Well reader, spring has sprung (ish) and with it comes the THIRTEENTH season of Call the Midwife. When last we visited Poplar, Sister Monica Joan was in the middle of another dark night of the soul, Cyril had just adopted a cat named Nigel, Trixie and Mr. Trixie were settling into married life, and there were rumblings of more trainee midwives (and if you need more details, catch up here). This season kicks off with our Nonnatus house squad preparing for the imminent arrival of our trainees. Speaking of whom, we appear to have 4: Joyce, Kathy, Lauren, and Rosalind. Reader, I’ll tell you right now: don’t get too attached to Kathy and Lauren, because we’ll be spending much more time with the other two, who will actually live at Nonnatus house.

Rosalind: Well, I was meant to live with Lauren and Kathy, but it turns out that the lodging house couldn’t handle a vegetarian, and since you’ve already got one, here I am.
Phyllis: What’s UP!! Finally, a pal!
Joyce: Are you a big animal lover or something?
Phyllis: Nah, I just don't like the taste.
Trixie: I just hope you like the room; that used to be where Nancy and I slept. But it looks better now.
Sister Monica Joan, semi sarcastic: Yes, we asked the saints what wallpaper would be better.
Sister Julienne: Real talk, speaking of the wallpaper: please don’t smoke in there, we don’t want to stain the decor.

This welcoming but kinda old school conversation earns the classic young person side eye from our trainees, as is right and good: the natural order of things remains in balance. Later, as Joyce and Rosalind unpack, they commiserate over the less than comfy beds. Rosalind, as it turns out, used to live at the boys school her father ran, so is accustomed to ancient furniture (and is also good at cricket). Joyce is more skeptical, and also reveals herself to be a total badass: she’s got multiple nursing award plaques that she proudly displays on their mantle. She also lets it drop that she’s alone in the world, so now we know for sure that she’s stuck with these delightful weirdos as her found family for at LEAST 2 seasons.

Rosalind: Do you mind if I hang up my anti war poster?
Joyce: I don’t, but these nuns sure will. Didn’t you hear the thing about the new wallpaper? If you put a pin in that they’ll freak.

Cute bonding moment! Also cute? At Trixie’s place, our friend is talking about her transportation to and from work. Right now, her options are bus or bumming a ride from Mr. Trixie, but he tells her that if she learns how to drive, he’ll get her a cute sportscar (and yes, it can be red to match her uniform cardigan). Trixie, by the end of this season, probably:

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Ready for some plot? Over at the Turner residence, Dr. T outlines the new policy shift we can expect to see this season: with more and more pressure to have babies in hospital, the plan will be to have doctors like Patrick deliver more babies in the hospital rather than via homebirth. That way, if a complication arises, a specialist is on hand to assist. Totally separately: Shelagh got cute new glasses!

Back at Nonnatus, Cyril runs for Fred’s help: there’s a bike oil emergency! Even more worrisome is the fact that the student nurses haven’t passed their bike tests yet. To be fair to them, this seems more like a problem with the level of instruction they’re getting from Sister Veronica than with their actual skill: we’re not dealing with a true bike disaster like some we’ve seen over the years (*cough* Chummy). Inside, the gals get an overview of the equipment the Nonnatus midwives use, and how it differs from hospital. They also learn how to answer the phone via a live call from a worried husband for that real sense of practical training experience.

And speaking of babies, we finally get to meet our expecting mums for this episode. First up, we meet Doreen, who’s got cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. She’s come to the surgery despite the lack of accessibility in order to talk to Dr. T in private, because she suspects she’s pregnant. Next, we meet Iris, who’s dealing with Braxton Hicks contractions and not happy about it. Trixie tries to get her to go for a walk, but Iris isn’t having it: the neighborhood is getting “rough.” She and her family are planning to move into a new development, but it isn’t finished yet. This turns out to be common ground with Trixie, who explains that she’s also moving into a new development, but hers will be a fourth floor apartment.

