I know I’m super late with this one, but I have to admit that one storyline in this episode annoyed me so much I’m actually still raging about it. But we’ll get to that.
First, the minor story: Lucille’s date with Cyril did not go well. He took her to a West Indian social club where there were (gasp!) a couple of people smoking pot and it turns out that Cyril is not a clergyman, as Lucille thought. He doesn’t even go to church! Turns out the info about him being a clergyman came from Sister MJ, and come on, Lucille, don’t you know better than to take Sister MJ at her word? You know the woman has dementia!
Of course, it turns out MJ totally made that up, so Lucille softens enough to actually talk to Cyril. He tells her that he’s not a fan of smoking a bowl himself, but he does find it comforting to be around familiar people every now and then. She says that’s why she goes to her church. He stops by on Sunday. All good.
In other news, Nurse Crane, poor thing, really does her back in and has to go to the hospital and spend a few weeks in traction. Yikes!
With the Nonnatuns down a woman, someone has to help out, so here comes Mother Mildred from the mother house to lend a hand. Yay, we get Miriam Margolyes back!
I should be happy about that, but apparently her character is now somewhat obnoxious, entitled, and clueless, so I’m less happy now than I was.
She’s going to do some district nursing with Trixie, but Mother M can’t do the bike (or won’t) and so basically orders Fred to drive her around instead. And Trixie has to follow on her bike, which seems kind of absurd. And she has to point out to MM that, fit as Trixie is, she struggles to keep up with a frigging car, so can they all slow down a bit? MM seems surprised to be told this, which is a new level of cluelessness and self-involvement.
Their patient is a man named Mr Britall who, after working all his life at the docks, is now dying of a lung infection. Not uncommon, apparently. He’s being cared for by his daughter-in-law, who has two grown sons of her own who also work at the docks, alongside their father.
While the nurses are around, Mrs B urges her husband to have them give an opinion of a pretty nasty boil or something on his neck. Trixie advises they see a doctor, and MM really steps in it by blithely saying she’s seen a lot of that in the slums in Asia.
Naturally, Mrs B bristles at the word ‘slum’ being bandied about with regards to her husband and home. She’s so offended she tells Trixie MM won’t be welcome back in her home. MM kind of kills the messenger on that one, like Trixie doesn’t have enough to do without appeasing a pissy nun who can’t exercise the most basic levels of tact. But then MM thinks about it and goes to Mrs B, hat in hand, and apologises and is grudgingly forgiven.
Turns out Mr B (junior) has anthrax. Eek! Some shipment that came through the dock was contaminated, so while he’s in hospital the dock is shut until the shipments can be checked over. MM finds out that the dock workers aren’t given masks or proper protective clothing or anything and is outraged. The dock workers and their union aren’t too pleased either. The union leader is getting ready to step down, so when one of the Britall boys expresses an interest in running for his position, MM urges him to go for it.
There’s a somewhat happy ending: although Mr Britall the elder does eventually die, with his family at his side, and is sincerely mourned, Mr Britall the younger will recover from his anthrax infection and his son looks poised to take on the fight for appropriate equipment. So, that part’s good.
Less good is MM taking total advantage of Fred. Poor guy’s having to raid his home petty cash to pay for all the petrol he’s burning up. Since he’s a pushover, it falls to Violet to go to Julienne and MM and tell them this really isn’t cool. And she’s totally right: it’s not, and they should have had the awareness to realise that.
MM is all, ‘Oh, have I blundered again?’ Come on, lady. You know petrol costs money and Fred is not a chauffeur! Julienne apologises to MM about this, when really MM should be the one apologising here. Violet is clearly uncomfortable and mortified by having to do this. Nobody apologises to her, or to Fred, but at least he finally gets paid for his time and petrol.
Mother Mildred is all, ‘Oh, have I blundered again?’ Come on, lady
In other news: it looks like little Mae might be going to her permanent home soon, which makes the Turners kind of sad because they’ve all really bonded with her. Angela even calls Mae her sister, and they look so cute in their matching uniforms on the first day of school!
The adoption worker who’s dealing with the case is a dismissive bitch who says Mae won’t even remember her time with the Turners and will adjust quickly. Between this woman and the doctor from last week, it’s really starting to feel like the show is presenting anyone not directly connected with Nonnatus as kind of a monster.
And in super minor news: Valerie visits her grandmother, who seems like a pretty cool lady.
