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Warning: spoilers below.

Mad Men is off to a pretty solid start this season. Last week’s episode was well-received, and last night’s episode provided us with some intriguing revelations about Don’s past and the roots of his philandering.

However, something about the plot of last night’s episode didn’t quite add up to me. Maybe some readers have a theory or some insight to help resolve my issue.

Last week we learned that Don’s new mistress, Syliva, is the wife of his downstairs neighbor.

At one point in last night’s episode, Sylvia sees Megan tearfully breaking down in their building laundry room after she fires her maid. The two women go to Don and Meagan’s apartment to talk things over.

Mad Mean Season 6 Megan Miscarriage

Megan Draper

Megan confesses that she is upset because she had a miscarriage. Apparently she was “sloppy” (presumably with her birth control) while Don and Megan were in Hawaii six weeks earlier, and she got pregnant.

What’s more, Megan feels guilty because part of her is glad she had the miscarriage, since a baby could have interfered with her acting career.

Okay. So far so good. It’s understandable why she’d feel upset and a little guilty about that. I’m sure a miscarriage is a terrible and confusing thing for a woman to go through. Layering on a feeling of relief on top of it would make any normal person feel guilty.

What doesn’t make sense is Megan’s proffered reason for feeling guilty about being relieved. She says it’s because of her Catholic upbringing. Specifically, the stern nuns at her Catholic school indoctrinated her against the evils of abortion.

It seems weird that Megan is scarred by her Catholic upbringing to the point that an unintentional miscarriage gives her guilt, yet she’s completely carefree in her use of birth control. If she’s so burdened by her Catholic guilt, why has she been using birth control all this time? This has never come up in the show, so we can assume she has been using birth control guilt-free throughout her entire marriage to Don.

Now, I get that Weiner was probably trying to make a pro-feminist statement about the damage that a “pro-life” upbringing can cause.

But it just doesn’t ring true with the Megan we’ve come to know. Apart from birth control, Megan’s made no secret that she had plenty of premarital sex before Don. And isn’t her dad a Marxist intellectual? Why did he let her submit to Catholic indoctrination?

Maybe I’m thinking about this wrong. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.



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Mike writes about video games, television shows, and issues in the tech world.

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  1. Rick Massimo on 04/15/2013

    I don’t think Megan had a miscarriage. I think she had an abortion.

    • a writer on 04/15/2013

      Interesting thought. Now I want to watch that scene over!

    • Mike Smith Author on 04/16/2013

      That crossed my mind too. But while Mad Men can be pretty oblique I don’t see it. I think Megan and Sylvia’s convo would have gone differently if she had.

    • sourdoughgirl on 04/17/2013

      to have an abortion, she would have had to have known she was pregnant.
      back in that era, (as i explained in a longer post down below) confirming pregnancy meant having missed two periods. they could not confirm a pregnancy six weeks after conception in the 60s, the technology had not advanced that far yet. some docs were still using the rabbit test! ;-)
      i had my first baby in ’72 and that was the norm…. miss two periods, *then* have the test done. and, wait a couple weeks for the results!
      OTOH, some women, even at 6 weeks along, can feel some *changes* that might clue them that they *might* be pregnant… and so, she could go to a doc with “female complaints” and he might do a D&C, which is basically how they did abortions back then.
      still, she might not have any suspicions at only 6 weeks along. the miscarriage might have been her first clue that she was pregnant in the first place.

      • Another Sue on 04/18/2013

        If Megan didn’t know she was pregnant, how was she so sure she had had a miscarriage? Did she seek medical attention for it? If so, how (or why?) did she keep that a secret from Don? I’m totally convinced she had an abortion, and she was feeling Sylvia out about it, in hopes of having someone she could confide in, and then backed off when she saw Sylvia’s reaction. Yes, abortion was illegal back then, but it was available–and safe–to those who had the means and the connections. And a cooperative doctor would be more likely not to disclose the “procedure” to the woman’s husband, or anybody else, for that matter. That’s my two cents, anyway.

      • lilly on 04/18/2013

        I agree with this. I was born in the 50’s; I remember the rabbit test and how early pregnancy detection wasn’t available at the time. In response to the comment below – I don’t know how to put this delicately, but during a miscarriage, the contents of the uterus are expelled and can be viewed by the woman having the miscarriage. Maybe TMI for men who don’t know about these things.

  2. rrrr on 04/15/2013

    i agree with rick, she is a little actress after all.

