Birthing trends: ‘Mad Men’ explores the horrors of giving birth in the ’60s; how about now and in the future?

Last Sunday’s episode of “Mad Men” offered a visceral and scary view of giving birth in the 1960s. It was titled very appropriately “The Fog.” (The producers of the show even did a whole video about why they wanted to explore giving birth in the 1960s. See the clip above. The first 2.5 minutes apply to our topic.)

Betty Draper was pregnant with her third child on the show. She smoked and drank her way through the pregnancy and didn’t eat much other than Melba toast and cottage cheese, so she wouldn’t ruin her figure of course. (Oh is that where I went wrong – eating sausage biscuits?)

(Here’s part of Betty’s visit to the hospital to give birth.)

When the time came, her husband Don drove her to the hospital. The nurse plopped her in a wheel chair and told Don his job was done and to go sit and wait. They proceeded to take her a room to shave her entirely and give her an enema. These things sound terrible under normal circumstances much less while you’re in labor. Then she was given narcotics (by a nurse that kept missing her vein – where is the patient’s bill of rights???) to put her into a fog to give birth.

Later in the episode, she was calling for Don and they wouldn’t bring him to her. She was all alone, drugged up and freaking out!

After a long dream sequence, she finally comes to in her hospital room holding her newborn. (That seems safe give the drugged up lady her brand-new baby!)

It was heartwrenching to watch what a terrible experience it was to give birth back then. No warmth. No personal choice. No options. No husband with you to help you and to experience the joy. No joy.

I know my mother had the twilight drug with both of us. She had no idea what she had either time and had no idea how we came out of her body.

I’m so happy it’s not like that anymore. My first birthing experience was OK, but my second and third births with my midwives were much better. I had my birth plan for the last two. The midwives and nurses actually read it and knew exactly what I wanted from my birthing experience and what I was worried about. Michael didn’t leave my side for even a moment.  They used minimal drugs with my second and none with my third. I nursed all three immediately and roomed in with them all. I co-slept with my last two in the hospital.  The last two births were exactly the experience I wanted.

All of the practices of the ’60s seem so crazy now. After watching the show together, Michael wondered which practices of ours will be thought of as foolish or scary in the future.

If you saw the show, tell me what you thought of Betty’s birthing experience. If you gave birth in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s or 2000s tell us about your experiences then. How do you think childbirth will change for the next generation? What will they think we did was crazy?

85 comments Add your comment

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

September 18th, 2009
7:28 am

Very upsetting news about the baby left in the storm drain — the baby has died. The 18-year-old mom allegedly delivered at her boyfriend’s home (can you imagine!) and then went to the hospital. According to Police, the boyfriend then allegedly left the baby in a storm drain near the house.
http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/baby-left-in-storm-140351.htmlere

so upsetting, poor baby. God bless the baby!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

September 18th, 2009
7:29 am

Unrelated but about babies — Katherine Heigl and her husband have adopted a special needs baby — the pictures are fantastic. the baby is just sooo beautiful and Katherine looks sooo happy.

http://celebrity-babies.com/2009/09/17/katherine-heigl-and-josh-kelley-introduce-naleigh/

Dr. Horrible

September 18th, 2009
7:43 am

I love “Mad Men” I love to see what it was like to live in a time before I was even born. The amount of drinking, Vodka in Milk in the morning…REALLY???, and smoking is terrifying to watch. It makes you wonder how anybody survived that time period.

The birth sequence was pretty terrifying from a father’s perspective because you were just expected to wait in the waiting room until your wife had the baby. And the nurse, played by Lisa Simpson, aka Yerdley Smith, could have cared less about the concerns of the father….scary stuff.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

September 18th, 2009
7:50 am

We totally caught the Lisa Simpson — what’s up with that – we decided she was just a fan of the show.

there is no way I would want Michael away from me while I was giving birth. He wanted to be there too!! I thought for certain that guy’s wife was going to die in the show.

Dr. Horrible

September 18th, 2009
8:04 am

The one thing that irritates me is that on DirectTV, I’m not sure if it is the same with other providers, the AMC channel is in standard definition..ONLY…What’s up with that?

