Every season, the Drama After Dark team gathers ‘round the (yes, still online) conference room table to watch the latest and greatest in British dramas. As summer fades into autumn, we have more than just the metaphorical birth of a new season to contend with: it’s also time for the return of PBS favorite, Call The Midwife. Between our scrappy nurses, sassy nuns and gut-wrenching emotional trauma that somehow keeps you wanting more, there’s a lot to be excited about. Need a refresher on what happened last season? Check out our Season 9 and 2020 Holiday Special recaps here. Ready? Take a deep (Lamaze) breath, and prepare yourself for Season 10!
Back in Poplar, our young trainees are getting into the groove of things, but they’re not quite ready for emergencies, and, alas, that’s how this week starts off. Phyllis answers the phone, and then runs through Nonnatus house to send Lucille off to a BBA (born before arrival) call. Alison the Trainee, who was meant to shadow Lucille, goes with Phyllis instead, and folks, I’m not sure she’s excited about this change of plans. Don’t worry, Alison the Trainee, all of our midwife friends have something fun to offer!
Across town, Lucille and Sister Frances arrive at the BBA where Nosy Neighbor, the one who called, complains that they took a long time to get there and then directs them into the right flat. Inside, they spring into action: Sister Frances assesses the baby, a little girl who’s doing just fine, while Lucille takes a look at mom. Unfortunately for Early Bird Mama, Lucille has to examine her to try and find the source of the excessive bleeding that has everyone so nervous, and reader, this isn’t a normal pelvic exam: Lucille’s going to have to go all the way in.
Over at the surgery, it’s morning tea time, which in the Turner family involves biscuits and a chat about the impending abortion reform bill, which is coming together surprisingly quickly.
Shelagh: What do you think will happen?
Dr. Turner: No clue; I know what I want to happen, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Shelagh, a walking talking studio note: It’s a complicated issue and a lot of people think a lot of things about it!
Back at the BBA, Sister Frances figures out what might be happening: it looks like a piece of Early Bird Mama’s placenta is missing. Remember that full body cringe we felt vicariously during the exam? It’s about to get a whole lot worse. Lucille explains what’s happening, and gives Early Bird Mama a shot to induce contractions, but even so, there’s still some retained placenta action. Bad news: that means it’s hospital time, where a doctor will either have to manually remove the placenta (yes, with! their! hands!) or they’ll perform an operation. Despite how serious the situation is, Early Bird Mama REALLY doesn’t want to go to the hospital, and her mom explains why: this family observes Sutak, a Hindu tradition where women don’t leave the house or see non-family members after birth. Not gonna lie, reader, I’m curious to see how our squad flex their cultural competency muscles this week!
Once the ambulance takes Early Bird Mama away, Sister Frances and Lucille debrief.
Sister Frances: If we’d been even a few minutes later, she could have died.
Lucille: Yeah, it’s always been a challenge to get the Indian women in Poplar to come to us.
Sister Frances, asking the million dollar question: Why?
Lucille: Well, there’s the language barrier sometimes. They have different ways of doing things, and good family support. It’s only a problem when there are complications, like today.
Meanwhile, at the clinic, Trixie and Boots meet with their patient for this week, who I’m afraid to say I’m calling Downtrodden, because that’s her whole entire vibe.
Boots: How do you take your tea?
Downtrodden: 2 sugars, 1 for luck. Not sure why I keep saying that, it never works.
Trixie, noticing the GIGANTIC bruise on Downtrodden’s arm: That doesn’t look so good, what happened?
Downtrodden, obviously lying: Oh, I got caught in a door, it’s no big deal.
Trixie: Hm, ok. So, you’ve been sick for 3 weeks? We should do a urine test.
Downtrodden: Why bother? I’ve had four kids, I know by now what early pregnancy is like.
Trixie: It must be hard to have so many.
Downtrodden: I thought it’d be easier with the twins at school, but we’re still a big family, and my husband just lost his job a couple weeks back. Not sure when he’ll get another one. I have no idea how to tell him about this, and I won’t be able to hide it for long.
