“The longest paths lead into sunlight when they are paved with love.”
That was the beautiful lesson of this week’s episode as summed up by Jenny Lee’s closing voiceover of wisdom. It is a lovely thought and a tweetable moment – and it’s also (pretty much) the lesson of every episode of Call the Midwife. Another lesson of every Call the Midwife episode? Babies always choose an inopportune moment to decide to make their debut!
Use this more opportune moment to read the 15 essentials of Call the Midwife, Season 7, Episode 2.
15. Fruit Loop
Trixie is trying something new; as everyone relaxes, she curls up with an old book, Home Management. It doesn’t go unnoticed that this isn’t her usual kind of read. We are guessing that since all the snow outside Nonatus House has melted, somewhere between episodes one and two, Trixie and Christopher took that hotel sketching holiday, and now she is expecting something more from the relationship (though hopefully not expecting!) She tells Val she never thought she would be happy again, and now here she is. She has found herself a find, and wants to reel in her catch. She is planning to cook him dinner to impress him with her domestic skills, which she springs on him when he picks her up for their date. They start with an appetizer: burnt grapefruit. He is a tad underwhelmed, and suggests maybe they could have PB&J instead, causing Trixie to burst into tears.
FYI: The book Trixie was reading, Pearson’s Home Management, was published in 1904 (hence the dust), and written by someone known only as “Isobel,” an advice columnist for Home Notes magazine. It was meant to be a “domestic science” text book for the newly emerging Edwardian middle class. Among the subjects it covered were cooking (both ordinary and gourmet), proper napkin folding, laundry, the duties of servants, decorating, gardening, and some DIY home doctoring. It looks like our Trixie is studying for her MRS degree.
14. Knit Wits
Sister Winifred’s latest activity is knitting boobs so she can use them, along with sock puppets, to demonstrate proper breast feeding technique to the future mummies of Poplar. Sister Winifred invites Sister Monica Joan to join in but she replies, “wool crafts are the refuge of a dull mind,” causing knitters across the land to respond, “Harumpf!” No one seems to think anything is weird about that remark even though we can remember Sister Monica Joan used to do wool crafts all the time. Sister Winifred now has a big box of boobs, and wants to drive them to the clinic but no one in the tristate area will let her borrow their car. Sigh. You destroy a few transmissions and no one lets you forget it.
13. Hair Today, Mom Tomorrow
Last week we met Nurse Lucille Anderson, now as we see her go about her regular midwifery business, we also see some of the racist reactions she is dealing with in the community.
On an afternoon off, Val is back in her old stomping grounds, getting a new hairstyle at Stanton Styles, a salon owned by chain-smoking Mrs. Stanton, the mum of her old schoolmate, Marjory. Morjory is busy working this day (and every day), even though she is about to pop with baby #3. Yes, labor has begun and she is still cutting hair, insisting she can sit down later – and her mum agrees. That’s dedication – or stupidity – we are not sure which. Thankfully Val was there in curlers when labor shifted into high gear or baby’s first bath might have been in Barbicide. Val takes Marjory upstairs and asks Mrs. Stanton to call Nonatus House. On-call Nurse Lucille Anderson is sent. As she walks in, Mrs. Stanton is making a crack about someone looking like “they’re just off the boat.” Awkward. And it doesn’t get any better.
Upstairs in Marjory’s bedroom, where she will give birth, Mrs. Stanton challenges Nurse Anderson’s authority. Val pulls Lucille aside and lets her know that the biggest challenge she will face with the birth is Marjory’s mum. Famous last words. Val tries to get Mrs. Stanton to leave to let Nurse Anderon to get on with it, but she refuses to go and also refuses to allow Val to leave. Val tries to defuse the situation in the standard British manner: with a cuppa tea. Val occupies Mrs. Stanton by asking about Mr. Stanton who, it turns out, disappeared years earlier with a movie usherette, leaving her with nothing but a toddler (Marjory) and a social disease. But she insists they were better off without him, (Gee, can’t imagine why he left).
When they hear Marjory screaming for her husband Dennis, mother-in-law from hell Mrs. Stanton takes the opportunity to refer to him as a “useless lump” in front of his kids, just as he comes sprinting in from work. Everything progresses, seemingly as normal, and in short order it’s a boy. Mrs. Stanton objects, saying they don’t do boys in their house, but not even her negativity can steal this moment of joy from Marjory and Dennis.
12. CloudburstThe next day, Nurse Val stops by with a baby gift for her old friend at just the right time. Nurse Anderson is already there doing a follow-up visit where her innocent joke with giggling Marjory gets a nasty rebuke from Mommie Dearest about how she is in civilized England now. Marjory tells her mum to leave.