Iris: Are you gonna be happy in a small place like that?
Trixie: Oh yeah, for sure. It’s close to my work and also the whole place is… exclusive. I’ll be grand.
Iris: I just want my own staircase!

Back at the surgery, Dr. Turner lays out the challenges of Doreen’s case for Nancy. For instance, they don’t have her complete medical records, because the family only registered when Doreen was about 8. Miss Higgins will have to do her record keeping magic to get more info.

Dr. Turner: Well, Doreen, you were right: you’re pregnant! But I think you got your dates wrong. You’re due in a couple of weeks.

This turns out to be kind of a big deal. Why? Because Doreen lives at home, and her mom doesn’t even know that Doreen’s boyfriend, Graham, exists.

A man worriedly says "uh-oh."

Naturally, Nancy deals with this by offering Doreen and her sister Anne tea and a mars bar, and then handing them the phone so that Doreen can ring up Graham. Doreen’s sister, Anne, is freaking out. Their mum trusted them to be well behaved and just go to music club, where no one is supposed to be able to get pregnant!

Doreen: Yeah, because she assumed no one would ever be interested in me, which was crappy of her. Also, I hate Beethoven.

Not Doreen, apparently:

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Back at Nonnatus, the whole crew talks over this news. Specifically: the relative ease of concealing a pregnancy for a wheelchair user, and what will happen when Doreen, who needs family support herself, has the baby.

Sister Monica Joan: You know, not so long ago people like Doreen would have been institutionalized, which is pretty messed up.
Sister Julienne: Yes, Doreen’s mom is unusually forward thinking for our time, which is admirable.

Over at Doreen’s home, she and Anne have just broken the news to their mum, who may be forward thinking for the era, but really isn’t taking it great.

Doreen’s Mum: Oh my god, and you both knew about this? That’s why you’ve been avoiding me? I thought you were just pushing me away because you were growing up!
Doreen: Mum, I grew up years ago.
Doreen’s Mum: You’re sick! You need help, not to be molested!
Doreen: Wow. WOW. I wasn’t molested, this was extremely consensual! We’re in love, and he’s here now.

Hearing that the guy who impregnated her daughter is outside, Doreen’s Mum flies out the door and starts whaling on the poor kid. She also says that he’s “ruined her life’s work,” which I think we should note here is pretty ableist and sexist. Despite the attack, Graham insists that he’s not going anywhere, and that he wants to be with Doreen.

Over at Nonnatus, the new arrivals sit awkwardly on the couch during the evening’s “recreation” period. The older ladies explain that this is a time for handicrafts, productivity, and friendship, which IS fun, but less so when you’re in your early twenties and just met everyone. Also less so if you’re Sister Monica Joan, who would give up her jigsaw puzzle for TV time in an instant, and says so. On the plus side, this is at least giving Rosalind and Joyce something to bond over? Their reaction:

Britney Spears makes a confused face

Much later that evening, Iris’ husband comes home, pries up a floorboard, and pulls out a stack of cash. I have no idea what he’s up to, but it’s definitely dodgy, and also something he clearly hasn’t fully communicated with his wife based on her confusion. Either way, it’s trouble, and I don’t like it!

Later, at the clinic, Joyce does an exam on Iris. it seems to be going fairly well until Iris takes her sweater off for a blood pressure reading, revealing some suspicious bruises. Phylis, who’s supervising, sends Joyce out, presumably to try and suss out if Iris is experiencing domestic violence. After Joyce leaves, Iris explains that her husband has been stressed at work, and, after a little nudge, that that work takes place at weird hours and in parts of town where Iris wouldn’t ever go. But he’s a good provider!