I just want to give this woman a hug, a phone number for a shelter, and some effective contraceptives, and from the look on Trixie’s face I think she feels the same way. Across town, one of Early Bird Mama’s neighbors, who got kicked out of the hallway by Nosy Neighbor earlier under the banner of “this is lady business, buzz off” returns home after work and greets his very pregnant wife, who I’ll be calling Diligent.
Helpful Husband, attempting to be subtle: Dinner smells really good. Oh hey, totally randomly, I hear our neighbor’s operation went well and everyone’s doing great. Those midwives definitely saved her life!
Diligent, refusing to engage: Great, so happy for her, wash your hands!
Back at Nonnatus, Sister Frances talks to Sister Julienne about the whole community outreach issue. Leaflets? Not good enough!
Sister Frances: What if we tried evening classes? Not like the ones we already do; these would be just for the Asian mums. And we could hire a translator. For them to find out about us, but also so we can learn about them, and what they need from us.
Sister Julienne: Look at you go! That sounds sensible.
Sister Frances: Yay!
Sister Julienne: But we don’t have the money for it.
Sister Frances: No!
Sister Julienne: Here’s the deal: you plan the first one, but you have to figure out a way to get these classes to pay for themselves going forward. Otherwise, we won’t be able to continue.
Sister Frances, in a move that is relatable to anyone who’s ever worked at, say, a nonprofit, agrees, but also looks like she's already stressed. Also struggling with the weight of her responsibilities is Downtrodden, whose house is overrun with her enormous brood of kids, and her sulking, grumpy husband. True to my low expectations, this man complains that the kids are making it impossible for him to think, and when Downtrodden makes the obvious joke about how thinking might be a new experience for him, the mood goes from grumpy to scary instantly. Downtrodden quickly apologizes, insists that she was just joking, and scurries off to tell the kids to quiet down. Undeterred in being The Worst, grumpy husband then tells his wife that it’s probably for the best when she elects to skip dinner, since she’s putting on weight. A real prince, this guy, and given his behavior, I’m not a bit surprised that she’s resisting telling him she’s pregnant. Honestly, Wannabe Bill Sikes here seems to be the source of all of this poor woman’s problems, and it bums me out that we probably aren’t going to get to see her kicking his sorry ass to the curb.
Across town, Sister Frances has stopped by the surgery to try and find Team Nonnatus’ old leaflets from the last outreach program.
Shelagh: I think we still have some — they’re in the bottom drawer.
Miss Higgins: LOL, they sure aren’t! I alphabetized all the old stuff, as it should have been in the first place.
Miss Higgins: I did a LOT of refiling with our Asian patients. For example, since most Sikh women have Kaur as their surname, we put their files under their given names.
Sister Frances: How do you know so much about this?
Miss Higgins, perfectly ready to gloss over her newly revealed imperialist background: My dad was in the Indian Civil Service. We came back to the UK when I was 10 but I remembered all of his lessons on organization, that’s for sure! You know, if you get me that flyer, I can make copies here. I might even be able to translate them into Punjabi myself, and find others to help with Pashto and Urdu… that’s probably enough to be getting on with.
Sister Frances, super impressed: That would be amazing, thank you!
Their timing could not be better, because over at Nonnatus house, Helpful Husband awkwardly rings the bell and tells Phyllis the bare bones: his name, and that he’s worried about his wife. Phyllis, of course, ushers him inside, and sits him in the kitchen to chat.
Helpful Husband: Here’s the deal: my wife and I have been here for a year, but our entire family is still back in Punjab, so we don’t have a big community. I have a good stable job, we have a nice apartment, and my wife takes excellent care of our home.
Phyllis: Look, I don’t want to be rude, but this seems like a ticking clock situation. What’s up? And don’t worry about being polite or anything, I’ve heard it all before.
Helpful Husband: I think the baby is due soon, but she won’t see a doctor. I don’t know why, but I think she’s scared, and now I’m scared too.
Phyllis: And she doesn’t know you’re here, huh? I’m going to give you our doctor’s number: he’s super nice and trustworthy. Also, we’re doing a little meeting just for Asian mothers — do you think you can get your wife to attend?
Helpful Husband: TBH, it’ll go better if you ask her.
Phyllis: Gotcha. I’ll try!
Progress! Across town, Sister Frances heads into Vi’s shop, and not to buy her once a week pop culture study materials.
