Previously on Call the Midwife: Chummy came back to work part-time and the Nonnatuns moved into their new digs.
JVO talks about how birth is the most primal thing in a woman’s life. I’d argue that sex and eating are pretty high up there too, but I’m not going to sit here and quibble with a voiceover. While she chats about going with your instincts, we see a woman cutting men’s hair while her husband looks on from outside. She’s heavily pregnant, and Noakes, passing by, comments to the husband that she must be due any day. He wishes the man luck and continues on his way.
The three midwives have been summoned to Sister Julienne’s for reasons unknown. Jenny jokes that it’s probably because of Trixie’s new pixie cut, which is horrendously awful. Seriously, it’s terribly unflattering on her and makes me almost miss her Shirley Temple look of yore. Julienne sits them down and tells them that she thinks they need a figurehead to steady the ship on clinic days, and she thinks it should be one of the midwives. She starts off with Trixie, reminding us that she’s the most senior of the midwives and praising the fact that she brings a reassuring presence to the community, and she’d like her to keep doing that. Trixie, quite reasonably, looks like she’s just been simultaneously slapped and punched in the stomach. Why can’t one act as a figurehead and continue to be a reassuring presence? On to Cynthia, who is urged to keep forging ahead with the mothercraft programme, whatever that is. She readily agrees. Apparently Jenny showed gumption and organisation during their move, so she gets the promotion. I’m not sure I follow Julienne’s logic at all here. Trixie’s skilled and most senior, Cynthia’s handled some of the most difficult cases on the show, but Jenny apparently organised their move (which we never saw, so we have no sense of that, as an audience), so she gets to be the public face of Nonnatus? The way this was handled was also uncharacteristically poor. Julienne’s usually a bit more sensitive than this. Getting Trixie’s hopes up only to batter her down in the next breath was especially cruel. How odd.
Jenny immediately goes to put on some ridiculous frilly hat. Looks like someone got a little too into those Hartnell monstrosities and fripperies during her time at The London. She arrives at the community centre and OCDs over the straightness of the chairs while Trixie visibly seethes.
Patients flood in, including the hairdresser, whose name is Doris. Trixie’s giving off a palpable sense of attitude, but Jenny fails to notice and reels off instructions for her to take an inventory and do some restocking.
Cynthia’s patient is a young first-time-mum to be who’s a little anxious about how much there is to do and get ready, like most new mothers (and fathers, I’d say). The woman talks a little bit about her mother, and we learned that the woman died rather recently, so that’s adding to the stress. Cynthia, of course, is enormously sympathetic and reassures the young woman that the midwives will look after her.
Turner and Jenny tend to Doris, who’s had anaemia and is having blood drawn for more testing. Turner warns her to slow down, but she informs him that her job helps keep her sane, and it took ages to build up a clientele. Jenny reminds her that it’s hard to breastfeed and cut hair at the same time and the woman’s like, ‘ok, whatever,’ and leaves. Turner puts down her complacency to the fact that she’s done this three times already but says they should still keep an eye on her.
Chummy joins Trixie in the storeroom, where Trixie’s wearily doing that inventory Jenny wanted. Chummy jokes that she’s got some cupboards that could use an inventory, promising free food and drink to anyone who helps. She goes on to muse that it’s funny how one can be organised professionally, but all over the place personally, and Trixie softens and tells her to ask for help if she needs it. Chummy feels badly for having to, but Trixie sweetly says it’s no big deal, and that she’s just in it for the cake, if Chummy’s still offering.
Jenny goes to Doris’s to leave the delivery pack and to nose around a bit. She notices that there are absolutely no preparations for the baby yet and tells her Nonnatus can provide some things the woman might need, like a cot. Doris cuts her off, sharply saying that she’s fine, and if she needs anything, she’ll talk to Trixie, who I guess is her actual midwife. Jenny reminds her she can see any of the midwives, and for some reason Doris spills that she was the one who transformed Trixie from a brunette to a blonde. She tells Jenny she’s had three kids already and doesn’t need a lot of looking after.
