Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mad Men and Birth, Sixties Style

Sunday night’s episode of Mad Men brought 60s-style birth to prime time TV. The moment that mother/wife Betty matter-of-factly proclaimed “It’s time,” birth activists across America probably sat poised on the edge of their couches anxious to see how the show would portray this birth. Contrary to typical television births, Betty and father/husband Don calmly proceeded to the hospital—no rush, no alarm, no emergency mode. In fact, most of what followed matched the reality of what it was like to give birth in the 1960s.

Upon arriving at the hospital, Don retired to the waiting room. Betty was “prepared for delivery” with a shave and a dose of twilight sleep (morphine and scopolamine). As the effects of sedation set in, Betty became a belligerent, sweaty, laboring woman hovering somewhere between painful reality and a drug-induced dream world. Hours later, she woke up with a baby in her arms and Don by her side.

Set in the early 1960s, Mad Men is littered with unfair treatment of women in the home and in the workplace. Watching this series has caused many female viewers to closely examine ways that they may be mistreated as women in today’s society—ways that they simply accept as part of the way things are. Maybe Sunday night’s episode of Mad Men will cause women to question the routine parts of modern birth and to wonder if we could (still) be doing better.

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