Call the Midwife: Behind Closed Doors

Secrets and hidden things are all over this episode. In fact, this might be one of the most tightly themed episodes in recent memory (if ever!). And I can happily report, it’s significantly less of a downer than last week. I guess the writers realised we all needed some balance!

First, we meet a woman, Mrs Campbell, who’s about to have her second child and appears to be dealing with pica. She’s sneaking snacks of coal, which I thought would alarm everyone, but they all act like it’s NBD. And, indeed, it is NBD, because she gives birth to a perfectly healthy baby girl, attended by Trixie.

The proud papa offers Trixie a little glass of sherry after the birth. She tries to demur, as she’s on duty, but he urges and she relents. Then, during a post-birth check-up, Mrs C lets slip about Trixie’s tipple to Nurse Crane, who goes back to Nonnatus and has STRONG words with her co-worker. She won’t report her for drinking on duty, but she does tell her, in no uncertain terms, to get herself back to her AA meetings.

Trixie obligingly goes to a meeting, but before it can even get started she slips out, picks up a bottle of gin on her way home, and locks herself in a room at Nonnatus to drink alone. Secret drinking, lying… I don’t really need to tell you that none of this is good (but I will anyway). Also, the sight of a clearly pregnant Helen George digging into bottles of gin is a bit disturbing, even on a show set in the 60’s, and even with the knowledge that it’s not really gin.

In other dramas, a man named Saddiq Gani returns after a trip back to his home country (Pakistan, I believe) with a surprise for his wife: her 15-year-old cousin, Parveen. Oh, and an extra surprise: Parveen is his second wife, and she’s quite heavily pregnant. Apparently this was all arranged during a previous trip home and Saddiq never told his poor wife anything about this until she was confronted, quite brutally, with the evidence. This would be enough to swallow at the best of times, but apparently Mrs Gani has never been able to have children, though she desperately wanted them, so this is essentially like getting slapped in the face and punched in the stomach all at once. No wonder she runs out of the room, saying she feels sick.

So things are… tense in that household, to say the least. In the middle of it is a girl who’s still a child who probably had little to no say in this. Her youth causes some concern for Turner, since, you know, 15 is pretty young to be having a baby. And the whole situation probably throws up some legal implications. She is, for instance, below the age of marital consent in England, and bigamy is also not legal in Britain. While that’s mentioned, it’s not actually explored, but it makes me wonder about the legal status of the baby. It’d be technically illegitimate, right? I know that was socially frowned upon at the time, but not sure if there were legal implications. Like: who would have actual, legal parental rights over this child? The underage mother? Both mother and father? The father? Could pose some difficulties down the line, if Parveen ever wanted to leave. But I don’t know for sure what any of that means. Anyone want to fill us in in the comments, I’d be grateful!

Anyway, Parveen’s not stupid, and she understands the tension in the household. Mrs G basically won’t have anything to do with her. Sister Julienne hears about the situation and has a word with Mrs G, who at first doesn’t want to talk but then breaks down and tells her all about how horrible this entire situation is. And it is! Can you imagine having something like this just launched at you, with no warning? To have no say in this? Good lord.

Parveen goes in to labour and gives birth to a son, with Mrs G at her side. It seems, for a few seconds, like there might be some sort of family solidarity at last, bonding over this much-wanted infant, but then Mr G basically shuts his first wife out so he and his second wife can coo over their son, and the heartbroken woman just leaves them to it. Mr G, if you’re going to make this arrangement work, you need to get it together and start including BOTH your wives. I understand, of course, that there’s a whole cultural aspect to this arrangement, but all the same… He’s not a bad guy, he just needs to sort out his personal situation in such a way that everyone can live peacefully and even happily together. And a lot of that comes down to proper communication and inclusion.

Parveen’s successfully given birth, but she is not at all interested in taking care of her baby. She just leaves him to cry, won’t feed him. The nurses are concerned. Julienne once again goes to Mrs G and begs her to intervene, and although she’s initially reluctant, injuring her hand on a sewing machine helps turn her around, convinced by the kindness shown by both Turner and Julienne. She heads to the hospital with some food for Parveen and gets the girl eating. The spark of something other than loathing from her cousin seems to perk Parveen up, so it looks like things’ll be ok here.

Things are less ok for Trixie, though. Christopher shows up at Nonnatus while she’s out on rounds, and Crane basically tells him that Trixie’s going through some serious stuff right now, so he can’t go jerking her about. Poor girl needs a friend, not a practically married man. (What’s his status? I thought he was divorced? Is he going back to his wife?) Christopher earnestly says he has no wish to hurt Trixie, because he loves her. He catches her later, when she’s coming back from rounds, and offers himself up as a friend who listens. Trixie ends up confessing about having fallen off the wagon and admits she needs help. He takes her… somewhere, it’s not quite clear to me where. A meeting? A clinic? At any rate, it’s a place where whatever’s said inside is confidential. When she comes out, she thanks him, but tells him they really can’t be in each other’s lives. At all. I still don’t agree with any of this. I feel like he’s the best person to be in her life right now, because he’s one of the only people who truly knows the extent of her problem, and who understands how fragile and damaged she really is. You need the person who knows where all your bodies are buried when you’re going through hard times, because you don’t have to put on an act for that person.