Back at Newnottus, Trixie and Cynthia are getting ready to go to some lecture. In comes Jenny and Trixie drapes a silk scarf around Jenny’s neck to doll her up a bit. Jenny breaks the news that she’s going out with Alec so he can toast her promotion. In a snit, Trixie snatches back her scarf, prompting Jenny to whine that Trixie was lending it to her. Apparently that came with strings attached: she was only entitled to the scarf if she was going to a lecture, not on a date. Ok, Trixie, now you’re just being petty. Really, really petty. Though I guess it’s frustrating to keep having your nose rubbed in all the things a friend has that you don’t. She stomps out and Cynthia tells Jenny to have fun before slinking out in her wake.
Doris is giving one of her boys, Larry, a haircut, and the kid cutely hugs her around the middle and begs for the baby to be a sister. Doris’s husband comes home, gives the kids some ball bearings or something to play with, and sends them outside so he and the wife can catch up. He asks her how many haircuts she did (in a conversational way, not a how-much-cash-did-you-bring-me way) and tries to pat her belly, but she ducks away. Annoyed, he tells her that no other woman goes around cutting other men’s hair and that the other lads down at the docks give him crap for it. She pours him a beer and he tells her to sit down and talk to him. She says she has nothing to say, seeming rather tense and nervous.
The lecture is being given by a doctor, Latham, who’s studied other cultures and noted that women who grew up in those that viewed childbirth and normal, natural, and not something to be completely freaked out about experienced far less pain than in the west, where childbirth was treated like a major medical event that required doctors and hospitals. For some reason, the Nonnatuns (well, Trixie, Cynthia, and Julienne), have decided to bring Sister MJ with them, and it takes almost no time for her to start getting disruptive, shouting for someone to get the man to pipe down. Why the hell would they bring her along to this? They had to know she’d eventually cause some kind of a problem. I have to be honest, I think it’s time for her character to leave the show. She serves virtually no purpose at this point, other than to be some sort of ‘comic relief,’ except she’s not funny, she’s incredibly sad to me. Even last week’s subplot involving her seemed like a fairly desperate bid to make her seem like she still has some sort of use here, but honestly, she mostly isn’t. In real life, she’d probably be sent somewhere to retire, since she can’t really participate in the workings of Nonnatus and is therefore, well, kind of a burden. I’m not heartless, I feel for her character and Judy Parfitt does a fabulous job of playing her, but moments like this are just annoying and highlight how much she really needs to be somewhere where someone can actually be taking care of her, not disrupting speeches and being embarrassing. The Nonnatuns really are too busy to deal with this.
Latham gamely presses on, saying that keeping women calm and removing fear is important and helpful during childbirth, and can even help the mother and child bond later.
Jenny and Alec are at some pub. He says she seems different, more commanding. She jokes that she’s expecting him to take her home in a carriage with four white horses. He promises to see what he can do, as soon as they shake his two friends, Bill and Ben, who walk in right at that moment with anti-bomb leaflets. They join Jenny and Alec and Alec introduces Jenny to them before going to get more drinks. They offer her a leaflet and tell her they’re organising a march to ban the bomb.
Back at the lecture, Cynthia approaches Latham and tells him about the young mum who recently lost her mother and says she thinks the woman is overwhelmed. She asks Latham if he’d consider coming by and talking to some of the East End mothers about getting rid of the fear part of childbirth. He’s delighted, since apparently the East End fascinates him.
Jenny’s waiting outside the pub for Alec to say goodbye to his buddies. He joins her and she complains that this was supposed to be their date night. Fair enough. He tells her that, once upon a time, he’d have spent all night helping out with this march, but now he has to force himself to care, because his mind is all Jenny, all the time. Honestly, that doesn’t sound entirely healthy. People should have interests outside their significant others. Now that she’s been reassured of his devotion, Jenny forgets that he totally ruined their date and all is well again.
Doris sees her boys off to school, stops to cry for a minute, and then collects a suitcase and heads out.
Cynthia hangs a poster for Latham’s lecture at the next clinic and explains his ideas to Bernadette. The other midwives arrive and Bernadette hands over Doris’s blood test results. Apparently, the anaemia’s cleared up. Jenny notes that Doris seems rather unsettled and Trixie says it’s probably because the woman’s husband is a jealous bully. Chummy adds that Noakes has had a few run-ins with the guy. Jenny sighs that Trixie should have said something and Trixie tells Jenny she didn’t think to ask, because she was too busy bossing everyone around. Ok, Trixie, enough. I get that you’re frustrated by this situation, but don’t take it out on your patients.
