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We’re not sure about the rest of you, but it’s been many moons since we last succumbed to Heidi Thomas’ poetic writing with a true, heart wrenching ugly cry. We got pretty close last week after witnessing Sister Julienne’s breakdown, but alas, tears were not shed. (We did feel it in our hearts though; we’re not animals.)
You may have thought you were safe this season, but the day has finally come - the signature “Midwife” moment that will have you so completely overcome with emotion that you’ll be drowning in your own tears. So hold onto your SO’s hand, dog, pillow, tissues, whatever brings you relief, and prepare yourself for everything that’s about to go down in Episode 6. There will be wreckage, and it will be you. Shall we begin?
Welcome Back, Maureen
When we return to “Call the Midwife” this week, a familiar face emerges at Tuesday clinic when Valerie’s relative Maureen Bryant arrives for her antenatal checkup. We first met Maureen during a public row at the clinic in Season 8 after Valerie exposed her grandmother Elsie’s underground abortion service to the police. Though she did it to protect her patients from the dangerous and sometimes fatal procedure at the hands of a nonprofessional, she struggled with sending Elsie to prison and was met with anger from the rest of her family, like Maureen, for what they viewed as betrayal.
Though Valerie’s relationship with Maureen wasn’t easily mended, they’ve been on decent terms since the tragedy and drama that followed Elsie’s dark secret. With a third child on the way, Maureen has her heart set on an August 12 delivery, the same day as her father and grandfather’s birthdays. Hoping to move things along for this special day, Maureen asks for castor oil to bring on her contractions, but Trixie dismisses the request since she’s not yet overdue. So naturally, Maureen finds castor oil on her own. Still a firecracker, this one.
Kevin’s Here Too!
Another old friend along for the ride, Dr. McNulty also returns this episode to join the ladies at Nonnatus House. An A+ student who participated in the ladies’ first midwifery training program for junior doctors, Kevin has arrived to lend a helping hand to Dr. Turner and the midwives. He’s discovered that the lodging he initially acquired for his stay is going to be demolished (the Urban Renewal Program strikes again!), but the women welcome him with open arms and offer him a spot up in the attic. So maybe it’s not as cozy as he’d hoped, but at least he’s in good company!
The Future of the Midwives
What the women didn’t realize however, is the unexpected - and unintentional - news that their guest would bring with him. As the mention of demolition arises at dinner, Phyllis comments on how common this has become across Poplar. In an attempt to ease everyone’s minds, Sister Hilda jokes that their building will likely be around so long that it will see the year 2000 (LOL), even though she already knows it’s on the chopping block. Enter Sister Julienne as Debbie Downer. Guilty for having kept the secret of Nonnatus House’s future for too long, she reveals that their building will also be knocked down within the next year. That’s one way to lose an appetite.
The news is heartbreaking for everyone, but is especially daunting for the midwives who are not part of the Order and wouldn’t have the Mother House to turn to should the demolition come to fruition. As anyone would be to learn that they might not have a job or a home in the near future, Trixie, Valerie, Lucille and Phyllis discuss alternate options and worry about what will happen to them if the Council decides to cease funding for the Order altogether. No Nonnatus House and no midwives? That’s a no from us.
May’s Biological Mother
As the midwives are left to cope with thoughts of their fate, we travel to the Turners to check in on Shelagh, Dr. Turner and the gang. Unfortunately, as you might have expected, the bad news just keeps on coming. At home, Shelagh receives a call from the Hong Kong adoption project office and is eager to know when the adoption hearing date is for their foster daughter, May. On the other end, Miss Williams delivers a devastating blow when she explains that May’s biological mother, who was thought to be deceased two years ago, is in fact alive and working in London as an amah, or nanny, for a British Forces family and their children. Honestly, is nothing sacred anymore?!
While Miss Williams claims Esther Tang is unlikely to disrupt the adoption process, she does tell Shelagh that Esther has asked to meet May and the Turners. Having fostered May since her arrival as a toddler from the Mother House, and raising her as a part of their family, the Turners are understandably distraught.
Delivery at the Bryants’
Stunned by this sudden complication, the Turners prepare for their meeting with May’s mother. At Nonnatus House, the midwives receive their own telephone call and discover that baby Bryant #3 is on its way. Castor oil perhaps? As luck would have it, Maureen’s water has broken just in time for the August 12 delivery she wanted. Valerie and Lucille make their way over to the Bryants’ and Maureen gives birth to her son Warren only minutes to midnight the next day, fulfilling her wish to honor the memory of her father and grandfather.
The following day, reluctant but curious, Shelagh and Dr. Turner meet with May’s mother. Though they’re concerned about how this could affect the adoption, they’re also interested to know more about Esther’s intentions and what her life has been like since her near-death and history with drug addiction. It becomes clear that Esther isn’t fully satisfied with their introduction and pleads to see May in person before she leaves England. The couple agrees - they are saints, after all - and hope that this will provide closure for all parties.
A World Turned Upside Down
Later, we return to the Bryants’ where celebration of Warren’s birth should be echoing through the halls, but as we warned you, you will not leave this episode unscathed. When Lucille checks in on the family she finds Maureen out of bed and distressed by Warren’s condition. She explains that he hasn’t been feeding and seems floppy when she tries to hold him. After undressing him for a quick inspection, Lucille notices a blue tint to the child’s skin and checks his heartbeat. Realizing that something is amiss, she calls Dr. Turner. After an examination, Dr. Turner believes something is wrong with Warren’s heart and urges for immediate testing at St. Cuthbert’s Hospital.
