The new season of Call the Midwife continues this week, as the regime of Sister Ursula goes on; the confiscating of candy from an elderly nun being just one example of her new, lean approach. The troops, however, are getting a bit mutinous. We’ve always known that the Nonnatus family is completely dedicated to their patients and their community. But when their new leader decrees that they concentrate on the nursing aspect and basically abandon their other support functions, the ladies are just not having it. Also this week we meet two couples who face uncertain times and call on the midwives to help them navigate the challenges.
But before we move on, you can find last week's recap right this way if you need to refresh your memory.
A new family has shown up at the Poplar maternity clinic, Penny and Derek Reed. Their pregnancy presents special complications as both parents have achondroplasia, a form of short-limbed dwarfism. Patsy and Dr. Turner are concerned about the very real possibility of stillbirth or the infant’s imminent death after delivery due to its mother’s condition. However, it comes to light that Mrs. Reed is aware of the risks and is booked for a cesarean section. She was even advised to terminate the pregnancy by her previous GP.
While Penny is making friends at baby preparation classes and eagerly anticipating the arrival of her child, her husband is not as confident. When Penny asks why he hasn’t put the pram together yet, Derek snaps at her. He doesn’t believe the baby will survive and he fears he may lose her as well. However, when she comes back into the room later Penny finds the pram assembled and, in a distressing turn of events, her waters break putting her into labor sooner than expected.
Mrs. Reed phones Nonnatus House, only to get Sister Ursula on the line. The nun condescendingly tells her to remain calm. She will call the hospital which will send an ambulance. When Patsy hears that her patient is in labor she goes to the hospital, a contradiction of the aforementioned edicts that forbid going the extra mile and basically being compassionate.
Though the outcome is in question at first, it transpires that Penny’s newborn is healthy and of average size. Oddly enough, this fact distressed the new mother more than the survival of her baby ever seemed to. In the hospital, she is concerned that her arms are too small to hold her child. She worries as her daughter grows that she will be embarrassed by her or just not love her full stop. Patsy assures her that her size won’t matter. Her daughter will love and need her and it’s time to stop wondering and worrying. We also discover that Nurse Mount will take her own advice very soon (see Patsy’s Dilemma).
George and Jessie Marsh are also expecting their first child and the couple is over the moon about it. Jessie goes into labor and, with the help of Sister Winifred, delivers a beautiful baby boy she names Bobby.
Meanwhile George is hard at work shifting cargo on the docks. Suddenly there is a large explosion from the warehouse where the men are unloading the shipment. Shelagh Turner just happens to be walking by when the blast occurs and immediately begins tending to the injured men on the scene. George and his co-worker Arthur are trapped inside so Mrs. Turner and local barmaid/former army nurse Valerie Dyer (Jennifer Kirby) run in to help. While Shelagh attempts to revive Arthur, Val comforts a severely burned and panicking George who cannot see. Both women are upset about the lack of fresh water and other safety preparations on the site.
Later Sister Winifred announces her intention to accompany Jessie to see her husband at the hospital. Though Nurse Crane initially cautions her about the new rules, she and Sister Julienne indicate that they are in favor of the trip and will keep schtum about it. At the hospital, George is angry and impatient to have the bandages removed from his eyes. In a subseqent visit when Jessie brings the baby along to meet his dad, George refuses to hold him and dodges his wife’s kiss. Despite his mood, she tells him she’s happy he’s alive and she’ll take him deaf, broke or blind.
Because of his injuries, George obviously can’t work and so is not bringing money into the house. Sister Winifred is aware of the family’s need and starts stealthily collecting food from the convent kitchen. Sister Julienne comes upon her and sets about helping. Of course, Sister Ursula catches them in the act and warns them again that they must not create an expectation of personal support at every turn. (Who is this woman, Margaret Thatcher?) When she departs, Winifred and Julienne are not swayed by her threats. No matter what Ursula says, this is not the way they (the Nonnatuans) do things. Julienne goes out into the neighborhood to ask for food donations and Winifred delivers them to the Marsh house.
Meanwhile Shelagh has been called into Coroner’s Court to testify as a witness to the death of George’s co-worker Arthur Pilbury in the warehouse explosion. Before going in she sees Valerie Dyer who has just testified and encourages Mrs. Turner to do her best for the men. Shelagh tries to share with the court not only what she saw and did but how poorly prepared they were at the site for any type of emergency. The coroner cuts her off and emphasizes they are only investigating the death itself.
Refusing to give up, Shelagh goes to see George Marsh in the hospital and asks him to testify in court. If people see what he went though, they may listen. George decides to show up and though the death of his friend is ruled an accident the coroner recommends the Port Authority make changes including water stations at the docks, a register of men, and protective eyewear for the workers.
Alas, when George’s bandages are removed, his sight has not been restored. Despite the disappointment, the next time Jessie visits with Bobby, George is willing to hold his son. He seems to have become more aware of his other senses and has hope that things will improve. Jessie tells him that this is the way they are now and they will manage and be grateful.
And finally in a follow-up to Patsy’s news last week of her father’s illness and his request for her to come to Hong Kong, another letter has arrived at Nonnatus House. At first Patsy ignores it hoping it will go away and that she will not have to leave Delia.
When she eventually reads the letter, Patsy immediately throws it away. But an observant Sister Monica Joan retrieves it from the bin and tells Nurse Mount she should go to her father. Patsy explains that she is good at her job, but not at losing someone. The wise sister counters that you only fail when you don’t try. (Could Sister Ursula actually be thinking of sending this vital member of their community away, judging her to be “dead wood”?)
In the end it is Patsy’s work with Penny Reed that convinces her that she should leave for Hong Kong. When Sister Ursula confronts her about the consequences of going to the hospital to support Mrs. Reed and docks her wages, Patsy defiantly hands over the money and tells her that she is needed by her father.
On the day Patsy departs. her Nonnatus family gathers outside to wish her well. Nurse Crane, who earlier spotted Patsy leaving Delia’s room, has guessed at their relationship and recites a poem for Delia that mirrors the pain of her love and separation from Patsy. Good on ya, Phyllis Crane! You are my hero so far this season.
So at last count, we are down two nurses (Patsy and Trixie) and one nun (Mary Cynthia). If we don’t get someone back soon, Ursula’s “organizational approach” may become a necessity. Anyone wondering if the army nurse Valerie may come on board in a pinch? Also I was confused by Delia working at the hospital where Penny Reed had her baby. I thought she was set to become a midwife as well.
Anyway, please share your impressions, gripes and hopes in the comments section. And yes, there is hope as long as the ladies remain committed to their patients and resistant to this new way of doing things!