thirtysomething was the late 1980s. This was an educated, politically active, ‘advanced’ sort of hippie-esque couple doing everything right–they’d read up, asked all the questions, taken LaMaze classes, reserved a birthing room (decorated like home, with all those nasty monitors behind curtain #2), and they were prepared with her favorite visuals to focus on (an island photo, if I recall) and music to soothe her (Pachelbel’s Canon).

And yet none of it helped. The birthing room wasn’t available. From the moment she checked in to the hospital she’s on ice chips–just in case there needs to be a C-section, you can’t eat. She labors and she weakens. So now you’re all evolved and no-drugs-like-one-of-those-’50s-housewives-for-me and shit, but you’re drained, literally.

New Baby showed that all that advancement and education and everything we’d believed we’d moved past–in the end you had a frightened, tortured woman with no strength, no dignity and practically no will. And then the baby is there and Mommy is beaming. And dealing with parent burnout.

And there they are, Betty and Francine, smiling their Stepford smiles.

The Fog tells a different story, one where there was no information, and very little fight going in. Betty walked in blind, even though this was her third time. Betty wasn’t fascinated by the life that was inside her–we got that from her conversation with Mr. Bellytoucher in My Old Kentucky Home. Neither was she interested in questioning or affecting the conditions of this birth. Until she actually started going through it. Then it was, I want Don, I want my doctor, why do we have to do it this way or that way.

It was fascinating too that it was this society of women putting her through this–all those nurses, seemingly conspiring for her not to worry her pretty little head; just take your drugs and you’ll forget all this ugliness. In thirtysomething the doctor was a woman as well (played by Patricia Heaton).

But in both shows, in both eras, we saw the ugliness. The lack of choices. The varying levels of compassion couching Yes honey, but this is how we’re doing it. The barbarism that is childbirth in the modern American experience.


  135 Responses to “New Baby”

  1. WOW Roberta. Brilliant, thought-provoking commentary. Thank you.

  2. Wow, you're fast. Say what you will about having babies in the 60's, it's still an improvement on having them earlier than that, when they gassed you into unconsciousness then removed the child via forceps. Oddly, enough, my Grandmother (my Betty) who had 5 babies like that, found it a perfectly wonderful way to give birth and was more than horrified that just anyone could wander in and out of my delivery room in the late 90's.

    Me, I was born in '65, so likely my mom had the full Betty Draper treatment.

  3. I'm a child of the Nineties, so it was shocking to me that Don wasn't allowed in the delivery room with Betty. It wasn't even considered. Anyone know when that started to change?

  4. Lissie, started to change in the 70s.

  5. I was sorry we weren't spared the cliched TV "feet up in stirrups" delivery room scene. Really expected a more subtle depiction of the '60s experience of childbirth. They could've stopped at the shaving/enema orders from the nurse, which epitomize the hyper-clinical treatment of childbirth in that era.
    Anyone ever read "The Women's Room" ?

    • The shaving/enema orders didn't just epitomize the hyper-clinical treatment, but it really covers the degradation too.

      To me it did not feel cliche at all. Each of those scenes really gave focus to Betty's experience. It broke my heart.

  6. That aspect of the episode provided a lot of insight for me on that particular process of giving birth. Previously I had only heard bits about it (the massive drugging, men being across the street in the bar, handing out cigars, men pacing in the waiting room) on old tv shows like I Love Lucy and Bewitched (one of my favorite shows of all time).

    It was like they put us in that wheelchair and wheeled us into that experience with betty. I loved the way they used unusual and slightly surreal techniques to bring us deeper into the fog.

  7. Also, this was a time when the danger of childbirth was still an issue. Maybe Don felt more comfortable because this was his third child, but the guard was worried about his wife & the breach birth.
    My mom gave birth to me in the spring of 1963 and her recollection was just like Betty's twilight birth – being somewhat 'out of her head' as she described.

    Regarding the lack of choices/free will in childbirth, it still is that way and will always be, to some extent. Women might not have gone in with lots of expectations in Betty's time and earlier compared to now, but even as planned out/informed as an expectant mom & dad can get, things arise as shown in the 30 Something episode. Childbirth is, next to death, the ultimate unknown. It can change course in an instant, even given our modern medical technology. Part of childbirth is the powerlessness during and the empowerment afterward.

  8. Man, I wish I still lived in 1963 so you're not expected to be in the room when the woman gives birth. I'd love to stay in the waiting room, nobody wants to see anyone giving birth.

  9. I'm a brand new first time mom, and in watching that episode I thought all the questions (demands) from Betts were Betty being her old spoiled self. Always about me me me and temper tantrums. She's so child-like, often selfish and egocentric, even when doing the most "mother-like" activities: giving birth, giving love to her children.

    Betty doesn't walk in blind because of the hospital institution or medical norms of the eras,as much as Betty is blind to whatever she feels unimportant. Her children, for one.

    Did you notice how when they came home Sally ran up and said "I missed you so much!" Betty was silent?

  10. JoanvsJane, I absolutely disagree about Betty and her questions and demands. This is a woman who has her agency and autonomy stripped from her and she is fighting that.

    Women today are still told that they don't know what they're doing during childbirth and have their autonomy stripped from them. Google "birth rape".

  11. #2 Lissie's question about when men were allowed into the delivery room led me to this book on Make Room for Daddy: The Journey from Waiting Room to Birthing Room by Judith Walzer Leavitt. I'll look for it at the library.

    I was born in the late sixties but at a conservative Catholic hospital in central Africa. Though Mom was completely drug-free, labor was isolating and miserable. Dad not allowed but neither was my god-mother. Can you imagine doing this *alone*?

    Are things better forty years later? Not much. Partners and even adoptive parents are in the delivery room but … Maternal death in the U.S. is the highest among industrial nations. C-sections are on the rise–it's over 30% today(and was about 4% when Betty had her kid!). My own childbirth experience was brilliant and empowering, thanks to self-education, our birth instructor, our doula and my husband. I thanked the heavens that it didn't go all pear-shaped.

  12. JvJ, there was a strain of that throughout–she was in character, after all. Betty is going to endure hardship as Betty, and there is some coldness there. But I don't believe Betty is only her coldness. I don't think she is a monster. I just don't think she's much of a mother.

  13. It always surprises me how much Betty hate there is every week. She has her flaws and most of the criticisms are based in fact, but I find myself sympathetic to her on so many levels.

  14. "Birth Rape?" That sounds like more feminist claptrap. That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

    I don't like going to the dentist, but I don't say my mouth's been raped when the dentist doesn't ask me nicely when he drills a cavity. Grow the fuck up.

  15. Does the dentist go through your rear?

  16. Ms Darkly, me too.

    And Aran, Deborah and I get advance copies. Though we choose not to do straight episode reviews, we do try to pull something out for 11:00pm.

  17. Yes, this episode made me more sympathetic to Betty than ever. What a horrible experience. I thought she did as well as anyone could in that situation.

    And yeah, when Sally said she missed her, Betty kissed her and smiled. Betty should be criticized for that?