Trixie has decided she not only needs to send Christopher packing, she also needs several months of rehab so Helen George can go have a baby so she can fully get in control of her problem. Julienne grants her six months’ leave. Aww, Nonnatus won’t be the same without you, Trixie! Good timing for Barbara to come back, though. Guess the actor who plays Tom didn’t take much paternity leave?

And in other Nonnatus news: Sister MJ has cataracts. Fred’s the one who flags it up, after he notices she’s using an extremely powerful magnifying lens to read the paper. She is coaxed into seeing a specialist, who recommends surgery, but she completely freaks out at the idea of going under the knife. She reassures Julienne that she’ll be fine, because she’s got all her favourite books memorised, and Julienne gently points out that she can’t really rely on that memory the way she used to.

Still, MJ resists, until Fred has a talk with her over a bouquet of flowers (which, sadly, she can’t even identify as flowers from a short distance away). There’s a fair bit of back-and-forth that ultimately ends with her saying this must be God’s will, right? That she go blind? And Fred employs the argument that always pops into my head when people say something like that about something modern medicine can cure: did God not create the cure and put it directly in your path, then? Who are you to slap away the helping hand of the Almighty? He also brings up Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, whose journey to the stars enthralled MJ and the other Nonnatuns earlier in the episode. Fred says that she was probably scared too, just like MJ, but if she can harness that fear, then so can MJ.

So, MJ goes to Julienne and says she’ll have the surgery after all, because of women in space. Julienne, unnecessarily, tells MJ she can’t possibly compare cataract surgery to flying in space. Geez, Julienne, do you want her to have the surgery or not?

She has the surgery, and it goes fine. So, that’s a happy note to end on.

Spare thought:

How many people out there heard the name Valentina Tereshkova and thought, ‘Who?’ Maybe it was just me (modern history outside of the United States is taught VERY poorly in American schools), but it made MJ’s comment that the woman’s name would echo down the centuries seem a bit sad. She was a remarkable woman (left school at 16, kept up correspondence courses, flew in space, and later earned a doctorate in technical sciences) and should be better known.



6 thoughts on “Call the Midwife: Behind Closed Doors

  1. Saddiq didn’t arrange the marriage himself, on a prior trip home. He’s quite clear at the beginning about what happened. He went home for his father’s funeral. And he arrived to discover that his mother had arranged this marriage, and Mumtaz’s family had also agreed to the arrangement. (Parveen is Mumtaz’s cousin, and Mumtaz was told that her cousin would be coming to stay with them, but not about the marriage.)

    Saddiq believed he had no choice in the matter of this marriage – any more than he and Mumtaz had a choice about being married to each other, years before. Mumtaz agrees that she cannot blame him, and she cannot blame Parveen.

    It’s a marriage situation that literally no one in the marriage wants. Not Mumtaz, not Parveen, and not Saddiq, yet all believe they have no choice.

  2. Does no one else see the manipulative way in which the storyline about the man taking a second wife was written in Season 7 episode 4 of Call the Midwife?! First, to say that the husband is blameless in the whole thing is beyond belief!! He has been in England for years and should adhere to English ways and culture by then. Instead, he lied to his wife for 9 months. He failed to mention that he married her then 14 year old cousin while on a trip back to Pakistan, had sex with her and then snuck back home without saying a word to his wife. Then he goes back to Pakistan to collect his then 15 year old second wife who is 9 months pregnant and presents her to his wife in their own home without giving her any warning.

    The thing that is truly ghastly is that the nuns and midwives didn’t even seem to care. This is a 14 or 15 year old child who was forced to marry a 40 year old man and no one including the nuns had a thing to say about it to her or to the authorities!! Instead of being outraged at the first wife’s plight, the nun counsels the first wife to love the new wife and her baby and just accept the situation out of love without making a fuss! Clearly, the only one who benefits here is the man. Where are the women’s lib activists when they could actually do some good? This storyline is an outrage and a slap in the face to all womankind. Don’t just say it is a cultural thing. That doesn’t make it right when it is happening on English soil and they have become English citizens.

    Mark my words, they are setting people up to start accepting husbands being able to have multiple wives. All it takes is a few years of storylines and shows like this to turn people’s thinking around so that what is wrong now seems right and what we thought was right is wrong. How could we have been so stupid and backwards to ever believe otherwise, right? Wrong! I have news for you. There is such a thing as right and wrong! It is good to have high morals and condemn people who are morally wrong rather than just accepting it. Otherwise, things will just continue to get worse and worse.

    The two people in the storyline who were hurt by it, the first and second child wife were the only two people with no power and no say in the matter. Women’s rights are being set back 100 years with what is going on. Instead of supporting the wife’s initial and natural outrage, the midwives did nothing and the nun counseled her to just love the new wife and accept the situation. Liberals always disguise their immoraitly in a cloak of “love and acceptance.” If you don’t accept it, then you don’t love. They call us haters for not condoning immorality. It’s absolutely manipulative and disgusting!

