Call the Midwife: I Don’t Know Nuthin’ About Birthin’ No Babies

Call the Midwife title cardPreviously on Call the Midwife: Jenny Lee became a midwife in the East End of London and was alarmed by how poor people live.

As Jenny bikes to a delivery, she VOs that she used to think that nighttime was a time for women, apparently because it was quiet and they tended to be awake.

Today’s first mum is Ingrid, and she’s falling back on the usual “I’ll kill him, I’ll kill him” trope as she births a kid with her next eldest in a crib nearby, looking on.

Back at Nonnatus House, the nuns sing the service, while somewhere on the streets a very young looking girl gets a customer and takes him back to the brothel where she works. As she brings the man inside, the pimp, I guess, kisses his fingers and presses them to her lips, eliciting a really pathetic smile from her. He then directs her to an empty room.

Ingrid and her husband and toddler, meanwhile, are adorably admiring the newest addition.

The prostitot—she’s Irish, so I’m going to call her Mary until someone provides another name—tells her customer not to shortchange her. The guy leaves some money on the bureau and leaves. He’s quickly replaced by another, slightly older prostitute who’s apparently friends with Mary. As Mary counts the money, she turns to face the other woman, who reveals the girl’s name actually is Mary, and furthermore, she’s clearly got a bun in the oven. Really, nobody noticed that? Not even the men she was sleeping with? Maybe they all just had some really strange fetishes. Otherwise, you’d think they’d have mentioned it to someone. Older friend gently tells Mary that she’s going to have to get an abortion, because she can’t keep the baby.

Jenny bikes home, smiling, and VOs how happy she is with her job. At Nonnatus, she runs into Cynthia, who greets her cheerfully and tells her there’s a kipper saved for her. She’s replaced by Julienne, who asks how the birth went. The place is buzzing at this hour and Evangelina complains about how shorthanded they are. Julienne helpfully tells us that a new girl is on her way.

And that new girl is Camilla Fortescue-Cholmondeley-Browne, or “Chummy” as we’ll know her. She’s a big, sturdy girl in every way, with a good attitude and sense of humor. She’s played by Miranda Hart, who’s a really excellent comedienne. Evangelina rather meanly observes that Chummy barely qualified as a midwife and asks if all her dresses are pink. The midwives here wear blue, you see.

Chummy’s shown to a room, where she stares at the cross on the wall and fingers one around her neck until Jenny shows up with some uniforms. Chummy pulls off her pink dress, chattering away, but when she puts on the dress Jenny’s brought, it’s too small. Jenny says it’s the biggest size and Chummy sort of shrugs and says she’ll deal with it.

Downstairs, she finds a sewing machine. Sister MJ warns her that it’s delicate and Chummy says she’s fine, because she was at the Royal School of Needlework before she turned to nursing. MJ gives her a loooong “seriously, honey?” look.

Later, Trixie’s entertaining the girls with some radio karaoke while Chummy cuts a pattern out of some newspaper. She squeals that she’s cut off Princess Margaret’s head, which leads her to accidentally reveal that she’s actually met Princess Margaret, though only once, at her father’s investiture. Oh, well, then, it barely counts, right? The girls warn her not to mention it to Evangelina, whose impoverished background has made her an inverted snob.

Meanwhile, Mary’s sneaking out of the brothel while the pimp listens to the same song (Embraceable You) on the radio that Trixie’s rocking out to. She sadly pauses to wrap herself in the pimp’s coat, which is hanging next to the door, before nicking some money from the pocket and hurrying away.

Back at Nonnatus, there’s some talk of Jenny’s plan to go to a Rachmaninoff concert the next night. In comes Fred the handyman to fit Chummy out for a bike, which Chummy politely declines, saying she’s fine walking. Trixie tells her they cover eight square miles, so she’ll need more than just her own two feet. It finally dawns on them that Chummy can’t ride a bike.

So, cue the bike riding lessons. Trixie and Cynthia coach Chummy along, as some of the neighbor children shout insults I can’t really understand. Trixie tells one of them—a blonde boy—to button it up. Chummy sucks at bike riding. Evangelia and MJ observe from afar and MJ says she thinks there’s something “misaligned” in Chummy. Evangelina predicts the East End will eat the girl for breakfast.