Sister Frances: I’m here to talk to you in your official capacity.
Vi: Oooh, neat. Lay it on me.
Sister Frances: I have some questions about how I would apply for council funding.
Vi, suddenly less interested and steadily wrapping herself in layers of metaphorical red tape: Oh, I gotta stop you right there. See, I can only talk about council business in my evening office hours. Right now you’re talking to Vi, shop owner and friend. I need you to talk about this with Vi, Councilor and hardass. Get me?
Sister Frances, bless her: No? But ok — see you later I guess.
Across town, Phyllis arrives just in time to catch Diligent returning home with shopping bags.
Phyllis, not missing a beat: Oh hi, I’m a midwife from Nonnatus, can we talk for a bit? Why don’t you let me carry those heavy bags into the house for you!
Diligent, definitely lying: Uh, I forgot something at the shop… I’m going to go back and get it.
Phyllis, not giving up that easily: Please, just for a minute? Here, I even learned that I’m supposed to take off my shoes before coming into your home!
Once inside, Phyllis shoots her shot, explaining the meeting and inviting Diligent even more insistently when she finds out that this is Diligent’s first baby.
Diligent, clearly still uncomfortable: Well, I can try. But I’m super busy.
Phyllis, kindly: It’ll only be an hour or so. And our midwives are very friendly! Look, you’re having that baby really soon, this might help you.
Diligent: Ok, you got me. I’ll be there.
Phyllis: Great, I’ll let them know to expect you. Anyway, I’ll get out of your hair. By the way, I notice you’ve got a ton of fancy cleaning products there — a mix of white vinegar and soap is way cheaper and just as effective. Might be worth a try!
Diligent says she’ll ask her shopkeeper, and then when Phyllis leaves, has what to my untrained eye looks like a panic attack. Beyond her anxiety, there’s something else I’m worried about: mixing vinegar with cleaning products can cause some extremely dangerous chemical reactions, and I super hope Phyllis’ kind advice doesn’t lead to an accidental poisoning.
Across town, there’s a familiar face outside Nonnatus. Yes, you guessed it: A for Effort just can’t seem to stay away.
Lucky for us, Lucille, who is absolutely the best behaved of the lot, answers the door (seriously, imagine for a minute what Phyllis would do in this situation. Or Sister Monica Joan!).
A for Effort: Hi, I was wondering if I could speak with the Mother Superior? I’m in the area for family business.
Lucille: Well, we don’t have the budget to have Miriam Margolyes as a permanent member of the cast, so the Mother Superior doesn’t actually live here. But you can certainly talk to Sister Julienne, can I let her know who’s asking?
A for Effort: Tis’ I: A for Effort.
Lucille: Come on in, you can wait right here.
Meanwhile, the secret is finally out at Downtrodden’s house: when she pukes in the sink, her husband Wannabe Bill Sikes puts two and two together, and he’s a real jerk about it.
Downtrodden: Look, you know the side effects for the pill weren’t working for me, and you won’t…
Wannabe Bill Sikes: Oh so this is MY fault? You’re not allowed to blame me, I do my best!
Downtrodden, finally losing it and starting to cry: This is your best? Look around man, this flat is horrible. I’d hate to see you at your worst.
Unfortunately, I think her question is about to be answered, thankfully off screen. Let’s head back to a man who actually tries (it's right there in his name): A for Effort has been escorted into Sister Julienne’s office.
A for Effort: Well, that recapper was being a jerk, because my dad’s company actually does own property in the area, and while I was here I figured I’d come check out Nonnatus. I’ve heard so many good things.
Me: Still flimsy, guy, but I forgive you.
Sister Julienne, has no idea who this man is: Well, it’s always nice to know people are happy with our work?
A for Effort: My wife died recently not long after giving birth. She was helped so much by one of your staff.
Sister Julienne: Oh. Trixie.
A for Effort: Yeah. Anyway, that made me realise how important what you do is.
Sister Julienne: I’m so sorry for your loss.
A for Effort: I appreciate that. Look, I was doing some research and I heard about your financial issues. It got pretty bad, right?
Sister Julienne: Yes, but thankfully things are now looking up. I mean, we’re still not loaded or anything, but we’re doing ok.