Lucille is unflappable. She asks Val to cuddle the baby while she retakes Marjory’s blood pressure; it’s a bit high. The three girls are chatting and joking, and just then, Marjory gets a splitting headache so severe she bolts upright screaming and grabbing her head. Nurse Val calmly goes downstairs to call an ambulance, telling the operator it is post natal eclampsia. Oh no, Marjory, don’t go all Lady Sybil on us! By the time Val gets back upstairs (with Mrs. Stanton in tow), Marjory is paralyzed on her left side. Nurse Anderson suspects that it is not eclampsia, but a stroke.
At the hospital Mommie Dearest shuts out Marjory’s husband completely and dismisses his questions. She’s told the doctors that she is the next of kin, the only one they should to speak to. He accepts being pushed aside, we suspect, because he is so used to being beaten down by this bully. Mommie Dearest is making all the decisions; she insists that Marjory be discharged, then locks her away in her room, keeping her away from visitors and her husband and kids. She even sleeps with her, handing Dennis his pajamas and relegating him to the couch.
11. Rumor Has It
After Mrs. Stanton overhears gossips in the salon blaming her for Marjory’s stroke, saying it happened because she kept her daughter working on her feet all hours until the baby came, she tries to assuage her own guilt by blaming Nurse Anderson. She makes an ugly scene at the clinic, shouting that she doesn’t want Nurse Anderson’s filthy hands on her grandkids, that she wants everyone to know Marjory’s stroke is her fault, that it happened because she didn’t have a proper English midwife. The Nonatuns all stand up for Lucille, but otherwise she is the object of stares and it seems the only sympathetic look she gets is from a patient sitting in the waiting area, a fellow Caribbean immigrant, Mrs. Edwards.
After Mommie Dearest’s clinic outburst, Marjory is reassigned to another midwife to spare Lucille any more “unpleasantness,” but Lucille objects. She appeals to Sister Julienne saying that if she does that, Mrs. Stanton’s slurs will seem justified.
When Lucille seems to avoid hanging out with the others post-outburst, Val feels the need to apologize to Lucille for Mrs. Stanton’s behavior towards her – because Val is from the East End, and she is embarrassed that one of her own would treat Lucille in such an unforgivable way. Val relays her own experiences of being scapegoated and bullied, in the army; how people there thought she didn’t belong because of her working class background. One supervisor in particular judged and misjudged her, and filled her HR file with bogus complaints, essentially bullying her out of her job. After one particular incident when her supervisor tried to blame her for a soldier’s death, she quit, even though the inquest cleared her. Lucille said they shouldn’t have done that because she is a good nurse. Val tells Lucille she is a good nurse, too. Even so, Lucille says, there are patients who won’t let her touch them because they fear her color will rub off on them.
9. When They Go Low, We Go High
Nurse Anderson returns to see Marjory, and despite the hateful way Mrs. Stanton has treated her, Lucille stands up for her in front of the salon gossips, saying the gossips are wrong, that her daughter’s stroke was not her fault. That puts a crack in the wall. She tells Mrs. Stanton she has a prescription for Marjory and asks if she can take it up to her. She relents and even begins to speak to Lucille like she’s human after all.
Upstairs Lucille sees Dennis sitting there as the baby is crying. He won’t pick up the baby because he’s only going to be criticized for doing it all wrong. He escapes to the pub instead, as Mrs. Stanton mocks him. Marjory cannot speak (though a few words are starting to come back), but we can see how frustrated she is at having to deal with not only the aftermath of her stroke, but also the restrictions her mother has put on both her and Dennis. Her mother won’t even allow her to be with her children.
8. Keep Hope Alive
Dr. Turner gets Marjory a place in an occupational therapy clinic but Mommie Dearest is against it. Nurse Anderson goes to see Dennis at his job and gives him the pep talk he needs. He marches home, picks up his children from the salon and takes them up to see their mother. Dennis is finally standing up to Mommie Dearest and taking command. He is getting Marjory ready to go to the therapy clinic. He tells Mommie Dearest THIS is how it’s going to be. And, he hands Mrs. Stanton back her jammies. He is moving back into his bedroom. He will be the one to help Marjory at night. As he is having his Norma Rae moment, we can see the elation on Marjory’s face. There is hope.
7. Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, I’ve Got Love in My Tummy
To make Lucille feel more at home, Val asks clinic patient Mrs. Edwards for some Caribbean recipes. Instead she turns up at Nonatus House with a feast that Sister Monica Joan eyes suspiciously, but everyone else is eager to enjoy with Lucille.
True History: Caribbean nurses in the UK. To help solve a nursing shortage, the British government recruited women from around the Commonwealth to come to England and train to be nurses for the National Health Service. Over the years, more than 40,000 answered the call. Although they often faced racism and adversity, these Caribbean women are credited with saving the NHS. In 2016 a documentary film ran on BBC4 called, Black Nurses: The Women Who Saved the NHS.
6. Weakly Reader
Sister Monica Joan walks through the garden as Fred and Sister Julienne are tending to it and wonders why everything looks so faded. It seems that Sister Monica Joan might be going blind. She is not admitting to that, but we can read between the lines. When Nurse Anderson stops by her room to talk about Marjory’s predicament, Sister Monica Joan is downcast. She is not only referring to Marjory when talks about dimmed hopes and having to endure things that cannot be changed.
