Previously on Call the Midwife: Barbara and Tom got engaged and The Pill arrived in Poplar.
Let’s start with a happy story, shall we? It’s time for Shelagh to have her baby! She has a bit of a freakout, which Crane realises is down to her being terrified, as pretty much any mother-to-be is. Crane, being her amazing self, talks Shelagh down and Shelagh starts to get excited about preparations. Those preparations include choosing her own midwife (Sister Julienne!), opting for a home birth at which her husband will not be present, and hanging some seriously ugly wallpaper in the new house. That house, by the way, is amazing. It is such a perfect snapshot of mid-century middle class living, warts and all. You just kind of want to keep pausing the show and staring at it.
She goes into labour, Julienne is summoned, Turner paces and smokes. It all goes slowly because the baby’s not in the ideal position, and Shelagh’s soon shrieking for gas and wondering why the heck she ever wanted this (ahh, honey, we’ve all been there! Stay strong!) Eventually, Julienne suggests Shelagh might benefit from a little singing, to help calm herself down. Shelagh starts to sing something she and Turner both love, and he, adorably, joins in from the other side of the door. (Feels!) She calls for him to come in, so he’s there, holding his wife, as she gives birth to a son. Ok, then:
Think of the crazy journey these two people have been on: falling in love while Shelagh was still a nun, seeing her through tuberculosis, facing infertility, Timothy’s polio, and adoption. They have SO EARNED this happy ending. This family can get a little saccharine sometimes, but I still love them and want them to be happy. And they are SO happy now!
But on to less happy things. A family planning clinic is now being run alongside the pre- and ante-natal clinic at the community centre. It seems the ladies of Poplar are really happy about this, including Barbara, who goes to be fitted for a diaphragm ahead of her upcoming wedding. One woman, Wilma, decides to go for the pill, because she’s got three daughters and isn’t interested in having any more kids. Her husband, however, would like a son, so she needs something that can be taken discreetly, so he doesn’t know she’s on it. The prescribing doctor reassures her her husband doesn’t need to know she’s taking the pills and the woman stashes them in her handbag, where she knows he’ll never look. You might think, from all this subterfuge, that the man’s an abusive bully, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. She just doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of him being annoyed over this, and you can’t really blame her for that. Nobody wants constant fights with their partner. But, as we’ll soon see, secrets don’t work out so well.
Wilma takes her pills, and because she doesn’t have to worry about getting pregnant again she’s able to rejoin the workforce as a corset saleswoman. One of her early customers is Violet, who’s in the throes of menopause and not enjoying it at all. As she manages hot flashes and mood swings, she kind of lashes out at Fred, snapping that she feels awful and like she has no purpose or something, and that when Reggie was around she had some purpose and OMG HORMONES. Seriously, she’s not making a whole lot of sense. Menopause can be crazy. But all the same, Fred takes it to heart, fetches Reggie home for a visit, and has the young man present himself to Violet with a bouquet and a, “Hello, mum!” Aww. But also, it seems a bit quick for him to be calling someone else mum, considering it’s not been that long since his actual mother died.
Things seem great for Wilma! She’s making decent money and finally buys her family a new settee! She and her husband are getting their sex life back on track! She’s happy!
But then… she gets a sore spot on her leg, and every woman who’s ever been on the pill immediately thought, ‘ohhhh, noooo’ when they heard that. The sore leg suddenly moves on to a full-blow heart attack in front of her kids, and by the time Wilma’s rushed to the hospital she’s got blood clots all over her body. Heart, lungs, leg–she’s going downhill, fast. Trixie is tasked with keeping the woman’s poor, bewildered husband in the loop and asks him if his wife was taking contraceptive pills, because these are some known side effects. He doesn’t know what Trixie’s talking about, of course. She gently tells him it might be time to bring his children around, but before he does, she very sweetly applies some makeup to the dying (and unconscious) woman’s face so the girls won’t be frightened when they see their mother. As she roots in Wilma’s handbag for a comb, she finds the pills.
The children come in and say goodbye, and Wilma dies. Trixie breaks down at her bedside, and tells Tom (who was there to administer last rites) that she thought the Pill was going to be this amazing cure-all, but nothing’s perfect after all. And people, let’s not forget that women throughout history have actually DIED in an effort to control their fertility, and trying to control it for them (by taking away their rights to control it themselves) will not solve that issue, it’ll just result in more dead women. PSA done.
Throughout all this, Trixie’s been dealing with a rather delicate situation: Christopher wants to take the next step and introduce her to his daughter, Alexandra. Trixie’s not sure about this, but she eventually agrees and, after a slightly iffy start, she and the little girl hit it off like crazy. Aww!
Who’s ready for some mood whiplash? Because now we have a wedding to cover!
Barbara gets word that her father’s being sent on a missionary posting for the next three years, which means she either needs to get married pronto or give up her dream of having him officiate at her wedding. Wedding plans go into full-steam-ahead mode–only three weeks to get this party going! The budget’s as tight as the time, but that doesn’t bother Barbara, who grew up on a shoestring. She shares a rather nice story with Tom about the time her father took her to a fair and treated her to a ride on a carousel and how fantastic that was for her, at the age of six or so. Less fantastic are her attempts to make a dress, so the Nonnatuns (of course!) pool together to buy her one. She also asks Crane to be her bridesmaid, which touches Phyllis to no end. The two happily go dress shopping together.
Flowers arrive by the carload (turns out Barbara delivered one of the florist’s relatives) and Fred and some of the other guys take Tom out for a stag night. We don’t get to see it, but it’s pretty entertaining to imagine. They’re all really rough the following morning (which is the wedding day), and Tom is startled to be handed a wad of cash from Fred, who explains they did some betting the night before (which Tom doesn’t remember) and Tom won big. Fred suggests he get his ‘missus’ something nice.
Barbara’s father arrives, as promised, and is delighted to officiate at his daughter’s wedding. He’s a lovely man; you can see where Barbara gets her disposition from (though you get the impression his wife was similar). Barbara asks him for advice and he tells her she doesn’t need it, because all he can tell her is to remain positive and roll with the punches as they come, and Barbara could basically already teach a masterclass in both those things.
The wedding! Tom seems to have sobered up (thanks for the egg sandwich, best man!) And Barbara has picked a beautiful dress and a white, fur-trimmed cape instead of a veil which really suits her. Go Crane and Barbara! Her father officiates, and the pair are married! Hurrah!
After the reception, Tom and Barbara climb into Crane’s car to leave, but instead of driving to Tom’s, they basically just go around the block, then Tom takes her out of the car and leads her to where he’s had a gorgeous carousel set up, just for her. Wow, Tom. Talk about knocking this one out of the park. Though I can’t help but wonder how he got that set up so quickly. Presumably this was paid for with his gambling winnings, which he only got that morning. Did he actually manage to get an entire carousel hired and set up in that time? Impressive!
The bride is beyond delighted. She and Tom and the guests (including Reggie and Christopher and all the Turners and Christopher’s daughter) go for rides. And, of course, it starts to snow, because this scene wasn’t quite perfect enough, right?
The only glum face in the crowd is Delia, because she still hasn’t heard from Patsy and has taken to pouring out her sorrows to a bartender. As she watches the happy people whirl on the carousel, who should appear at the end of the road but Patsy! Yes! Patsy’s back! Apparently her silence was down to her having gotten on a boat the day after her father’s funeral. While I’m willing to give her some leeway, they did have ways of sending telegrams from ships back then, Patsy, so you could’ve sent some word. Just sayin’.
Delia is delighted. We’re all delighted. And thus endeth season 6.