Previously on Call the Midwife: Barbara and Nurse Crane arrived, and Trixie and Tom got engaged.
Women gather for the weekly clinic. One of them is played by Claudie Blakely, so we know she’ll be important. Inside, the midwives set up while Crane complains about Trixie’s lateness. It’s going to be a busy day, and Crane tells Bernadette to make sure to keep the line moving and the medical folk will take care of the rest. Bernadette gets her back up ever so slightly at the implication that she’s just a secretary, not one of the medical professionals, despite the fact that she was a midwife for a decade.
Trixie’s late because she’s strolling along with Tom, who tells her he’s had a call from the Bishop’s secretary. Bishop wants to meet Tom in person. Trixie insists on being part of the meeting, since she’ll be Tom’s wife soon and all.
One woman at the clinic is telling horror stories to the others about her own labours. Patsy tells her to leave off (this is apparently not the first time she’s done this), because she’s scaring her daughter-in-law, who’s the actual pregnant woman.
Crane scolds Trixie for being late and tells her to pull herself together. Meanwhile, MJ is telling the gathered children about how Henry VIII tended to rid himself of wives. Is this a shout-out to Wolf Hall? One mother overhears and comes over to hustle her kid away, shouting at MJ for telling such frightening stories. MJ explains she was just nurturing a fledgling historian. Trixie gently takes her hand and asks for her help with some bandages.
A young woman named Bridget meets with Winifred, who tries not to judge the woman’s unmarried state.
Claudie Blakeley is the wife of a ropemaker, Frank Robbins. At the factory, she tells her husband business is looking good. He’s pleased, and also excited to welcome his child, which he’s sure is going to be a boy. They go outside and meet Barbara, who’s there for a checkup. Before he goes inside, Frank tells the nurse to make sure the baby’s a boy, which is a douchy thing to say even if you’re only kidding, which he’s not.
Over the usual drinks that evening, Barbara, the daughter of a clergyman, schools Trixie on how to address a bishop. Patsy tells her to chill and just stick with the usual etiquette—you know, don’t chew with your mouth open and avoid controversial topics.
Winifred bikes to the place where Bridget’s living: a brothel. And not a particularly classy one, either. Winifred checks out the baby things Bridget’s prepared and then looks really uncomfortable when she overhears a client shouting at someone in another room. She asks Bridget if she plans to go back to her ‘business’ after she has the baby, gently saying that this is probably not the best place to bring up a child. Bridget says this is her home and her family. Further discussion is put on hold by the sound of something breaking in an adjoining room. Both women rush in and find an elderly woman, Dora, with a cut hand and some terrible lesions on her chest. Bridget urges Dora to allow Winifred to look at the cut, but Dora’s clearly addled and thinks Winifred is a doctor who’ll lock her away. Bridget cleans the cut and tells Winifred Dora won’t calm down unless they’re alone.
Outside, Bridget catches Winifred and apologises, explaining that only she can keep Dora calm. Winifred tells her that Dora really needs treatment for what appears to be advanced syphilis. She warns Bridget that she can’t go on looking after her while pregnant, but Bridget says that she’s kind of the only one who can look after this poor woman.
Mrs Robbins shows Barbara all the stuff she’s amassed for her baby. It’s almost all blue and yellow, but Barbara finds one lovely little pink cardigan hidden under everything else. It was Mrs R’s, from when she was a baby. Barbara reassures her it’s ok to want a girl, despite what her husband says. Mrs R doesn’t care what it is, as long as it’s healthy, but clearly the sex means a lot to her husband. They’ve been trying for a baby for a long time and Frank sees this as the only shot to have a son and heir to hand the business along to.
That evening, Barbara admits to the other Nonnatuns that she wanted to go smack some sense into Frank for terrifying his wife. Crane says there’s not much anyone can do about it, and Trixie can’t believe anyone thinks girls aren’t the equal of boys. Patsy says girls aren’t the equal of boys: they’re better. Winifred sighs that so many women don’t believe that. The women she saw today, for instance.
Trixie teaches some mums how to bathe their babies. Mrs R is one of the mums, and she bursts into tears. Trixie reassures her that hormones can be crazy things and calls Barbara over.