I want to see the 60’s in full high def.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

September 18th, 2009
8:10 am

i think comcast has in high def. — don draper is pretty! — my husband’s work associate is the sister of Jon Hamm’s girlfriend. All the work friends in NY got to meet him and they said he was soo nice.

Michael is correct...

September 18th, 2009
8:15 am

…”Michael wondered which practices of ours will be thought of as foolish or scary in the future”. You will probably find out that what you think was a perfect experience was really, really wrong (just as all the drinking and smoking back then has been proven to be bad – but that was DURING the pregnancy), so don’t get too smug yet!

And, contrary to popular belief TODAY, not having any sort of medication during the labor period is not necessarily a good thing – some women have the mentality that the drugs are harmful to the fetus, when in actuality the stress on the mother who is in pain directly impacts the well being of the fetus during the birthing process, so it is really a trade off, and can be really detrimental if problems (i.e. – fetal distress) occurs. Just be careful about being “macho”, ladies!

Dr. Horrible

September 18th, 2009
8:16 am

SPOILER ALERT!!! STOP READING IF YOU DON’T WANT A PLOT SPOILER TO FOLLOW:

@Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

Does it bother you that Peter doesn’t seem to care about the fact that Peggy had his baby? It bothers my wife quite a bit.

DB

September 18th, 2009
8:22 am

New Mom — maybe you better skip reading this column today!!

I vividly remember my mother giving birth in 1969 — I was 13, and although I wasn’t there, she was pretty forthcoming with the details. She smoked — althoughshe did cut down a bit — and had an occasional cocktail throughout her pregnancy. The doctor told her that, throughout her pregnancy, she was to life nothing heavier than a wash rag! There was absolutely no question of my father being in the delivery room — heck, I can probably count on one hand how many times he changed a diaper!! She was very glad to use the “twilight” drugs — she’s not big on pain — and the typical hospital stay was about a week. No nursing — according to her, formula was more “convenient and less messy.” She was very typical of her time.

My first was born in 1988. Second in 1991. First was an emergency C-section after two days of unproductive stop-and-start labor, but my husband was there for every minute, including the surgery. I remember being completely ticked off because I didn’t get to hold the baby first — he did! They let me stay awake for the delivery, but I was out probably a minute after he was born and I heard him cry, and didn’t wake up again for another couple of hours, in recovery. I was in the hospital from Sunday to Friday. Very long recovery.

The second was a VBAC, which worked very well. They ended up inducing me because my blood pressure spiked at the last minute. It was actually very nice — I was the only one on the maternity floor for the majority of the day (obviously, not at Piedmont or Northside!), and, except for a nurse who missed the IV three times (ha!), it was a very positive experience. I don’t do epidurals — the idea of someone sticking a needle in my spine was far more disturbing than labor, to me! Euwww! They had an anesthesiologist on call just in case, since I was a VBAC, but no problems at all, in the hospital two nights, and the recovery period was practically nothing, compared to previously.

My mother thought I was a raving idiot for not getting knocked out — I told her that they don’t even do it anymore, and she was aghast. All see could do is go on and on about how painful it was, and was I sure that I couldn’t get knocked out? (Thanks, Mom . . .) And when I chose to nurse, she was convinced I had reverted to some sort of crazed Earth Mother routine, because only hippies nursed their kids (I was in banking — so hardly!)

I think the thing that strikes me about the difference between today and my time is the emphasis on keeping physically fit throughout the pregnancy. Most of the new moms I meet today are much more conscientious about exercise than I was. I did some swimming, half-heartedly, but moms today are much more active. I’m still a little amazed at the people that give birth and are home later that day or the next day — although, with all the stuff floating around hospitals, there’s probably a good reason to prefer to be home than prolonged exposure at the hospital!

Please

September 18th, 2009
8:32 am

I have problems with any man writing about the birthing experience.

jct

September 18th, 2009
8:32 am

Love Mad Men. Even though I have never given birth, I am glad there are options today. Even more distrubing to me is the way Betty treats her children. Has she said three words to her son this season? The way she tell her daughter to ‘go watch TV’ when she wants to talk sends pit to my stomach everytime.