That evening, Jenny heads to the concert, but she’s waylaid by Mary, who asks her if she can change a five pound note for her. She can’t, but suggests Mary try a nearby café. Mary’s reluctant, because they’ll think she stole it (which is true, in a sense, though you could argue that she probably earned it). Jenny turns her down. Damn, Jenny, how long would it take you to pop into that café and help this poor girl out? Mary begs, saying she hasn’t eaten all day, and Jenny notices Mary’s growing belly and suggests they both go in so they can change the note and get her something to eat.

Inside, the girl tucks in and recalls that the first dinner she ever had in England was like this. Mary asks where she’s from and learns the girl lived in County Mayo until her father died, and then they moved to Dublin, where her mother started drinking and found some guy to move in with them. That’s when Mary decided to get out of there and head to London. She hitchhiked from Liverpool, and the driver who took her bought her the pie. Mary’s alarm bells go off and she asks if this man took advantage of Mary. Instead of answering, Mary admires Jenny’s scarf. Jenny persists and Mary says the lorry driver was fine. In fact, he was the last decent Englishman she met. Damn, that’s sobering.

The owner comes over to shoo them out and when Jenny hands him the note he protests that he can’t change it. She informs him that it’s all they have, and if he can’t change it, they can’t pay. He takes it, and outside Jenny hands Mary the change. Mary gets a bit bolder and asks Jenny for help, so Jenny takes her back to Nonnatus and sets her up on the sofa. As she’s tucking her in, Mary chatters about her life and mentions the name of a man—Zakir—and Jenny asks if he’s the father of her baby. Mary doubts it, but she has no way to know for sure.

Jenny leaves her to get some sleep and finds Chummy in another room working on her uniform. Poor Chummy, I’ll bet she’s had to make and remake a lot of her clothes over the years. I’m sure the late 50’s was just as unkind to larger ladies as the early 21st century is.

Back to the bike riding. Chummy finally manages to stay up on her own, as Trixie and Cynthia watch, but then she begins to wobble and falls over painfully as the kids laugh.

Inside, Mary weeps piteously into Julienne’s lap. She’s terrified of going away, even when Julienne tells her that she’ll be safe and well taken care of with Father Joe, who has a home for girls like her. She asks what Mary’s so scared of and Mary gives a particularly horrific recounting of an abortion she had to witness at the brothel. I’m not even going to go into it—let’s move on. Julienne tells Mary that they’re not a clinic or nursing home and they’re not set up to care for her at Nonnatus, but they’ll still care for her at Father Joe’s. Mary finally calms down a bit and agrees to go if Jenny comes.

Evangelina tells Chummy she has to learn biking and study harder if she’s going to be any good. If she can’t manage it, she’ll have to be replaced. Chummy says she needs this experience, because she wants to go be a missionary in Africa. Evangelina isn’t terribly supportive.

Mary and Jenny ride the bus to Father Joe’s. Mary realizes they’re near the place she used to work and she freaks out, but then she quiets down when she sees a man with a coat like Zakir’s.

Father Joe—a kindly Irishman—serves up some tea and biscuits. Mary tells him she’s not a fallen woman—she had a boyfriend who took her in, but he worked for his uncle, so she had to work for the man too. Father Joe quietly says that he knows she was forced and there’s no shame for her.

Later, when he’s alone with Jenny, he wearily tells her this is an old pimp’s trick—luring in a young girl with a few kind words and kisses and then passing her along. Jenny wonders how the girls don’t sense the danger and Father Joe says they’ve been in danger all their lives, and furthermore they’ve never been loved, so they don’t understand the difference between love and abuse.

Mary lies in bed, cradling her stomach while Jenny walks through the red light district, getting a taste of what she’s been so ignorant of.

Obnoxious Blonde Boy is walking along with his mum when he spots Chummy and makes fun of her. Mum—who’s pregnant—shuts him up and heads into the regular clinic, which is crowded, as always. Chummy hurries in and gets some attitude from Evangelina, because she’s running late. Blonde kid’s mum spots another middle-aged mum-to-be, who tells her she’s remarried and now unexpectedly expecting again. BKM admits she was a little wierded out by the idea of having another kid at her age—her daughter’s getting married in a couple of weeks—but she’s come around to the idea.

