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A crisp fall day, a throw blanket, and some British telly with a warm drink in hand? There’s truly nothing better. But we hope you’re prepared this week, because Episode 6 of “Call the Midwife” wastes no time diving head first into the drama. When we return to Nonnatus House, the women are busier than ever as they balance the care of their patients with the training of new colleagues. So you better hold on to that warm fuzzy feeling, because we’re getting straight to it.
Embracing New Cultures
When the episode begins, the midwives receive an urgent call from Manju Chawla’s home. Her baby has been born before arrival, and Sister Frances and Lucille rush to the scene. Once they arrive at her flat, they see that baby is perfectly healthy but discover that a part of Manju’s placenta is missing. They tell her she’ll require surgery to extract the rest, which will ultimately save her life, but it’s distressing news to the new mother when she realizes this will interfere with an important Hindu tradition, Sutak, in which only family members can see a mother after birth. Despite this, Manju agrees to go to the hospital, but the events that unfold leave Sister Frances wondering what more they could have done to help her early on.
This moment inspires her to learn more about the Asian mothers in their community and to help them find a safe space where they can share their culture and pregnancy traditions with the midwives and feel comfortable approaching them to avoid last-minute emergencies like Manju’s. With Sister Julienne’s blessing, she plans out the clinic’s first evening class for Asian mothers in hopes that if it’s successful Violet and the city council will be swayed to fund them permanently.
Later, following the midwives’ visit to the Chawla residence, the women receive a visitor from Manju’s neighbor, Raj Gupta. Speaking with Phyllis, he tells her that his wife Sarita is expecting their first child but has yet to see any doctors for her pregnancy. After witnessing the midwives save Manju’s life, he seeks out their help to convince Sarita to visit them for necessary labor preparations. New to Poplar and far from their family, the couple has no one else to turn to. Sarita is due to deliver soon, and Raj fears what might happen to both Sarita and the baby if she doesn’t have help delivering or receives proper medical attention. Knowing that his words alone won’t be enough, he asks Phyllis to speak with her. Phyllis agrees, surprising Sarita with a visit to their home, and she encourages her to attend Sister Frances’ new evening clinic. Though the new mom is hesitant about joining, she eventually tells Phyllis that she’ll go.
A Mother Overwhelmed
Meanwhile, at the midwives’ antenatal clinic, Nancy shadows Trixie again as they tend to their patient Cherry Watson. With four children already, the busy mother is all too aware of the early signs of pregnancy, and is sure that it’s the cause behind her recent wave of sickness and nausea. Yet with her growing family, she expresses concerns to Trixie over how she and her husband Pete will cope with the extra mouth to feed and how they’ll make space in their cramped flat. She explains that Pete recently lost his job and that she’s worried about telling him that she’s pregnant again. However, as a veteran midwife who has worked with women in Poplar for years, Trixie’s quick to spot that in addition to her very real concern about finances and housing, Cherry’s also fearful of something else. She notices a bruise on Cherry’s arm, which Cherry blames on jamming in a door, but Trixie suspects something worse is going on in the Watson’s household.
Unfortunately, it’s not long before Trixie’s concerns are confirmed. When we head over to the Watsons’, it’s chaos in their flat. As the kids run amuck, Pete barks orders at Cherry to control them. When she makes a joke about his sour mood, Pete gives her a menacing look of warning that Cherry seems to immediately recognize, causing her to back down and follow through on his request. The abusive relationship is further evident when he later makes a cruel joke about Cherry putting on weight.
Though she tries to hide her pregnancy from him for as long as she can, Pete eventually learns the truth when he walks in on Cherry following a bout of morning sickness. He’s infuriated with her and blames her for not taking a pill, though she’s quick to remind him that it didn’t suit her. Despite this, his temper flares when Cherry comments on the poor conditions that their family is in and a lack of effort on his part to get them out of their current accommodations.
Matthew’s Generous Contribution
Over at Nonnatus House, a Season 10 regular visits the midwives to meet with Sister Julienne. Matthew makes an appearance again (and we are not complaining) to offer his support to them. He’s heard about their battle with the Department of Health and the midwives near eviction, and makes a donation of £100 to the house on behalf of his company. He expresses his gratitude to Trixie and the midwives for helping his wife in her final days and acknowledges how beneficial their work is to the community.