A for Effort: Ah, but that’s why I’m here: I myself am loaded, and I’d like to make a donation on behalf of my company. £100 ok?
Sister Julienne: WHAT? Yes, of course that’s ok, that’s incredibly generous.
A for Effort: It’s the least I can do. Your work is incredibly important. Also, just for flavor and not because it’ll be relevant to the plot later, I’m a barrister, so let me know if you need any legal help. Better run, bye!
Ok, first things first: our pal just casually donated something to the tune of ~$2,300 adjusted for inflation, and since their business model isn’t reliant on donations (sidebar: please support your local public media outfit, our business model very much IS) that’s a big deal. Second things second, how much do you want to bet someone’s getting into legal hot water before the season is out so your man can come save the day? Last but not least: who’s excited for Trixie to find out about this generosity?
And speaking of generosity, Sister Frances is about to discover the extent of Vi’s: it’s Council office hours. Look, do I get that people who hold elected office need to maintain boundaries? Yes. But Vi’s taking this a step further, acting like she’s never seen Sister Frances before in her life.
Sister Frances: Ha Ha. Oh, you’re serious. Sister Frances, here to ask about applying for some charitable funding from the Council.
Vi: And what for?
Sister Frances: Well, I’m looking to run a series of night classes to encourage the Asian mothers-to-be in Poplar to come utilize Nonnatus House’s services more.
Vi: Cool, and how much do you think this will cost?
Sister Frances: I’m not sure yet?
Vi: And have you even done these before? Do we know if they’ll work? Council funds are limited, you know.
Sister Frances, bold: Well, the first meeting is on Monday. We’re covering the costs of this one ourselves, with the expectation that if it’s successful the Council will support our efforts going forward.
Vi, unmoved: Ok, well you’ll need to fill out this paperwork. In triplicate. Bye!
Whew, Councilor Vi is intense! But her bureaucratic nonsense has nothing on the absolutely tragic situation playing out over at Downtrodden’s place. Newly bloodied by her horrible husband, Downtrodden scrabbles around in a drawer of odds and ends until she finds a long, sharp piece of metal. I’m very concerned about what she plans to do with that thing, reader. We'll have to wait to find out: over at the surgery, Miss Higgins is hard at work duplicating the flyers for Sister Frances’ meeting on the proto-xerox, and finishes just as our young nun friend arrives.
Sister Frances: Miss Higgins, these look incredible! Almost professional!
Miss Higgins, type A, and very annoyed by that “almost”: Hm, well thank you.
Sister Frances: The only problem now is that I need to find a translator for tonight!
Miss Higgins: Well… I’d be happy to help out. My Punjabi is a little rusty but I should be able to do it to a level that’s… almost professional.
LOL ok, Millicent. Later that night, the first ladies start arriving at the meeting, including Early Bird Mama’s mom, who’s brought an assortment of Indian sweets that have Sister Frances and Boots salivating. As the meeting kicks off, with only a small bit of tension between Sister Frances (new to being translated) and Miss Higgins (very eager to do the job properly), the ladies in the audience seem excited and interested in listening to what the midwives have to say.
Lucille: Dang, Miss Higgins, that was great!
Miss Higgins: Thank you! I’ll be even better next time.
Sister Frances: Well, assuming there is a next time. I’m not sure we have enough people here to really impress the council. And does anyone know if Diligent is here?
Miss Higgins: Oh, I asked for everyone’s name on the way in... looks like no, unfortunately.
Not great, but honestly, not terribly surprising either. Hopefully Diligent’s neighbors will help convince her to get help from our Nonnatan friends if she needs it! The next day, at clinic, Downtrodden sits down so gingerly that Trixie immediately suspects something is up.
Downtrodden: I’m fine!
Trixie: You’re in pain, I think I should take a little look, just in case.
Downtrodden: This is such a waste of time, but OK.
Trixie, starting her exam: It looks like you have an infection… I think we should have Dr. Turner come do an exam.
And the hits keep on coming. Over at Diligent’s house, she’s once again cleaning her floors with an urgency that makes me wonder if there’s some kind of mental health issue at play. In her haste, Diligent mixes two chemicals together, releasing a cloud of noxious smoke that starts her coughing. Thankfully, just then Helpful Husband comes home, rushing to open a window and get her a glass of water.