    Jeez, Jorge, angry about something?

  18. Jorge, you've been here awhile, and we've always welcomed your comments. You are now pushing it per our comments policy.

    Please consider yourself warned.

    All, I knew this would turn into a fiery thread, opening a pretty wide span of opinions. Please let's all be respectful of the variety.

  19. #7 Jen- Yes! There was powerlessness to giving birth….and an empowerment! That was perfectly phrased. And I think that would be true to whether you have one, three or ten births. Each one different, unique in it's own way.

    #8 Roberta- I'm not sure if I saw that shaving/enema as degradation as much as sign of the times.

    But note that I was a freak in that I loved pregnancy! Morning sickness to me, meant my baby was alive and healthy and that's why these hormones made me queazy. In my seventh month I was 50lbs heavier (!!!) but never felt more sexy. So it's all about perspective, surely!

  20. Still amazed at your insight, Roberta and Deborah! Thanks for keeping it coming over here. Hate to think what I'd miss about the show if I were only watching it live. The discussion and blogs add so much.

  21. Thanks, Aran! And ps — I was born in '65 as well.

  22. JvJ, it was about perspective … somewhere after the birth of the Lamaze movement. I had my kids in the 90's. There were more resources on Pregnancy and childbirth than I had time to read. But, keep in mind, in the 60's there weren't. Pregnancy was something that carried a bit of shame to it (afterall it was a visible sign that you had had relations with your spouse). And birth wasn't treated as a family event, but a medical procedure that the woman should be spared from the messy parts of. It was a very different time.

  23. @21 — Agreed. The discussion here is always terrific and enhances my enjoyment of the show.

  24. But, who's to say 30 years from now our usage of epidurals, c-section procedures, breathing exercises, etc won't be looked upon as old-fashioned and barbaric, due to future medical break-throughs? I think the terms hyper-clinical and degrading are value judgements relative to the times we live in.

  25. The posts are coming fast and furious, so forgive me if I'm repeating what others have said (even thought I'm trying to read them all).

    Jorge, I've been with my wife through 3 births (the last one with twins). Even though I HATE anything hospital related, the experience was worth it. And I certainly wasn't of much use in the process except for providing moral support to my wife.

    Abby, my wife would disagree with the "birth rape" angle. Certainly, the medical staffers treats people like children. But that's the case with ANY medical procedure. It's not a democracy and there's no voting. Once one chooses to submit themselves to the process, there's no voting. I'd liken it to being a passenger in an airplane. That's just the way it has to be. And while I'm sure that there's a lot more concern for making the process more "natural" than when I was born in '61, it's a "controlled" setting on purpose. As Jen pointed out, that's done on purpose because of the dangers inherient in act of giving birth.

    I saw Betty's experience as more of an exploration of how she's treated in her society rather than as commentary per se on medical practices past or present. Notice how she felt betrayed by the doctors who poked her like the fat girl in Sally's class even though she pleadingly points out that she's a "housewife" (i.e. follows the rules).

  26. @25, Jen, that is exactly the point of my post. We continue to advance, but there is still plenty of victimization happening around childbirth. Doctors commonly sell women on sections.

    It is still barbaric.

  27. Geez, I wish there was an edit button on these comments. My last one (#26) could have used one more draft πŸ™‚

  28. My mother told me that she was knocked out completely for my birth (in 1960) and when she woke up, she was all alone in her room and had no idea whether the birth had gone all right; there was no one around to ask, and nobody brought her her baby (moi) for a long time! She remembered feeling very isolated and worried. I think this episode conveyed a lot of the stress of childbirth during that era.

    As for powerlessness, it was still alive and kicking in the maternity hospital wings when I gave birth – I was denied medication ("you're too far along, honey" was literally what the (female) attendants told me). I was thankful for my husband's presence as both an advocate and moral support – couldn't have done it alone.

    PS – loved Betty's ramblings about how "Don is rarely where he's supposed to be" and "have you been with him?" as in been with him, I'm sure. Poor Betty.

  29. #5 Millicent – I think of that fantastic, life-changing book "The Woman's Room" often when I watch Mad Men…

    Having a mom who bore all of us kids around this time – I've heard of how it went – but it was awful to watch. Something that is a sacred, natural, loving process between mother and child – becomes something that is about everything EXCEPT the needs of the mother and child. It's sick – and I'm so glad things have changed.

    When Betty came home – all perfect and cleaned up – it was almost creepy to see, given the non-human treatment she'd been through.

  30. #18 Flossie- I saw the smile and kiss, but I interpreted it as, *sigh* I love to be missed!

    As I said in post 20, it is about each of our own perspective. That's what makes each post so smart and intriguing. I love to see where everyone goes with each scene and how they arrived there, be it research or an actual experience.

    And please know I don't hate Betty, but I have really disliked her this season! There is a cold cruelty towards her children this year and we have yet to see even a glimmer of warmth. I always think that even though Don was the mistreated youth, he still shows his kids some love (and I don't put him up as father-of -the-year believe me!) And while Betty actually came from a much more stable environment, it has manifested itself into a serious grasp on reality.

  31. Wait, so the drugging and twilight sleep were common in those days while giving birth? I can't tell you how shocked I was that they were drugging her. I kept thinking "how is she going to actually deliver the baby?" It seemed so surreal I just thought it was for this episode, that they were in some sort of weird hospital or something. I don't know. I didn't know anything about giving birth in the 60's so that was absolutely shocking to me.

  32. I'm not saying that all women who give birth today have horrible experiences. But it's out there, and I don't think we should be belittling other people's birth experiences just because we didn't go through that.

    And I would challenge the whole paradigm of birth as a "medical procedure" – women have done it for millions of years, before modern medicine. Sure, maternal mortality was much higher, and I'm grateful that we have medical interventions when we need it, but I think we rely too much on it (e.g., perfectly healthy women having scheduled c-sections).

  33. Roberta, one of the sad reasons C-sections are encouraged is due to the highly litigious nature of the field. C-sections offer more control on the process than a vaginal delivery. I'm not defending it. That's just the way it is.

  34. #33 Mrs Farmer – I would have happily traded a shave and an enema for an epidural! πŸ™‚

  35. @27 Roberta, I think some women are ASKING for C-sections, because it makes giving birth more predictable and controllable. And possibly less stressful on the body, although I think there's a tradeoff there.

  36. @37 I don't think it's less stressful on the body. Recovering from a C-section is much more painful and the recovery period lasts longer than that of a vaginal delivery.

  37. But there's a big transition between the kind of birth that Don's mother experienced (and died from) and the one that Betty experiences (the new sterile hospital with doctor and nurses). And a reason for it, since women did die in childbirth. Yeah, women were more removed from the experience, but who wouldn't want to be???

  38. @32. yes, that was the way it was. I have also heard that women still felt the pain (remember the scream in the other room), but did not remember anything afterwards. And children could not visit the hospital. I remember visiting my cousin in the hospital (around 1965-66) when she had a baby. My mom sneaked me up and I had to stay in the waiting room while she got to visit.