Evening Clinic Kickoff
Of course, Matthew’s words ring true in every way. As we’ve seen time and time again, the midwives’ efforts have gone far beyond the delivery of their patients’ children, and Sister Frances’ clinic is just further proof of these efforts. Recruiting Lucille and Miss Higgins for their assistance, Sister Frances kicks off the midwives’ first evening clinic. Though Manju isn’t able to attend because she’s still in Sutak following her surgery, her mother-in-law Achala and her aunt go in her place. They even gift the women with a beautiful assortment of traditional Indian sweets and snacks as a thanks for their help. Though the class goes relatively well, only a few additional women attend and Sarita isn’t one of them.
A Silent Plea for Help
Later, Cherry returns to Tuesday clinic in even worse shape than before. Like her first appointment with Trixie, she has visible injuries, but this time there’s a bruise on her face and two cigarette burns on her hands. Though Pete is quite obviously to blame, Cherry denies it. However, when she shows signs of visible pain when she attempts to sit down, Trixie requests to examine her both for her health and that of the baby.
She observes an infection and brings in Dr. Turner. Though he confirms Trixie’s diagnosis and says it can be treated with antibiotics, he reveals an even more startling discovery and asks Cherry if she’s attempted to perform an abortion. He explains that it was evident that an unclean object was used and likely caused the infection. Though she initially contests this, she finally admits that she attempted an abortion on herself. She’s distraught and it’s clear that her personal circumstances and trauma have led to this. However, despite her abortion being illegal, both Dr. Turner and Trixie agree not to report her and instead stress the serious and dangerous implications of her actions to herself and her baby. Their sympathy for a patient like Cherry isn’t unusual, but Nancy is surprised to see them let her go.
Scarred by History
At the Gupta’s, Raj returns home to find Sarita cleaning their flat and exhausted from her constant labor. He worries that she’s overworking herself and stresses his concerns about their baby’s health. In an emotional moment between the couple, Sarita finally breaks down to her husband and references an experience from her childhood, which has continued to plague her thoughts. The trauma of her past during the Partition in India continues to make her fearful of strangers and has caused her to close herself and her child off from others.
However, when she worries that the baby feels too quiet following this conversation, Raj finally convinces her to see Dr. Turner to make sure nothing is wrong. Though Dr. Turner assures them that their baby is fine, he advises her to avoid cleaning with such heavy chemicals to avoid any potential harm. This triggers a reaction from Sarita who tells Raj that she has to continue cleaning the floor to get rid of the blood that covers it. Confused, Dr. Turner inquires further.
Raj explains that Hindus like himself and Sarita were put onto trains from West Punjab to East Punjab where they experienced the atrocities of the Partition. Only five when she was forced to flee with her family, Sarita relays the horrifying conditions she faced on the train she took from West Punjab and the extreme abuse she and her family experienced by the guards there. Her mother was beaten to death and her aunt, who delivered a baby without help, also lost her child. Dr. Turner and Shelagh are rattled by Raj and Sarita’s encounters from this terrible moment in history, but do their best to assure Sarita that he and his colleagues will do all that they can to help her and her baby.
Taking Care of Sarita
Following her conversation with Dr. Turner and Shelagh, Sarita agrees to have the midwives visit her home to check on her during the remainder of her pregnancy. It’s a brave step for the nervous mother-to-be, and she progresses even further by attending one of Sister Frances’ evening classes as well. When Sarita later goes into labor, Raj brings her to the maternity home, where she’s taken care of by Dr. Turner and Sister Frances - true to their word. She’s surprisingly calm, and her delivery goes smoothly as she gives birth to her son. It’s an emotional moment for mother and father, and following their son’s birth, they mark the back of his ear with black powder, a Punjabi tradition meant to keep their child safe following his birth.
Meanwhile, we return to Nonnatus House, where tensions are high following Trixie and Nancy’s clinic checkup with Cherry. When Trixie holds a session with the pupil midwives to go over the cases they’ve observed, Nancy tells the others about Cherry’s attempted abortion. She conveys her frustration with the situation after seeing Dr. Turner and Trixie turn a blind eye to a criminal act. She questions whether as professionals they should have reported her, leaving their emotions out of it. Trixie argues that Cherry faces extreme poverty and poor living conditions while trying to take care of her four children, and is also in an abusive relationship. In a desperate position, all of this may have caused her to take such extreme measures and warrants the midwives’ sympathy.