  3. moshermind on 04/15/2013

    It’s all pretty simple to me. She’s French, right? That explains the Catholic upbringing. The French have a broad view of following the Church’s rules and most young girls were sent to Catholic schools in the 60’s.I don’t see the paradox in using birth control but feeling guilty about abortion. When I was married in the 70’s I used birth control because I felt the Church was behind the times when it came to women’s issues. I already had two kids and, luckily, didn’t have to face a situation where abortion was a decision. Megan reflects the norm for women in the time period of the show.

    • Mike Smith Author on 04/16/2013

      Thank you. This is exactly the kind of insight I was hoping for. As a non Catholic it’s all foreign to me.

      But is it normal for Catholics of this time period to feel guilt over a miscarriage? Or is that onky because she was relieved by it? (Setting aside the “she had an abortion” theory.

      • Rick Massimo on 04/16/2013

        I think it would be normal for a Catholic to feel guilt not about having a miscarriage but about being relieved about having a miscarriage.

        That’s if we’re setting aside the “she had an abortion” theory, which I’m not willing to do. She was pregnant for six weeks without telling Don? Why would that be?

        As for her conversation with Sylvia, it’s dramatically very easy to go the “any time two women are alone they’re going to totally confide in each other and be allies” route, but one of the great things about Mad Men is that the relationships between the women are complicated too. Besides, didn’t Sylvia say something about how she feels differently?

        • Rick Massimo on 04/16/2013

          P.S.: “I was raised the same way. I could never even consider it” is what Sylvia said. I think that shut Megan down from telling her.

  4. Susan on 04/16/2013

    After watching a few times, I didn’t think that there was an abortion involved at all. If it was, it was really confusing (especially with the birth control element). I was raised Catholic, but not in that era. I think Megan was referring to believing God was punishing her for having negative thoughts about being pregnant, making her have a miscarriage, and Don’s lover was saying that it wasn’t even an option for her to think that Megan would have that kind of power in her head to make the miscarriage happen. Maybe I’m thinking way too hard about that scene and it was just poorly written, but to me that’s the only thing that makes sense. When she said she was sloppy, maybe she had been drinking or not taking care of herself, and that contributed to the miscarriage? I don’t recall her actually saying that she was on birth control.

    • Mike Smith Author on 04/16/2013

      She didn’t directly mention birth control. You are correct about that.

      But I think the sloppy comment was about birth control because it was specifically in reference to Hawaii, 6 weeks earlier. I don’t think alcohol around the time of conception would cause a miscarriage.

      Also Don and Megan have been together quite some time and this is the first we’ve heard of pregnancy. … if she’s not using birth control I don’t know how they’ve avoided it this long.

      • sue on 04/16/2013

        I remember Megan saying something about the time change in Hawaii being part of the reason she was “sloppy”. I believe she was referring to the fact that birth control pills are supposed to be taken exactly 24 hours apart in order to be fully effective.

        • Mike Smith Author on 04/16/2013

          I didn’t know that Sue. And yah, the time change comment pretty much eliminates the “drinking caused a miscarriage” theory.

    • Mike Smith Author on 04/16/2013

      Oh and…agreed that it was a confusing scene.

      • Susan on 04/17/2013

        Could it be that abortion would never be considered a possibility by Don’s lover because her husband was a doctor, and it wasn’t legal then? The pill thing does add up when I think about the time change now, I’m supposing now Megan was a cafeteria Catholic (as most are, but I know some who still do “the Billings Method” for birth control). Given how sexual her personality is and that the pill didn’t even exist in her childhood, which is where her guilt stemmed from, I doubt the pill was an issue. Abortion’s always existed though, and always will, legal or not. I’m not sure if the other woman was being judgy or just very law abiding at the thought. Probably judgy, but her circumstance was different. She wanted the baby and lost it and it was planned, right?

  5. sue on 04/16/2013

    I read your article. I don’t think Megan felt guilty about the miscarriage itself; the guilt came from her relief that the pregnancy ended. She indicated if she hadn’t miscarried, she would have considered having an abortion and she was glad she didn’t have to make that decision. (Unrestricted elective abortions were not legal in 1968, but I’m sure an upper-income urban woman with connections could have found a way to obtain one.)

    As far as her not feeling the same Catholic guilt about using birth control or having premarital sex, it does seem odd but I’ve know many “cafeteria Catholics” who ignored church doctrine they didn’t personally agree with.

    I agree that it’s a bit unbelievable that Megan’s liberal, free-thinking parents would have allowed Catholic guilt to be a part of her upbringing.