  39. @38 Not questioning that, Carla. Or not really. But women do ask for C-sections. I know some.

  40. Yeah, I think a lot of women are asking for c-sections too–because they think it seems somehow less risky, less messy, and less dignity-robbing (a nice sterile surgery, not a screaming, bloody, splay-legged . . .) For many women, c-sections seem a little _less_ barbarous than labor. They may be entirely wrong (and certainly c-sections have risks!), but this perception is definitely out there.

  41. @# 36 workingmom – That was before the epidural!

  42. Still trying to place that music…

  43. @28 — even without an edit button, I liked your post.

    Hospital experiences are so subjective and individual.

    **Certainly, the medical staffers treats people like children. But that’s the case with ANY medical procedure. It’s not a democracy and there’s no voting.**

    There's a logic to that, but this is also where it gets subjective. You type that and I think about how ill-treated my mother was in her last hospital stay. How they didn't believe her when she tried to tell them about symptoms of her terminal illness, how they belittled her over it. At one point, they wanted to send her to the psych ward, taking her inability to speak and delays in response as something psychological instead of physiological.

  44. @45 – I totally agree. That's why, as I said, I HATE anything hospital related. I have an obsessive personality anyway, so it's difficult it is for me to give up any control. But that's the nature of the beast.

  45. @ 32 — Yes, Adrienne, drugging was the norm prior to the natural childbirth movement in the 1970s. After all the "pushing" (ark, ark) for more control and support for mothers, there has been a swing back toward epidurals. The only way a guy could understand it would be to run a marathon, then have a vasectomy — episiotomies are NO fun, fellas — then be left home alone with a wailing newborn who never sleeps more than 2 hours between feedings. Nap when the baby naps!

  46. @37 a c-section is major surgery – your uterus isn't just under the skin, they take out your intestines and put them on your chest.

  47. I think Abigail was saying that there's a perception that it's less stressful, not that it's a fact. And I think she's right about the perception–I've certainly heard c-sections described as less messy.

  48. @Jorge: My expierences with the the last two children that my wife had at the Hospital were similar to what you'd have seen in the late 50's, early 60's. A few of the other waiting fathers and I headed down the street to a bar, parked ourselves in a booth, and emerged several hours later.

    One of the things I like about Man Men is not only does it shine a light on that era, but it throws our own period into sharper relief. Some things were better then. At least I have no desire to witness child birth or be a "birthing partner". More men than you'd think probably feel the same way.

  49. #30 elle — yes, it is apparent the writers on this show have read "The Women's Room." That's why I had high hopes for Helen Bishop but she seems to have been written off.

    I still think the delivery scenes were sort of cliche and predictable given the many possible better uses of time on this program. They could've stopped with the nurse enumerating the orders about the enema and the shaving, and then inserted the IV. That's where the memory stopped for most '60s mothers anyway, so whose POV were we seeing with all of the thrashing, etc.? Didn't really make narrative sense to me.

    Clearly a lot of Betty's hopes were dashed by the new child not being a girl. Once again she is subject to the demands of another male, as she demonstrates with her resigned weariness in the final scene.

  50. Thoughts: Sing Sing prison guard–what was going on when Don passed him in the hallway? A bit strange. Was his wife ill?

    And how plausible were the guard's insights into Don? I enjoyed watching Don's reaction when the man said he had been transformed, that suddenly now he was going to be a better man. Don had the look of a tired cynic.

    Off the topic of babies: How great was Elizabeth Moss's performance? Wow, the subtlty of the scene with Duck–right at the beginning, before Pete walks in, she so girlish and innocent. She doesn't realize the power she has. Talking with Don changes that. Grows up fast.

    Music: the Hebrides is in Scotland, and the tune had a Celtic touch to it. Mendlesson wrote the Hebrides Overture, but this doesn't sound like it. I will say this about the music this season. We haven't heard one popular song from the era yet. Other than ByeBye Birdie. No Sam Cooke. No Beach Boys. Let's see how this plays out.

  51. #15

    Lady: I'd rather have a baby than get a tooth filled.

    Dentist: Make up your mind, lady, I gotta adjust the chair.

    [Ba- Dum- Bump]

  52. @46, I have to disagree with you, Matt Maul. We do have to submit some things, but it is important to be aware of your rights and to be an advocate for yourself with your doctor if you are being mistreated, billeted, abused or pressured. Unfortunately the myth of the all knowing doctor is false. Doctors are limited by their fallibility as humans like the rest of us, limited by the times, and do not, in fact, always know best. If they did, they would still be handing barbiturates out like lollipops.

    Like some other commenters, this episode made me think back to the birth at the beginning of the episode. A female midwife. Two births, two deaths. Archie calls the midwife a witch. They were still doing things the old way on the farm. Both Don's birth mother and Betty are cursing the men who impregnated them.

  53. Hehehe, I meant that if doctors were infallible then they would have been right about handing barbiturates like lollipops, or that barbiturates would have never been handed out so recklessly. πŸ™‚

  54. Hell, I had to have a shave and an enema in 1989 – I was horrified… And they wouldn’t let me see my baby for 4 hours.

  55. I am a native of Ossining, NY and still reside here. I am often impressed with the accuracy of the series in references to this place ("They are building apartments in Cedar Lane" and the children attending Brookside School), but tonight's episode took the cake.

    Dr. Mendelowitz, whom the OB nurse referred to in tonight's episode, is real. He delivered me and thousands of others from Peekskill to Yonkers over the past 50 years. His is semi-retired now, his son, also an OB, delivered another of our children, and his office delivered 3 of our 4 in total. This baby birth was most likely set in Phelps Hospital in nearby Sleepy Hollow (formerly North Tarrytown).

    Why the producers work so hard to make such accurate references when so few will understand and appreciate them is beyond me, but I love that they go to those lengths.

  56. Sheesh…after watching this episode I'm reminded how thankful I am that my OBgyn was female, 7 months into her own 3rd pregnancy, when she delivered my one and only beloved daughter. (1996)

    The first visit – she confirmed the pregnancy and gave extensive advice on pre-natal care.

    The second visit – we discussed the series of tests to be run as I was already well into my 30's and was concerned about genetic risks. She openly and without any judgement or bias explained ALL options, including termination. There may be many here who would be appalled at such a discussion, yet I had the great good fortune to be FULLY informed by my doctor. ( a rare thing perhaps)

    Later visits included advice ranging from how to avoid wearing granny-panties and …hrmmm…how to trim oneself with a 9-month belly – thus avoiding the stranger-at-the-gates that poor Betty had to endure.

    The best laid plans CAN go awry — but having a damned good OB is priceless.

    p.s. My hubby stayed in the waiting room – said there were some things he'd prefer to remain a mystery – ha! I was fine with that πŸ˜‰

  57. # 56 Phil Faranda– Wow!

  58. A note on C-sections.One reason doctors perform them is that a woman's blood pressure often spikes in pregnancy, and the rise in the age of mothers giving birth has added to that. For a healthy woman in her 20s,natural childbirth is an easier matter than for a woman after 35 who may be dealing with hypertension. (Note I said "easier"; childbirth is no piece of cake.)

