Previously on Call the Midwife: Jenny took a break to deal with her grief and Bernadette and Turner decided to give adoption a try.
A fisherman loads up his boat while anxiously looking up at a nearby window. Meanwhile, Jenny returns to Newnattus. Fisherman George’s wife is having the easiest, quietest birth on record, attended by Julienne and Cynthia. She delivers a little girl, which is born in the amniotic sac—a ‘caul baby’, which was thought to be good luck, especially for those who worked on the water. The new mum wants to keep the caul for her husband (they used to be dried and kept as good-luck charms). She asks Cynthia to light a green lantern in the window, so George knows he’s got a daughter. Cynthia does so, George sees it and adorably cheers at the news he’s got a girl.
Chummy’s in a rather posh tea room, waiting for her mother. As soon as Lady C-B walks in, Chummy gets up and knocks over the sugar bowl. Her bitch of a mum observes that grace does not grow with age. Yeah, missed you too, mum.
Jenny’s catching up with Trixie and Patsy, and we learn she’s going to work at The London for a little while, because she doesn’t want the sympathy and pity of the Poplar-ians. Off she goes, back to the hospital, where the Hartnell uniforms have, if you can believe it, gotten uglier. They now have this absolutely hideous belt. She’s working on the maternity ward, which is run by a very brisk and efficient woman we’ll call Nurse Hardass.
Chummy’s tea hasn’t gotten any easier. She invites her mother over for dinner the next night. ‘An evening of jellied eels? I think not,’ her horrible mother responds coldly. Chummy asks how her week’s shaping up, and Lady C-B says she’s going to be around for more than a week. She’s back permanently, in fact. But her husband’s staying in Madeira. Chummy’s thrown by this, and even more thrown when she learns her mother’s already started pawning jewellery to support herself, because her husband’s refusing to even provide her with living expenses. Chummy once again begs her to come to dinner, adding that it’ll give her a chance to finally meet her grandson. Lady C-B’s response to that is to bitch about Freddie’s name, and the fact that he was named after Fred the handyman. Jesus. Run, Chummy, you’re better off without her!
The new mum is sewing a bag for the caul, when it’s ready, and eagerly anticipating a life with a zillion babies and dogs and a budgie and all the other accoutrements of domesticity, which her husband seems really charmed by. He’s totally on board with all of it and is clearly really in love with his wife. Aww.
Cynthia arrives the next day for a follow-up visit, but the mum, Pamela, is already stressing that her milk hasn’t come in yet. Cynthia reassures her it takes a few days, but Pamela’s concerned that she won’t bond with her baby. Pamela doesn’t want to give her baby water in the meantime, because she doesn’t trust that it’s pure enough.
Chummy’s undergoing a massive cleaning project at her home, just in case her mother shows up. Noakes urges her to calm down, but she can’t, because we all know what her mother’s like. She goes to hide some ugly ceramic cat ornament and Noakes calls her out for being embarrassed by their home. Noakes, chill. You’ve met this woman, and you know what a horrible effect she has on your wife. Just let it go for a few days. Tragically, Chummy says she just wants her mum to like something about her, even it if is just her curtains. That’s sad, because I think we all know this woman will never, ever like anything about her daughter. Noakes puts the ceramic cat back in place and says he wishes Chummy didn’t care and that she saw herself the way he does. Seriously, Noakes, just be supportive, ok? As soon as he’s out of the house, she hides the cat again.
Bernadette tracks Turner down to the antenatal clinic and snippily tells him she really needs the info about his reference for the adoption paperwork. He points her towards the contact information of an old army buddy of his.
Meanwhile, Trixie’s cleaning up some sort of spill, because that’s apparently her main job now, when in comes Tom, formerly known as Curate Cutie, who comments that it’s good practice for having a family. He then awkwardly tries to backpedal a little on that and then equally awkwardly asks her out that evening. Trixie suggests they hit up some dance and walks off before he can really respond.