Jenny goes to Doris’s to deliver the blood test results, but nobody’s home. She finds Doris at the bus stop and chatters on about the blood test, even though Doris keeps trying to put her off so she can catch her bus. Jenny holds her up, asking where she’s going and Doris says she has to go to Brighton for a few days. The bus pulls away and Doris looks panicked. She confesses to Jenny that she can’t have the baby there, because it’s not her husband’s and he’ll kill her.
Jenny takes her to Newnottus, where they sit down with Julienne, who refuses to pass any judgment and gently asks how she can be sure her husband isn’t the father. Doris says they barely make love at all, and when they do, they use a condom. Jenny asks what she was planning to do in Brighton and Doris admits she was going to leave the baby somewhere. Julienne suggests Doris just not tell her husband the baby’s not his, and Doris further confesses that the baby’s going to be black. Oh, so we’re going down this road again. What’s with the women of this neighbourhood cheating on their husbands and getting pregnant with lovers of a different race? Also, how incredibly stupid is Doris? She has protected sex with her jealous husband but unprotected sex with someone else? A black man whose race would be super obvious in any child resulting? What an idiot. Anyway, the lover’s gone on his way and Doris knows she can’t keep the baby. Julienne offers to help with adoption arrangements, as long as Doris is sure. She is, though it’s clearly a difficult decision for her.
Jenny climbs into bed and complains about her day to Trixie, who’s reading a book and not listening at all.
Winifred and MJ are growing a yellow rose—a peace rose. MJ stresses about the bomb, quoting the destruction of Revelation, and that’s about it for this scene.
The midwives set up for Latham’s lecture, setting out blankets and pillows on the floor while Chummy finds a bizarre knitted foetus for use in demonstrations and concludes one really can take knitting too far. People really will knit anything. At our antenatal class last week we were shown breastfeeding techniques with a hand-knitted boob. I kid you not.
Doris, Jenny, and Julienne meet with the adoption rep, Miss Ellerby. Ellerby’s an unnecessarily brusque woman who takes one look at Doris and suggests they move forward as swiftly as possible and tells her that mixed-blood children are hardest to place. She says they’ve arranged for her to have the kid out in the countryside somewhere, and then the child will be fostered until suitable parents can be found. She rather cruelly continues that it really lifts the soul to see the marvellous people willing to take in abandoned children. Jesus, lady. Doris bursts out that she’s not abandoning her baby, she just doesn’t have a choice here. Julienne counsels compassion.
Latham arrives for the lecture, along with several pregnant woman, including the nervous newbie, Mrs Short. Latham gets started and asks the women how they really feel about their impending births.
Back at Newnottus, Jenny asks Doris what she plans to tell her husband. She’s going to tell him that she’s not well, because of the anaemia, and that she needs to go away and be looked after. And when she comes back, she’ll just say the baby died. That’s a hell of a lie to keep up, but I can understand where she’s coming from. Trixie listens in from an upper landing and I can’t help but wonder why Jenny’s totally taken over the case, considering Doris was originally Trixie’s patient. Seems like she should have at least been looped in.
At the lecture, one of the women talks about having a forceps birth, which freaked her out, and Latham tells her that kind of fear probably contributed to the need to use them in the first place, because they’re kind of terrifying and terror will make you tense up. Mrs Short timidly asks what forceps are and one of the other mums tells her it’s like a medieval torture device. Cynthia quickly reassures her that most births don’t require them. Short says her mother told her that having her was no more trouble than sneezing. The other women titter but Latham kindly says that her mother allowed nature to take over and she should remember that when her time comes. Poor thing’s looking more anxious by the minute.
Jenny finds Trixie out in the garden and Trixie immediately lays into her for not telling her about the situation with Doris. While she does have a point, she kind of goes off the rails when she tells Jenny that they’re friends and Jenny really should have confided in her. Jenny snaps that she wanted to, but Trixie had her knickers in such a twist it was impossible. Jenny tells her why Doris is giving up the baby and Trixie reminds her that she’s been through a situation like this before. Jenny doesn’t think the two couples are at all comparable and stomps back inside. Sister MJ, who’s been hanging a bit of wash, comes over and tells Trixie that the rose is called a peace rose, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much good.
The lecture’s having a break, and Latham suggests Cynthia lead the relaxation portion of the class. She’s a little freaked out, but agrees and has the ladies get comfortable on the floor and start some breathing exercises. Latham smiles, pleased by how well she’s doing.