A man makes a face that says "yikes"

Meanwhile, out in the waiting area, we get to see an ACTUAL good provider in Graham, who supports Doreen on her walk into the exam when she asks to leave her chair behind. He also listens when she says she’d rather do her appointment solo. Team Graham, is what I’m saying. Anyway, in the exam, Dr. Turner explains that everything is looking good, and Sister Julienne offers to send a midwife to Doreen’s home to go over basic baby stuff, since she hasn’t been able to attend any classes. Doreen is, as you might guess, very keen to do a good job with labor, since her CP is a result of lack of oxygen during her own birth. She also explains that her mom gave birth to her in a pretty rough hospital, which helps explain why labor might not have gone super smoothly. After Doreen leaves, Sister Julienne confides in Miss Higgins.

Sister Julienne: I’ll be honest, I’ve never had a patient with so much brain damage.
Miss Higgins: She’s very bright though, no?
Sister Julienne: Yes, very. But I keep wondering what happened when she was born, and what WILL happen when she gives birth.

Back at the house, Joyce approaches Phyllis about Iris.

Joyce: I feel like I missed the important stuff.
Phyllis: You’ll get there! You and Rosalind are used to working in a hospital setting, where there isn’t as much space for patient focused care. Here people bring their literal dirty laundry to appointments sometimes.

This helpful teaching moment is interrupted by Vi and Reggie, who’ve come to meet the new nurses and hand out fliers.

Rosalind: A pram decorating competition? Great idea, who thought of this?
Reggie: Me!
Phyllis: Well it’s definitely going to be a lot of fun. And it’ll give you two a chance to learn a craft!

Look, there’s really no option BUT to get on board with this, so that’s what Joyce and Rosalind do. Hey, remember how at the top of the episode, Dr. Turner was explaining this new plan for complex cases to happen at St. Cuthberts under his supervision? Doreen is their first patient who fits that bill. Shelagh is a little worried that Doreen is TOO complicated for this plan, but Dr. Turner correctly points out that a simpler case wouldn’t pique the consultant’s interest.

Miss Higgins, interrupting cute Turner lunch: It is I, returning hero of the records office!
Dr. Turner: So you got lucky?
Miss Higgins: Luck is for losers and I don't need it. Here’s the deal: Doreen’s Mum was unmarried when Doreen was born. She had a different surname.
Dr. Turner: These records look messy.
Miss Higgins: Don’t touch them! Doreen was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at 14 months, and her collarbone was broken at birth, so there must have been some trauma. One other thing I think you should know: Doreen was born at that gross hospital we talked about earlier, but she was delivered by Sister Julienne.

A gif of the viral video of a groundhog dramatically turning around to music that goes "Dun Dun DUN!"

I’m not ready to deal with the implications of that yet, so first we’re popping over to the allotment, where Joyce and Rosalind are having a smoke break. Well, they were: Mrs. Wallace comes over to interrupt them with church leaflets. And when I say them, I mean mostly Joyce, who is Black, and thus, Mrs. Wallace presumes, a good recruit. Mistake! Joyce isn’t religious. Rosalind, on the other hand, takes the flier gladly and actually seems interested, at least until Joyce turns Mrs. Wallace down (and crumples the flier aggressively the second Mrs. Wallace leaves).

Later, in Sister Julienne’s office, Shelagh breaks the tough news.

Shelagh: Look, it makes sense you don’t remember: they didn’t realize she had CP until after her first birthday, and then the family moved into town with a different name. You wouldn’t have connected those dots!
Sister Julienne, horrified: But I delivered her!
Shelagh: I’m afraid so: there aren’t a lot of notes, but you signed the form.
Sister Julienne: How could I not remember a birth so challenging it left a baby with lifelong complications!
Shelagh: Babe, you’ve delivered literally thousands of babies. We forget a lot of things. And also: we don’t completely understand what causes cerebral palsy.
Sister Julienne, starting to cry: The notes say she had a broken collarbone! Whatever happened, I should have written it down! Doreen has had to live with this her whole life!
Shelagh: Yes, a whole full life. She’s in love! She’s about to have a baby!
Sister Julienne: And it’s all harder for her than it needs to be because she was injured. And I did that.

That’s a lot to process. And so while life continues on for everyone else, Sister Julienne takes a lot of time to pray. So much so that Sister Monica Joan finally wanders in to interrupt.