At The London, Jenny’s got an incoming patient: Mrs Rawle, who suffered a stillbirth on her first pregnancy. Let the nightmare fuel begin! She’s coming in early for observation. Nurse Hardass takes a few moments to marvel at how awesome national health is, and then Mrs Rawle comes in. She doesn’t seem pleased to be at the hospital and is even less pleased to be attended by Jenny, instead of a doctor. As she begins to unpack, she slowly takes out a tiny knitted cardigan, and then asks Jenny briskly to make sure her suitcase doesn’t end up in a heap. Jenny reassures her they’re careful with everything at the hospital and leaves her alone for a bit. Mrs R fingers some little booties, clearly compensating for her fear with brusqueness.
Julienne goes to see Pamela and finds her moving furniture all over the place and talking about how she needs to get rid of all the dust so her baby doesn’t breathe it in. Julienne tells her she really needs to rest but Pamela’s acting a tiny bit manic and says she has too much to do and needs to get her house clean so she can relax and her milk will come. Julienne suggests having Pamela’s mother to stay for a bit, and then leans over the baby to check her. Pamela says that Julienne’s wimple is scaring the baby.
Noakes is shining his shoes while Chummy works on an elaborate salmon preparation. Wow, wasn’t she struggling with basic pies until quite recently? She mentions having spoken to her dad on the phone, and says he cut mum off without a penny, which she thinks is fairly harsh. Agreed, especially since it was implied he’d been unfaithful. The doorbell rings and Chummy panics a bit, realizing her mother’s come after all.
George returns home to a wife who immediately starts babbling that he has to stop ‘her’ from coming in, because she’s trying to turn the baby against Pamela. Right.
Lady C-B looks around the house with deep contempt and tells Noakes and Chummy their kid—or any kids, really—is utterly unimpressive. Wow, this woman really is a piece of work. Suddenly, I’m not blaming her husband so much for stepping out and cutting her off. What a cancer she is on the lives of those around her. Noakes removes Freddie and Lady C-B immediately scolds her daughter for allowing her husband to act as a nursemaid. Chummy turns the conversation by mentioning that she spoke with her dad, which her mother is not happy about at all. She pretty much tells Chummy to stay out of it.
Mrs R frantically rings for Jenny and tells her that the baby’s heartbeat hasn’t been checked in a while. Jenny offers to fetch her pinnard and have a listen, but Nurse Hardass intervenes and tells her they check every four hours, no more. Jenny looks apologetically over at her patient.
George goes to Newnattus and talks to Cynthia, who then goes to Julienne and says that Pamela’s very upset because she took Julienne’s suggestion that her mother come to stay as an order, essentially. Apparently Pamela and her mum don’t get along, which is a little bit of a theme tonight. Furthermore, Pamela is still stressing about feeding, and she’s requested that only Cynthia attend to her, instead of Julienne. Julienne seems surprised by this.
Chummy serves up her beautiful salmon, and of course her mother barely even glances at it and asks for the smallest portion, in a tone that suggests she’s only taking any out of some kind of obligation. Noakes does what he can, asking how the weather in Madeira is this time of year. She coolly says that it’s cloudy, but at least not smoggy like London is. This has to be one of the rudest characters I’ve come across in a long time. I get that nothing meets with her approval, but someone with her upbringing—the wife of someone who’s a sort of diplomat no less—would know better than to just be constantly insulting and rude, even with family. Out of nowhere, Chummy asks her mother to stay with them, which is clearly not something she cleared with Noakes first. She also offers up their bedroom for her use, saying that she and Noakes can muddle along perfectly well. ‘I don’t wish to muddle,’ her mother snaps. Fine, lady, then just stay in your hotel in Bayswater and continue going broke, ok? Jesus, this character drives me nuts.
Trixie comes downstairs for her date, but Tom tells her that he has to go tend to a parishioner. This is now the second date he’s blown with her, and she’s pretty much over it. She briskly wishes him good night and runs back upstairs.
Evangelina comforts Julienne, who’s upset at being rejected by Pamela. Julienne wonders if Pamela just prefers a younger midwife because Julienne seems like a bit of a relic to her. Sister MJ pipes up that Julienne is great and the young need her now more than ever.
Pamela’s getting worse by the minute, it seems. She insists that Julienne is trying to hurt the baby and won’t let her husband touch the infant, because she’s afraid of germs. She keeps asking for reassurance that Julienne won’t come. George doesn’t at all seem to know what to do.