    Another advantage is being able to plan a birth date – for some people, the relief of knowing is tremendous.

    Since a C-section is surgery, the doctor has a better opportunity to stabilize the patient, versus the strains and unknowns of a patient attempting birth under her own steam. There is a second factor of cosmetic reasons: apparently in Hollywood celeb moms are having tummy tucks done after the birth is finished.A C-section has already gotten the procedure started.

  59. Several observations:

    First, Betty was being considerate when she had to leave the classroom and explained to the teacher that it was OK, "I'm not as upset as I seem."
    Also, when explaining that Carla was not going to be working for her, she said something about Carla's family needing her. I see those as two statements that were NOT "all about me."

    Second, Don says, "It's not a good time" to the guard in the waiting room. Later, when Peggy asks for more money, he says, "It's not a good time."
    Are we to infer that this repetition means that, existentially, it is not a good time?

    Finally, Don had his advertising voice on when he branded Grandpa Gene's room the baby's room.

  60. Betty's experience was almost EXACTLY how my mother describes her 1970's births. (Except she didn't get quite as many drugs as Betty.) What Betty didn't go through is the abuse over having gained too much weight my mother did. She says the doctor yelled at her all through my sister's birth, telling her if she'd gained less weight she wouldn't be having as much difficulty.

  61. During this episode, I was thinking of a conversation I remember overhearing sometime in 1963-64. The kids were in the living room playing Monopoly while the parents were at the table discussing childbirth. I, obviously was supposed to be more concerned about Park Place than the 'adult conversation.'

    What I distinctly remember is a discussion about drugs vs. 'natural'. My mother had used a version of self-hypnosis to deliver my sister and the other women were appalled she hadn't opted for drugs, since then you don't remember a thing. I recall my mother insisting that she wanted to remember at least one of our births.

    Then the conversation shifted to whether men should be allowed in the delivery room, with a split decision, pro and con. I remember it, because I thought then, and think now, that missing the birth would be dreadful.

    That's all I remember. Either they changed the subject, or I really did get interested in Park Place.

    However, just to throw that out there. Nothing that happened in the 70's came from nowhere. The seeds were sown in the 60's. Not everyone wanted a medicated, isolated experience. Of course, my mom was considered weird because she breast fed, too.

  62. Felt bad for Betty when she's imagining her Mom and Dad back in Betty's own home…Ruthie is so cold.

    "You're a housecat. You're very important and you have little to do." Maybe Eugene's comment is what drives Betty to dismiss Carla?

  63. Oops. My post #60 belongs with those general comments on "The Fog," not "The New Baby." I'm still learning my way around here. Roberta, could you move #60? Sorry to disturb.

  64. Throwing in a few comments on birthing experiences:

    My Mom had my sister in the early 1950's. Knowing that she was going to be given twilight sleep, Mom read Time magazine beforehand. After she had delivered and woke up (yes, all cleaned up, with no memory of the birth), the attending nurse asked her, "Are you a professor here?" Seems my Mom treated the delivery room staff to an exposition on Truman and the whole Korea situation! They assumed she was a history or political science teacher at the university.

    My own experiences, while more modern, do back up the whole concept that you're still not in charge of birth. My first pregnancy ended in an induction because I developed pregnancy-induced hypertension. I was wired up every which way to Sunday. That time, the threat to my well-being was in charge.

    Second child? He decided to come on along without any help or any real notice. I woke up, went to hospital, and in fours hours, there he was. He was in control of the situation, not me!

  65. The only thing about the birth that didn't ring true for me, as far as the era is concerned, is that a woman of Betty's financial means would have had a night nurse. Third child, not breastfeeding? Night nurses were very common in those days and I'd think her OB would have insisted on it.

    That being said, had she had one, we would have been deprived of that last shot of her exhausted and resigned to her fate.

  66. My Open Thread comments were mostly childbirth-oriented, so I won't repeat them here.

    But there's one small detail left: Betty had packed a pink ensemble for Taking Home the Baby. She really was expecting a girl!

  67. January Jones was on tonight. I must say she is stealing alot of season 3 just like she did in season 2. The ending was beyond emotional…now she has to deal with three men in her life…Don, Bobby, and now baby Eugene, Betty cant seem to get a break, and like an earlier poster said, she is now awaiting the demands of another male. But she did show love to her children when she came home, that long kiss on sally's head explained everything. The dream she had with both her father, mother made her realize to be happy with what she has. Her mother even tells her. Also Jones had stated in the Vanity Fair photo essay from Annie Lebovwitz that the birth of Don and Betty's new baby is also a re-birth of their marriage.

  68. I've been intrigued, not_Bridget, by Betty's insistence on this child's gender. I don't get the idea it's because she particularly prefers girl children to boy children, but I have to wonder if it somehow subconsciously harkens back to what was probably the happiest time in her marriage. We know that Don and Betty were in love when they married. We saw in The Wheel photos from the wedding and Don resting his head on Betty's huge belly, then happily holding newborn Sally in bed. We heard Betty tell Sally about the night she was born and Don reflected at how scared he was. Pure speculation, but I think Don's cheating kicked in somewhere after Sally's birth, and before Bobby. Bobby's birth was probably more mundane and the excitement wasn't as heightened. Maybe Betty was trying to recreate the circumstances around Sally's birth, when her marriage was "perfect".

  69. I've witnessed a lot of trash talk about Betty's behavior on websites and even F2F.

    How We Sabotage Young Girls
    By Rachel Simmons, The Penguin Press

    Girls are encouraged to be nice, quiet, perfect, polite — at the expense of their authenticity and sense of self.

  70. Great thread. I was a 1965 baby and this really shed some light on what my mom must have gone through. If possible my respect for her and all moms has gone up a notch.

    A quick observation. So earlier we have the girl in the classroom who apparently gets poked by other students who think she doesn’t feel it. Betty is told to think happy thoughts (was it shopping or the salon?) while she is being poked (and definitely feels it). Betty’s hospital status as a thing is later reinforced as she is told she can’t hear words she obviously hears very well. Betty speaks openly and truthfully while in “the fog.â€Β “In fog veritas!â€Β

    I mentioned this on the open post but I loved the way that Betty asserts herself (even in the hospital) now with a pen that works on the name. A flash of the Betty we love!

  71. @52 I wondered what Don passing the guard and his wife meant too. At first, Don seems to exchange a smile with the guard. But as they pass each other, the guard's smile fades. Then Don looks concerned. Also, the guard's wife is being wheeled off WITHOUT a baby. Is the baby in the nursery, or did something happen to the baby? Does the expression of the guard turn from glad to serious because the guard optimistically said he was going to be a better man, but as Don gets closer to him the truth of that impossibility becomes more evident?

    And finally, was the character a prison guard because Don constantly has to guard against his own dark impulses?