@Dr. Horrible – Peter is a tool. When is he gonna wake up and ask about his child?

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

September 18th, 2009
8:35 am

Peter seemed very upset at first (there was that scene with the shot gun I think at the very end of last season) but then we never did see any follow up questions –

Dr. Horrible

September 18th, 2009
8:37 am

@Please

HUH?

motherjanegoose

September 18th, 2009
8:38 am

FUN Friday….LOL!

As many of you know, I do not watch much TV( less than 3-4 hours per week) and so know nothing about this series.

I had great pregnancies and worked up until the week before delivery both times.

I had my son nearly 23 years ago…my water broke at 3:00 a.m. and we headed to the hospital.
Yes, I had drugs. I was in labor for 12 hours and nothing was happening. My Doctor told me he was getting ready to leave the hospital and the next Doctor, in the practice, would be there with me if I wanted to hang on. The original Doctor was the one ( in the practice) we liked the best. He calmly recommended a C section ( but made it our choice) as it appeared the baby was quite large. ( NO sonogram the entire pregnancy back then…you only had one if things looked bad as insurance did not cover it for us).
I delivered a 10 pound 8 ounce boy ( with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck) C section.
He was fine. We stayed in the hospital 5 days and everyone commented on him in the nursery, that he must be at least a month old. We still laugh about it….everything is BIG in Texas.

Five years later and we moved here to Gwinnett. I fought with my doctors to repeat a C-section.
This was when VBACS were new and they were trying to make a quota. I spoke with our insurance and due to my previous pregnancy, they approved it. Nothing doing with the Doctors.
I was in labor over 24 hours and our daughter was yanked out of me. The nurse was straddled over my mid section and pushing while the doctor was using the forceps and suction to pry her out.
The sonogram showed that she was nearly 9 pounds but the Doctor was determined for a VBAC.
Our daugher’s arm was paralyzed and she was diagnosed with ERB”S PALSY. This is due to nerve damage and caused by yanking her out of me and stretching the nerves in the C-5/6 range. What a mess. Her little right arm hung like a piece of wet spaghetti. I had to pin her sleeve to the front of her clothes so it would not get tangled in the back. She had no feeling nor could she move it. It was a nightmare and caused by a choice made by doctors who still practice here.

After MANY prayers and various medical attention, she regained use of her arm. She has 95 per cent usage now and most would not even be able to tell. I cried as I nursed my baby for 6 months, now knowing what would happen. She is a wonderful 17 year old now but there are still things she cannot do.

Needless to say, the birth experience was a nightmare the second time around. I have conferred with neurologists, while traveling, and they affirmed that the Doctor made a very poor choice and was lucky that neither of us died. We feel blessed.

motherjanegoose

September 18th, 2009
8:41 am

FYI…sorry for the long post…YES I was awake with both of mine and my husband was there too.
He was green around the collar both times but he stayed with me and was in awe about the miracle of birth. It is a magnificent experience to welcome a new life into the world and to know that child is yours.

Dr. Horrible

September 18th, 2009
8:42 am

SPOILER ALERT!!! STOP READING IF YOU DON’T WANT A PLOT SPOILER TO FOLLOW:

I also wonder if the baby Betty had is actually Don’s……remember Betty had that little encounter with the man in the storeroom at the bar??…..Something to think about anyway…LOL.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

September 18th, 2009
8:43 am

Oh my goodness MJG — Sue, sue, sue!!!! holy cow!!

Please

September 18th, 2009
8:50 am

As far as I know, no man has ever given birth. How can he write about the experience? I have never given birth. I couldn’t write about the experience.

Dr. Horrible

September 18th, 2009
8:53 am

@Please

Um, ok and at what point in this entire blog discussion has a man written about the birth experience? I’m realy confused.