Chummy shows her mother to the bedroom and tries to get her settled in. Of course, her mother can’t resist insulting both her daughter and their neighbourhood, referring to Chummy as a ‘stomper’ and snootily asking if one can get the Times. ‘It’s usually a day late, what with the time difference with Central London,’ Noakes snarks. Good for him. What an unbelievably stupid question.
Cynthia arrives at Pam’s, accompanied by Julienne, just in time to prevent Pamela from giving her baby a bath in scalding hot water. Pamela babbles about having to clean the baby and sterilize everything. Julienne removes the water and murmurs to Cynthia that she’s going to call Turner.
Tom meets up with Fred and confesses that he lied about the parishioner—he really lamely made that up to get out of going to the dance because he can’t dance. Seriously, Tom? You couldn’t have sacked up and maybe mentioned that to her? She’d probably have taken that better than being given the brush off. Fred tells Tom to meet him at the community centre that evening.
Jenny reports to Mrs R with a trainee midwife, but Mrs R refuses to be seen or touched by anyone except a fully trained midwife. Jenny sits on the edge of her bed and reassures her she’s in the best of hands. Mrs R says she did everything right before, but she was told she didn’t call the midwife soon enough. What asshole told her that? Even if it’s true, can you imagine telling a grieving mother who’s just delivered a stillborn child that it was all her fault? Jenny says that sometimes these terrible things just happen and Mrs R asks what if it happens again. She just wants to be reassured she’s safe, but nobody will listen when she asks for checks. Jenny gives her a quick exam and feels a good kick.
Pamela’s now pacing back and forth, talking nonsense about plagues and how Julienne brought the badness in. She goes on that she has to take the baby to the river, so she’ll be clean, like Moses. Turner arrives, thankfully, and asks Cynthia to wait in the other room. He talks to Pamela the way one would to a startled horse.
A little later, he comes out of the bedroom and says he’s given her a sedative, but he wants to get a second opinion. Julienne wonders if this is some sort of post-birth psychosis, so now we have our second nightmare scenario of the night. It’s possible, Turner admits. George comes in and seems surprised by the crowd of people in his home. Turner tells him that Pamela’s gone paranoid, and that it could be due to a hormonal fluctuation from the birth. George doesn’t want his wife going to a head doctor (his words) but they don’t have much choice here.
At his office, Turner hears from Bernadette that they’re going to be interviewed by the children’s home, to ensure they’re fit and proper parents. She’s so excited she’s practically giddy, and fails to notice that he’s not exactly over the moon.
Tom arrives at the community centre, where he finds Fred and Patsy waiting, ready to show him some basic moves. He partners Patsy and Fred coaches them through the first few steps. She adds a few pointers as well, but Tom is pretty awful.
George is trying to deal with Pamela, but she’s totally freaking out, saying that the people who keep coming over want to take the baby away. He’s not at all prepared to deal with this situation and desperately goes to fetch some fish and chips.
Trixie, cycling home, sees Tom and Patsy come out of the community centre together, but misses Fred coming out a few moments later.
Mrs R is experiencing early labour pains, so she’s about ready for liftoff. She asks if Jenny will be with her for the whole process and Jenny promises she will. Of course, Nurse Hardass overhears her and pulls her aside, telling her that her job is to prepare women for labour, not to offer guarantees. Jenny’s confused but Nurse Hardass reminds her that her shift’s up in an hour, and she’ll be heading home. She adds that it’s not Jenny’s job to involve herself in these patients’ lives—that’s what community midwifery is for.
Patsy arrives home and is immediately accused by Trixie of going out with Tom. Patsy reassures her it’s not what she thinks and tells her exactly what they were up to. She also says that Tom’s not her type because he lacks certain things and has too much of some other things for Patsy’s taste. Hmmm. Is Patsy a lesbian, then?
George returns home to find Pamela and the baby gone.
Jenny’s getting ready to head out when Mrs R calls her over and says she thinks her waters have broken. Nurse Hardass hurries over, and though Mrs R says she wants Jenny, Nurse Hardass takes over.
Julienne and Cynthia have been summoned to George and Pamela’s and Cynthia remembers Pamela’s obsession with the river. George says there’s one pier she really likes, so he and Julienne rush off, leaving Cynthia at the flat in case Pamela wanders back.