Sister Monica Joan: You’ve been in here a long time. What’s up?
Sister Julienne: I have a lot of questions for God.
Sister Monica Joan: Sure, but sometimes you need to do your own detective work.
Sister Julienne: I remember so much about that time; how bad the neighborhood was, how squalid the housing. I just wish I could remember HER.
Sister Monica Joan: We went where God sent us. We did his work.
Sister Julienne: Yes. But did we do it well?

Sister Monica Joan doesn’t have a clear answer for that, so she just holds her sister’s hand. Upstairs, Nancy and Rosalind roll into the new kids’ bedroom with a pram liberated from the shed for handicraft time. They also have cookies, which Joyce is happy to share, but she’s not into helping with this weird pram decorating shenanigan. She’s got studying to do! Rosalind puts on a record, and she and Nancy start dancing. Out in the hall, Trixie, who’s crashing overnight due to the early shift, runs into Colette.

Colette: I think my mom went into the students’ bedroom.
Trixie: I think you’re right. Go to bed kiddo, let her have fun.

Trixie, you know YOU are still young and cool and could go have fun with the students, right? Despite how wistful she looks, I guess it probably is a good thing she didn’t stay up to party, because bright and early the next morning she gets the call from Iris: it’s labor time. Trixie heads over there with trainee Rosalind, arriving just in time to hear Iris’ husband telling Iris that she should send anyone who rings the bell to him. First of all, pal, why are you letting your shady associates know where you live? And second of all, Iris doesn’t have time to be your Executive Assistant, she’s busy BEING IN LABOR.

A young woman makes a face that says "seriously??"

Once he leaves, Iris infodumps: her husband took their older kid to her mum’s when Iris realized she was in labor. But her husband came home from that errand SUPER late, and in a horrible mood. She’s scared about what he’ll do next. Reasonable, but Trixie’s got other things to worry about right now.

Trixie: Let’s get you into something comfortable, yeah?
Iris: I’m serious, I don’t want my husband in this house. Lock the door.

Yikes! While Iris labors, Cyril pops into Vi’s shop for needles and thread to do some mending.

Vi: You know you can always just knock on the door and I’m happy to fix a button for you, right?
Cyril: That’s very kind, but I took care of myself before I was married and it’s good to brush up my skills, you know?
Vi: Well ok, but I’m giving you a discount.
Cyril: While I have you, know anything about this bill going through parliament about sharing church premises? We want to expand, but we can’t afford our own place. Thought it might be worth looking into.

I bet it is, but it won’t be happening now, because Fred, Reggie, and Baby Robert (a kiddo from Season 10 who, like Reggie, has Down Syndrome) arrive at the shop to start planning their pram decorating strategy.

Across town, Iris’ labor continues to progress, but unfortunately, the gas pain relief they brought is broken. Rosalind offers breathing exercises, which Iris is, to put it mildly, not interested in. Later, outside, Iris’ husband has arrived, and he’s furious. He starts trying to break down the door, yelling all the while. Trixie, who’s in the middle of calling Nonnatus for backup gas, yells out to him that his wife is busy and needs him to chill out, which doesn’t seem super effective. Sister Veronica, on the other end, agrees to bring some gas, despite being told that she’ll have to also deal with an irate husband. And irate might have been an understatement. When the phone rings, and Rosalind answers, Iris’ Husband pulls out a handgun and starts shooting through the door.

Rosalind, incredulous: Did you just do that?
Iris’ Husband: I was trying to shoot the locks off. I need to be able to answer the phone.
Rosalind, walking closer to the door but staying out of the line of fire: If you put that gun away, I will let you in. But you will sit by the telephone, not moving, the entire time. Do you understand?
Iris’ Husband, thinking it over: … yes.
Rosalind, letting him in, possibly partly so she can lecture him: Your wife is having a baby, and we are TOO BUSY for your NONSENSE. SIT.