Doris oh-so-casually tells her husband she has to go away for a bit, and he’s not exactly supportive, complaining a little about having to take care of the kids. She desperately says it won’t be for long and he moodily drinks his after-work beer.
Cynthia sees off the mums, advising them to practice their breathing exercises every night. Latham tells Cynthia her patients are in very good hands and he’s really pleased with what he sees there. He adds that he hopes to keep in touch with her and hear how it’s going. He leaves, and then Evangeline comes in to be a bit of a bitch to Cynthia for absolutely no reason at all, snitting that she’s giving her patients false hope by telling them that there’s nothing to labour but not fretting about dinner, which isn’t what Cynthia’s saying at all. Cynthia takes a few deep, cleansing breaths.
Mrs Short practices her breathing in bed and her rather adorable husband comes in and is cute with her for a bit, so we can get a husband contrast between him and Doris’s spouse, presumably.
Speaking of, Doris gets up in the middle of the night and her water breaks. She grabs a towel and climbs back into bed, trying not to completely freak out.
The next morning, her husband departs with a chip on his shoulder and she tells her oldest son to take his brothers to school. Once they’re all gone, she phones Newnottus. Jenny reports to Julienne that Doris is in labour, so Julienne sends Jenny off and says she’ll phone the adoption people and expedite things.
Jenny arrives at Doris’s and coaches her along. Doris alternately pushes and weeps that she wants her baby. The baby’s born, and sure enough, it’s black. Though I’ve heard that usually pigmentation doesn’t come in for a few days. I read one awful story about a Hispanic couple where the dad saw the baby and immediately freaked out at his girlfriend, accusing her of cheating on him and saying it wasn’t his baby, because it looked white. It took the midwife and other birth assistants a while to talk him and his understandably upset and freaked out girlfriend down. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that relationship didn’t stand the test of time, because what kind of a horrible asshole does something like that while his partner is still naked and bleeding from birth?
Back to Doris. She’s had a little girl, and she cuddles her, looking ecstatic and crying at the same time. Jenny says she’ll have to call Dr Turner to get some tearing taken care of. She adds that Julienne is calling Ellerby to move the adoption forward. Doris sweetly says she has until then, at least.
Evangeline shouts for Cynthia and tells her that Mrs Short has gone into labour and is insisting on Cynthia attending to her. And she’s getting Evangeline as well, the poor girl.
Doris is still cuddling the baby when her husband unexpectedly comes home. Oh, crap. He sees that she’s had the baby and seems really happy, telling her that he had this feeling he had to come home. Doris starts babbling about how she wanted to tell him, and it was just one time, and then he takes a look at the baby and puts everything together. He calls his wife a whore and looks about ready to throw her out a window, baby and all. Doris quickly passes the baby to Jenny, and fortunately Turner arrives just then and tells Cyril to go somewhere and cool off, or Turner will call the police. Cyril spits at them to get rid of ‘it’ or he will.
Turner tells Jenny they have to take the baby away somewhere she’ll be safe. What about getting Doris somewhere she’ll be safe? He offers to keep the infant for a few days, until Ellerby can come collect her. Jenny steels herself and goes and tells Doris the time has come. Doris has called the baby Carole. Jenny quietly tells her the baby will be staying with Turner and Bernadette, where she’ll be safe. Doris is wrecked, but she agrees and lets Jenny take the baby. Jenny hands her to Turner, who gathers his things and leaves. Jenny struggles not to cry.
Mrs S, whose first name is Nellie, is labouring away, but she’s not very dilated and the baby’s in a position that’s giving her a false urge to push. Nellie starts to panic at the idea of the dreaded forceps and begs Cynthia not to use them. Cynthia soothingly promises they’ll do all they can to avoid interventions. Evangeline pulls her aside and admonishes her not to make promises she can’t keep, which, again, is not what she was doing. She says they need to get this girl to the maternity home. What’re they going to do there, dilate her more? Magically? Nellie wails that she wants her mother. Cynthia says they should at least try to give Nellie the birth she wants. Evangeline reluctantly agrees, but says that at the first hint of real trouble, they’re calling Turner. Cynthia pulls the curtains to make the room cosier and coaches Nellie through her breathing exercises.
