Previously on Call the Midwife: Tom and Barbara started maybe dating, and the first of the thalidomide babies started to arrive, baffling everyone.
Winifred starts cleaning an old portrait of a nun with some bread (wow, does that work? Good to know.) Apparently this is a portrait of Sister Hildegarde, the first of the sisters to come to Poplar. Her commemoration service is coming up.
A young blonde woman named Linda stops Trixie on her way to do the district rounds and asks her to deliver some candies to one woman.
The woman, Mrs B, has a teenage son who loves poetry and is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the postman, a burn, and a nasty cough. Her son, Ian, is the boyfriend of Linda and has apparently been sweethearts with her for pretty much their whole lives. Trixie arrives to dress the burn and deliver candy and there’s a bit of chat that reveals the woman has worked at Heyward’s, the local paint factory (where Linda also works) for nearly 30 years. Her husband worked there 30 years before dying.
Ian rushes outside, then comes flying back in to announce he’s gotten a place at Durham University. Well done, Ian! He’ll be reading English. He can’t believe it.
At the weekly clinic, Shelagh hands out pamphlets providing information to mothers about having their babies in hospital. One woman arrives with her three boys and Shelagh just urges her to steer them away from the Wendy House, because they don’t want ‘another incident with the mangle’. That just makes a whole lot of terrible image pop into my head about what the incident could have consisted of, especially if it involved boys, so let’s just move on. The woman, Mrs Cottingham, is heavily pregnant and announces she’ll have to have her baby at home, since she basically can’t turn her back on her boys (including her husband) for a minute. One woman asks if she can get proper gas at home and Mrs C reassures her she’ll be just fine with the Nonnatans.
Ian rushes to tell Tom that he got into Durham. Apparently Tom helped him quite a lot. Tom, of course, is all congratulations. Linda comes out of work and Ian joyfully tells her the news.
Sister Julienne checks out Mrs C, who privately admits she’d love to have a girl this time around. They hear some kid wailing outside and Mrs C rolls her eyes and goes to take care of it.
Ian goes on about how nice Durham is, and now Linda’s not seeming so supportive, because she’s kind of stuck on the notion that the shitty part of the Thames they’re on is just fine. Ian has actual aspirations and wants to get out of Poplar. She crushes the hell out of that by announcing she’s pregnant.
Ian, naturally, is not overjoyed by the news. She asks if he loves her and he says of course he does, because they’re 18 and what the heck do they know?
The hospital telephones Nonnatus and asks if Julienne could help them out for a week or so. She’s only too happy to agree. She asks Winifred to draw up a plan for Sister Hildegarde’s service. MJ objects, saying Winifred barely knows anything about the woman, but Winfred’s clever enough to ask MJ for her help in planning the service, and that smooths things over.
Patsy and Delia make plans to see La Dolce Vita. Those plans, for some reason soon include Barbara and Trixie. Barbara agrees, as long as she’s not busy. She lies, poorly, that she has a relative coming into town the following week. Trixie smell the BS right away and leaves to make herself a face mask.
Julienne goes to assist at a hospital birth and meets Sister Knowles, a midwife there. Julienne seems a bit thrown by the clinical nature of the hospital delivery room, and by the fact Knowles immediately just abandons her patient to go have her break. Julienne quickly reads the woman’s chart and tries to get a handle on the situation.
Mrs B, while having her wound dressed, castigates her son and his girlfriend about being stupid enough to get pregnant at this particular time. She demands to know when the wedding will be. Trixie looks uncomfortable and, when called on, suggests everyone just chill out and give this a think when things are a bit calmer.
Knowles returns to the delivery room and is somewhat annoyed to find the poor labouring mother has been given tea, because god forbid a woman dealing with a long labour be given any sustenance whatsoever. Glad I didn’t give birth in this hellish hospital. They couldn’t give me enough tea at mine, and it was lovely.
Ian goes to Tom for advice and a favour.
The woman Julienne’s tending to gives birth to a healthy boy. Hurrah! She’s only permitted to hold him for a moment, then he’s whisked away to be weighted and placed in an incubator. Man, this makes a hospital birth look really terrible.
Linda waits for her dad after work and tells him about the baby. He reacts about as well as you’d expect, going to Ian’s and angrily demanding he marry his daughter immediately. Tom steps in and gets the guy calmed down a bit. Tom sits everyone down and suggests they have a discussion about the situation. Linda sulkily says they won’t be doing much of anything if Ian goes to university. Ian points out that going to university would mean a better life for all of them, but his mum says that they don’t have three years to wait for all that to happen, they’ve got about seven months.
Patsy returns home late and finds Delia’s waited up. They have a sweet and rather sexy few moments.
Barbara meets with Tom and tells him that Trixie knows about them, and it’s making things awkward. He sighs that he and Trixie should have gotten over their breakup by now, it having been a year or so already, and Barbara’s distressed to hear that they’re both still struggling with it. She bursts into tears and decides it’s best not to pursue this. Trixie sees the two of them together and tries really hard not to cry herself. She goes inside, passing Crane, who hesitantly approaches and calls to Barbara, telling her Mrs C’s in labour and they need to go. She notes Barbara’s tear-streaked face and gently attributes it to hayfever.