Turner finds Winifred and tells her he needs her to accompany him on a visit to Bridget. Her blood tests have come back and something’s not right.
Barbara sits Mrs R down for a cup of tea. Mrs R admits she hasn’t been sleeping and Barbara offers to speak to Turner about getting her a sedative. Mrs R is completely stressed out that her husband might take off and find some younger woman who can give him lots and lots of sons. Yikes, he’s really done a number on her, hasn’t he?
Turner and Winifred go to see Bridget at the brothel and tell her she has syphilis, which is serious, both for her and the baby. She needs to go to the maternity home and get penicillin.
Barbara runs into Frank while he’s getting ready to lay a wreath at the war memorial, which is just outside Nonnatus House. Frank explains that his father started up the business, Frank Robbins and Sons, and the sons were young Frank and his two brothers. Frank Sr and the other brothers died in the war. It’s his father’s birthday, hence the wreath, which is made of rope, which is kind of sweet. Frank says he’ll bring his son on these outings when he’s old enough. Barbara reminds him that the baby could be a girl, and that there’s no choice in the matter, but he says he needs a son because he promised he’d carry on the family business with a boy. Well, that was a stupid promise.
Trixie comes downstairs and finds Tom waiting for her. She immediately starts talking about this visit with the bishop and he tells her to chill and remember the bishop is actually there to see Tom, not her.
Bridget is taken to the maternity home and allowed to settle in. While she unpacks, she confesses she tried to induce a miscarriage with a hot bath, on Dora’s recommendation. She then went to someone, but couldn’t go through with the procedure, because she figured if the kid was this keen to be born, she may as well have it. But now she’s worried she’s going to bring it into the world diseased. Winifred reassures her that she’s going to be treated and she and the baby should be just fine.
Winifred leaves Bridget and goes to talk to Bernadette, opining that, with all the advances in medicine, they’re still treating women like Bridget for syphilis. Bernadette says the real problem is that the women don’t make their clients wear condoms. She tried to make some inroads there back in the day, but the customers apparently didn’t like them, so that was the end of it. She gives Winifred a report of the area’s incidences of VD over the past year.
Trixie drinks, listens to La Bamba, and tests out outfits for the bishop’s visit. Barbara comes in and throws herself on the bed, exhausted, but Trixie reminds her that they agreed to go out for ‘a little brightener’ and tells her to go get ready.
Winifred finds Noakes in the Nonnatus kitchen and asks how many prostitutes there are in Poplar. He guesses around 6 or 700. Woah. She asks him to introduce her around.
She next goes to Julienne and explains she wants to go around and urge the women to use sheaths to protect themselves and their clients. She wants to start right away.
Winifred and Noakes set off but she has absolutely no luck. One woman tells her that she’ll lose clients if she insists they use condoms. Winifred looks a bit deflated.
Barbara and Trixie return home after their evening out. They’re giggling about something, which leads Barbara to make a comment about Trixie’s drinking, which I guess has been ramping up lately. Barbara and Patsy even wonder every evening when ‘Trixie’s Bar’ will open, which disturbs Trixie.
Julienne finds MJ looking at some old photos. MJ tells her about the suffragettes and how she wanted to join them, but she had labours of her own. She sadly looks at the pictures and remembers how capable she was back in those days, fighting disease and infirmity. But now… Julienne tells her she’s still a valued part of Nonnatus. MJ smiles that she’s a relic, and a nuisance.
Bridget gets an injection from Patsy and explains that the prostitutes tend to stick together. She admits she doesn’t really want to bring up her baby there, but what other choice does she have? Patsy suggests they talk to Chummy, who’s pretty good at setting up second chances for new mums.
The madam arrives for a visit, and as soon as Patsy leaves, she hands Bridget some clothes and tells her to get dressed, because Dora’s kind of out of hand without Bridget there to help rein her in.
Tea with the bishop. Trixie’s primly turned out in very ecclesiastical purple. The bishop compliment’s Tom’s work and says there’s a parish coming vacant soon and he thinks Tom’s perfect for it. It’s in a seriously deprived area of Newcastle.