Bernadette and Turner cuddle and coo over Carole. Bernadette tells him that she wants the next baby she holds to be theirs. Oh dear. They’re hitting this whole ‘Bernadette really wants a baby’ thing so hard something’s going to go terribly wrong, don’t you think? Tim appears and hands over a little teddy bear he’s had since he was tiny, saying he’s a bit too old for it anyway, and Carole can have it. Aww. Tim wishes she could stay, because he tends towards saintly, this child, but Bernadette reminds him that there’s a family out there with no children.
Nellie’s still labouring and Evangeline’s worried that she doesn’t have the strength to push the baby out and she’s getting concerned. Cynthia examines her and Nellie starts doing her breathing. She dilates fully, and Cynthia and Evangeline get her into position to push.
Doris is curled up in bed, crying. Her adorable eldest joins her and asks if the baby’s in heaven. Instead of answering, she asks him to cuddle her. He obliges, curling up beside her and saying they’ll get a sister someday.
Nellie pushes and pushes as Cynthia coaches her to think of each contraction as her womb taking a breath and pushing the baby closer to the world. Nellie’s looking pretty exhausted and out of it, so Cynthia asks her to think of what her mother would do. That gives Nellie the energy to keep pushing, and she manages to get the baby out. He wails mightily, is dried, and handed to his mother. I immediately tear up. Give me a moment. Nellie thanks Cynthia for everything, then looks up at the sky and tells her mother she loves her. Even Evangeline nods in approval.
Back at Newnottus, Evangeline tells Cynthia that she was right and Evangeline was wrong and it was good for Cynthia to do things her way.
Jenny checks up on Doris, who’s completely non-responsive to any questions, just lying in bed looking deeply depressed. Jenny declares everything normal and produces some Epsom salts to help dry out Doris’s milk. Doris sadly says that milk’s all she has to remember Carole by. Ooof. She tells Jenny she wrote the baby a letter and she wanted to know if Jenny could see that it goes with her to her new home. Jenny agrees. As she leaves, Doris starts to mix up the Epsom salts.
Jenny goes to the Turners’, where Bernadette quietly asks how Doris is. Jenny admits she’s not doing terribly well. Ellerby’s there, finishing the last bits of paperwork before taking the baby. She reassures them they’ve found good parents: dad’s a lecturer at Durham University, so they’re pretty well set up. Bernadette sadly hands the baby over, and Jenny tries to give her the letter. Not unfeelingly, Ellerby tells her that the parents have requested no onward contact with the birth mother.
Jenny hands the letter to Julienne, who agrees to hold onto it in case Carole comes looking at some point in the future. MJ starts talking about how she used to write to Santa every year, and from that, Julienne extrapolates that sometimes it’s the act of letter writing that can be as important as the actual delivery.
Cyril returns home as Doris is putting dinner on the table. He confirms that the baby’s gone and she tearfully urges him to hate her, if he must, but don’t blame the baby. A little choked up, he asks if any of the kids are his and she tells him he knows they are.
The midwives are doing the dishes, and when Trixie jokingly alludes to Jenny’s bossiness, Jenny apologises and says she’s not trying to be a jerk, she’s just trying to do her best. Cynthia soothingly says she’s doing very well, considering the tough situation she just found herself in. Jenny thinks they’d all be able to handle it, if push came to shove. Of course they would, they’ve dealt with other tough cases before. The girls get playful and Jenny teases Trixie for dying her hair, but not in a mean way.
Alec shows up with his buddies to ask Jenny if she’s still staying home instead of joining them on the march. She is, but she hands him one of the peace roses and gives him a kiss.
Jenny goes back to Doris’s, where Doris is still half catatonic. Jenny urges her to stop punishing herself and hiding away. She helps Doris get dressed and do her hair so they can take a quick trip to the shops. The eldest son joins them, and then some brainless neighbour lady comes over and brightly asks Doris what she had and where the baby is. Doris is clearly barely able to keep from bursting into tears, and Jenny looks distressed, but the neighbour, who clearly has a brain the size of a walnut and is utterly incapable of reading social cues, natters on about how nobody’s even heard it cry. Yeah, how about that, lady? Jesus, you’d think even a moron could have drawn some tragic conclusions here. Finally, Doris’s son steps in and sadly tells the woman ‘no baby.’ Instead of offering a little sympathy or something, the woman just steps aside so they can pass.