Previously on Call the Midwife: Sister Ursula showed herself the door and gave Julienne her old post back, Shelagh was put on hospital bedrest due to spotting, and Trixie returned with the baffling news that Cynthia’s not at the Mother House at all.
First: the thing with Cynthia. Julienne’s not stressed at all, because she made inquiries and found out that Cynthia’s been sent to ‘a place of greater safety’ (great book!) Trixie’s still a bit hesitant about that, but that’s where things stand there.
Anyway, Julienne’s got her hands full recruiting for a new midwife, and apparently the candidates are not all that promising. She and Crane conduct interview after interview, and then bemoan the fact that these people will not be at all prepared for what they’re going to face and will freak out the minute they’re thrown into district practice. So, essentially, they’re worried these women are all season 1 Jenny, and I’d like to point out that these concerns didn’t keep Julienne from hiring her.
Maybe she learned her lesson, because after sorting through the interviewees, she remembers Valerie, the amazing ex-nurse who helped out in that explosion a couple of weeks ago. She goes to the pub where Valerie’s working and basically tells her she can have the job if she just applies for it. Valerie’s only too happy to accept, so yay! Cool new midwife!
Trixie gets back into the swing of things with Marnie, a woman expecting her third child. I’ll warn you right now, this storyline is one of those hot-button issues that CtM is known for, and they actually handle it quite well, affording it the complexity it deserves. But still, it’s a bit wrenching to watch.
Here’s Marnie’s deal: her husband has apparently decided he’s done with family life and just up and left her and the kids. While she was pregnant, mind (not that leaving your family any other time is ok, especially when you’re the sole breadwinner). And this prize piece is such an unbelievable turdnugget he’s not even giving his wife, whom he abandoned, along with their children, access to bank accounts. Jesus. Is he hoping they all starve to death or end up on the streets? Because he’s about to get his wish: Marnie’s in really dire financial straits. She’s had to take out loans just to make ends meet, despite the fact she’s on public assistance (which simply isn’t enough for her and the two kids) and now she can’t pay the loans back. The only thing left for her is to take her cousin, Dot, up on a really difficult offer.
Dot can’t have children, though she and her husband desperately want them and are in a very good position to provide for them. Guess where this is going? Yes, Dot has offered to adopt the baby Marnie’s about to have and, presumably, offer the rest of the family some financial help as well. (It’s worth noting that Dot is not ignoring the other two kids–she’s actually quite sweet and affectionate with them and brings the little boy a birthday present.) Marnie, back up against the wall, finally accepts the offer.
Dot and her husband are SUPER excited about this baby. Dot’s got a name picked out for a boy (Andrew–like the prince, and let’s hope this Andrew turns out better) and they go out and get all sorts of baby stuff, as well as a new mattress for Marnie.
At Nonnatus, everyone’s feeling a bit uneasy about this situation, which is a bit odd, because, as several of them point out, this is hardly the first time they’ve run into a situation where a mother gives up a baby she can’t afford. But it gives Tom the opportunity to announce that he was an adoptee himself. He’s grateful for the better life he was able to have, but it’s clear that seeing this situation from the other side is giving him pause.
Marnie gives birth to a baby boy after a fairly difficult forceps delivery. She chooses not to hold the baby, handing him over to Dot immediately. She’s assisted during the birth by Trixie and Winifred, and while Trixie steps out of the whole situation, Winifred keeps gently urging Marnie to hold the baby, and even to breastfeed him. I’m not sure how I feel about that. It feels a bit like Winifred’s overstepping here, and making it that much harder for Marnie to accept this whole decision. Then again, it’s also giving Marnie a chance to really think about whether this is what she wants.
Marnie does hold him, and she asks Tom to baptise the baby, because Dot’s an atheist while Marnie’s a churchgoer. He does so, and she obligingly names the baby Andrew.