Please

September 18th, 2009
8:55 am

I watched the video. The writer of the show is a man. He was writing about the birth experience.

motherjanegoose

September 18th, 2009
8:59 am

@ theresa, yes we did have a video shot with our daughter, for attorneys to use in the event of a law suit., LUCKILY she regained use of her arm and we both agreed to let it go. Two of the three doctors are still here.

I would MUCH rather have a healthy child than any amount of money.

The sad part was that both of my pregnancies were just great. I worked the entire time. I ate all the right foods, even no coffee with my son. I had to have a cup here since I was tackling the interstate to get to work….haha! In Texas, I passed by 3 stop signs on my way to Kindergarten….oh the days!

Then, the horrendous delivery and “damaged” baby.

We feel blessed that things turned out for her and us. She is a great kid.

Dr. Horrible

September 18th, 2009
9:02 am

@Please

Matthew Weiner is the principle writer of the show yes, but something tells me he probably had female consultants help him out with the writing of the birthing sequence. You tell me, if you saw the birth episode in question, was it written poorly?

Stan

September 18th, 2009
9:04 am

MJG,
To your point, sometimes Drs get complexes about them knowing everything. They don’t! Sometimes you really have to put your foot down and explain to them that they are going to do it this way or you will find a new dr that will.
I’ve had to do this a couple of times with both my own docs and my wifes when her kidney came out.

Glad everything turned out mostly ok for your daughter

Uh, Theresa...

September 18th, 2009
9:05 am

…re: motherjanegoose’s delivery and subsequent difficulties, it is way too late to sue – and why would you suggest such a thing? Doctors are human, too, and usually it is the mother who demands that she be allowed the VBAC ’cause she wants to be a “real” woman. It is usually those women who end up suing when the baby ends up damaged.

Sorry for the problems, motherjane, glad it all worked out for you and your daughter. Some doctors are just pigs – 17 years ago MOST doctors knew better than to force a VBAC – you and your daughter are really, REALLY lucky, and so is that Dumb a$$ MD!

Dr. Horrible

September 18th, 2009
9:06 am

@ Please

This should help clear it up for you. This comes from the Mad Men Wikipedia page:

As of the third season, seven of the nine writers for the show are women, in spite of Writers Guild of America 2006 statistics that show male writers outnumber female writers by 2-to-1.[15] As Maria Jacquemetton notes:

We have a predominately female writing staff — women from their early 20s to their 50s — and plenty of female department heads and directors. [Show creator] Matt Weiner and [executive producer] Scott Hornbacher hire people they believe in, based on their talent and their experience. ‘Can you capture this world? Can you bring great storytelling?’[15]

Please

September 18th, 2009
9:07 am

I’ve never given birth so I couldn’t tell you. So unless the writer is a female who gave birth during the ’60’s, I have a problem believing everything they write. Of course I take most tv shows and movies with a grain of salt. Reality doesn’t always make good tv.

YUKI

September 18th, 2009
9:07 am

I don’t watch the show but it looks like something I would enjoy. But as far as the giving birth part….yikes!! I cannot imagine going through something like that. I had my baby 19 months ago and it was a great experience. Labor pains (pretty tough), drove to hosptial, got epidural (LIFESAVER), and then smooth sailing! Even though I was in labor most of the day, it was not bad at all. Husband right there for support and watched the whole thing. Pushing was a litle tough but nothing really horrible, baby came out…..JOY!!! I was really lucky to have such a wonderful experience and I realize that. My mom told me that she had drugs as well, not epidural but not sure what it is called. I would have to ask her more about that to see what her experience was….but hopefully not cold and horrible like you described in the paragraphs above.
So happy to have had my experince in 2008 as opposed to the 60’s….but I guess if they didn’t know better than they didn’t know it was bad!

New Stepmom

September 18th, 2009
9:11 am

We hope to have a baby asap and the birth part scares me to death. I also have mixed feelings about the hubs being in the room with me. I have heard of men that are so grossed out they never touch their wives again. That is just me being paranoid I am sure. I also think that I will have an epidural. I am lucky that I have a fabulous doc that I know well due to 3 surgeries and I know I will be taken care of by her or her colleagues.