Mrs R’s got a prolapsed cord, so she needs to deliver immediately. Nurse Hardass runs away to book a theatre while Jenny gets the woman on her knees to relieve pressure on the cord. Mrs R weeps that she can’t lose another and Jenny tells her that she won’t. Mrs R is wheeled off and Nurse Hardass briskly tells Jenny her shift is over.
Pamela is found, standing on the railing at the pier, the baby in her arms. She yells at Julienne to stay away from them and keeps going on about germs. The baby wails and Pamela says Julienne’s wimple is scaring her. Julienne takes it off and gently says they don’t want to scare either the baby or Pamela. Cynthia and Turner arrive and Julienne tells Pamela that the baby’s cold and needs help. She begs Pamela to let her and Cynthia help her and the baby. She finally manages to talk Pamela down from the rail and Pamela hands the baby over to Julienne. Pamela starts to climb back on the rail and Julienne drags her back down. Pamela bursts into helpless tears and Turner tells George to fetch an ambulance.
Back at the flat, Turner tells George that his wife is suffering from post-natal psychosis and has been admitted to a mental hospital. He’s not pleased to hear that, calling it a nuthouse, and rails against his wife for trying to hurt their baby. Cynthia distracts him by showing him how to feed little Rose her formula.
Pamela is admitted to the hospital, handing over her wedding ring before being wheeled into a room by a nurse. Back home. George struggles to get the bottle prepared. In the hospital, Pamela, cradling a pillow, piteously calls out to someone passing by that she’d never hurt her baby, she just wanted to keep her safe.
Back at Newnattus, Trixie comments to Fred that he doesn’t strike her as a dancer. He tells her that he and his wife used to compete and everything. He goes on to say that Tom’s crazy about her, but that he made up the whole lie about the parishioner because he was too ashamed to tell her about his two left feet.
Jenny goes to check on Mrs R, who comes around and immediately guesses she lost the baby, probably because it’s not in a cot by her bedside, as some of the other babies are. Jenny tells her that she’s got a very healthy baby boy, and she can’t believe that nobody told her. Seriously, what the hell kind of hospital is this that they’d neglect to tell any mother, let alone one who’s already suffered a stillbirth, what the status of her baby is? Mrs R begs to see him, but Jenny tells her she’s just had major surgery, and it’s against hospital regulations. In fact, Jenny’s not even supposed to be there, because this is the post-birth unit, not the ante-natal unit.
At Newnattus, everyone’s gathering for dinner and having a chat about how tough things are for George and Pamela just now. The baby’s now with an aunt, but Pamela’s still deeply depressed and facing electroshock therapy. Yikes!
Turner and Bernadette are having their interview with a woman who immediately asks Turner what he was up to between April and December 1945, because there appears to be a bit of a gap there. But she knows exactly what that gap is due to: he was getting psychiatric treatment for war neurosis. Turner helplessly tries to explain that he was too worn out from all the horrible things he saw in the war, but now he’s better. The woman gently tells them that they believe children should be placed in homes where truth and trust reign supreme. After she’s gone, Bernadette asks how he couldn’t tell her this. Turner stupidly says he didn’t think the woman would do much of a background check. Jesus, Turner, she’s thinking of giving you a kid! Of course they’re going to do some due diligence. Bernadette asks him what happened to him, but he says he can’t talk about it. She tells him she won’t live with this between them and he insists that he’s dealing with it. Up to this episode, that does seem fairly accurate. I can’t recall seeing anything in past episodes that suggests Turner’s having psychiatric problems or lingering PTSD or anything like that. This is sort of coming out of nowhere.
Julienne tracks George down and asks him if he’ll go see Pamela. He scoffs at the idea of seeing her in the nuthouse and says it’s not a place for decent people. She tells him his visit could aid her recovery and he has to be careful not to risk losing his wife.
Jenny steals into the nursery and finds Mrs R’s baby. She gently scoops him up, just as another nurse comes in. Jenny asks her for a favour, which is apparently permission to take the baby to see his mum. Mrs R can’t believe her eyes when she sees him. Awww.
Trixie goes to Tom’s and tells him she knows about the dancing lessons. He says he wants to make her happy, which is adorable, and she clearly agrees with me. She says she’s off duty at 5. That evening, they head for a dance club, but he’s still too nervous to go in. Trixie takes his hand and tells him to stop overthinking, as they begin to slow dance in the street outside to the sweet, sweet sounds of Ella Fitzgerald.
