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?