This week’s installment of Call the Midwife focuses on stories about the importance of self-esteem, open-mindedness and unconditional love. Some of the characters who have been in the foreground recently fade back to let others into the spotlight for a time. Let’s revisit what happened to the residents of Poplar this week.
Roseanne Dawley and Nurse Crane – When elegant young mother-to-be, Roseanne Dawley (Celeste Dodwell) comes in to the clinic for her check-up, it’s obvious that despite her polished exterior, she is apprehensive about motherhood itself.
When she returns home, we discover Mrs. Dawley lives in one of the nicest homes we’ve ever seen on Call the Midwife. She has an amiable middle-aged housekeeper and a doting husband Denis (Arthur Havill) who appears to be nearly twice her age and is concerned she has no one younger in her life.
Later we find Roseanne alone in the house, struggling to read the pamphlet given to her at her appointment. With three weeks until her due date, her water unexpectedly breaks. Mrs. Dawley is in instant and excruciating pain and calls in a panic to Nonnatus House. Nurse Crane takes the call, tries to calm her through a contraction and then heads out to deliver the baby. Alas her motorcar won’t start and she has to resort to a bicycle which makes her travel time much longer.
Meanwhile, Roseanne calls back where the only semi-qualified staff available is Delia who has been instructed to answer the phone only. Mrs. Dawley is frantic at this point as she is bleeding and feeling as though she will explode. Delia attempts to talk the patient through the labor and sends Sister Monica Joan to fetch Patsy at the maternity home.
Still without a midwife on the scene, Roseanne’s baby girl is born in quite dramatic and traumatic fashion. She isn’t moving or crying so Delia instructs the hysterical mother to pick the baby up and rub her back firmly. The infant begins to cry just as Nurse Crane arrives at the house, out of breath.
With the situation under control, Nurse Crane attempts to help Roseanne begin nursing her daughter. The new mother seems to have no interest in holding her child and wants to bottle-feed so her husband can help since he’s so good with her.
A day or so later, Mrs. Dawley is out on an errand to pick up a pram cover from Violet Buckle’s haberdashery shop. Nurse Gilbert is helping out (more on that later) and instructs Roseanne to return straight home and rest. Shortly after this transaction, Barbara leaves the store and realizes Roseanne has left her baby behind in the pram. Next thing we know, Nurse Crane arrives at the Dawleys’ door with the newborn in her arms.
More than a little concerned, Phyllis asks Roseanne if she is afraid of her husband. She sets the midwife straight asserting that her husband treats her like a princess and much better than she deserves. She also insists on isolating herself from family and friends. What a mystery this young lady is- illiterate with a questionable past and a huge inferiority complex married to a well-off religious incense merchant…
With their baby still unnamed and his wife feeling unable to rise of the challenge of raising a child properly, Denis Dawley has some concerns about leaving his wife home alone. And rightly so. When Nurse Crane returns for a post-natal visit she hears the baby crying, but no one answers the door. She lets herself in to find the baby, but no Mrs. Dawley in sight. She’s left a note saying please forgive her but she can’t keep their baby safe.
When the father returns home, Phyllis shows him the note and asks where Roseanne might have gone. He says she may be at her mother’s on the Isle of Dogs. Mr. Dawley asks when his wife might finally bond with their child and Nurse Crane tells him it is hard work for some mothers, not magical and instant as we’re told it will be.
So the search begins for the runaway mum. After checking her district records, Shelagh discovers Roseanne had no mother, but was brought up in a home for orphaned and abandoned girls. She also spent time in prison for solicitation. It happens Roseanne has retreated to the home of a friend who she probably knew from the girl’s home. She is resigned to the fact she has to return to who she really is.
This friend Nell convinces Roseanne she has to do all she can to make a better life for her daughter. Nell then makes a call to Nonnatus House, asking for Nurse Crane to come see Roseanne at St. Saviour’s Church. Sister Winifred tags along as Phyllis believes her presence will be comforting.
When the midwives arrive, Roseanne recounts her past and the lack of love she got in the girls’ home. She was drawn to go to church and that’s where she met Denis. Nurse Crane tells her being abandoned wasn’t her choice but going to church was. The midwife shares her own experience of how her grandparents threw her mother out and how her mother bravely fought to provide for her. She pleads with Roseanne not to abandon her child because she was abandoned. The encounter ends in tears and hugs.
When Roseanne returns to her husband with Nurse Crane, she is a changed woman. The breastfeeding goes well and Roseanne has a name for her daughter now. She wants to call her Faith in honor of the faith Denis showed in her all along.
Dr. Turner Finally Sees the Light – Have you also been watching this show for years wondering when Dr. Patrick Turner, a fine and dedicated physician by all accounts, was finally going to figure out smoking is bad for your health? The numerous scenes of long draws on a fag after a stressful case or relaxing with Shelagh by savoring a shared ciggie were too frequent and obvious to be irrelevant.