Helpful Husband: Look, I don’t know what’s up, but this has to stop. I love you, and this is going to end up with you or the baby getting hurt!
Diligent: I can’t stop thinking about the train.
Helpful Husband: Well, what happened was super traumatic! We lived through Partition, we both saw some incredibly messed up things. But we’re here now, and we’re safe.
Unfortunately, you can’t just stop experiencing a trauma response because you want to, so hopefully our friends can figure out some kind of mental health support for this poor woman. Back at clinic, Dr. Turner finishes up his exam and explains what’s up: Downtrodden has a severe vaginal infection, and she’ll need to be put on antibiotics.
Dr. Turner: We’ll need to keep an eye on you to make sure everything’s healing up — wouldn’t want this to get passed on to your baby. And I’m sorry, but I have to ask: did you do anything to hurt yourself?
Downtrodden: No! Who do you think I am!
Dr. Turner: It looks like you might have used something that wasn’t very clean. Is that right? I get how difficult this is, but we need to understand so we can treat you.
Downtrodden: Treat me? You’re not going to be able to actually treat the problem here: you can’t give me safe housing, or enough money to take care of the kids I already have.
Trixie: Can you tell us what you used, please?
Downtrodden: A skewer. It’s all I had. And I couldn’t even do that right.
Dr. Turner: I’d also like to look at your hand; I can see there’s an abrasion, and if that gets infected too you could get very sick.
She uncovers her wrist and it quickly becomes clear that she’s got cigarette burns on her hands, which she, of course, claims she did to herself. Dr. Turner gently presses to see if there’s anything else she will disclose, but no dice.
Downtrodden, asking the big question: So, am I going to get arrested?
Dr. Turner: Abortion is against the law, but no one is going to benefit from us taking this to the authorities. But look: what you did was extraordinarily dangerous. You could have died.
Downtrodden: I love my kids so much. This isn’t because I don’t love them.
Trixie: We know. We believe you.
After Downtrodden leaves, Dr. Turner and Trixie debrief. Of course they both have deduced that Downtrodden is being abused by her husband, and they’re both hoping the new bill that would legalize abortion will go through quickly. Unfortunately, it won’t be quick enough to help someone like Downtrodden. Later, at Nonnatus, Trixie sits down with the pupil midwives to talk about what they learned from clinic.
Boots: I’d like to talk about something… Downtrodden tried to give herself an abortion. And that’s illegal, but Dr. Turner was sympathetic? And so were you, Trixie. But that’s not our job — aren’t we supposed to be professional?
Trixie, calmly: We were. We diagnosed her, gave her medication, and explained how dangerous it would be for her to do that again. But we also listened to her: she lives in intense poverty, has four kids, and has an abusive husband who just lost his job.
Boots: Then why isn’t she on the pill!? Single women like us don’t have access to it, but she’s married: she has no excuse.
Trixie: She was on the pill. It didn’t work for her.
Trainee Alison: But there are other forms of contraceptives.
Trixie: Alison. Buddy. Her husband hits her, do you really think he’s going to wear a condom?
Trainee Georgette: I’d leave a man who treated me that way.
Trixie: Good, but also: you’re not in her position. Look, we’ve seen a LOT of attempted abortions, and we’ll see many more in the future unless the law changes.
Boots, angry: But the law’s the law now and we all have to follow it!
Suddenly realizing that everyone’s staring at her after that outburst, Boots leaves, in a huff.
All the Trainees:
Later that night, Trixie sits down to write a letter to the editor at The Times, but we’re going to have to wait to find out what it says. The next day, across town, Helpful Husband notices Diligent making a face, and asks what’s wrong.
Diligent, reluctantly: The baby is too quiet.
Helpful Husband, has had enough: Ok, that’s it, we’re going to a doctor. Please.
Thankfully, she agrees, and they head over to the surgery, where Dr. Turner does an exam and then reassures them both: everything is fine — the baby might have just been resting.
Dr. Turner: I just have to say — mixing chemicals can be very dangerous. Just be cautious from now on, OK?
