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We’re back in Poplar for Episode 2 and Lent is upon us. For our “Midwife” family, that means no sweets, no flowers and, maybe for the best, no cigarettes. It is truly a trying time for everyone involved, but let’s just say that some are finding it harder than others to refrain from their daily cravings. (We see you trying to sneak those eclairs, Fred Buckle.) We get it, though. Six weeks without the fragrance of freshly bloomed flowers or the taste of chocolate-y glazed goodness? We’d be riding that struggle bus right alongside them.
So as the group fights the urge for a scoop of sugar for their tea or a post-dinner drag, they look to other sources of comfort during this long window of repentance. For some of those sweet tooths, that simply means a splash of milk for the morning cuppa to hold them over. But when all of the neighborhood milk suddenly goes missing (what else must they sacrifice?!), well… that’s not gonna fly.
Catching the Milk Thief
Alas, if you thought this episode would be a whodunit over missing milk bottles (that would be an adventure) we have to disappoint, but when the Buckles and the midwives realize they’ve all been targets of this milk thievery, Fred and Sister Monica Joan join forces to find the culprit. (“Midwife” mysteries spinoff, anyone?) The following morning, prepped in their places and on the lookout, they find a young woman on the doorstep of Nonnatus House with milk bottles in hand and understandably startled when she’s caught in the act. She’s quick to admit she is indeed the guilty party, but reveals that she’s been stealing their supply to prepare for the birth of her baby.
Never ones to turn away a mother in need, they invite her into the house for breakfast - glass of milk included - and learn that the woman, Tina Atkins, has yet to see a doctor for her pregnancy. With this, Sister Julienne encourages her to attend Dr. Turner’s next ante-natal clinic.
Baby Two On Board for the Bulmers
While Tina makes her way to her first exam with Dr. Turner, we visit another young mother just across the divider. Well on the way to delivering her second child, Laverne Bulmer is one of Valerie’s former patients who delivered her first baby, Gillian, with the help of her mother Florie. Like many others in Poplar, Laverne and her husband struggle to make ends meet but thanks to her mother’s help around the house and with daily errands while the couple is at work, the family is just able to get by. So with her clinic appointment and a double shift at her factory job following, it only makes sense that she’s asked Florie to watch Gillian again.
As one appointment ends, another begins. After Laverne leaves the clinic, Tina arrives for her first appointment with Dr. Turner. Though she had explained to Sister Julienne and Sister Monica Joan that her lack of monthly cycles and a natural, maternal feeling signaled her pregnancy, Tina learns that she’ll have to wait another week to receive her official test results from the doctor. No matter though - she doesn’t seem to mind the eye candy. Better hold on to your man, Shelagh!
Babysitting Gone Wrong
While Tina tries to make moves on Paul McCartney’s doppelganger, babysitting at the Bulmer residence isn’t going quite as planned. Overcome by constant fatigue and bouts of confusion throughout the day, we see that Florie has hidden some health issues from her family - a decision that will come to haunt her when she suddenly falls asleep on the job. After her slumber, Florie panics when she realizes she has yet to check off her errands for Laverne and sets off into town… without Gillian. In a daze from her unintentional midday snooze she forgets that her granddaughter has been quietly playing in a fort beneath the dining table and leaves her unaccompanied at the house.
Obviously, this does not go over well. When a neighbor hears the cries of little Gillian alone at home, the police promptly arrive to rescue the abandoned toddler. All the ruckus results in a crowd of onlookers and also calls the attention of Valerie, who just happens to be biking by following her clinic appointment with Laverne.
Shortly after, Laverne arrives at the scene and she’s furious when she hears that Florie has left Gillian alone for hours. It’s not until she returns that Florie suddenly remembers the duties she had prior to her grocery run, and the event leaves her shaken as she tries to understand how this happened on her watch.
A Change of Scenery
Meanwhile, down by the docks, Sister Julienne makes a house call to Tina after noticing that she’s missed her last clinic session following her original appointment with Dr. Turner. As she observes her surroundings and makes note of the men roaming the halls and paying women in neighboring rooms, she worries about Tina’s living arrangement and job as a sex worker. With mother and baby’s health in mind, Sister Julienne urges Tina to continue attending the weekly clinics to monitor her health, but also advises her to meet with Dr. Turner when Tina complains of a possible infection.
