Becoming Donna Reed

Season 1: Episode 11 – Baby Contest


Episode opens with Alex seeing out a patient and her infant. The woman is completely smitten by her child and forces Alex to fawn over the child, which he does reluctantly. Donna comes in and joins the cooing.

Donna heads to a Women’s Club meeting. The ladies are planning their annual picnic and are trying to decide on entertainment. A baby contest is proposed and everyone loves the idea. The committee unanimously decides to make Alex the judge. Donna tries to protest, but she is overruled. Donna’s friend Margaret excuses herself from the conversation. She has a homely baby and is embarrassed by him.

Back at home Donna cooks Alex his favorite dinner and then prepares some after dinner pampering for Alex. While she is in the kitchen Alex takes a phone call and Donna’s reasons for spoiling him are revealed. When Donna comes in he milks her attentions for all he can and then confronts her. She is apologetic and he sees there is no way out. Alex starts receiving many homemade bribes and is asked to be a godfather by the mothers of the town.

Margaret, Donna’s friend, and her baby, Jimmy, come to Alex for Jimmy’s regularly scheduled appointment. Margaret is the first mother in day not atwitter over the contest. She says she won’t enter because Jimmy is homely. Donna convinces her that Jimmy is beautiful and she decides to enter the contest.

The day of the contest Alex goes from baby to baby. He holds each one and tells the mother, “That’s a fine baby.” When he announces his decision he gives the award to Margaret and Jimmy. In choosing the clear underdog, he wins the affection of all the mothers who think his choice was very kind.

Back at home Alex is happy to have made it through the contest without controversy. Donna is pampering him after dinner. He asks her why and she tells him that he is wonderful and she has received calls from many women in town who think the same thing. In fact, he is so wonderful they all want to repeat the contest next year. Alex groans.


When you find yourself in a tough situation, the right choice is usually the kindest choice.


The whole baby contest thing is cringe inducing on many levels. I’ve always found dog shows a bit disturbing and beauty pageants. The baby contest is perhaps the most evil of these. Thank heavens the child is too young to remember it, that is the only sliver of light. Really, it’s all about the vanity of the parent and the poor child is just the pawn. I mean it’s not like an infant can look at you and say , “Mommy, I want to be in a baby contest.” Infants can’t talk. Twisted, very twisted.

This contest put Alex in a terrible position. He could have easily had all but one of the town’s mothers angry with him, not a good plan if you are the town pediatrician. Truly he handled this in the very best way. It was a kind gesture and made no one else feel bad.

As I make my way through the chronicles of the Stone family, I find myself occasionally wishing I lived In a sitcom instead of in the real world. Sure, there is always a “problem” in every episode, but there is also a simple and satisfying solution. Reality is so much messier. Often there is no clean and simple solution to a problem, rarely are our problems solved in 25:52 minutes, and sometimes we are forced to hurt people.

Since I can’t live in black and white television and I can’t seem to avoid reality, I need a way to make decisions that I can live with. There have been some tough decisions around our move. For me, the toughest was giving up my teaching job. As a teacher, I need to make a commitment in April to return for the next year. When I made that decision last year it was an easy decision. I’d found a school with students, faculty, and administration that I adored. I’d had a wonderful year and was so looking forward to the next. Then July came and life through us one of those unexpected twists, my husband was given a terrific job opportunity in San Francisco, which is a very long way from New Hampshire.

I’ve always tried to be a person who honors their commitments and backing out of my contract was hard to do. I gave serious thought to staying in NH and teaching while my honey worked and lived in SF, but I’ve always had him with me in the morning and at night and I couldn’t imagine what that separation would do to our relationship. I made a choice, and I let down people who I respect and care for greatly. Please can’t I live on classic TV?

Plan of Action

Life likes to send us for loops and force us to make tough decisions. I’ve been to told this helps us to build character and I am waiting to become a person full of character and wisdom. How long do I need to wait for that happen? If I can’t live a sitcom existence, I guess I need to do the best job I can with decisions I face day-to-day. I think keeping kindness as a major consideration in a decision is a good idea. Can I at least get Donna’s clothes? Pretty please.