Heading through into the bedroom, Rosalind fills Trixie in while pushing a dresser in front of the bedroom door. Trixie isn’t thrilled with the decision-making, but honestly, I’m not sure what else Rosalind was realistically supposed to do.

Meanwhile, Sister Julienne and Shelagh head over to visit Doreen and co. Doreen’s Mum tells the two midwives about Doreen’s birth: she had to give birth at the rundown hospital because their family was large and in cramped quarters.

Shelagh: There were a lot of weird little hospitals before the NHS, and we helped where we could.
Doreen’s Mum: Huh. Never realized a nun delivered Doreen.
Sister Julienne, can’t help herself: It was me.
Doreen’s Mum: We had a hard time of it, didn’t we?
Sister Julienne, overcome: I think we did.
Doreen’s Mum: You told me her shoulder was stuck, so you moved me around a bunch. You had your hand up inside me; it felt like a fight.
Sister Julienne: I am SO sorry.
Doreen’s Mum: I believed in you… and I was right! I knew I’d be in good hands when I showed up and you made a cute joke about my last name.
Sister Julienne: I DO remember that. You were so young!
Doreen’s Mum: I’ve wondered for years what I did wrong. Did I not push hard enough? Did I not listen to the midwife?
Sister Julienne: I am very convinced you did everything I asked you to. One of the hardest things in childbirth is when a baby’s shoulder gets stuck.
Doreen’s Mum: Well Doreen does love to do things the hard way. Thank you for my daughter. Seriously. You saved her and made it so I could take her home with me. I met my husband because of her, and he was a good man, unlike a lot of the guys in this town.

Just then, Doreen, Graham, and Anne arrive, freshly returned from the registry office. The wedding is scheduled and paid for. Between that and the nostalgia, Doreen’s Mum finally decides she approves of Graham, and even says that her husband would have liked him too. Now that the whole family has arrived, Doreen sets them straight.

Doreen: I don’t want to talk about my birth anymore, and I would like you all to stop acting like I’m broken. I’m not. I’m a full person.
Sister Julienne: If I ever treated you as less than that, I’m sorry, and it ends now.
Doreen’s Mum: Yeah, that’s all great, but you don’t look so good, babe.
Graham: Uh. She’s been like this all morning.
Shelagh: Doreen, I think Sister Julienne should take a look at you, just to be safe.
Doreen: What does it feel like when you’re in labor?
Sister Julienne, mid exam: Well… exactly like this.

Shelagh heads to the phone to call Miss Higgins, who gets the ball rolling on the hospital admittance setup. She also explains that Timothy will be attending the birth to handle paperwork since this is their first hospital experience. Before we can learn more, a man kicks Shelagh out of the phonebooth so he can call the police re: “a man with a gun.”

You guessed it: it’s Iris’ husband, who’s barricaded their front door because the cops have arrived outside. Hearing the sirens outside, Iris tells the midwives that it was only a matter of time: her husband was working with the Kray twins, who were just arrested. Reader, if you aren’t aware of the Kray twins, let’s just say they were notoriously violent gangsters and leave it at that. This explains a lot, including the part where Iris’ Husband starts flushing drugs down the toilet. Meanwhile, outside, Sister Veronica has just arrived with the gas, and is attempting to breach the police cordon to deliver the goods. The cops get on the bullhorn to argue with Iris’ Husband, who insists that no one in his apartment needs help, and that he won’t be coming down.

Officer: Give yourself up!
Sister Veronica: That won’t do anything, give me that! Dude, you can keep the cops out. You can keep me out. But if the women in this neighborhood find out that you stopped me from bringing pain relief to your laboring wife, they will destroy you.
Ladies of the town: YEAH!
Sister Veronica: I’m sure you have doubts about your career, but you have a chance here to do something different. You owe it to your wife and your baby!