  6. Barbara on 04/16/2013

    I agree with Rick. I think she had an abortion and is using “miscarriage” as a euphemistic way of skirting the issue. No reason to feel guilty about a miscarriage, and certainly no reason to feel guilty for feeling relieved. I grew up Catholic and the credo drummed into us about sex was: a lifetime of pain for a moment of pleasure. If anything was going to engender guilt, it’s not a miscarriage, but the very act of sex itself.

    • Susan on 04/17/2013

      Megan sure doesn’t seem the type to feel guilty over sex! Zou Bisou Bisou! Maybe she had an abortion, and was feeling out this lady for approval, but for some reason I doubt it. It was rather dangerous back then, and I don’t know when she would have done it or where and she didn’t really put out that vibe. I dunno though. I wish the writer would clarify the scene. Time to Google?

  7. RGS on 04/17/2013

    I think “sloppy” means she was using the rhythm method and got careless with her day
    counting, or took a chance, while on vacation in Hawaii. I also think the miscarriage was real, not an abortion, and she felt Catholic guilt over her relief.

    People raised and educated Catholic can wander far from the teachings and still hold onto some of the basic rules. I don’t eat meat on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday and I am far from a saint.

    Her father being a socialist (and her mother going down on Roger) wouldn’t rule out my analysis.

    • lilly on 04/18/2013

      I find it very hard to believe a sophisticated couple like Don and Megan would be using the rhythm method of birth control, which is very unreliable. There had been no previous indications that Megan was a devout Catholic who would be using the rhythm method. Her parents/upbringing indicated the opposite would be true. Why would she even be having premarital sex with Don if she was such a strict Catholic?

      Any married couple who uses the rhythm method knows that children could very well be in their future. Don and Megan hadn’t even had a discussion about having children yet (based on their conversation during the episode).

      Besides – can you really see Don starting and continuing a sexual relationship with a woman who has to count days and take her temperature to see if it’s a safe time to have sex? He’d just move on to a less high-maintenance woman. There always seemed to be plenty around for him to choose from.

  8. WritingMaven on 04/17/2013

    This post and comments show just how terrific the web can be. You’re puzzled by a common experience, you throw it out for comment, and you get good, literate responses. Congrats to Mike and his readers for teasing out something that made me scratch my head too.

    MM is off to a promising start. The opener was a good one-hour production stretched over two hours. Too bad about that. We’re getting a little momentum with the followup episode.

    Still not enough on ad campaigns. They teach so much about the era and about enduring human desires. If you;re interested, check out “Mad Men Persuasion,” a new Amazon ebook that explores the logic behind the MM campaigns (

  9. Roseann on 04/17/2013

    I actually thought about this scene in a different way. I wasn’t really focused on Megan’s revelations so much as I was on Sylvia’s reactions to the conversation. I took Megan at her word when she said she was sloppy (which I took to mean that she incorrectly used the rhytmn method or forgot to take birth control) and had a pregnancy that ended in miscarriage. She goes into feelings of guilt, which would be natural if she didn’t really want the pregnancy and then felt like she was being punished for it. But it was interesting to see the way that Sylvia responded about Catholic guilt— knowing that she and Don were having an affair. I thought that Sylvia shut down the conversation because she was concerned that if they kept talking, she’d have to confront her own feelings about the affair.

    • Andrea on 04/18/2013

      I was thinking this way as well. Sylvia’s facial expressions become very anxious in this seen

    • lilly on 04/18/2013

      I think the whole purpose of that scene (i.e. what the writer was trying to accomplish) was to make Sylvia aware that Don and Megan were still sexually active. Apparently Don had told her that he and Megan were no longer close (an old line used by cheating husbands). It provoked a jealous reaction from Sylvia and led to a discussion about what they wanted out of the relationship and how they felt about each other.

  10. Mrs. H on 04/17/2013

    I agree that Megan was using the rhythm method. She specifically mentioned not having regarded the time zone change (NY-Hawaii), which definitely affects women’s cycles (I had a friend trying to time ovulation who refused to travel three time zones away because it would interfere with temperature charting, etc.) Also, remember she was stoned in Hawaii; maybe “getting sloppy” refers to the pot lowering her resistance so she failed to stop and think, Hey, wait a minute, am I fertile now?

    As for the commenter who thought the time zone comment referred to the necessity of taking birth control pills at the same time every day, that’s true today because they now make the pill with the lowest possible dose of hormones. It was not true of the higher-hormone pills of the last 60s.