  72. Long time lurker, first time commenter πŸ™‚

    I'm loving this thread. I was a 1960 baby and am a gay man so my comments about womanhood don't even come from much vicarious experience. THe previous comments about "The Women's Room" have really got me thinking about what this episode says about how 1960's women internalize and enforce misogyny as a consequence of their own mistreatment. There's Peggy talking about how her (female) secretary doesn't respect her, when you know no female secretary would talk that way to a male boss, regardless of his salary. The hospital nurses in those silly white hats (imagine what one would look like on a man!) being disregarded by physicians and, in turn, mistreating their women patients. I got a sense in this episode how oppression travels between the generations. Maybe that's why Betty had a girl. THere was something else I wanted to say- I'll think of it later.

  73. @72 Great thoughts. Dunno, though. Another thing that occurs to me isthat prisoners always say they've changed, that they're better men, especially to parole boards and guards.

    @56 wow!

  74. Very doubtful Betty would nurse. My mom, who is a retired medical researcher, tells me that women in the 1960s were encouraged to put their babies on a bottle ASAP and given drugs to inhibit milk production. Apparently it was painful but the effect wore off in a couple of weeks. She didn't listen and nursed us for three months each. But I had a neighbor who is married to a pediatrician who only nursed – in this decade – for 30 days.She says that's long enough for the baby and less hassle for her.

  75. @67, 69

    My .02 on why Betty was certain she was having a girl. I've had the impression that she feels like Sally is a failure – she's "fat", she's acting out at school, she's not what Betty envisioned as a daughter and this baby was her second chance at having the ideal child. In her eyes Bobby wouldn't count since he's male and a liar just like his father.

  76. # 51 I think some of the comments were intended to show Betty’s lack of status and powerlessness at the hospital. It’s there for thematic reasons too to compare and contract the hospital with the other institutions highlighted in the episode – the prison and the school. In the hospital (especially at that time) identity is made less important – you wear a gown and your individuality is stripped away.

    I think the reference to shaving is partly to compare with the prison references. A school, a hospital and a prison can be dehumanizing and sometime places of violence and blood. On the good side we hear from Dennis that not everything is bad at the prison and certainly the hospital is an important place – a place for birth as well as death.

  77. I've appreciated (if not loved) almost every frame of this show, but the (prison) bars (shadows) on Betty's back in the last frame when she stands outside the room of her crying baby, I thought was a shade heavy-handed. Yes, I get that she's being ordered around by another man (even a man who's only a couple days old), but I'm not sure it's the most appropriate image they've ever come up. If Betty had had a girl, she'd be at her beck and call as well. Or was the idea that even though she's come back home, she's come back home to a prison? And if so, how has this advanced her story? Is it that because she has another baby her "sentence" has been increased by another 18 years? Is is that the male baby has taken her father's room and thereby she has perpetuated own subjugation another generation. Again, I loved the episode. I'm just not clear on how giving birth to a baby boy is moving Betty's story forward rather than just restating her predicament.

  78. #77- Great linkages there: A school, a hospital and a prison can be dehumanizing and sometime places of violence and blood.

    There was blood in Sally's incident at school, wasn't there – didn't we see an image of Sally wiping blood off her face? And Sally hit the girl on the back of the head, like Medger Evers was shot in the back of the head, or at least dream-Ruth was wiping blood off the back of his head.

    Although it was confusing at first, they did a nice job of tying all that symbolism together.

  79. jhill, the window shade/prison bar shadows were a visual motif throughout the whole episode – I don't think the theme of being trapped in one's own life was meant to be limited to that one scene.

  80. love the 30something connection- one of my other all time favorite shows. Now that season 1 of thirtysomething is out on dvd- maybe you gals can start a blog about it in the off season πŸ™‚

  81. I too am a child of the 60s – my sister was born in 65, I was in 67. I don't remember my mother ever talking about the "twilight sleep," perhaps because she had very long labors but very fast deliveries. She would stall out at about 5 centimeters and contractions about 4 minutes apart, for hours. As I was growing up, one thing my sister and I both knew as "33 hours in labor for your sister, 22 hours for you." It was practically a mantra for Ma when she wanted us to show some appreciation to her.

    Of course, she was isolated from my father throughout the whole thing – he would even mention other fathers apologizing to him when they would be in the waiting room only 6 – 7 hours and he was still waiting. My impression is that she was awake, although under an epidural, for both births.

    The most barbaric experience she went through, though, was in 1971, when she miscarried horribly about the mid-way point in the pregnancy and a judge refused her a medical abortion because she was not "close enough to death." She bled out pretty badly anyway, and the doctors told my father to prepare for her death (he sent my sister and I, about 6 and 4, up to my aunt's so he could deal with the initial shock if it happened) – she had to have multiple transfusions to pull through.

    What really got me about last night's episode, other than the complete lack of choices that Betty had (and Ma's experiences certainly bore that part out), was when Betty saw Gene in her dream. My grandfather, Ma's Dad, had died in 1967 when I was about 7 months old. When Ma was in the hospital in 1971, having completed the miscarriage process, but still quite sick, she reported seeing her father in the hospital room, who told her she would be all right. That moment with Gene mopping in Betty's kitchen simply sent chills down my spine.

  82. @56- That's awesome. I should find out if he delivered me too.
    I've noticed that they've been really good with the Westchester references this season.

  83. At any point in this episode does Don actually touch or acknowledge his new son, other than breaking it to Betty that "she's" a "he"? Betty holds him. Francine holds him. The kids acknowledge him, Bobby adorably introduces himself … but not Don. He kissed Betty on the forehead in the hospital before he left for the office, but doesn't even reach down to touch the child, or kiss his new son.

    Is he that distanced from this kid. Only going through the motions?

  84. As I was reading your take on this, it came to me that the nurses 'Yes honey, but this is how we’re doing it' was the equivalent of Betty's 'go watch TV' from the previous episode.

  85. brilliant web site, by the way.

  86. I gave birth in 2007, and was given complete control for everything. I never felt I was treated like a child, or that control was taken away from me–in contrast, *I* was the one making the decisions, ALL the decisions, PERIOD. I had my baby in a hospital, with doctors, not a midwife, not at home. I was given the utmost respect, and my choices were valued. When things didn't happen as I would have liked, still I was treated with respect. (eg: when the baby moved so I could no longer be in a position I enjoyed, on the birthing ball, the nurse apologized to me that I'd have to move to the bed, but noted it was because of a health risk to the baby.) They never treated me like I didn't understand what was going on, carefully explained when I didn't, and always asked before doing anything. My birth was a great experience, and the only downsides (length, due to my body's reaction to the pain meds I finally accepted due to exhaustion, which actually slowed labor, which is rare) and insomnia (not their fault, and they treated it right away when they found out I needed help) were not the doctor's fault.

    Real life is not a television show.

    (I gave birth at Meriter in Madison, WI. I give them 6 thumbs up–mine, my husband's, and our beautiful little girls!)

  87. Real life is not a television show.

    I'm a little confused about what your point is, Ronica. Are you saying that the way Betty's childbirth scene was depicted was not realistic to the time? Or simply that the way hospitals treat women giving birth has improved a lot in the intervening 40+ years?