Inside, Rosalind is doing a bang up job coaching Iris through the labor: the baby’s head is out! Yay! Well, maybe not so much: the cord is “really really short.” Both midwives spring into action, rubbing the baby. After a minute, the baby finally starts crying. Iris pushes out the placenta. And then she starts hemorrhaging. Trixie hands over medication to help stop the bleeding, grabs the baby, and walks out of the bedroom.

Trixie, to Iris’ Husband: You have a daughter. It was a very hard labor, and Iris is bleeding badly.
Iris’ Husband: But you and that other girl are here, plus that lady outside, so it’s ok!
Trixie: It’s NOT ok! It’s too late for the gas, and she and her baby both need specialist care in a HOSPITAL. Are you a man, or an animal?

That does the trick. He empties the rounds from the gun, tosses it out the window to the cops, and surrenders, which finally allows an ambulance to come get Iris.

Iris’ Husband, being dragged into a cop car: I love you Iris!
Iris, exhausted and exasperated: Do I have to answer him?
Trixie, same energy:

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Meanwhile, the Turner boys have already arrived at the hospital for Doreen’s birth, along with Sister Julienne. In the waiting room, Doreen’s Mum tells the others that she’s still getting used to Doreen doing things on her own.

Doreen’s Mum: She’ll need us afterwards though!
Anne: The baby will have two parents.
Graham: The baby actually has two parents already.
Anne: Things change, mum. It’s time for Doreen to fly on her own.

In the delivery room, Dr. Turner tells the consulting specialist that Doreen’s having trouble coordinating her pushes.

Specialist: This is a general issue, not an obstetric one. You’re in charge, what do you suggest?
Me, used to all these St. Cuthberts docs treating our friends like trash: Specialist, I think I love you.
Dr. Turner: Usually I’d go with forceps, but in this case I think vacuum extraction will be better.

It’s a good strategy, and works pretty perfectly. After some coordinated effort from Doreen and the vacuum, she delivers a baby boy.

Two girls clap and say "Yay!"

Elsewhere, Mr. Trixie waits outside in the car to pick his wife up from work.

Mr. Trixie: Not every day you end your shift at the police station…
Trixie: I work here, and I love my job. Please don’t ask me to stop?
Mr. Trixie: Never.

Trixie and Mr. Trixie aren’t the only ones still processing Iris’ delivery. Back at Nonnatus, Joyce looks in on Rosalind, who seems like she might be a little in shock still.

Rosalind: When there's a hemorrhage at the hospital it’s so different. Someone comes to clean up so quickly it’s almost like it never happened. This… it soaked into the carpet.

Meanwhile, Iris’ baby is at St. Cuthberts for extra monitoring, and Iris herself is at the maternity home for some extra TLC from our pals.

Iris: I’m not ready to go home, even if my husband is still in custody.
Phyllis: I know, and I get it.

Leaving Iris to rest, Phyllis heads into the nursery, where Nancy prepares the incubator for when Iris’ baby is ready to transfer to the maternity home. They talk about how traumatized Iris is, which makes sense, given that she and her baby are lucky to have survived the birth.

Nancy: Speaking of which, Trixie and Rosalind could also have gotten killed this episode. We should get hazard pay. Or, I dunno, more pay in general.
Phyllis: You’re not talking about this wage campaign, right?
Nancy: Oh yes I am! We do a very hard job, and we don’t get paid a living wage. That’s wrong.
Phyllis: Our vocation is to care for others; money can’t touch that. I don't want to hear more about this.

Ooooof. Phyllis is usually so cool, but this is a bad opinion! You can’t survive on a vocation, no matter how fulfilling! Also, knowing Nancy, I am sure we WILL be hearing more about this in future episodes. But first, we have to wrap up this one with that pram decorating competition I totally forgot about. The prams? Adorable! Doreen’s whole family joining the festivities together? Wonderful! The new student midwives rolling up with their bikes and their very cute stork pram? Delightful! Will the trainees continue to roll with the challenges of district work? Will the future hospital births go as smoothly as this one did? Will our crew have a safer season ahead? We’ll just have to keep watching to find out!