On this Mother’s Day, the new episode of Call the Midwife delivers two mothers in challenging circumstances, a young doctor in over his head, one friend helping another and a midwife who’s very concerned about her grandmother. With so much to cover, let’s get straight to the recap, shall we?
Nurse Crane’s Fatigue Explained
On the lighter side, we discover that Nurse Crane has been dragging lately because she is a middle-aged woman working a demanding full-time job as a midwife. On top of that, she’s the sole adult in charge of a pack of active Cub Scouts. Thank goodness, she hasn’t fallen ill!
Her roommate Nurse Anderson has noticed her lack of energy and sympathizes. Nonetheless when Phyllis asks for help with the scouts, Lucille quickly backs away from volunteering. Fair enough since she and Cyril almost broke up over their lack of time together .
On the other hand, when Cyril learns that Phyllis has been overwhelmed by her scouting duties since Sgt. Woolf fell ill, he steps up immediately. In fact, he suggests that he and Lucille join forces to assist their exhausted friend. Nurse Crane is clearly touched when Lucille delivers the good news that help is on the way.
When the couple show up at the next Cub Scout meeting with go-cart making materials in tow, the pack cheers. As Lucille watches her beau with the boys, she gets that look on her face that says, “Yes, he’s the marrying kind.”
Nurse Franklin and Marion Irmsby
First time mum-to-be, Marion Irmsby (Ellie Wallwork) is confident and a bit sassy. She’s also blind. After being examined by Nurse Franklin at the antenatal clinic, Marion makes it clear that she wants to be treated like every other mother. She also wants to have her baby at home. Trixie explains to Mrs. Irmsby that she must make a visit to check out her flat, just like every other woman who wants a home birth.
Marion’s husband Stewart (Dylan Llewellyn) adores his independent wife and does everything he can to make her transition to motherhood as easy as possible. He even builds the baby a custom cradle and saves up all his vacation time so he can be home when the child is born.
Marion’s older sister Beryl (Lucy Briggs-Owen), on the other hand, is not so encouraging. Dropping by unannounced, Beryl tries to convince Nurse Franklin that Marion is a danger to herself and incapable to caring for a baby. On her way out of the Irmsby’s flat, Beryl threatens to contact social services
True to her word, Marion’s sister reports her as an unfit mother even before the baby is born. The Nonnatus nurses must now contact social services as soon as the Irmsby child arrives and express any concerns if they feel Marion isn’t up to the task.
Trixie begins training Marion on the skills she’ll need to convince social services of her competence. Bathing practice doesn’t go smoothly and Trixie begins to question if Marion can safely care for her baby without substantial support. Marion and Stewart are adamant they don’t want strangers in their home judging them as parents.
Very soon after, Marion and Stewart’s baby girl, Rosemary, is born. While the birth is a lovely moment, they quickly learn how demanding taking care of a newborn can be. For one thing the baby isn’t breastfeeding well and bottlefeeding means more work for Marion. Stewart says he looks forward to returning to work. The couple argue over accepting help and Stewart leaves the flat.
On her own, Marion heats water for Rosemary’s bottle but drops a glass pitcher that shatters on the floor. As the baby cries unconsolably, Marion has to walk across the broken glass to reach her child. (Anyone else find this unsettlingly similar to the nail scene in A Quiet Place?)
Fortunately, Trixie arrives just then and attends to Marion’s cuts. Stewart has returned and pleads with his wife to accept help, telling her it doesn’t mean they are bad parents.
Nurse Franklin cleverly arranges for Beryl and the Irmsby family to meet Peggy, a blind mother of three to see how she manages. She shares practical tips like bells on shoes, nappies with snaps and all medicines labeled in Braille. Most importantly she tells Marion to get all the help she can because she’s entitled to it.
After seeing this example of what a mother with a disability can do, Marion, Stewart and Beryl mend their differences and come together as a family for Rosemary. Beryl finally comes to accept her sister as an adult who requires some assistance rather than a child in need of protection.
Dr. McNulty’s “Not-So -Secret” Secret
With a fitting amount of pageantry including a ribbon cutting by Violet Buckle armed with her ceremonial shears, the long-awaited incubator arrives at the Poplar maternity home. Dr. and Mrs. Turner also take part in the ceremony which leaves Dr. McNulty to cover the surgery.