After learning of Warren’s heart defect, the midwives are stumped as to what could have caused it and search through Maureen’s past pregnancy notes for any clues. It’s not until Valerie returns from her shift that she recalls a conversation she had with Maureen during the diphtheria outbreak that spread through Poplar. Maureen believed her children had diphtheria, but that they were actually diagnosed with German measles, also known as rubella. The exposure to this caused the virus to spread to baby Warren during the first trimester of Maureen’s pregnancy.
The midwives notify Dr. Turner and he returns with even more troubling news from St. Cuthbert’s. He tells the group that the left side of Warren’s heart hasn’t developed properly, he’s blind, and it’s also likely that he has brain damage. Part of congenital rubella syndrome, these findings mean that Warren only has weeks to live. Dr. Turner and Lucille go to the Bryants’ to deliver Warren’s test results. It’s the news that no parent ever wants to hear, and they struggle to absorb the information they’ve received from the doctor, even denying it at first. But when they realize there’s little the hospital can do but to make Warren’s stay more comfortable, they request that he’s discharged from the hospital to spend the rest of his time at home with his family.
Complications Between Esther and the Turners
Following their first meeting with Esther, the Turners arrive with May for the reunion with her biological mother. Having spent so much time with the Turner family, May doesn’t recognize Esther and shies away from her. This prompts the family to leave fearing that the meeting has been too overwhelming for May. The cold exchange is difficult for Esther who has longed to be with her daughter again and she exclaims that the Turners have turned May against her.
Despite formerly agreeing to sign May’s consent papers to allow the Turners to be her adoptive parents, Esther refuses and requests to take her back to Hong Kong. Upon hearing this, Shelagh and Dr. Turner decide to fight for custody, worried that Esther won’t be able to comfortably support May and properly raise her. They call on Sister Julienne to talk to Esther, knowing that she had trusted in the Order once before by allowing them to take May in for their adoption program at the Mother House.
When Sister Julienne meets with Esther, she assures her that the Turners have not turned May against her, and that she’s simply confused by the constant changes in her life and the numerous guardians she has lived with. She empathizes with Esther and her pain, but also acknowledges that Esther can’t guarantee she’ll be able to provide for May with a stable job or to keep her out of an orphanage again. It’s not an easy conversation, but seems to make an impact.
A Celebration of Life
As the Turners wait to speak with Esther again, the Bryants hold a small gathering for Warren at their home to make the most of their remaining days together. The family invites Lucille, who has been Maureen and Warren’s primary midwife through this hardship, and she helps document their final memories with their son as a photographer for the party. It’s a somber moment for all. Though Charlie attempts to pay Lucille for the photos, she denies his money.
Following the day’s events, Charlie and Maureen turn in for the evening, drained by their family’s awful situation but also in slightly better spirits having spent the day with Warren and all their loved ones. Overnight however, things take a turn for the worst. When Maureen wakes the next morning, she discovers that Warren has passed in the night. There is no greater pain than losing a child, and the suffering of the Bryants’ loss is felt before Dr. Turner even walks in the door that day.
Tragedy and Loss
After arriving at the Bryants’ to record Warren’s official cause of death alongside Lucille, the tragedy that has unfolded before him combined with the possibility of losing May proves to be too much. The doctor privately weeps in his car overcome by emotions, but even with what he’s just witnessed, he must carry on.
Following this final visit to the Bryants’ Dr. Turner and Shelagh arrive at the adoption agency to meet with Esther again. While she agrees that the Turners would be good foster parents, she still does not want to sign the consent papers. She begs for them not to take May from her permanently, but Dr. Turner expresses May’s need for security, explaining the limitations they might have if they are not legally her next-of-kin, especially in cases of emergency.
Realizing that this is the only option to keep her daughter safe and hoping to avoid a court battle over May, she finally allows the Turners to have legal custody of her daughter, though she makes it clear that she strictly sees them as May’s guardians and not as her parents. It’s a hurtful jab and not quite the resolution they had hoped for, but the Turners accept this, happy that May is officially part of their family at last.
In Memory of Baby Warren
Following the grief that surrounded the midwives’ work this week, the episode concludes as the women and all those across Poplar prepare for a local Horticultural Show planned by the Buckles. It’s a small but welcome distraction. Prior to their departure, Lucille spots Charlie waiting for her outside Nonnatus House to hand deliver a photograph of baby Warren, and she’s touched by the gesture.
When the midwives arrive at the show with their flower displays in hand, the park is alive with music, children’s laughter, contests and beautiful blooms. It’s a refreshing outlet for everyone, and while the pure joy of the families around them would have sufficed, they’re pleasantly surprised and impressed when they come across Sister Monica Joan’s horticultural offering. In honor of St. Raymond Nonnatus Sister Monica Joan has organized the best “flower” arrangement of all, with a live parade of adorable newborn babies. After all, St. Raymond is the patron saint of expecting mothers, children and midwives. As a crowd gathers to witness the spectacle, dozens of mothers recruited by Sister Monica Joan come forward to place their babies on blankets surrounding a statue of St. Raymond Nonnatus. As they do so, Lucille contributes to Sister Monica Joans’ beautiful work with her own flower child and places her photo of Warren alongside the other children. Though the midwives rarely forget a birth (even Sister Monica Joan remembers her patients), Warren’s is one that Lucille will hold onto forever.
There has been so much loss on “Call the Midwife” over the years, but Warren’s death was like a suckerpunch to the gut, and we were not ready. As we move closer to the season finale, we can only hope that something uplifting is on the way - even if that just means saving the midwives from the doom of the Urban Renewal Program. See you next week, “Midwife” family!
Forgot how we got here? Catch up on “Call the Midwife” with the Season 9, Episode 5 GIF Recap.