  88. Regarding the "institutional" themes in this episode, does anyone else a touch of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest?" (First published in 1962, I believe.)

  89. In the middle of the night last night, I thought of a reason why Dennis didn't smile at Don in the hallway. When Betty is in the delivery room, she asks the nurse if she's been with Don as well and the nurse gave her what I thought was a funny look. If the nurse gossiped about it, the statement might have gotten back to Dennis's wife who might have repeated it to him thus disproving Dennis's statement that Don is an honest man and pissing him off.

    I also kept having dreams about Betty being a housecat and her and my cat having similar behavior. πŸ™‚

  90. I could've done with a more visceral portrayal of the delivery, honestly. Not that I don't understand the writing decisions that lead to this depiction, but I miss the Betty of S1 and S2. She seemed more alive then.

    On the other hand, I am so happy that they flashed Eugene Draper's birth certificate. I went on and ran up a chart for him…and this kid is a powder-keg.

  91. I dunno kassy. That seems pretty convoluted and complicated even by MM standards. I think it was more likely Dennis' guilty conscience of falling off the "good husband" wagon.

    I'm sure those nurses heard all KINDS of things from women in labor. I bet nothing shocked them at all. I remember some of the stuff that went through MY head (and to this day I couldn't tell you how much of it I might have actually blurted out) , and I had a relatively easy time of it!

  92. Tell us more, Mari!

  93. @72 The guard may have been wheeling his wife to the nursery. The father's waiting room scenario allowed two people, who would otherwise not interact, to let their guard down. When Don passes the guard in the hallway, their reserve was back in place.

    The guard character rang eerily true. My husband works in corrections for a sheriff's department. He works in a major central jail where people are waiting for trial— small time burglars to major heads of drug cartels are mixed together and unless they are segregated, one cannot tell who is more dangerous than the other.
    At the time of our first son's birth , my husband told me that "all of the inmates that he walked amongst, unarmed,was a newborn who had a mother and father. How did these men get to a place where they chose a path of bad choices that led to their incarceration?"

    Don knows the power of choices. Unfortunately, Betty's birth experience shows how choices have always been made for her. Betty is so repressed that she can only fight for her wishes when she is under sedation.

    I am continuously blown away my how Matt Weiner and Co. presents the human condition to us.

  94. OK, OK!!! Don & the prison guard bonding in the waiting room talking about baseball and the prison team playing the Yankees a few years earlier… Don quips "Everyone wearing stripes!" which tickles the tipsy guard… Don, ever the creative, plays to his audience wherever he finds it… always more comfortable with strangers than the people closest to him but then the stripes appear again at the end of the episode on Betts' back… she is in a prison as well… and trapped more than ever now that her father is lost to her as well… I see postpartum depression coming big time… I can tell you from experience… having lost my mother while 7 1/2 months pregnant with my first child… you are cushioned from the shock of the loss of your parent because of all the hormones raging through you and your body "protecting the child" but once the birth is over and you are back to yourself more or less, all that grief on top of the exhaustion of giving birth and taking care of a newborn… I dread what our Betty may do… not her fault at all so I do hope Carla will be present as we all know Don… well is Don… he may be there and may not…

    Being born in 1955 the middle child of 5 and first girl… I grew up on stories about having kids in the 50s… breast feeding was animalistic and frowned upon in "modern times" when formula was scientifically perfected to be "much better for the child than mother's milk" according to the propaganda dispensed (advertising!!!). Mom smoked constantly through all our pregnancies to help keep her weight down… and the normal birth procedure was the stance that the doctor was the expert, you were paying him to deliver the baby so knock me out and do your job!

  95. Don Draper is a thoroughly evil man in a beautiful package and as for childbirth,duh…………it's hell. I was extremely happy to get the twilight sleep, but wished it could be earlier. I had lots of awful pains that prevented me from ever wanting more children. I remember being afraid to cry out because the lady in labor next to me was treated badly when she did. I was not interested in "being in control" just getting it over with. Was it just in the south that women had nurses at home afterwards?

  96. @101 — I do think Sally gets more attention, but neither child is drowning in daddy time. One gets the feeling that Sally will be adding the late night corn beef hash session with dad to eating ice cream with Grampa Gene — special, because it's not the norm.

  97. Well being from the South I can only comment from that region but yes… my mom had help I know after me for sure… I'm not sure about what they did when they had their two oldest and after mom's first child was stillborn, but I know my dad hired a black woman to live in for a few months to help out with me after mom had me in 1955 and we hired someone in 1962 when my sister was born 7 1/2 years later too.

  98. Questions:
    1.) Is "new baby" redundant?
    2.) Did George Carlin already ask that question?
    3.) Who wants to start a pool to bet on how long it will take before Betty says she's had enough playing house and leaves it all behind?
    4.) What will precipitate it? The guy she shagged in the bar shows up and demands, um, satisfaction? She gets The Feminine Mystique as her Book of the Month selection? She figures out that Daddy left her enough money and part of the house to give her the freedom to explore her options? She has a nervous breakdown when the TV blows a fuse and she has to talk to Sally for hours on end?

  99. Last night's episode had me in tears several times. The pain on Don's face when the prison guard said he was going to be a better man after having a child…the end, when Betty's getting up in the dead of night to care for a child she never wanted, which struck me as oh, so ominous, the way it was filmed, with her back to the camera, her shoulders resigned. I see not-good things for little Gene.

    JoanvsJane, I certainly won't disagree that Betty can seem very chilly to the kids (I want to do a drinking game where you chug every time she says "Go watch TV!") but I think you're making the classic mistake of viewing another parent through rose-colored new-mom glasses. Poor Betty is stuck at home all day with those kids (except for Carla and school); she has little going on, her husband has been shockingly absent and unsupportive. And she has two of them. Two loud little kids, demanding milk, falling down and needing hugs, messing up the house, fighting with each other. That is a lot to deal with, and it can make you grumpy. Another line that made me cry in the show: When Gene said "You're a housecat, you have very little to do and you're on display" (I'm paraphrasing). Because that IS being a mom. You are so busy and henpecked yet the job can be incredibly tedious and boring at times at the same time, and everyone's watching you waiting to judge. I see so much of that in Betty, and I want to cry for her, and I'm so scared what's going to happen to this new baby.

  100. #101

    Bobby has been practicing for being the classic "ignored middle child" without even knowing it!

  101. I haven't seen this mentioned yet, but isn't Don kind of a criminal too? With Anna Draper's full co-operation of course. Identity theft, fraud, desertion. The irony of that meeting is hard to ignore. That was interesting look on his face when Dennis asked if he heard him about being a better man. It almost seemed like he was getting a pep talk from a superior.

  102. riverdaughter, "New Baby" is not redundant. A 13 month old is a baby. The technical term for a new baby is a neonate, and it is medically distinct from a baby.

  103. After just watching last night's episode again, the final sequence with Betty struck me differently that it did the first time around. Last night it felt ominous, but this afternoon it reasonated with me more and I certainly recalled feeling that resignation.