Turner checks out Mrs B and says she may have emphysema, which is what killed her husband. She tells him she’s a widow and needs to work, and Turner points out that she has a son, and surely he can go out and support her now? This poor kid’s getting it from all sides now, isn’t he? Mrs G gets through a contraction and says this is the worst labour yet. Crane checks things out and gets that look on her face you totally don’t want to see. She whispers that this is a brow presentation situation, so the two midwives join forces to cheerfully tell Mrs C that she’d be better off at hospital. Barbara’s sent to telephone for the ambulance. Mrs C tries to look brave.
Ian sells his father’s long-service watch to buy a ring and propose to Linda who, being something of an airhead with no appreciation for anything, goes to show it off to Tom. Ian couldn’t look more like he’s on his way to his own execution. This little idiot’s actually pleased that Ian sold the watch to get this stupid ring. Linda next shows it off to Trixie, who notes that this proves she’s found the man who’ll always put her first, and that’s a rare and precious thing. Nice little bit of passive aggression there.
Mrs C spots Sister Julienne at the hospital and is relieved to see her. The doctor checks her out and says the woman’s not fully dilated. Julienne tries to reassure her. The foetal heart rate is dropping, so the doctor calls for an emergency C-section. Mrs C begs Julienne to look after her little girl when she’s born. Julienne promises to do so.
Apparently Linda gets her idiocy from her dad’s side, because he’s actually throwing a party to celebrate this shotgun engagement that’s destroying Ian’s future. Look, I’m not saying that Ian’s not at least 50% to blame here, but this just seems bizarre and pretty awful, and it only gets moreso when his future father-in-law makes him a gift of a jumpsuit to wear to the paint factory where this kid is going to have to work for the rest of his life. Everyone applauds like this is awesome. Holy shit, what is wrong with these people? Just rub it in, why don’t you?
Tom arrives to offer his congratulations and sees Trixie there, in uniform, with a glass of babycham. She explains that Linda’s dad saw her passing and pulled her in and totally put this drink in her hand, even though she’s in Alcoholics Anonymous these days. Tom gently takes it away and gives her a glass of orange juice instead.
Hey, have you ever wanted to see a C-section on TV? Well, guess what? You get to! Mrs C’s baby is delivered and the doctor immediately says, ‘Oh, God, another one.’ I immediately go ‘Oooooh.’ Julienne looks horrified. Yep, another victim of thalidomide, and this one looks particularly badly off. The baby is quickly removed.
Later, Julienne goes to the nursery to check on Mrs C’s mother, but the nurse attending the babies says no such baby was ever admitted. Julienne leaves the nursery and goes into the sluice room nearby, which has a handwritten ‘do not enter’ sign on the door. Inside, she finds the baby lying on a towel in front of an open window. Oh. My. God. She swiftly cradles the baby and begins praying over it, realising it’s dying. Knowles comes in and tries to explain away this horrifically reprehensible act by saying they couldn’t have saved it. Who cares? How could you have not at least have given this poor child the most comfortable and peaceful death you could? How hard would it have been to at least wrap it in a blanket and put it in a cot until it passed away? What would that have cost you? To try and deliberately freeze a newborn to death…well, good luck explaining that one on the Day of Judgement. Julienne pretty much tells her this was unbelieveably shitty, even if the baby was such a mess they couldn’t even determine gender. The baby dies and Julienne stresses about not having baptised it. Knowles softens a little and offers to arrange for a decent burial, after the post-mortem. She explains this is the third baby born like this in the last year. Julienne asks to be allowed to break the news to Mrs C and Knowles bends the rules to allow it, but suggests they wait until the following day.
Tom goes into the bathroom at the pub and finds Ian hiding out from his own hellish party. He sits beside him and pretty meaninglessly tells the kid the story of how he suffered because he couldn’t listen to the records he loved for two years while he did his National Service. Tom, are you kidding me with this? You not being able to listen to jazz for a while is nowhere near this boy facing down a lifetime of being married to a woman he probably only kinda loves, having a baby he doesn’t want, and working in a mind-numbing, horrible job that will probably hand him an early grave. It’s not even close. Shut up.
Tom asks Ian if he loves Linda and Ian admits that he doesn’t love her more than anything else in the world. Tom says he loves her enough to do the right thing, and sometimes that’s enough. Yeah, that should be enough to carry you through the next 50 or so years. And no, he doesn’t love her enough to do the right thing, he was pretty heavily pressured into it by both parents and you, Tom.
Julienne returns home and tells MJ and Winifred about Mrs C’s baby. She says she’s not sure she did enough. MJ takes her hand and Winifred lights some prayer candles. Julienne asks MJ if it’s ever acceptable to tell a lie. MJ says that what’s important is not if it’s acceptable, but if it’s kind. Let’s face it, there’s no profit in telling the truth here.
Poor Ian gets ready to go for his first day of work at the paint factory.