However, Nancy continues to push back to ask why Cherry isn’t on the pill to avoid unexpected pregnancy. Trixie explains it didn’t suit her and that her husband isn’t someone Cherry can rely on to help with other methods of contraception. Still, the young nurse is firm in her stance that they should be following the law. The conversation is heated, but ignites a spark in Trixie to make a passionate plea for abortion reform. That evening she sits down to write a letter inspired by their discussion, penning an opinion piece to a national newspaper with her perspective on the abortion reform bill and why, from her experience as a midwife, she feels it’s necessary to allow women to have legal abortions.
The Times prints her piece and word quickly spreads about Trixie’s letter. However, many of her peers, including Nancy, are split on her decision to publicly write about her views. Though many of them agree with her, having seen the terrible things that can happen when a woman resorts to an illegal abortion, they worry that her association with Nonnatus House may have a negative impact on their work. Though she attempts to confront Nancy, she receives the cold shoulder.
A Midwife’s Duties
Despite this, Trixie continues to carry out her work with Cherry. Though she knows she can only do so much to help her, unable to force her to leave her abusive marriage, she tells Cherry that she can speak with social services about her housing situation in hopes that it will help ease her family’s difficulties - even slightly. She also encourages Cherry to try the pill again and offers to help her with different options until they can find one that works best for her.
When Cherry asks why she’s doing so much to help her, Trixie simply tells her it’s her job. After all, she’s a midwife who has always cared deeply about her patients and what happens to them, even off duty. This sentiment is similar to that expressed in her letter, and it’s not long before her thoughtful words attract the attention of the media. Following its publishing, the BBC contacts Trixie to have her on their radio show to speak about the abortion reform bill. She asks Sister Julienne for her blessing, knowing her ties to Nonnatus House might impact the order, and Sister Julienne agrees to speak to Mother Mildred on her behalf.
After Trixie’s conversation with Sister Julienne, she receives the green light from Mother Mildred as long as she goes to the BBC representing herself and not Nonnatus House. It’s an exciting day as all of the midwives and their friends listen in across Poplar. She initially has trouble finding her footing amongst the other guests, three men, but it’s not long before she finds her way. When one of the other panelists implies that the new abortion bill will simply encourage doctors to pick and choose who is deemed fit for an abortion, Trixie steps in to voice her disapproval at this.
She exclaims that an abortion is often the last resort, and that no doctor would consider it unless it was absolutely necessary. Additionally, the bill would not only help women who are absolutely desperate and see no other option for themselves, but would stop them from being deemed criminals as they are now. She goes on to note that there’s still stigma around women who have unplanned pregnancies and that these women, often in poor social conditions and with little to no support, resort to dirty rooms and back alley procedures just to avoid this stigma. The men are floored by this and left speechless as Trixie fights for the rights of women and her patients.
At the conclusion of Trixie’s radio panel, the midwives gather at Nonnatus House to discuss their thoughts. Everyone, even Nancy, admits that they’re pleased with how Trixie held herself, coming to bat on behalf of the women they have personally helped through the traumas of illegal abortions that have maimed them, and sometimes even resulted in tragedy. She’s praised for her courage, and while Nancy is no longer upset with Trixie, she does express her anger with the men who were on the panel with her. She’s frustrated with the claims they made about women and their pregnancies when they can’t truly understand what it’s like for a woman to make one of the most difficult decisions of her life.
It’s then that she confesses that she too was one of those women, and reveals that she had a baby when she was only 16. It’s a shocking revelation that causes the room to fall silent, and Sister Julienne pulls her aside to speak with her. There, Nancy tells her that rather than putting her daughter Colette up for adoption, she was sent to be cared for at a London orphanage. It’s also the reason why she jumped on the opportunity to take a job in Poplar to be closer to her daughter.
Sister Julienne is flustered both by this information and to learn that the sisters of Cork who sent Nancy to Nonnatus House hid the truth from her. She goes on to mention that no hospital would knowingly employ an unmarried mother or let her take a training course to become a midwife, which sadly only emphasizes Trixie’s point about the stigma surrounding women and unplanned pregnancies. Nancy asks for her discretion but Sister Julienne combats this by telling her she must consider her principles first and leaves Nancy in limbo as she thinks over what her course of action will be. Unlike with their patient cases involving unplanned pregnancies, adoption and abortion, Sister Julienne has quite the opposite reaction to Nancy’s personal dilemma. The matter is left unresolved as we end this episode and head into the season finale, but we can only hope that Trixie steps in to help her new friend.
Forgot how we got here? Catch up on “Call the Midwife” with the Season 10, Episode 5 GIF Recap.
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