MJG, that is terrible about your daughter. I am so glad she has such good use of her arm. My cousins adopted a little girl from India 2.5 years ago with the same issue. It is amazing how much use of her arm she has regained with physical therapy. I am so glad she is here, she is shining light in our family.

Please

September 18th, 2009
9:15 am

Clear as mud. lol Thanks.

motherjanegoose

September 18th, 2009
9:18 am

In case anyone wants to be informed: http://www.erbspalsyonline.com/ explains things

No, I did not have gestational diabetes, My first doctor told me I was a perfect incubator and thus had large healthy babies…obviously, I did not talk to the doctor much after the birth of my daughter.

Geez, New Stepmom...

September 18th, 2009
9:18 am

…it is usually the mother who, after going through pregnancy and the birth process, says “my husband is never going to touch me again!” I have NEVER heard it the way you describe it(LOL).

YUKI

September 18th, 2009
9:21 am

New Stepmom, I thought my husband would be grossed out too. I had insisted that he stay near my head as opposed to “down there” when it was time to deliver. He actually ended up watching the whole thing and was not grossed out at all. I think he was just so amazed by the whole process….he thought I would be a moster the whole time freaking out and yelling but I was pretty calm and normal (thanks Epidural!)…I know he does not regret watching the miracle of birth and believe me, it does not make him not want to touch me!

Becky

September 18th, 2009
9:22 am

@Please..I have never given birth, nor have I seen this show..My only experience with child birth is that I was in the delivery room with my sister when she had two of her three boys..So thanks for sharing your negative attitude with us today..

So a man may have not been through the birthing process, but the time spent waiting, pacing and being scared, nervous or whatever you may be feeling, isn’t something to discredit..

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend..

Dr. Horrible

September 18th, 2009
9:27 am

@Please

Thank you for reminding me that statistically most of the population has only an eighth grade education.

I give people way too much credit sometimes.

New Stepmom

September 18th, 2009
9:28 am

Do a little research, there are men out there that are traumatized by birth. Again, it is me being paranoid and scared, but the thought has crossed my mind. My husband will be with me, but I am not sure how excited I am about that part…just being 100% honest…

New Stepmom

September 18th, 2009
9:29 am

Thanks YUKI!!!!

In case anyone wants to be informed...

September 18th, 2009
9:30 am

…Erb’s palsy, also known as a brachial plexus injury incurred during the birth/delivery is a KNOWN complication of the birth process – called shoulder dystocia – and there are many causes of it. There are also several manuevers physicians perform to reduce the dystocia problem, including the breaking of the fetus’ clavical in order to complete the delivery process. Whether or not permanent damage is incurred by the fetus is basically the luck of the draw. Motherjanegoose’s experience is the result of an incompetent MD, though it may be that he really did not expect there to be the dystocia problem and there were no other known reasons to not try the VBAC (except when the mother said she wanted a c-section HE SHOULD HAVE LISTENED!. Sometimes when shoulder dystocia occurs there is still enough time to do a c-section, but most times the delivery is already almost completed when the “stuck” part happens.

Sure glad it all worked out for motherjane and, especially, her daughter.

Dr. Horrible

September 18th, 2009
9:32 am

I thought I’d be freaked out when my wife gave birth to our daughter, who is now 5, but I was actually fascinated by the whole experience…it is very surreal. So when my son came along 3 years later it was cake.

Geez, New Stepmom...

September 18th, 2009
9:36 am

I didn’t say that some men were not traumatized by viewing the birth process, only that most times it is the mother who says no one is ever going to touch her again (i.e. – no more sex for you, mister – insert laughter here, even though you cannot seemingly understand sarcasm/humor when presented with it). Please read and comprehend before suggesting that research be done!

motherjanegoose

September 18th, 2009
9:37 am

@ in case….all doctors in the practice were women. I told them that I would endure 12 hours of labor and then wanted a C section if nothing was progressing. My primary doctor was not in the hospital for hours ( had a family emergency) and those that were there kept calling her to check in to see what she wanted to do….wait. I was in labor for 24 hours and exhausted, when she arrived. My husband said my face was a blue as a blueberry while I was pushing…he was scared for me.