    It's the middle of the night, you're exhausted and sore, the baby is crying and even though it's bottle-fed you know darned good and well your husband won't get up and it's your responsibility. When Betty paused, that was what struck me. I recall pausing in my hallway on the way to the nursery, feeling trapped, feeling resentful. It didn't mean I didn't love my baby or wanted to harm her, it's just something that you go through when you're sleep deprived and your hormones are shifting.

    The image of the prison bars on her back were wonderful symbolism.

  104. I was horrified by the birth sequence, I can't believe that is how it was done! My mother even told me today that she was shocked to see how real it all looked, it kind of freaked her out. Ugh…awful…

  105. Every era has it's barbaric strictures… when I was induced in 1988 because of pre-eclampsia, my HMO was instituting a crackdown on C-sections… too many being done so they were only to be used if the baby was in distress… hours later I was begging for a C-section as shift after shift of nurses rotated through with perky questions about how things were progressing… but by that time it was too late for a C-section… my son was already in the birth canal… after 37 1/2 hours of labor he was squeezed out of me by an orderly as I was so exhausted I was no longer feeling my contractions and they had to watch the monitors to tell me when to push as I could no longer tell when I was contracting… I had an epidural but they could only refresh it in between my 20-30 minute long contractions… they had me on oxygen to help my baby who was exhausted as well… the baby was turned a bit in the canal and stuck slightly and so tired… the only reason I wasn't sent home the next day and got at least one good night's sleep before going on duty as a new mom was that my baby was so exhausted they wanted to keep monitoring him for another 24 hours… my poor husband was there with me standing by the bed holding my hand the whole time with only one break to go home to let my poor dog out of his crate!!! Hard to believe that three years later we had the gumption to have our second but hormones are powerful things and you do forget the pain… my younger son was due the same day and was born three years later one day earlier than his older brother… the second child was so much easier it was amazing… I had an epidural that time too and quit having contractions so they took me off the meds and I had him in 11 hours and at the end naturally… so much better!!!! But my first-time experience made me long for the days of knock her out and deliver the baby!!!!

  106. I can see Betty suffering a debilitating post-partum depression, smoking, not eating, retreating inside herself (like she did before being sent to the shrink), but not necessarily hurting Sally, Bobby, or Gene. She already tends to withdraw into herself — trying to preserve that perfect image of wife, mother, hostess.

    Sadly, I could see Betty hurting herself in some way. Oh, I hope not.

    My Mom was born in 1923 and raised two girls, one born in the 1950's, me in 1961 and later told me how stressful the "perfection" of the era was. She was tiny — probably smaller than Betty — but had to wear a long line bra and girdle so that nothing jiggled or moved. She felt pressured to have a perfectly clean home all the time. She tried to keep my sister clean all the time (she gave up by the time I came around!) Even going to church was stressful because there was social pressure to wear the right hat, matching shoes and purse, etc., and my folks didn't have that kind of money. At any rate, as an older woman, she looked back on it all and realized that she was probably depressed the whole time in one way or the other. But admitting that she was would mean she wasn't "perfect," and who wanted to admit to that? So she worked like crazy to keep the house clean 24/7, cooked, sewed, smoked to keep thin, and kept whatever stressed her out to herself.

  107. #109 Deborah_ Lipp. It's a joke. Like hot water heater. My mom and I laugh about this term every time we hear it. It's sort of like game show contestants who say about themselves, "I have a wonderful husband, Jack, who I am married to".
    I'm very familiar with the term neonate. But the word "baby" connotes newness even if technically the kid is old enough to change his own diapers.

  108. Betty's need to excuse herself and visit the restroom at Sally's school, very likely had to do with a temporary condition that hits many pregnant woman.

    Pregnancy plays havoc with a woman's endocrine system and one of the hormones that is affected is one that controls thirst and liquid input/output. It's a condition known as Diabetes insipidus (sometimes called "water diabetes").

    About 20 years ago, I had surgery to remove a benign tumor on my pituitary gland, which damaged the area that produces this same hormone. So I have to take a replacement hormone daily, that keeps me from drinking and peeing incessantly.

    Of course, carrying a baby for nine months will, in the latter stages of pregnancy, put pressure on the bladder, which also adds to the discomfort and symptoms.

  109. Not sure if this has been mentioned yet, but "Eugene" is greek for "of good birth." Another way of saying it is "good genes."

    And no, I didn't learn that from a used car salesman named Teddy.

    Speaking of The Wheel, Don's definition of nostalgia isn't quite right. It is an ache in the heart, but a literal translation is an "ache for home." Nostos being home.

    Which is exactly what Don's aching for as he delivers the pitch. But he doesn't mention it. Brilliant writing, but need I say it?

    More Greek for Mad Men: Rachel Menken mentions the literal meaning of utopia, which is based on an ambiguity in the term. She has it completely right and that's one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. It can mean both the "good place" and "no place".

  110. @82, that is horrible and scary how badly your mother was treated when she was losing her baby. That was just 2 years before I was born. I shudder to think about such a thing. I’m glad your mother made it through, despite that misguided judge. Thank you for sharing that.

  111. @72 The guard may have been wheeling his wife to the nursery. The father’s waiting room scenario allowed two people, who would otherwise not interact, to let their guard down. When Don passes the guard in the hallway, their reserve was back in place.

    The guard character rang eerily true. My husband works in corrections for a sheriff’s department. He works in a major central jail where people are waiting trial— small time burglars to major heads of drug cartels are mixed together and unless they are segregated, one cannot tell who is more dangerous than the other.
    At the time of our first son’s birth , my husband told me that “all of the inmates that he walked amongst, unarmed,was once newborn who had a mother and father. How did these men get to a place where they chose a path of bad choices that led to their incarceration?”

    Don knows the power of choices. Unfortunately, Betty’s birth experience shows how choices have always been made for her. Betty is so repressed that she can only fight for her wishes when she is under sedation.

    I am continuously blown away my how Matt Weiner and Co. presents the human condition to us.

  112. #93, It’d be so much easier if I could somehow arrange a guest post about it; it’s so much easier to go through a chart with the image visible.

  113. Considering how soul-crushing Betty’s pre-partum depression has been, I am not looking forward to her post-partum depression. Hope she’s at least got the kids enrolled in day camp this summer, or I fear for their safety.

  114. Mari, contact us for guest writer permissions.

  115. Also… did anyone get the bit about the prison guard enthusing about having a boy and anticipating throwing the ball around with his boy? He asked Don if he did that sort of thing with his boy and Don said not nearly enough… if memory serves Sally is who gets the lion’s share of what “Daddy-time” there is available… Bobby gets reprimands… Bobby has been pretty much invisible except when he is called on the carpet for one misdeed or another…

  116. "I can see Betty suffering a debilitating post-partum depression, smoking, not eating, retreating inside herself (like she did before being sent to the shrink), but not necessarily hurting Sally, Bobby, or Gene. She already tends to withdraw into herself — trying to preserve that perfect image of wife, mother, hostess."