The other mum, Brenda, goes back to see the doctor, who asks her a few questions and then tells Chummy, who’s helping out, that Brenda had rickets as a child (and now has leg splints) and that it affected her pelvis. He explains that, thanks to the welfare state, rickets is a disease of the past, and so are the problems that affected the rest of her pregnancies, all of which were stillbirths. The poor woman bursts into tears, because she thinks this baby’s going to die too, but the doctor tells her she can be referred for free surgery now. Yay NHS! Chummy comforts the woman sweetly and Brenda calms down, but just when it seems she’s getting into the swing of things, Chummy backs out of the way of the doctor and knocks over a cart full of instruments and glass.

Later, while she’s cleaning up, the doctor finds her and compliments her on her handling of Brenda and tells her that her talent at making the woman feel safe is the mark of a good midwife. He reassures her she’ll get the hang of everything else eventually. She seems bolstered by that, as she should be.

Later, she practices her midwife skills with a pelvis and fake baby while Jenny visits Mary, who dances happily to “You Belong to Me,” which is kind of a sick choice of music, considering her situation.

Sister Bernadette is giving the midwives a lesson in breech births. She asks if anyone’s seen a breech and they all have. Chummy describes a scene where the midwife wrapped the baby’s body in a towel and let it hang for a few seconds to let gravity help out. Sister MJ does not approve, because the baby can asphyxiate. Chummy wound up passing out.

Evangelina marches in to chew out Chummy for missing several appointments. The other girls defend Chummy, explaining that Chummy has to walk everywhere. Evangelina tells her she needs to do something about that and have more respect for her patients, because if she can’t be bothered to show up on time she can’t be trusted to do her own deliveries. She’s a bit harsh, but I’m on her side. I’d be pissed if the midwife just never showed up for my appointment. Kind of important, you know?

Jenny takes Mary’s blood pressure and urges her to rest and eat as much as she can. She complains a bit about the food and remembers Zakir giving her wine and chocolate cake. She wanders over to the window and tells Jenny she knew about the facts of life but she never thought sex would be enjoyable. It was with Zakir, though. Man, this girl’s deep in Stockholm Syndrome, isn’t she? Jenny firmly tells the girl that what he did to her wasn’t beautiful, it was horrible, but Mary won’t hear it. She’s sure the man loves her, because he comes and stands in the street and stares up at the building every day. Yikes!

Jenny goes right to Father Joe, who says they’ll move Mary right away to a place in the country. The man’s determined to save this little lost lamb. He knows Mary’s not too bright and she’s valuable to Zakir, so he’ll be after her. She’s sent to a place in Kent and thanks Jenny for being her friend.

All the midwives, Chummy included, are cycling down the street, Chummy a little unsteadily. Things are ok until they hit a turn and Chummy manages to take all of them—as well as a policeman—down. Looks like Cynthia’s been hurt. Chummy apologizes to everyone and the policeman tells her to just take it easy.

Back home, the nuns unnecessarily tell the girls they’re lucky they weren’t charged with assault. Oh, come on, how big an asshole would a policeman have to be to charge them? It was obviously an accident. Cynthia says she doesn’t know how she explained it all away; she just tried to say it nicely. She’s got her arm in a sling. Evangelina bitches about Chummy a bit but Julienne steps in and says that Chummy’s got a mild concussion, but when she recovers, she’ll start attending births on her own. Evangelina protests that she’s not qualified but Bernadette says she most certainly is, and Jenny speaks up and says people like Chummy. Evangelina keeps railing about Chummy being rich and it’s clear the nurses weren’t kidding when they said she had her own sort of snobbery, but then Chummy comes in and everyone shuts up.

Jenny goes to see Mary, who’s had the baby and is singing to her out in the garden of the lovely place in the countryside. She tells Jenny she called the baby Kathleen.

Chummy’s on call that night, but until a call comes in she chats with Fred. When the phone rings, he sends her off with an encouraging word. The woman in labor is the blonde kid’s mum, who’s two weeks early. As Chummy hurries out to her bike, Fred follows her with a cup of tea. Aww. Chummy thanks him, takes a sip, and realizes he put a nip of something in it. “Army trick,” he says. Hee! She dashes off, and as Fred watches her wobble away on the bike, he crosses himself. Hee again!

At blonde kid’s mum’s home, her daughter’s wedding is underway. The guests are doing the hokey pokey out in the street as Chummy cycles through the circle and stops herself by running into a garbage bin. The obnoxious kid of course says something, and his grandmother smacks him upside the head and tells him to shut it. His dad (I guess) joins them and adds his own head smack before telling grandma she’s too soft on him.