Julienne tells Shelagh and Turner about Mrs C’s baby, and the fact that this is the third the hospital has seen in the year. They recall little Susan, who was born a couple of episodes back. Turner says there’s been no official notification of anything going on, and it looks like the most recent Lancet doesn’t mention anything either.
Ian watches people clock in at the paint factory and probably sees the whole rest of his life being mindless and meaningless.
His mother, meanwhile, takes Linda to the clinic. The extra behind Linda gives her the most fantastic side-eye and ‘oh, I see’ look I’ve ever seen. Linda’s got a backache, and when she goes for her exam, Trixie immediately realises something’s going on and asks if Linda’s been having spotting. Linda says she hasn’t. Trixie gently tells her she’s bleeding, more than spotting.
Julienne goes to see Mrs C and breaks the news, as gently as she can, that the baby did not survive. She doesn’t go into details. Mrs C weeps and asks if it was a girl, and Julienne hesitates, clearly wondering if it would be worse if she tells this woman it was, or not. She tells Mrs C the baby was a girl and Mrs C seems to find some comfort in the fact that she knew it was a girl and was right all along. Julienne reassures the woman the baby was warm and safe and loved when she drew her last breath. Mrs C wonders if she was being punished for wanting a girl so badly. Oof. Julienne tells the poor woman she did nothing wrong, that sometimes horrible things just happen.
Trixie accompanies Linda to the bathroom and stays with her, trying to reassure the girl while she miscarries her baby. Linda weeps.
Tom runs into her dad on the street and asks how Ian did his first day. Linda’s dad pouts and says he never even clocked in.
Trixie whispers to Shelagh that it was a miscarriage at around eight weeks. She plans to take her to Mrs B’s and tuck her up in bed and get her taken care of.
Tom goes to check on Ian and notes there’s a smell of gas about the place. He starts breaking down the door, just as Mrs B, Linda and Trixie arrive. Mrs B unlocks the door and Tom and Trixie yank Ian out of the oven and get him outside and into the fresh air. The kid’s not looking too good and has probably just burned through a few brain cells. He vomits and murmurs he’s sorry. Linda looks on, crying.
Turner and Shelagh try to find some similarity between Mrs C and Susan’s mother. They can’t seem to find any, nor any unusual illnesses or treatments.
Tom and Trixie talk about how terrible the situation is for Ian, because he’s now engaged for no good reason and can’t just break it off because then he could be sued for breach of promise. One of those laws that probably sounded like a good idea once upon a time, but ended up being kind of shitty, ultimately. Trixie turns this around and makes it about her and Tom. He tells her that Barbara ended things with him because of his and Trixie’s history, and now he thinks they really need to let each other go, for good. She agrees, trying to sound bright and cheerful, even as it’s clear she’s breaking up over this.
Turner notes that there;s a new residential hospital specialising in children with malformed limbs, which is a very sudden new specialty. Shelagh agrees it’s something worth checking out, but maybe in the morning, after they’ve both had some sleep. Part of me was hoping that this wouldn’t be a ‘Turner solves the thalidomide quandary!’ storyline, but then I realised that what probably ended up busting this whole thing wide open was several doctors like Turner looking into these cases individually and figuring out that one link, and then talking to others. I doubt it was just one person who sorted it out, so actually, it would be believable for him to reach this conclusion, eventually.
Trixie goes to Mrs B’s to check on Linda, who spent the night there. Linda asks Trixie to check on Ian while she’s there, because she heard him crying all night. Ian comes in, wearing his paint smock, and tells them he’s fine and going to work. His mother says he isn’t, actually, and Linda offers the ring back, because it’s really the right thing for her to do. He insists he still loves her but she doesn’t want to stand in his way. His mother adds that she’ll be fine and taken care of. Ian still won’t take the ring back, so his mum takes it and plonks it down on the mantelpiece and says it’ll stay there until after he gets his degree. Let’s face it, it’s almost certain the girl it winds up on won’t be Linda, because once he gets out of Poplar and meets loads of other people, his childhood sweetheart who thinks the nothing could be lovelier than the grossest part of the Thames probably isn’t going to do it for him anymore. He’ll probably always be fond of her, the way most of us are kind of fond of our high school boyfriends and girlfriends, but how many of us are married to them? Not too many, nowadays.
His mum ham-fistedly tells Trixie that you just can’t stand in the way of love.
Trixie returns to Nonnatus to have a chat with Barbara. Barbara admits she lied about that visiting relative, but it doesn’t matter now. She’s really sorry about dating Tom and making Trixie unhappy. Trixie tells Barbara she’s the nicest person ever, and Trixie’s not going to stand in hers and Tom’s way. Aww.
The nuns and midwives attend the service for Sister Hildegard. Winifred gives a speech clearly targeted at Julienne, talking about how they often face challenges as midwives and nurses and, in those cases, they need to turn for guidance to their greater powers and remember that God loves them.
Ian gets ready to go to university, helped by Linda and his mother. Trixie helps Barbara get ready for a date with Tom. Baby C’s remains are placed in a box and left on a trolley. That’s a nice, uplifting image to end the week on.