Trixie: Newcastle? We kind of hoped to raise our kids in a place that wasn’t a total shithole.
Conversation completely stalls, so she goes to make another pot of tea.
Barbara returns to Nonnatus after a delivery and is sent off immediately to tend to June Coulter, the woman with the difficult mother-in-law.
Post-tea, Tom tells Trixie it really wasn’t her place to criticize where the bishop wants to send him. She protests the notion of being sent to some horrible place, and then being made to sit there while the men made all the serious decisions. She grabs her coat and bursts out in a snit. Tom follows her outside and reminds her that being a curate means having to move around and deal with really horrible things all the time. She gets it, but after four years in Poplar she knows she wants to raise her kids somewhere with actual trees. Tom quietly asks if she’s ever wondered if life as a curate’s wife would really suit her. She hasn’t, but it looks like he has. She tears up and heads home.
Dora’s putting on a rather embarrassing show for a bunch of cheering sailors. What the hell is wrong with those men? Who would find such a sad display—a woman clearly not in her right mind—funny? Bridget arrives and manages to persuade Dora to accompany her upstairs. She tells the men they should be ashamed of themselves as she passes them.
Trixie sits in her room, crying, and eyes a bottle of gin for a moment before pouring herself a glass. After the day she’s had, I’m surprised she didn’t just swig straight from the bottle. But it’s early yet, I guess.
Bridget gets Dora settled, and then her water breaks.
Barbara tends to June while her mother-in-law tells her this is going to get way worse before it gets better. Barbara yanks her aside and essentially tells her to put a sock in it. The woman shuts up and Barbara gets on with it.
Winifred and Crane arrive at the brothel to tend to Bridget. The evening is in full swing, but the concerned madam immediately ushers them through the crowd and upstairs. Crane and Winifred get Bridget into bed and examine her. She’s too far along to get to the maternity home. Crane murmurs that they need to assume the syphilis is still contagious, so Winifred calls for Turner.
A woman in labour comes to Nonnatus, in the middle of a driving rainstorm. She hammers on the door, screaming for help, but the only person who can hear her is MJ, who lets her in and tells her this is no night to be out and about. The woman explains that her husband took the kids somewhere and isn’t back yet, and the phone on their street is broken. She says her waters broke and didn’t look right—it was green coloured. Oh, dear. MJ goes to find help, but the only person there is Trixie, completely passed out with that bottle of gin, now nearly empty, beside her. MJ gets the woman back on her feet and tells her they need to take a little field trip.
Bridget delivers a daughter and weeps with joy.
MJ and the laboring mum make their way through the streets.
Barbara returns to Nonnatus and tells Julienne, who’s also just returned from wherever, that June had a baby girl. Lots of girls being born today. Julienne says that Frank called because his wife is in labour. She sends Barbara to fetch Trixie to take care of it, since Barbara’s been on her feet all day. Barbara goes to do just that, but finds Trixie unconscious and quickly figures out what’s happened here. She hides the bottle and the glass, covers Trixie with a blanket, and goes to take care of Mrs R.
MJ brings the woman to Turner’s surgery, where Bernadette, thankfully, is. Bernadette helps get the woman into the exam room so they can see to this. She notes that the baby’s heart rate is a bit slow, so the mother is going to have to deliver soon. MJ reassures the mother that Bernadette knows what she’s doing.
Turner examines Bridget’s baby, which is having some issues. Bridget is understandably anxious about that.
Bernadette coaches the mother through her labour while MJ holds her hand and sponges off her forehead. The woman delivers—guess what?—a girl.
Mrs R pushes and pushes and—surprise, surprise—has a girl. She snuggles her newborn, smiling happily. Frank knocks on the door and asks if everything’s ok.
Bernadette hands the baby girl to the new mother at the surgery and the mother apologises to MJ for not trusting her. She decides to name the little girl Monica. MJ is tearful and beautifully touched and says that this is an honour. Awww.
Mrs R’s placenta isn’t coming away. Frank once again calls through the door, asking if everything’s all right. Mrs R begs Barbara not to tell him the baby’s a girl. She promises not to, but says she needs to talk to him. She opens the door and tells him to telephone Turner.