Kent. Mary talks a bit about the birth with Mary, including the delightful detail that the midwife had a moustache. Jenny asks what it was like when she first saw the baby’s face and Mary says it felt like she’d been missing the baby her whole life.

BK’s mum sounds like she’s in pretty hard labor. Her delighted mother hopes the baby’s born during the wedding, but BKM doesn’t want any attention drawn to this, because she’s 42 and it’s all just so, so wrong. BK comes in and yells that his tortoise is under the bed his mother’s on and Chummy bundles the obnoxious child out and goes to examine the mother. Chummy has a terrible poker face, and grandma asks if everything’s ok. Chummy explains that the baby’s breech, which grandma knows is bad. Chummy says there’s still time to get her to a hospital where she can be more effectively treated. She goes out and finds the blonde kid and tells him to ring Nonnatus House and tell them the baby’s breech. He gives her lip, of course, but does it.

Chummy returns to mum (I think her name’s Betty) and tells her she’s got to get right up to the edge of the bed. Betty doesn’t want to move, but between Chummy and her mum, she gets there. Meanwhile, outside, there’s a conga line getting underway as Blond Kid rings Nonnatus, then goes and sits on the stairs with his dad, looking a bit worried.

Chummy’s nervous but coaching Betty admirably, and Betty’s coming along like a champ. The baby’s bottom emerges—it’s a girl—and Chummy gently eases the baby’s legs out. Jesus, this is making me think the c-section’s a gift from God. Chummy does the towel-wrapping trick, explaining that doing so will keep the baby from getting cold and gasping, which I guess would choke her. Chummy’s getting more and more confident as things progress.

Evangelina arrives at the same time as the ambulance and they rush inside. Upstairs, Chummy releases her hold on the baby and lets her hang, as the doctor and Evangelina burst in. Chummy tells them to be quiet, and Evangelina’s all for taking over, but the doctor holds her back, saying that Chummy’s doing beautifully. Chummy tells Betty to push and the baby is finally delivered. Well done, Chums! Betty and her mum laugh and weep. Outside, dad and blonde kid cry too. Chummy’s hands are shaking again, so Evangelina nicely helps her cut the cord.

At Nonnatus, Jenny receives a note from Mary: Baby gone, please come. Father Joe drives her to the home and Jenny spares a good hard glare for him before running inside, where she finds Mary brokenheartedly wailing for her baby. She asks Jenny if she knows where her baby is, because she needs her mum to feed her. Jenny sits her in a bedroom and angrily tells Father Joe she has abscesses in both breasts (gah!) and is in agony. He tells her the babies are always placed for adoption, which he might have mentioned earlier to avoid a scene just like this one. Maybe he was afraid Mary would run away. Jenny argues that Mary didn’t consent and Joe says that Mary can’t legally consent, because she’s only 15, and she has no way to support a baby anyway. If she’s not tied down she can find a job, maybe even find love and have another baby. Jenny asks him if he thinks that will console her and he sadly says it consoles him.

Jenny goes to Mary and gently tells her that her milk ducts have become blocked and infected, so she needs antibiotics and also needs to bind Mary’s breasts to stop the flow of milk. She uses the scarf Mary admired so much, and there’s this rather amazing moment while she’s tying the girl up and Mary’s just sitting there, shaking, completely lost and broken, and damn, I really have to hand it to the actress who played Mary because that’s completely heartbreaking and awful to see.

Jenny VOs that Mary never saw her baby again. And we get yet another fairly inappropriate musical cue as a very upbeat version of “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” kicks up while we watch Mary, hollow-eyed, leave the home in Kent. That was such a terrible musical coda to her gut-wrenching scene—there was nothing splendored about her subplot at all. We then see Chummy mount her bike and ride off, still a little shaky, but better. Jack, the blonde kid, never taunted her again and even started biking around with her. Aww. The pair wheel past the policeman Chummy crashed into, and he spares a smile for her that clearly telegraphs “Future Hookup”. Jenny’s VO further explains that Brenda gave birth to a daughter in the hospital, delivering by c-section all thanks to the NHS. Ok, don’t get me wrong, I love the NHS and think that every civilized country should offer healthcare services to all its citizens, regardless of their income, but this is the second episode in a row where someone has explicitly talked about how awesome the NHS is and how much these people owe to it. I get it—NHS was pretty new and innovative in the 50’s—but at the same time, we get it. I don’t think they need to keep banging this drum. Ease up, mmmkay, show?



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