Pamela’s made to sign some sort of form while George weeps at home, probably nearly as depressed as her. She’s wheeled off for her electroshock, which always looks horrible.
At Newnattus, Jenny helps MJ open a jar and wonders how care became so little valued in hospitals.
Noakes comes into his sitting room to find Lady C-B reading the paper. He greets her, and she just barely flicks her eyes at him over the paper.
Ok, enough with this woman. This show usually does a fairly decent job of making characters, even minor ones, reasonably well-rounded, but she’s just a cartoon. Just what the hell is her problem, anyway? Why is she so consistently horrible to Chummy, and everyone else she meets? Ok, she’s disappointed in her daughter, but there are people out there who are disappointed in their kids who are still able to operate as semi-decent human beings. And they aren’t so utterly devoid of manners, like this woman is. She’s just absurdly rude, and we never get any indication of why she’s like this. She was the same before her marriage cracked up, so it’s not that. She’s just hateful, but hateful for no reason. No way would any normal person behave this way, she’s like a Disney villain, and not one of the good ones, either. They’re overselling this one, big time.
Back to the scene, Noakes notes that his mother-in-law looks a bit pale. She complains that the air is lousy, and then asks what school they’ve got Freddie down for. Noakes explains that they can’t afford a private school. As Chummy comes in, her mother folds up the newspaper and accuses Noakes of being a lousy provider. Noakes says he loves his family, and Lady C-B says that one can’t survive on love. Chummy steps in and says one can’t survive without it, and though they could scrimp and save and send their kid away and have him raised by cold and distant people, like she clearly was, that’s not the way they want to go, because they want their son to actually know he’s loved. She strides over to the cupboard, pulls out that ceramic cat, and, weeping, tells her mother she’s probably better off in a hotel after all. Go Chummy! Way to kick out this ungrateful bitch!
At the hospital, Jenny tells Nurse Hardass she’s going to be heading back to community midwifery. Nurse Hardass understands.
Lady C-B, kind of looking like hell, is ready to leave. She stops to say goodbye to Freddie and admits she’s made a bit of a hash of things. I’ll say. Noakes suggests they all sit down and work this out, but then she starts coughing violently and spews up some nasty greenish spitum.
Noakes calls Chummy at Newnattus.
Pamela keeps getting treatment, and I’m intensely grateful that I don’t live in the 50’s. JVO comments that, with treatment, Pamela started to grow brighter.
Trixie tells the girls about her date with Tom, as Jenny comes in and tells them she’s been missing the East End and will be back for good now. Everyone hugs her.
Chummy’s at her mother’s bedside in hospital. Noakes joins her and quietly asks what the doctors say. The woman’s pretty much tumour-ridden, which is a bit ironic considering what I said earlier about her being a cancer on the lives of the people around her. There’s no hope here. Chummy weeps at the thought of her mother having been in such pain and kept silent. Except she really didn’t keep silent, Chummy. She took it out on you, endlessly, and on your family.
Julienne is visiting Pamela in hospital. She tells her that she’s going to leave and Pamela starts to panic, but Julienne tells her she has other visitors, as George comes in, carrying the baby. Pamela can’t believe what she’s seeing. George hands her the baby and tells her they both miss her. Aww. But you two might want to reconsider those five kids.
Pamela gets better and returns home.
One thought on “Call the Midwife: Mummy Dearest”
This episode was so sad. Post-partum psychosis is scary, and the thought of being in a psychiatric hospital in the 50s is just as scary- ECT, my God!
My mother is a midwife- she had a patient suffering from psychosis, and she says she’ll never forget it. The woman told them her baby was Satan and she had to kill it. They managed to save the baby and the mother was treated and the outcome was good. She even went on to have another baby (she was hospitalised and medicated for it). But there are cases where it doesn’t work out so well. So freaky. Good thing it is rare, I guess. I’m glad they brought it up on the show- it is a very taboo subject, even nowadays.
I wonder if Patsy is a lesbian too. It would be interesting if she is. Of course being gay in the 50s would probably be just as scary as post-partum psychosis!