Turner arrives and calls for an ambulance. Frank is concerned but Barbara promises she’ll be all right. Frank asks if the baby’s a boy and Barbara informs him he has a daughter. As she’s taken out on the stretcher, Mrs R begs her husband to at least look at their child, but he won’t. Barbara, worn out and so sick of this shit, angrily asks him how he can turn his back on his own daughter. Turner tries to settle her down, but she yells that he can’t treat his wife like that. Turner hurries her out of there.
Barbara returns to Nonnatus, where she finds Julienne sitting beside Trixie, who’s still passed out. The hospital called about booking in Mrs R, and that’s how Julienne found out that Barbara was the midwife at the delivery, not Trixie. She tells Barbara that she didn’t help the problem by hiding it, but there’s no need to tell anyone else about this. She urges Barbara to get some rest.
The midwives and nuns gather to hear that they had a record 10 deliveries that day, three of which were presided over by Barbara. Crane also gives a nice nod to MJ for helping Bernadette. Crane wonders what happened with Trixie and Julienne white lies that she’s upstairs resting, because she’s a bit under the weather.
Bernadette tells Turner about the delivery she presided over and is clearly really excited about it. He sighs that she’s a bit wasted as his receptionist. She begs to differ. He pulls her in for a little dance and Tim fetches Angela so they can observe their parents being all mushy.
Trixie is called to the carpet by Julienne and immediately says she’s sorry and feels foolish for what she did the night before. Julienne reassures her that things probably aren’t as bad as she thinks they are with Tom, but Trixie thinks otherwise. She believes Tom’s right, that she would make a terrible curate’s wife. She says she had a drink and then couldn’t stop, which is apparently how things were for her dad as well. Julienne suggests she talk to Tom about this but Trixie begs her not to say anything. Julienne points out that starting your marriage with a deception is a terrible idea, but Trixie thinks he’ll dump her if he finds out. Julienne urges her to think carefully about this, because secrets can be very corrosive.
Mrs R is back home and delighted with her baby, who’s wearing the little pink cardigan. But she admits to Turner and Barbara, who are giving her a checkup, that it’s driving her mad, how Frank’s acting. He hasn’t even held the baby, and he barely looks at her. Turner urges her to relax, but she just gets more worked up, wondering if she’s going to come home one day and find Frank has packed up her things and is telling her to get lost.
Trixie goes to see Tom, and just in case we didn’t already know that things were really bad, they’re both totally disheveled, which is unusual for both of them. She’s clearly been crying a lot and says he was right to think she wouldn’t make a good wife for him. She sadly says she can’t live up to what he and the church expect of her, so she can’t marry him. She hands back the ring. Nooooo! Oh, come on, let Trixie be happy! She leaves, crying. Tom follows her and calls after her, but she doesn’t stop.
Winifred goes to see Bridget, who’s outside cradling her baby. Winifred quietly asks if the baby’s going to follow in the family business when she grows up. Bridget snappishly asks if she’s there to check the baby or pass judgment. Winifred apologises and Bridget calms down, saying she owes Winifred a lot and she’s grateful. Winifred asks for Bridget’s help ensuring that other women are protected.
Turner goes to see Frank at the rope factory to try and talk a little sense and humanity into the guy. Frank says this is none of Turner’s business and claims he let his father down. Turner reminds him that that promise was one that Frank made to himself, not one his actual father made him make, and in all likelihood, Frank Sr would be over the moon to have any healthy grandchild. Turner points out that women can do things like run businesses nowadays, so maybe stop being so retro and take a moment to be a halfway decent parent and human being.
In the early hours of the morning, Frank wakes and looks over at the baby, lying wrapped up in her cot. He thinks about it for a bit, and then takes her over to the rope factory and shows her around. His poor wife probably had half a heart attack when she woke up and saw the baby and her husband gone, but she recovers sufficiently to go find them in the factory, where she smiles at them and tears up. Aww, hell, so do I.
Noakes takes a picture of Barbara, holding the three girls she delivered. Winifred gives a little seminar to some of Poplar’s prostitutes about the importance of proper protection. Trixie sits in the chapel looking severely depressed.