Diligent: I have to clean though! The floor will be filthy. I have to get rid of…
Dr. Turner: Get rid of what?
Diligent: The blood.
Helpful Husband, noticing how freaked out the Turners are: You should tell them about the train.
But she’s completely overcome, so he explains instead: during Partition, Hindu residents of West Punjab were forcibly moved to East Punjab. Diligent cuts in, telling the Turners that on the train, conditions were horrible: it was filthy, and guards attacked her family. Her mother was beaten and then urinated on, before being thrown out of the train, and her aunt’s baby was born on the train, and died. All of this happened when she was a little girl, and she’s been carrying it with her ever since. Dr. Turner insists that it isn’t her fault, and tells her that they’ll do everything they can to help her.
Later, he gives Sister Frances (and probably a lot of the audience) additional background: when Britain left India after centuries of imperialist violence and subjugation, they partitioned the country into India and Pakistan. He doesn’t add that this division was based on separating regions based on religious majority, which fueled animosity between the two groups that’s still an issue today. Millions of people were displaced, and during the violence hundreds of thousands of people died (at minimum). Colonialism: always a truly horrible idea! Anyway, given all this, it makes complete sense that Diligent has an obsessive need to clean, but the therapy she’ll need will take a while: longer than she has given her advanced pregnancy. Given Sister Frances’ work with the Asian population in Poplar, Dr. Turner asks if she’ll be involved with Diligent’s case, and of course, Sister Frances agrees.
Across town, Trixie ducks into Vi’s shop early, looking for a copy of The Times.
Fred: Don’t worry, we have plenty of copies. You hoping to find something specific?
And while Fred tries to pretend he’s not snooping (and fails miserably) she flips through the paper until she finds it: her letter to the editor has been published. Across town, Dr. Turner, also reading his morning paper, is impressed.
Dr. Turner: Damn, good for her!
Shelagh: What’s up?
Dr. Turner: Trixie wrote a letter to the editor in support of the abortion reform bill!
Shelagh: She did WHAT? Why?
Dr. Turner: Uh, because it’s what she believes. And she’s right!
Shelagh: Well sure, but others might not agree! Read it.
Here’s the gist: Trixie’s a midwife, but she’s not representing her employer. She’s seen first hand how bad things get when women try illegal terminations. They’re dangerous, and have horrible consequences, sometimes including death.
Around town, our friends react. The midwives, while they obviously have similar experiences, seem worried. Cyril is of the opinion that Trixie is just calling it like she sees it, but Fred gets to the root of the conflict: should Trixie have said this in a nationally published paper? The trainees all agree that Trixie is going to get in trouble for this, and Boots? She thinks that’s a good thing.
Trixie, entering the storeroom where her colleagues are gathered: Look, I know what you’re all thinking. But someone needed to say it; might as well be me. I stand by it, and I made it clear I wasn’t speaking for anyone else.
Phyllis: Sure, but you work here, with a bunch of nuns!
And just as you might expect, upstairs, Sister Julienne is in the middle of a phone call with Mother Mildred about this very issue. Outside, Lucille runs after Trixie to try and talk to her, but Trixie’s either already too far away or pretending not to hear her. Luckily, Cyril has dropped by: has Lucille seen the paper?
Lucille: Yup, we all did.
Cyril: It made me think… you’ve seen a lot of stuff, and it must be hard to make sense of it sometimes, right?
Lucille: Yeah, sometimes. But all I can do is follow my conscience, which is what Trixie is doing too.
Fair enough, and also, love that Cyril is just here to support his fiancée! Across town, Sister Frances looks in on Diligent, who seems to be physically healthy.
Sister Frances: Looks like baby is just about ready to be born. Have you thought about where you’d like to give birth? We can do here, which would be perfectly safe, or you could come to our maternity home. Whichever you prefer.
Diligent, looking like she just got tossed a lifeline: Maternity home. Definitely.
Back at Nonnatus, Trixie, wearing yet another absolutely fabulous outfit (shoutout to the costume team — you’re doing amazing, sweeties!), walks into the kitchen, where Boots is making tea, with the determined energy of someone who’s about to clear the air, dammit.
Trixie: Look, Boots, I can’t help but feel you’re mad about the letter.