Dot gets her baby, and she and her husband are so, so happy, which is nice to see. But then Dot does the sensible thing and decides they should really make this adoption fully legal and official. Marnie realises this means she won’t be able to change her mind down the road, and she thinks about it, registers the baby’s birth, and decides she wants him after all. She goes to Dot’s and takes him back.
These situations are always terrible, and it’s fairly easy for people to condemn the mother for dithering in this manner, which is pretty crushing for the adoptive parents. So I do applaud CtM for showing us both sides, and giving us some sympathy for Marnie, who’s in an impossible position but still can’t quite bear to give up just yet. I will be honest, though, I felt terrible for Dot, who got to have her happiness for all of a couple of days before it was literally taken away from her. That poor woman.
Still, though, there’s some hope for Dot. Having the baby has made her husband realise that maybe adoption wouldn’t be such a bad thing. He’d been opposed to having ‘a stranger’s baby’ before, but now seems more open to it. Tom kindly offers to introduce him and his wife to some adoption agencies, when the time is right. Judging from how deeply depressed Dot appears to be towards the end, I think it’s going to be a while.
And then there’s the whole situation with the Turners. Shelagh’s still in hospital, apparently in an entire ward dedicated to women with high-risk pregnancies. Fun! The woman in the bed beside her, Gloria, has had several miscarriages, one as late as six months, but she keeps on trying. She’s eventually diagnosed with cervical incompetence, which many of us only know about because it’s what Anna had on Downton Abbey. The doctor dithers a bit over whether or not to treat her for this, then decides to do the procedure that could help save this pregnancy. But, of course, the very day she’s to have the procedure, she goes into labour and delivers a stillborn child, sobbing the entire time. It’s pretty wrenching to watch. Poor woman. And yet, even as she packs up her things and prepares to go home yet again, she sweetly tells Shelagh that she has this picture in her head of the two of them meeting in a year or so, both pushing prams, and having a chat. Go lady! You have that baby! You can do it!
Shelagh’s understandably tense, because she started spotting again and now it’s uncertain whether or not the baby’s even alive. Back home, Tim lectures his father for not being open with him, saying it makes sense to be all cheerful for Angela’s sake, but his son’s 15 and feels he shouldn’t be treated as a child. Fair enough. While Turner’s out delivering Marnie’s baby, Tim sneaks off to the hospital to visit his stepmother and give and get some much-needed comfort. When he goes home, Turner’s waiting for him, with some pale ale and pork scratchings, so they can have a pub night and talk as men do. And play some darts (poorly) because they’re adorable.
Finally, Shelagh’s gotten to a point where they should be able to hear the baby’s heartbeat, if there is one to be heard. The nurse in charge of this ward kindly brings in Turner to do it, and after a few tense moments, he finds it! Shelagh delightedly gets to hear her own baby’s heartbeat. I think we all saw that coming, because it’s unlike this show to follow up one mother’s tragedy with a similar one, but it was still lovely. Smiles all around!
6 thoughts on “Call the Midwife: Holding On”
I was screaming at Gloria at the end that I hope that baby in the pram is adopted.
What was up with the “significant closeup” of the Epsom salt canister Gloria was putting in her suitcase? I feel like I’m missing something.
Hmm. I don’t actually remember that. I know that a lot of women use Epsom Salts during pregnancy to relieve swollen feet and achy muscles. Maybe they were just showing that she had all the kit of a pregnant woman, but no baby to show for it (as if the storyline needed to be sadder!)
Epson salt was used to dry up the mother’s milk
I noticed the salts too. I know they were sometimes used to abort pregnancy – but, I couldn’t see why Gloria would do that. I don’t even think they needed to show the salts. It just confused me.
Thank you! I too was quite upset with the nonnatuns for egging the woman on to keep the baby when she had made up her mind and had literally no means to care for another child. They just sort of hand-waved the idea of how she would be able to care for them at the end after she took the baby back. Otherwise they did a great job of showing everyone except the nuns and midwives in a generous and complex light.