    It’s also disgusting that the Call the Midwife writer would paint the husband as innocent, have the midwives show no outrage, and have the nun tell the woman to just submit to the degradation of being replaced in her own home by a much younger woman who can give her husband the child she couldn’t. They could have just adopted and no one could have forced him to marry this girl if he really didn’t want to. The whole thing is sick and disgusting and women should be up in arms about it but, instead, they say “Oh, how touching.” I wonder if they will be shocked when it happens in real life because it will, if not to you, then to your daughter or her daughter. That is what the story writer wants, acceptance and compliance. So tragically sad that people are allowing TV to manipulate their minds to such a degree instead of refusing to allow it. to go on.

    1. Woah. Look, I agree that this was one of the more disturbing and problematic storylines, but to say that this is an attempt (by the BBC? The government? I’m not sure who ‘they’ are whom you refer to.) to normalise pluralistic child marriage is taking this much, much too far, I think. It’s a historical drama, so the things you’ll see will be presented through a lens of that time. The women’s liberation movement was extremely nascent in the early 1960s, and practically non-existent in working-class areas of London, so there really weren’t any women’s rights activists around to pop up and advocate for these women, which was a terrible shame. Would it have been nice if the nuns and midwives had expressed some outrage here? Yes, it definitely would have, but I think their take on many subjects is: it’s not our business. We’re here to ensure the safe delivery of a child, not to interfere in private lives (though they do interfere, sometimes). There have been plenty of storylines on this show that have scanned as pretty horrifying to a modern-day audience: I recall a couple of seasons back an episode with a closeted husband that struck me as being incredibly sad because he essentially had no choice but to continue with what was a sham marriage. There have been episodes about abuse and abortion that show the horror of those situations. I think the idea with episodes like that and like this is to provoke some sort of outrage. The general population has a poor grasp of history, especially the history of ordinary people, so we all need reminding every now and again that things were bad, some bad things continue to this day, and we need to wake up and ensure it doesn’t happen again or is stopped.

      I’m a bit baffled by your sideswipe at ‘liberals’. I’m not sure what liberals you’re referring to, as I have never heard of a single liberal person advocate for polygamy or child marriage. In fact, liberals tend to be quite adamantly against such things, and it tends to be extremely conservative sects which advocate for them. Trust me: no liberals are going to try and force your daughter to be someone’s third wife OR convince you that she should be.

  3. Give me a break! Are you serious or joking? Conservatives are the ones that are for family values. They certainly do not advocate for polygamy or child marriage. On the other hand, it is anything goes with liberals. They are the ones who produce shows like Sister Wives, a show that attempts to normalize polygamy. Liberals are why there are men in women’s restrooms and dressing rooms now. Something that is so ridiculous and dangerous. it shocks me that it is being advocated by so many women who have clearly been pressured and brain washed into thinking it is a great idea rather than what it really is, male domination of women.

    The writer of the show appears to be a liberal as she makes just about every character on there, other than the nuns, an atheist (something that wasn’t common in 1962 families) and clearly advocates for abortion rights and gay rights. The nuns, the doctor, and midwives on the show almost always have a strong opinion but were pretty much silent on the polygamy and child rape of the second wife. In reality they would have been outraged.

    If you think that liberals are not working daily to try to push their agenda on just about every show on the air, then you are kidding yourself. Since you are clearly a liberal, i imagine you don’t mind and will tell me I have no right to have a different opinion.

    1. My apologies for having been unclear in my earlier comment. What I meant to say was that in cultures and religions that have a history of promoting and pursuing bigamy or polygamy, it’s usually the very conservative elements of those cultures/religions that continue to promote the practice. I, of course, realise this is NOT a core belief of Western conservatism. Nor is it a belief that liberals in any way support–liberals do not believe in ‘anything goes’, they just think that decent, law-abiding people should be left alone to live their lives in peace. Don’t we all want that?

      And I feel I should point out that shows like Sister Wives are NOT attempts to normalise polygamy. That show, like Honey Boo Boo before it, and many others, are modern-day sideshows that invite people to point and laugh at the freaks. They’re disgusting and I hate them.

      Not sure why you think most characters on the show are atheist. I mean, Nonnatus House is run by nuns who are regularly shown praying and talking about their faith, as do many of the midwives and people they see. They might not make religion central to their conversations, but many people wear crosses around their necks, or have some sort of religious iconography around their homes, which would have been fairly normal for the time. They might not all be incredibly devout, but there’s no denying that any scene that takes place in a church is pretty packed with people, and Tom Hereward is kept plenty busy, which indicates that people in the area regularly call on and rely on a religious figure.

      And finally, I’d just like to say that OF COURSE you have a right to an opinion that differs from mine. Live and let live, right? We may not agree, but that’s ok, not everyone will agree with everyone else all the time! I can accept that we are unlikely to see eye-to-eye on a lot of matters (but we can agree that child marriage and polygamy are very bad!) No need to be aggressive about things–obviously I’m ok with you expressing a different opinion, since I published your comments. I would never tell anyone they couldn’t disagree with me. That kind of narrow-minded thinking is damaging to the world, and I want my children to grow up in a world where there are lots of different opinions and ideas circulating. It’s healthy!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.