Dr. Turner has arranged to put on a chest clinic in Poplar for all the residents with chronic lung problems (including cancer) to learn about how to better cope with their conditions. While discussing it at home, over a cigarette, Patrick attributes the uptick in such illnesses to the bad air quality in the area, to which his precocious son Timothy counters, “Bad air? Do you read The Lancet? They say smoking causes tumors.” Dr. Turner puts this down to one school of thought on the subject.
The day of the chest clinic is well attended almost exclusively by men and Tim has been coerced to be his parents’ demonstration dummy. Mr. Phillips (Rupert Holliday-Evans), a lung cancer patient, is stopped by Dr. Turner on this way out and when questioned refuses to take the radiation therapy suggested to him at the London.
Meanwhile Tim continues to be concerned about his father’s smoking and decides to take the matter into his own hands. He steals a few cigarettes from his dad’s pack and lights one up just as his father is entering the room. Patrick is shaken and furious that his 14-year-old son has taken up a very adult habit. Tim counters with the appropriately immature but pertinent “why can’t I smoke if you do” argument.
But the discord doesn’t last for long when Dr. Turner seeks out Tim in his room to tell him he promises to quit smoking and asks him to do the same. All is forgiven. The fact that earlier that day our good doctor saw a post-mortem set of smokers’ lungs and finally got the message that cigarettes are bad news surely played into this resolution as well.
So both of the Turner parents are quitting their smoking habit cold turkey which Shelagh isn’t originally thrilled about considering she only smokes one or two a day. But a promise has been made to Tim and the “coffin nails” must go. For Mrs. Turner it appears that when tempted to smoke “do something with your hands” translates into “put some food into your mouth”.
Also Patrick makes another attempt to convince Mr. Phillips to get the treatment as it may give him more time with his family. His objection is to how the radiation will affect him physically and he doesn’t want his wife and kids to remember him that way. He hasn’t even told Mrs. Phillips about this option.
Dr. Turner continues to crusade for more awareness and help with his lung cancer cause. He approaches the Poplar Board of Health to ask for two day-long chest clinics a month in a larger venue. The official gives him one half day a month as a compromise which pleases Patrick greatly.
After a touching little montage of Poplar fathers with their children, Mr. Phillips comes to tell Dr. Turner he has changed his mind about the radiation therapy. His wife will accept any burden if it means more time with her husband and Mr. Phillips is desperate for that as well.
In the end the Turners learn that clever Tim had used reverse psychology (he’s been reading Freud for years) on his dear old dad and hadn’t really started smoking at all. He is very obviously relieved that his parents will be around longer because of this and then tells them something a teenage boy has never said ever – "you’re my world."
Violet and Fred- We’ve not heard much from the Buckles so far this series so it was nice to see how married life is treating them. Through Trixie’s Keep Fit class, Mrs. Buckle has been nipped by the exercise bug. However the bite becomes a sting when a back spasm debilitates Violet. Dr. Turner puts her on bed rest for a week and Fred takes on the full-time responsibility of nursemaid.
However it doesn’t take long before cleaning up spills and being beckoned by bells becomes a bit trying for Fred. So ever the optimistic opportunist, Fred decides he will run Violet’s haberdashery store while she convalesces. Expecting ladies in search of ribbons and buttons, he doesn’t foresee the intimate nature of some of the customers’ purchases. So he hunts down a midwife (lucky, accommodating Barbara being the one with a day off) and brings her into the shop to perform the fittings and dole out the feminine products.
That evening, Fred brags about how well he handled the hectic day and insists that he can place the monthly stock order for Violet as well. Unfortunately Mr. Buckle has bitten off more than he can chew and the order doesn’t get in on time. When the customers show up for said orders, Violet comes downstairs to find her husband hiding from them. The shopkeeper dismisses her spouse and apologizes to the ladies. One gently scolds Mrs. Buckle for allowing her husband to take over. “He offers you the world and gives you Chrisp Street (market).” “Don’t he know this shop’s the only thing you got?” Violet disagrees and asks the customer to leave the premises, tout suite.
Later when the Buckles are alone in their flat, Violet tells Fred she doesn’t care about the shop (though she forbids him from stepping foot in it again). It was what she had when she didn’t have anyone. Their time together has been short and they haven’t experienced some of the challenges that bring couples close, but he’s helped her in every way he could. I think they’ll be alright, don’t you?
So there we have it, an episode as tender as any we’ve come to expect but a tiny bit less heartrending than some others this season. Nurse Crane is easily my favorite midwife this year. Delia got her kudos for keeping a calm head on the phone with her BBA (born before arrival). And what’s with Sister Monica Joan’s saucy remark about the “result of the male organ being more rewarding than the organ itself”! Let’s chat about that shall we? And any other CTM topic you’d care to discuss in the comments section below.