Ok, here we go.
A teenage girl named Elaine arrives at the maternity home late at night and tells Lucille that she’s in labour. Lucille’s doubtful look is understandable, considering how not pregnant Elaine looks. Turns out Elaine’s been concealing her pregnancy underneath a very sturdy girdle. She gives birth to a daughter whom she calls Sarah and promises that ‘they’ won’t take her away.
Lucille realises that Elaine’s had another child and asks her about it. Elaine admits that, when she was 15, she had a boy and her parents took him and had him adopted out, even though she wanted to keep him. She’s been grieving this ever since (understandable), but her solution to this was to go out, find some random guy to sleep with, and get knocked up with another baby.
Yeah, that’s right: Elaine’s solution was to just have a replacement baby. And the way this episode is presented, not only is the show ok with that, it seems like this is a perfectly reasonable thing and will, in fact, help Elaine get over the loss of her son.
Man, there’s a lot to unpack there, and more to come, but let’s start with this: Holy crap, this girl needs therapy. A LOT of therapy. Yes, I realise that’s an anachronistic thing to say, but it’s true. She DOES NOT need another baby.
Dear CtM writers: You cannot just pop out a baby and expect that to magically help you get over the loss of another child. It doesn’t work like that. To suggest such a thing is a profound insult to anyone who’s ever lost a child. In fact, I’ll go a little further and say it’s a profound insult to anyone who’s ever loved someone else, because it suggests that that love is so easily transferable to someone else. That people are easily replaceable in our lives. Seriously, what the hell?
And you absolutely positively should not have a baby in order to fill some sort of emotional void, or to serve your own tragic emotional need. That is terribly selfish, and is only going to result in misery for you both. Babies are emotional vampires, people. They are all about need. They can’t serve you, you have to serve them. Yes, of course parenthood can be rewarding in many ways, including emotionally, but it is a LOT of tiring take and far less give, especially in the early days. Jesus, the early days are nothing but take; that’s why the first smile feels like such a monumental reward.
Babies are emotional vampires, people
So, we can all agree, I think, that Elaine is not the brightest. She has no notion at all of the realities of parenthood; she’s one of those moron teens who thinks a baby is basically just a living doll that might cry now and again but otherwise gets to dress in the cutest little outfits! Despite the fact that she keeps claiming she’s thought about all this, she clearly hasn’t.
This becomes especially clear when her parents get involved. They, of course, didn’t even know she was pregnant again and when Turner delivers the news, they’re devastated. They bleat about how she was properly brought up and went to Sunday school and everything, and heaven knows churches are awesome at preventing teen pregnancies.
They eventually go see Elaine at the maternity home and tell her this baby’s going to be adopted, just like the last one. She seems… somewhat surprised by this, which just further proves we’re not dealing with a particularly bright bulb. She tells them she’s not giving the baby up. I’m pretty sure that, since she’s a minor, her parents could insist, but instead they just drop her stuff off at the maternity home and wash their hands of her. Very harsh, but to a certain extent, I can understand them here. I mean, you want to be a grownup, Elaine? Want to play house with your new toy? Well, welcome to reality. I feel like I should be more sympathetic to her, but she’s such a frustrating and shallow person I really can’t muster the sympathy.
Everyone at the maternity home gently tries to impress on Elaine that this is a very hard road she’s planning to go down. She insists that she knows, but she doesn’t even know enough to have a real plan here. She talks vaguely about taking in typing work and going to a hostel or something, but it actually falls to Lucille to find this child a place to live and apply for benefits for her. Good lord, is Elaine not ready to raise a kid! I honestly feel like this baby would be better off being adopted!
Elaine is discharged and takes her baby, the pram and clothes she was presumably gifted, and heads off to her new life. And apparently we’re supposed to be fine with all that, but mostly I’m just horrified, because I’m six months in with a new baby myself and I know what she’s in for. She is in no way prepared for the realities of parenthood, either emotionally or financially. I just don’t see this going well for either her or the baby, and that makes me sad.
And the whole idea of a replacement baby is just… ugh. That’s disgusting to even suggest that it works like that. I know people who have lost babies, and though they’ve gone on to have others, that has not in any way mitigated that loss. It is always with them and always will be.
God. I know this show wants to be all uplifting Sunday night viewing and all, but this was a really poor showing. Sugarcoated nonsense like this is why I’m seriously starting to lose interest.