Boots: I am mad. But not about the letter.
Trixie: So what’s up? Can I help?
Boots: No, you can’t help. But thank you.
FRUSTRATING. But I’m sure we’ll have answers soon! Meanwhile, Sister Frances drops into Vi’s shop. Yes, she knows she should wait for office hours, but this is urgent.
Vi: Well, I guess I can make an exception this once. But don’t make a habit! Oh geez, sorry: that just slipped out. What’s up?
Sister Frances: Blammo: a budget!
At Downtrodden’s flat, Trixie is conditionally happy with the improvement to Downtrodden’s infection, but reminds her to finish the full course of her antibiotics.
Trixie, looking around at the miserable conditions in the flat: Would it help for me to call social services?
Downtrodden: Why? Don’t tell them, they’ll take my kids away. I know that sounds stupid, given what I tried to do, but…
Trixie: I have not one doubt that you love your kids. What I mean is, we might be able to improve your housing situation. No promises, but I’ll try. And that might help some of the other stuff too. I know I can’t change those things, but I would if I could.
Downtrodden: He’s not a bad person, he’s just lost. He does love me. Why do you think I keep getting pregnant?
Trixie: Maybe we can try a different version of the pill after the baby comes? See if we can’t find something that works better?
Downtrodden: Why are you doing this for me?
Trixie: It’s my job.
I just have to say this: abuse is not love. If you find yourself in a situation like Downtrodden’s, you can find more information here or by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.SAFE (7233).
At the next meeting for Asian mums, which already seems to have a slightly larger crowd than last time, Helpful Husband and Diligent arrive. She quickly explains that her husband isn’t staying (no boys allowed!) but she is.
Sister Frances and the rest of the crew, internally:
Later that night, they all come home and fill Phyllis in: it went well!
Lucille: Sister Frances is being modest — it was a huge success.
Sister Frances: We learned some of their traditions tonight!
Lucille: Yeah, like did you know Punjabi mothers dip their finger in powder and put a dot behind baby’s ear for protection?
Phyllis: Oh, I like that! Did Diligent come?
Sister Frances: She did!
Phyllis: Well great! That’s progress.
Later, Sister Frances checks Diligent into the maternity home. Everyone’s a little nervous, but she seems much less stressed than earlier, so that’s progress indeed. Leaving Helpful Husband in the waiting room, they go back to the delivery room, where Diligent stoically labors, doing much better than anyone expected, until finally she delivers a healthy little boy to a roomful of smiles.
The next day, Lucille hands Trixie a phone message taken for her by Sister Monica Joan.
Trixie: The BBC? No way, she must be mistaken.
Lucille: I don’t know man, she wrote the name and everything. It’s probably to do with your letter.
Trixie: WHAT!? What am I going to do??
Later, Trixie grabs a passing Phyllis: can she ask some advice?
Phyllis, very honest: Well sure! Always happy to give advice; wanted or unwanted!
Trixie: I’ve been invited onto a BBC radio program to talk about the abortion reform bill.
Phyllis: Oh damn!
Trixie: Indeed. I’d be representing myself, but the letter caused enough of a kerfuffle that this might be the breaking point.
Phyllis: Do you want to do it?
Trixie: Yes. Very much.
Phyllis: Then you should get Sister Julienne’s blessing.
Trixie: I know. And I know she might say no.
And with that, Trixie goes to talk to Sister Julienne, explaining that she’d really like to do this, but she’ll abide by Sister Julienne’s decision: she doesn’t want to cause a political issue for the order.
Sister Julienne: It’s not my call, it’s Mother Mildred’s. And she was concerned about the letter. Now, you’d be doing this as you, right, not as an employee of Nonnatus House?
Trixie: Yes, absolutely.
Sister Julienne: Sometimes I envy you: you don’t necessarily have faith, but you have convictions, which you can follow. I, of course, have made a choice to serve both God AND my patients, and usually this isn’t a problem. But sometimes they conflict, which is a challenge. In the end, for me, faith always comes first. But I’m still going to speak to Mother Mildred on your behalf.
And you know what, it clearly works, because later, a very dolled up Trixie is offered a lift to the studio by Phyllis, who claims that she just happens to be going that way.