Finding the Answer
When we return to the Bowlands’ Dr. Turner has arrived to examine Florie after she admits to her family that she’s been struggling with exhaustion, joint pain and memory loss for some time. After ruling out dementia, Dr. Turner initially believes that Florie’s ailment is a sign of mature onset diabetes. Yet when her condition worsens with visible jaundice in the whites of her eyes and skin, Dr. Turner deduces that Laverne’s liver must be struggling.
A New Path Ahead for Mother and Child
Despite her housing conditions and trouble maintaining a steady job, Tina arrives at the maternity home. Shelagh performs her exam, but makes a curious discovery, noting an episiotomy scar from a previous delivery. Hesitant at first, Tina eventually reveals that she’s already given birth to a son when she was much younger. Unable to support him, she allowed him to move to America with his father, but expresses her enthusiasm for the future that she plans to build for her new baby.
Or so she says. It’s not long before this tragic tale unravels, and the midwives quickly find that Tina had not one, but two children, and that rather than the storybook ending she had dreamed up for her son, her children, Marnie and Lenny, have been in foster care across Poplar since their birth.
Good News for Florie
Determined to help the Bowlands, Dr. Turner consults with a liver consultant about Florie’s issues. Through this he discovers that her symptoms are the result of a condition called hemochromatosis, meaning she has too much iron in her body. Though it could take months for her to get better, the path to recovery is fairly simple and can be managed with bloodletting. The news is a huge sigh of relief for both Florie and Laverne knowing that she’ll be cured.
Following her examination with Shelagh, Tina’s test results come back positive for gonorrhea. Hoping to provide her with a more comfortable place to live while carrying, and feeling the need to monitor Tina’s antibiotic use, Sister Julienne insists that Tina resides at the maternity home for the remainder of her pregnancy. Though reluctant, Tina agrees, but her stay is short-lived when word of her children travels through Nonnatus House and Sister Julienne confronts her about finding a new job to start a fresh life for her next child.
Feeling pressured by Sister Julienne and pained by her past, she packs up her things to leave the maternity home. Quickly realizing that she’s departed, the midwives go searching for her, and Sister Julienne discovers her behind the home unconscious. When medical assistance arrives, Dr. Turner suspects that she has a ruptured ectopic pregnancy and rushes her to the hospital alongside Sister Julienne where she miscarries. Following this tragic loss, Tina expresses her disinterest in having another child even though Sister Julienne explains that the doctor was able to save one of her fallopian tubes. Additionally, she confesses that she had received a notice surrounding Marnie and Lenny’s impending adoption but chose to ignore it, believing they’d receive a better life with their adoptive parents than what she could provide.
A New Outlook on Life
Sister Julienne leaves this encounter saddened and conflicted over Tina’s decision. Despite doing her best to encourage Tina to start anew, she’s unable to convince her that she can still be a suitable mother to her children. She explains to Sister Monica Joan that she feels she’s failed Tina, and fears that because she was unable to change her lifestyle, this could ultimately result in another pregnancy and another child in foster care. Sister Monica Joan, coming in hot with her thoughtful advice as always, tells Sister Julienne that rather than trying to change who Tina is, she should provide service to her in a way that fits with how she’s chosen to live her life and not how Sister Julienne wants her to lead it.
A Step in the Right Direction
With a refreshed outlook on her patients and her acceptance of them fully, no matter their race, religion, wealth or place of work, Sister Julienne puts Sister Monica Joans’ advice into action. Following their conversation, she meets with Trixie in confidence and asks her to schedule an appointment for Tina at the advisory center. And in a shock to both women, she also asks Trixie to help Tina obtain a prescription for the contraceptive pill. Having always clashed with Trixie over contraception from a place of faith, this is a progressive moment for Sister Julienne.
Change Across Poplar
As we close this episode of “Call the Midwife,” we leave the women in a different state of mind as they enter spring. It’s a time for change and new beginnings. With new mothers every day and constantly changing medical practices blooms refreshed values and ways of thinking throughout Poplar and especially amongst the Nonnatans. As the women keep moving through this evolving landscape, we look forward to seeing what next week brings!
Forgot how we got here? Catch up on “Call the Midwife” with the Season 9, Episode 1 GIF Recap.
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