  11. sourdoughgirl on 04/17/2013

    i don’t know if anyone will see this a day later, but as for the question of why megan didn’t tell don for six weeks that she was pregnant…. please remember that methods of discovering or confirming pregnancy have become much more sophisticated over the decades intervening. when i was pregnant with my first in the early 70s, a woman could “feel” something different, possibly, about her body that might make her think she was, but it could not be *confirmed* until after her second period was missed.

    so, six weeks would mean ONE late period (and only about 2 weeks late!) so she most likely didn’t even know (or, certainly, wasn’t SURE) she was pregnant at the time of the miscarriage. it might have been her first and only clue that she was pregnant to start with. many women (myself included) are not regular enough to have that “2 weeks late” mean much.

    after the miscarriage, she then realizes her “sloppiness” in hawaii… with either the pill or the rhythm method… and that explains her pregnancy.

    i was raised strict catholic in the 50s-60s (12 years catholic school, mass and communion 6 days a week) and my mother thought nothing of getting me on the pill before my upcoming nuptials, saying that we needed a couple of years to get used to each other before any babies arrived. (i also think she didn’t want to be a grandmother at 41!)

    i think megan’s guilt came from the feeling of relief that she lost the baby… good catholics are supposed to WANT to bring children into the church. it’s drummed into you all your life. by losing that baby, she failed in her upbringing…. and was HAPPY about it!
    i can understand her feelings.

  12. Carolina Girl on 04/17/2013

    I thought Megan was contemplating whether or not she would have an abortion when she had a miscarriage. She may have thought her thinking about abortion caused the miscarriage or that she didn’t want the baby and caused the miscarriage. The guilt to me was about her initial ambivalence about having the baby and her thoughts about terminating.

  13. Lisa on 04/19/2013

    I thought the scene was pretty straightforward. Meagan was having fun in Hawaii and wasn’t careful. I don’t think it matters what method they were using to not get pregnant. For all we know she was having Don pull out. When it comes to sex, even the most sophisticated people can be pretty stupid. How many kids does Don have with Betty? He isn’t exactly bright in this area.

    In the conversation with Sylvia, Megan revealed that she had a miscarriage and was relieved. She also intimated that she would have considered having an abortion if she didn’t miscarry. This made her feel guilty because back then married women, especially Catholics were supposed to be happy to be pregnant. Sylvia then conveyed that she understood how it felt to have a miscarriage, but she could not relate to feeling relieved or contemplating an abortion. She was being judgmental both because she is much stricter in her Catholicism than Megan and also because she wanted to feel superior to Don’s wife.

  14. Eric on 04/21/2013

    Megan is not French, as suggested by another poster. Megan is French-Canadian from Montreal, which makes a big difference. The 60s saw something that very few people know of outside of Quebec, it was the Quiet Revolution, a period that saw the French-Canadians stop going to church and reject Catholicism. What people don’t know is that before the 60s, Quebec was severely ruled by the church in a way that made everyone feel guilty for just about everything and there was a lot of confusion and contradictions. It’s the late 60s now and the Quiet Revolution is something that has already changed the political landscape of the province. Megan who went to school before the Quiet Revolution had a very strict upbringing, yet she lives in NYC now and I’m sure she’s kept in touch with what’s happening back home. It doesn’t seem out of character one bit that she would feel guilty for one thing and not for another.

    I’ve heard so many stories from my mother that I can see the plot making sense.

    • SMTWB on 04/23/2013

      Eric raised some good points which, when combined with the earlier comments regarding pregancy in the 1960s, show that Megan felt guilty about her relief regarding a miscarriage. No doubt she was taking birth control pills; even we Catholic school girls raised in Nebraska and Kansas used birth control pills when they became readily available in 1963 and 1964. She told Don when they were married that she didn’t want children; his 3 were enough and she’s better with the children than betty, their mother, is with them. What no one has mentioned is that Sylvia is an Italian Catholic and raised much differently from a French-Canadian Catholic. You may recall that in the restaurant Don asked Sylvia to order for him because she is his favorite Italian. As someone said earlier, many women were unaware of their pregancy until after a miscarriage, when, like Megan, they went to a Doctor. Maybe she forgot a couple pills on her vacation; not unusual. Sylvia has her own demons; perhaps she actually had an abortion. which would have been very easy since she’s married to a Doctor . Her son is in college so she was a young mother and it was odd for Italian Catholics to have one child unless there was a medical issue and, maybe Sylvia was uncomfortable discussing the issue that has so many tennacles.