At Nonnatus, all the midwives and Cyril gather around the radio to listen, and at the Buckle residence, Fred tells Vi HE’S nervous: how is Trixie handling this? Vi, of course, has experience with public speaking, and thus full faith that Trixie will be just fine. In the studio, the program starts.
Male Pundit 1: I’m a lawyer, and I don’t see why we’d need reforms.
Male Pundit 2: Well exactly: if this bill is approved, doctors will feel pressured to use it.
Trixie: I think you’ll find —
Male Pundit 3, cutting her off so he can chuck a strawman in the mix: I’m worried about something even worse: people are saying this bill is supposed to help women in distress to be considered for termination. Won’t this give doctors the right to consider who’s suitable to have children in the first place?
At the Turner house, Shelagh gets up and starts pacing, annoyed that these men won’t let Trixie talk.
Male Pundit 2: Well sure, what if society doesn't approve of a certain type of woman!? Will they be encouraged to terminate those pregnancies?
Trixie, has had enough: Of course not! No doctor would subject a patient to a procedure with risk involved unless they thought it was necessary. Termination is very often a last resort. These changes are to give doctors the freedom to help women in very desperate situations, and to stop them from being considered criminals. Most babies are loved and wanted, but there are women in situations that are harmful to their health and their sanity: living in horrible conditions, with no hope and no money. How can that be healthy for any child?
Male Pundit 1: Then change the conditions! Give them better housing, more jobs!
Trixie: Why can’t we do both? I’m not here to speak for all midwives, but what I’ve seen is women bleeding to death in dirty rooms, desperate to avoid the stigma of an unplanned baby, which is still a huge issue. This is a question of conscience, and my conscience tells me that this bill should pass.
Team Nonnatus, listening in:
After, at Nonnatus house, everyone talks over the program.
Lucille: She was so brave.
Boots: She was. But those MEN. How dare they? They don’t have a clue what it’s like to have to make the hardest decision of your life, but I do.
Phyllis: What happened?
Boots: I didn’t have an abortion — I didn’t even know what that was. I had a baby. And don’t you all look at me like that.
Sister Julienne: Boots, you better come with me.
In Sister Julienne’s office, she asks Boots for details. When did this happen?
Boots: Back in Ireland, when I was 16, in the orphanage. Look, it wasn’t a prison, we could get out sometimes. I’d been one of their success stories until then.
Sister Julienne: That’s how they presented you to us.
Boots: They couldn’t look like they failed. And the Catholic church is great at covering stuff up.
Sister Julienne: What happened to the baby?
Boots: She went to a London orphanage run by the order. It was arranged by some of the sisters I was closer to, instead of adoption. And when I had the chance to train here, naturally I jumped at it.
Sister Julienne: The sisters who brought you here… did they know about this?
Boots: Yeah, of course, but nobody knows the full story I guess. Colette thinks I’m her sister.
Sister Julienne: That’s your daughter?
Me, a fan of Les Miserables: A little on the nose, Boots. A little on the nose.
Boots: I’m allowed to visit her once a month, and only on Saturday afternoons. So when I have those times off, that’s where I’ve been going. I told you all I was going to see the nuns, which is only half a lie, technically.
Sister Julienne: Yeah, but a lie is a lie, dude!
Boots: All I have ever wanted is to make a good life for myself. If I can do that, I can support my daughter too.
Sister Julienne: Those sisters falsified your records and your references! And I don't know any hospitals in London that would hire an unmarried mother, or even admit her to a training course!
Boots: Can you use your discretion?
Sister Julienne: There’s discretion, and there’s principles, and I’m not sure how they balance here. You can go, I need time to think this over.
Ok, first of all, this situation sucks. Lying to your employer isn’t great, but what else is Boots supposed to do here, praytell? And how f*cked up is a system that won’t let a single woman get a job to support a kid she didn’t have the choice in bearing? If that’s the case, how can we expect someone like Downtrodden to leave her husband? At least Diligent had a good outcome this week: she’s started to build a support system of friends, and seems to be doing better, smiling as her neighbors and Sister Frances visit the new baby. What’s going to happen to Boots? And will there be more blowback from Trixie’s radio appearance? We’ll have to watch next week to find out!