    I liked this comment, and really feel for Betty, too, not because I'm anything like her. I see my sister in her because she also tries SO HARD to be the perfect worker, wife, homemaker and mother. With that comes a certain detachment. Where the rubber meets the road, I think, one can get a little numb.

    Taking care of little kids is EXHAUSTING, and I really feel for all mothers, and Betty, too. We see in this episode after the baby is born, Don resting on a couch in his office. Where's Betty's nap? No one is going to let her be alone in a room and lie down (once she's recovered from her horrific-looking delivery, that is). Working full-time is much easier than raising even a single child, even if just by simply getting an actual lunch break.

  117. My mom had 8 kids (9 pregnancies, losing one halfway thru term), between 1956 and 1971. The nurse at my baby brother's birth, in 1971, asked my dad if he wanted to go to the delivery room – he said "she's on autopilot and doesn't need me". Mom did tell me she was glad for the pain meds, and that the shave/enema was humiliating, but that 'germs' and fecal matter would be more humiliating (to her)…so…my own daughter was born without aid of medication (it was tough, but I remember it)…and my mom was shocked that I was able to handle it, saying that if she would NOT have been 'knocked out' she would've never had a second kid. πŸ™‚


  119. Posting at last, for the first time since watching the episode (twice!), to say that it shook me up. Thoroughly.

    My sister sensed how upset I was when Bets was heading into the wost of the contractions in the hospital, and called me to say the equivalent of "chill — it's all right."

    She lives in Seattle and I'm in SF. She's good. πŸ™‚

    I have a theory about childbirth. I think it's incredibly heroic, even on today's terms: it's the closest a woman ever swings to mortality when she's in her prime. Yet we're somehow all expected to do it. Several times, even!

    I mean. WTF?!?!?

    Because so many of those I love had tough deliveries, or are still in their productive years, "The Fog" was difficult for me to watch. But the episode's depiction of childbirth rang true to its time, even if it was harrowing to watch. Women of my mother's generation have indicated that childbirth was more or less a long, female-only, very private hell. (My mom is more of a sugarcoater; she claims not to remember.)

    And the scene with Don and the kids, waving to Betty and baby from outside on the sidewalk: I'm one of six, and I remember that. That was dead-on accurate.

    Kudos to Matt, Jon, and especially Jan on this one. Great job.

  120. So let's see… You jump a husband you rightfully distrust and and are pissed at in one of the lowest points of your marriage. OK, happens. Unprotected sex happens. Then pregnancies happen. Which… with this being your third, you're bound to be well aware of. Then you're giving the opportunity to not have that child at all. But you choose to have it just like you chose to jump on that husband. He didn't force himself on you, he didn't threaten you or pressure you to have another baby in any way. Nobody did.

    Then you're understandably feeling trapped and unhappy, shadow-bars on the back, blah blah blah. But somehow… this would have been oh SO much better if there was a little girl wailing next door and waking you up and consumming all your energy? As if you're being such a dotting mother to the one you already have (with hired help)… and as if a baby girl would have been so much non-unhappy-making because she doesn't have an oppresive little penis you have to tuck in those diapers. Boy or girl, this baby didn't exactly conceive itself nor did it ask to be born.

    This is no different to me than reading everywhere that grandpa Gene was so "creepy" and "inappropriate" and surely on the cusp of molesting Sally. I think my comprehension box is broken.

  121. I really felt like watching Betty was like watching my own my mother. The fog state reminded me of her describing my brother's birth. She believes to this day that she died on the table. She remembers walking around the birthing room, watching as Jay was born. My father, who was allowed to be with her for this birth (the only one at a non-Catholic hospital and the only one he was allowed to attend). He swears she didn't die, because the dead can't yell at their husbands.

    January Jones did a lovely job. I am going to show this episode to my mother. She is my 1960's resource person.

    Oh, and they telegraphed the sex of the baby during the wedding ring on a chain scene. Back and forth means boy (penis), circle means girl (vagina). I didn't think MW would put it in if it wasn't important.

  122. […] KBH found a couple more: Don says, Ò€œItÒ€ℒs not a good timeÒ€ to the guard in the waiting room. […]

  123. Betty's birth scene is so different from what women experience these days.. and if it was so distressing for a married woman having her third, we got some real insight into what Peggy must have endured. Despite being the least patient person alive, I love the way the Mad Men characters' stories are told over time.

  124. After long nights spent in the waiting room with my mother's other births, Dad talked Mom into waiting when it was time for me to arrive (and I was nine days overdue).

    The procedure for the first two births had been to get Mom into a "labor room" which was like a regular hospital room, and then they'd go get Dad to pop in and say goodbye before they took her to delivery and he returned to the fathers' room.

    Well, he made her wait so long I crowned in the elevator on the way to the labor room, so they took her straight to delivery instead. When they came to get him, he thought it was just the beginning of the wait, but it was the end. The nurse thought he was going to faint.

    (Mom says if I'd been a boy she'd have named me Otis after the elevator company.)

  125. Anne B: I have a theory about childbirth. I think it’s incredibly heroic, even on today’s terms: it’s the closest a woman ever swings to mortality when she’s in her prime. Yet we’re somehow all expected to do it. Several times, even!

    The other advantage to the present era's practice of having your mate in the delivery room with you is that he will come out of it convinced you are a hero. The glory lasts a little while. πŸ™‚

  126. “I can see Betty suffering a debilitating post-partum depression, smoking, not eating, retreating inside herself (like she did before being sent to the shrink), but not necessarily hurting Sally, Bobby, or Gene. She already tends to withdraw into herself — trying to preserve that perfect image of wife, mother, hostess.â€Β

    Yes, yes, yes. Did you see her coming home outfit? Pink, with ruffles? Did you see that Norman Rockwell scene that they put on for Francine — who knows the actual truth about this baby, that Betty did not want it?

    Betty is all about appearances, and we the audience are like Francine — we know the truth behind them. She's about to go into a breakdown worse than the polka dotted dress one.

  127. Apropos of nothing…

    …but the name of Sally's teacher is Suzanne Farrell, the very same name as the world-famous ballerina. AND the same dance teacher under whom Elisabeth Moss studied as a child at the American School of Ballet in New York. Coincidence?

  128. The nurse gives Betty the needle and says, "think of the beauty parlor." Betty got the abortion information from Francine at the beauty parlor. Also, beauty parlors historically were sometimes fronts for abortions, or places you could make contacts for one.

  129. Betty's heavy sigh before she goes to her crying baby says it all for me. She's in a fog and simply going through the motions, never following her heart, never really having a sense of self. She does what society expects her to do but with no real passion or joy.

    I missed being in the office for most of this episode. The series is always at its best when the story is focused at work.

  130. @ 82 CPT_Doom. I seriously see this show as being so close to real life, it can be very, very unnerving.

    I am glad your mother survived that horrible incident–how cruel people can be in the name of their beliefs.

  131. @ 25framesaminute…that is a great observation and ties in nicely with Sally's "addling" reference (which she learned in Miss Farrell's class) later on.

  132. Betty tried "addling" that baby when she went horseback riding. It didn't take. Of course, Don & Sally don't know that.

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