Mad Men: Finally!

September 1, 2008

After detailing the infertility storyline on the first and second episodes of the current season of Mad Men, I have been silent for a while because there had been no movement on the storyline.

The episode entitled “The New Girl,” which aired last week, has made up for lost time. Sorry for the delay in my post; there was a TiVo issue and I didn’t get to watch it until it was rerun along with the newest episode.

The Campbells go to a fertility specialist! We get to see the early-1960s version of an RE visit, including:

  • The doctor asks the couple if they are “aware of the principles of conception, how the sperm meets the egg”; I am guessing that nowadays, most REs assume this level of knowledge
  • Individual meetings for each partner in which the doctor asks sensitive questions; my current RE (Dr. Full Steam Ahead) didn’t do this, but my first RE (Dr. Fancy Pants) had a private questionnaire for each of us to complete
  • An amusing scene in the Male Room (a.k.a. Sperm Palace) in which Pete looks through the pornography, featuring nostalgic early-1960s magazines

One part of the episode that hit home for me was when the doctor asked Pete, “Have you ever fathered a child?” He answers no, not knowing about the illegitimate child he fathered during the first season.

When we started our second round of IF testing, Dr. Full Steam Ahead asked us whether DH had ever fathered a pregnancy. DH said no, and I had to correct him. He confused fathering a child, which he has not done, with fathering a pregnancy, which he has done (at that point, just M/C #1; now we can add M/C #2). It was a sad and awkward moment.

The episode also features an argument between the Campbells when they learn that the semen analysis revealed no problems (Pete, raising a glass to toast: “To my ability!”), and therefore that female factor issues must be the source of their infertility (Trudy, disingenuously: “It’s a relief. Now we know it’s me.”).

Their argument features elements that many people still consider (and blog about) today, such as differing levels of commitment to TTC, self-blame, having children as the next logical step after marriage rather than a mindful choice, appreciation of the freedom that can come with childlessness, embarassment over providing a semen sample (“I just did a very private thing in a very public place for you“), and fate (“maybe this is the way it’s supposed to be”).

Pete delivers a line that would plunge a knife into any of our hearts: “Either you make it through this thing, or you just keep it to yourself.” This character constantly makes me grateful that my own husband is so different.

Trudy responds with a heartfelt statement that all of us have uttered, and a philosophical question that many of us have asked: “It’s just, I really do want a baby. (looking around the apartment) What is all this for?”

The next episode did not address the IF storyline, except to illustrate Pete’s ambivalence over parenthood. But finally! One of the most direct depictions of an RE’s workup, and one of the most honest husband-wife communications about infertility, ever on television! Hooray! Stay tuned; I have a feeling that Mad Men will have more Fun With Infertility to offer us in the coming weeks.

2 Responses to “Mad Men: Finally!”

  1. luna Says:

    ok, I’m just reading this one now, years later. I’m so glad you wrote about that episode, even if I missed it at the time, or ignored it because I didn’t start watching until season 3 (we went back and rented 1 and 2).

    when we watched this episode, my first little one was asleep in her crib and I remember thinking, wow, this would have felt raw if I had seen it back then (ie before I became a mother). but I wonder if I also would have been grateful that at least infertility was being portrayed somewhat realistically for the time. similarly, with the earlier adoption storyline, it was like a sad punch in the gut when peggy wouldn’t even look at or hold the baby, knowing how unmarried mothers were treated back then.

    anyway. thanks for this!

  2. Foxypopcorn Says:

    I’m a little late to this game too – but loved reading your posts on the storyline… We stopped watching after season one, but will have to get caught up.

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