Lucille notices the book sitting closed on the table in her room, and senses that Sister Monica Joan wants to read but no longer can. She asks if she can sit awhile and read to her. Sister Monica Joan brightens and offers to keep her company if she is lonely. She is not accepting charity, she maintains her dignity by offering the solace of allowing Lucille to read to her.
5. Football, Shmootball
At Mothercraft class, listening to the women talk (and brag) about their husbands, and what they will and won’t have to do with baby care, Sister Winfred gets the idea to allow men to come to her Mothercraft classes. Sister Julienne is initially against the idea but she is out-voted. The first one to show up is Mr. Romaine. Mrs. Romaine, wants to show off her stellar hubby Allan to the other mummies but it backfires a bit. She makes a show of him wanting to be at the birth, but he says, um, maayyybe not so fast. I mean, who knows? It might conflict with a football match. Uh oh. An argument ensues and they both say things they don’t mean. This is what comes from mixing men with knitted boobs. All this has upset Mrs. Romaine so much, she has lost her appetite and lost weight. At the next clinic she bursts into tears and confides in Nurse Crane her husband isn’t who she thought he was. Nurse Crane offers her tea and sympathy and advice that mends her frayed nerves.
When Sister Winifred talks to Mr. Romaine about his reluctance, she gets the real dish: He was the oldest of six, and his mum birthed all his siblings at home – he still remembers his mother’s screaming! That would do it. She advises him to explain this to his wife.
4. Put Me In, Coach
Just as Allan feared, right before his Saturday football match Mrs. Romaine goes into labor he has to drive her to the hospital as she yells orders at him. When Mrs. Romaine was barking, “Allan! Allan! Allan!” at her hapless husband, was anyone else reminded of this viral video? Anyway, as he is careening around turns, trying to get to the hospital on time, the baby is coming pretty fast; the Mrs. already feels the head.
Mr. Romaine stops and calls in to Nonatus House. Trixie takes the call and Sister Winifred is dispatched. She is told to look for a football bus down by the river. That’s not much to go on! She has to get there quick, so Sister Winifred hot-wires Nurse Crane’s car and off she goes. Before she gets to her destination, her access to the river front is blocked by a stalled car. She abandons ship and runs the rest of the way on foot, leaving Nurse Crane’s car right where she stopped.
3. Let Me Tell You ‘Bout the Birds and the Bees
Until backup arrives, Mr. Romaine has to coach his wife. Trixie has told him she should pant, not push, but push time comes faster than expected. Thankfully Sister Winifred finds their van just in time – and it’s a girl. When she offers to let the new daddy cut the cord, he faints. He insists to his wife though, that the next time he will be with her all the way through her delivery, to which she says, “You bloody well will not!” She’s cured of that idea!
And with that, the story of how their first baby was born gives the Romaines the perfect excuse for delaying talking to their kids about the birds and the bees; someday, when the kids ask where they came from, their parents could simply say they fell off the back of a truck, and they wouldn’t be too far off.
2. Grand Theft Auto
Nurse Crane returns home to find her car missing, but before she can report it to the police the constable, Sgt. Wolf finds it, enjoying himself as he realizes who it belongs to. But it’s a mystery who would steal it and then abandon it with the keys in the ignition. However, Detective Crane is on the case and when Sister Winifred finishes delivering baby Romaine, and returns to where she left the car, she finds Nurse Crane sitting there waiting for her. Sister Winifred’s punishment is to spend all of eternity apologizing for the infraction.
1. Au Pair, Oh Boy
The Turner’s new au pair arrives and instead of the dour matron from the wrong side of the Iron Curtain that they were expecting (from the passport picture on her application), a modern, fashionable, young hottie shows up. Her name is Magda and she starts right off on the wrong foot by telling Shelagh how pleasing her lovely mid-century modern home is, AND how pleasing her mid-century modern husband is. Uh oh. For his part, Patrick finds her refreshing and prefers her coffee to his wife’s. Magda tells the Turners how well travelled she is, naming all the countries she has worked in all over Europe. Red flag (no pun intended). Could she not keep a job? Did all the wives kick her to the curb? Hmmm…
Shelagh does not like it that while she comes down to breakfast in her customary housecoat and curlers, Magda is already dressed to the nines, doing housework in heels like June Cleaver. She asks her to cover up with a sensible cardigan since she’s not on the continent anymore. She tells Patrick she is worried, but he assures his wife he only has eyes for her. She says, “No putz, I’m talking about Timothy!” She is worried about Timothy being corrupted by this shameless cardigan-less hussy in the house, causing a thought bubble to pop up over Dr. Turner’s head that reads, “Why didn’t my parents have an au pair to corrupt me when I was that age?” We are not sure if Magda will stay or go, but if the bookies are taking bets, I’d put my money on “go,” because (it should be noted) hot au pairs did nothing to save the NHS.
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