Please

September 18th, 2009
9:38 am

@Dr. Horrible. Glad you feel so superior to others. I thought I was entitled to my opinion. Once again, one person is allowed to try and force their opinion on others. Have a great day!

Dr. Horrible

September 18th, 2009
9:42 am

@Please

It was the Clear as mud comment you gave after I succinctly answered your question as to how a man would know anything about the birthing experience. I even provided proof in the form of verbiage from the website stating that 7 OUT OF 9 of the show’s writer’s are women….WHY IS IT SO HARD FOR YOU TO UNDERSTAND?

motherjanegoose

September 18th, 2009
9:42 am

HAHA

.@ Dr. Horrible….any MAN who says “So when my son came along 3 years later it was cake.”
Needs to be whipped….please eat your 9:27 post.

This may be why some posters are not buying into the birth of a child being written by a man….you gave me a good laugh…nothing about childbirth is cake…is it? Maybe I am the ONLY mother who was in the teensiest bit of pain and misery while on the table…LOL. Did any one have FUN while delivering?

Becky

September 18th, 2009
9:47 am

Stan, you are so right about Drs. and their knowing everything..I have a sister that is a IV tech for a hugh hospital in VA and you should hear some of the things that she tells that the Drs. there do..

MotherJaneGoose..Sorry to hear that your family went through that with your daughter..Glad to know that for the most part, everything worked out..

Please

September 18th, 2009
9:48 am

Because your comments didn’t prove anything to me. All women do not give birth. I don’t know if any of the women writers gave birth in the ’60’s. I understand what you are saying, I just don’t totally agree with it.

I believe...

September 18th, 2009
9:48 am

motherjanegoose, that Dr. Horrible meant it was a “piece of cake” FOR HIM – he was responding to New Stepmom who is afraid that her husband will not touch her again due to being traumatized by the birth process.

Hey, Please...

September 18th, 2009
9:52 am

…you must be a democrat with that “entitled” statement!

BlondeHoney

September 18th, 2009
9:53 am

Like MJG, i had my boys in the 80’s (they are now 24 & 23 respectively) and the only drugs i had was the epidural which was FABULOUS. I had awesome Dr.’s and nurses, had my babies with me in my cozy warm tastefully decorated room. My sister had her 1st baby last year & I was with her & her husband for the delivery and the first two weeks…seems to me there’s not much difference today EXCEPT you couldn’t move for tripping over lactation counselers…wtf?? My sister had a visit every hour on the hour & we joked that it was “operation lactation”. Except they were so busy with lactation that NO ONE told her she needed to burp her baby after feeding. My poor sis said she thought if she was nursing she didn’t need to burp Maggie. Enough already with the lactation counselors good grief…my lactation counselor was called my nurse & it worked just fine. Lactation counselors are just something else to charge you for IMHO

Andrea

September 18th, 2009
9:54 am

@YUKI & NewStepmom: I have heard of men who are TOTALLY grossed out by the whole birthing procedure and said it turned them off sexually. I thought about that when I had my children. My son was premature so there was a 10 minute C-section and all was done! My then husband was at my head because the doctors said he could not be “down there”. I was actually relieved to be totally honest that he wasn’t looking!

My daughter was a different story. She came the day before she was actually due and he was very excited about seeing the birth. I was not however. Thankfully he fainted and it was not an issue (100% true)! He woke up in a chair in the corner and the baby was born. He was totally bummed about missing it and I publically lamented with him and privately rejoiced. The doctor did leave an extra piece of the cord attached so he could cut it, but she was in the little baby bed.

motherjanegoose

September 18th, 2009
9:57 am

@ I believe…I knew that….but any man who ever says childbirth is a piece pf cake, whether for him or the mother, deserves a little ribbing don’t you think?

MOMS…please tell me who thought childbirth was a piece of cake….I need to know what drugs you took! I may need them when I turn 60.