On the surface, it appears Kevin McNulty is adjusting to his new duties as Dr. Turner’s junior associate. He’s starting to deliver babies, handles reluctant patients with confidence and has made a friend of his frequent work partner, Sister Frances.
Miss Higgins is still watching him like a hawk, though she seems to be warming ever so slightly to the young man. Nevertheless, very early in the episode we witness Dr. McNulty struggling not only with a chronic shoulder injury, but an addiction to the pain medication he takes for it as well.
I call it his “not-so-secret” secret because it seems every time he goes for a pill, someone walks in the room. When Dr. Turner notices the bottle in Kevin’s hands, he tries to play if off as no big deal and agrees to see a physiologist However, when the opportunity presents itself, Dr. McNulty sneaks a vial of pethidine from the surgery cupboard as a back-up in case he becomes really desperate.
It is during his treatment of a patient in a domestic abuse situation that the seriousness of Kevin’s dependency becomes apparent.
The Case of Yvonne Smith
Dr. McNulty has admitted expectant mother, Yvonne Smith (Sophie Melville), to the maternity home for a severe urinary tract infection. Dr. Turner agrees with his judgement saying she could also use a break from her husband who drinks heavily.
After a few days even though she’s well on the road to recovery, Mrs. Smith is reluctant to go home. As soon as her obnoxiously inebriated husband Victor (Ciaran Owens) shows up, the reason for her hesitancy is evident. Mr. Smith barges into the ward, intimidates his wife and disturbs the rest of the patients. Dr. McNulty demands the drunken man leave and physically takes hold of Victor when he refuses. When Miss Higgins informs Mr. Smith that she’s called the police, he decides to clear out but not before throwing a veiled threat Yvonne’s way. She fears her husband’s anger was provoked by McNulty losing his temper and she will be the one to pay.
Before Yvonne can be discharged, she goes into labor. At the point that her delivery is imminent, a shaky Dr. McNulty is going through a considerable amount of withdrawal. Sister Frances leaves the room for towels and upon her return finds Kevin has opted for an episiotomy that has his patient in hysterics. Sister Frances automatically takes control of the situation, but we can tell she is alarmed. She calls for Dr. Turner and basically pushes Kevin aside She calms Yvonne down enough to push and a healthy baby boy is born.
Dr. Turner arrives on the scene just after Kevin has begun suturing so it seems to him that his protégé has everything under control. (Why would he not ask more questions, considering Sister Frances had requested him on an urgent matter?)
As for Yvonne, it is decided she and her son Billy will go to stay with her aunt in Margate. Dr. Turner and Sister Frances promise not to tell Victor where she’s gone. She gives Dr. McNulty a piece of her mind though before she departs, lumping in with men like her husband - scared little boys.
Sadly, things between Dr. McNulty and Sister Frances turn awkward and the young nun considers how she will tell Dr. Turner about her friend’s risky procedure. At the end of the episode, we see Kevin injecting himself with the narcotic from the stolen vial to illustrate just how desperate he’s become.
Feel free to disagree with me on this point, but I’m going to take a moment to question this story arc. The idea that the Dr. McNulty we met three episodes ago would be shooting up just a few months later seems a bit far-fetched. Unless I missed something, there was no foreshadowing of an injury or drug problem when he and the other junior doctors arrived at Nonnatus House. The pethidine story surfaced last week when he slipped some to Sister Frances for her period pain, but there was still no indication he was a user, but rather an inexperienced doctor who wanted to help a friend in pain.
And finally, near the end of the episode, they sort of tossed in a few scenes about Valerie’s grandmother. You may recall Elsie Dyer who went to prison for performing backstreet abortions last season. When Val sees her gran on visiting day, it’s obvious she’s not a well woman. She’s lost weight and can barely swallow a bite of cake. Mrs. Dyer tries to downplay the problem, but Valerie has begged her to see the doctor.
So that was quite a lot to digest. I didn’t cry this time, which I’m rather thankful for. I couldn’t have taken another sob fest like the last week. With only one episode to go in Season 9, I suspect there will be some resolution to the Dr. McNulty and Elsie Dyer stories. As well as maybe more details on the fate of Nonnatus House itself. Please share your thoughts on this episode and what might lie ahead in the season finale in the comments below!