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A week has gone by since Episode 6 of “Call the Midwife” tore through our hearts and dragged us through the emotional passing of Warren Bryant. It was a journey we didn’t sign up for, but here we are. We still haven’t fully recovered from the newborn’s death, but the midwives survive another day. There’s no time to slow down and so they march forward with round-the-clock shifts at work to distract from the tragedy that befell them. We’re only one episode away from the Season 9 finale, folks, so as we prepare to close on this chapter, let’s see what the midwives are up to.
Marion and Stewart
It’s Tuesday at the Iris Knight Institute and you know what that means. Mothers! Babies! Nervous fathers! This week, when we visit the midwives at their antenatal clinic, we meet a young couple that’s already quite far along into their pregnancy. Marion Irmsby is the midwives’ first patient with Retinitis Pigmentosa and she explains to Shelagh that she’d like to transfer to Dr. Turner in hopes that he’ll be more sympathetic than the doctor she’s been visiting at her original general practice.
The Struggles of a Young Doctor
At the maternity home, newcomer Dr. Kevin McNulty remains with the midwives to continue his work and to help lighten Dr. Turner’s surgery schedule. Thus far he has been a welcome addition to the team. He’s a fast learner, with several successful deliveries under his belt since first arriving at Nonnatus House, and has had the entire team to mentor him along the way. He’s even found a close friend in Sister Frances, who frequently works with him at the maternity home and saw him through his first forceps delivery. (As we learned from Season 8, this complicated procedure only used for difficult childbirths is a major accomplishment for any doctor.)
He’s received praise from colleagues and patients alike, but as he hinted to Valerie when he first joined the midwifery training program, he still lacks confidence in his work. It certainly doesn’t help that a few of his elderly patients (and Miss Higgins for that matter) sometimes undermine his authority at the office.
A Family at Odds
While Kevin tries to prove himself to his peers, back at the clinic, Shelagh introduces Marion to Trixie for her exam. During her checkup, Marion explains the history behind her blindness, which she’s lived with since birth, but tells Trixie that she’s never let it get in the way of her chance at motherhood. Trixie is fully on board to support Marion’s dreams of having a child, but observes that Marion’s need for complete independence, refusing to have strangers help her in her home when the baby is born, might be troublesome. She’s also shocked when Marion requests a home delivery, denying the additional assistance that could be offered to her at the maternity home. She insists that she’s treated the same as any other mother that Trixie looks after.
Hesitant, Trixie agrees to fulfill Marion’s wish so long as she can make sure the apartment is in suitable condition for her delivery. When she makes her way over to the Irmsby’s for their home check-in, she’s surprised when Marion’s older sister Beryl greets her at the door. She sees that both women are flustered after a contentious conversation prior to her arrival and finds that the two are not on the same page when it comes to Marion’s pregnancy. Trixie learns that Beryl doesn’t believe Marion is capable of mothering a baby while blind and in a truly mind blowing revelation, has also made it her mission to make sure the baby is placed for adoption. Sisterly love? We think not.
A Short Fuse
When we return to the clinic, trouble’s brewing there as well. As our new doctor takes a break between rounds, we see him suffering from shoulder pains that he has yet to reveal to his colleagues. Alone - or so he thinks - he retrieves a bottle of prescription medication from his jacket pocket but stops short when he runs into Dr. Turner. The two discuss Kevin’s most recently admitted patient, Yvonne Smith, and Dr. Turner warns him that her husband is an alcoholic. He explains that beyond the surgery and medication, there’s much more to a doctor-patient relationship and that they need to look out for their patients’ overall wellbeing. Kevin pretends to follow along, thanking Dr. Turner for the opportunity at his practice, but as we’ll later see, this important advice goes in one ear and straight out the other.
Despite Kevin’s attempt to hide his medication, Dr. Turner questions why he’s using pethidine when he sees the bottle he’s been holding. Kevin explains that he takes the pain medication to help with flare ups from a shoulder injury he received in university, so Dr. Turner advises him to see a physiotherapist as an alternative. Kevin seems relieved when the doctor leaves him without suspicions, but nearby, an observant Miss Higgins has her doubts about Kevin’s claims.
When he returns to his duties, Kevin meets with Yvonne to inform her that she’s cleared to go home after she’s recovered following complications with a UTI. From her unwillingness to leave, he realizes that she’s scared to return home to her husband, as Dr. Turner had flagged, and offers confidential support. She refuses to talk about her home life and despite Kevin permitting an extended stay for her at the maternity home, her husband Victor finds his way there anyway. Stumbling in, he arrives in a drunken state and Kevin attempts to calmly intervene. Instead, he almost gets into fisticuffs with Victor before Miss Higgins barges in to announce that she’s called the police. Though Kevin apologizes to all the patients in the room for losing his temper, Yvonne begins to doubt the doctor’s professionalism and notes that his actions will lead to negative consequences for her when she finally returns home.
Looking Out for the Baby
Meanwhile, siding with Marion, Trixie is baffled by Beryl’s reaction to her sister’s pregnancy. When Beryl threatens to call social services if Marion doesn’t willingly give up her child, Trixie takes her concerns to Sister Julienne. She admits that while she wants to see Marion succeed, she’s worried that if Marion doesn’t accept home help she’ll have a difficult time convincing social services her child will be safe in her care.
Sister Julienne agrees that while she always wants to avoid separating mother and child (throwback to her conversation with May’s biological mother Esther Tang), that it’s the midwives’ duty to let social services know if they have any doubts about Marion’s abilities. Doing her part to help the expecting mother prepare, Trixie calls on Marion the next day to teach her the basics like bathing a newborn. Complications arise however, when Marion drops the bath soap during a practice bath, and in bending down to retrieve it from the floor, bumps the baby doll she’s using against the corner of the bath table.
Kevin’s Secret Addiction
Following Kevin’s near-rumble with Victor, he sits alone in his office in a state of distress and we quickly see his secret escalate. Possibly in pain but also distraught by Yvonne’s disapproval over how he handled her husband’s hostile visit, he takes more of his medication. Drugs on the job? A big no-no. When he tries to leave the maternity home to grab some fresh air, Sister Frances stops him to let him know that Yvonne has gone into labor and will require some pethidine to help with her pain. He panics when he realizes he’ll likely be in the delivery room under the influence but seizes this opportunity and offers to gather the supplies. While he’s pulling the drug from the medical cabinet, he steals a full vial for his own use. Lying in the medical records, he notes that Yvonne will be receiving a double dosage, while in fact she is not.
Visiting Elsie Dyer
At Nonnatus House, Valerie is faced with confronting major issues of her own. The death of Warren has hit her family hard, but as Maureen and Charlie Bryant cope with their son’s passing, Valerie’s focus shifts to her grandmother Elsie. After being caught crying at the house (we’ve all been there) she confesses to Lucille that while she’s tried to visit Elsie as much as she can, it’s hard for her to see the dire conditions she’s in while in prison. She worries about Elsie’s weight loss after her grandmother complains of the terrible food the inmates are given, and delivers cupcakes to her during visiting hours. But when Elsie is visibly in pain trying to get the food down, Valerie realizes Elsie’s illness is more serious than she’s let on and advises her to see the prison doctor.
Facing the Consequences
At the maternity home Yvonne reaches full dilation, and Sister Frances and Kevin prepare for delivery. As Kevin sets up his medical tools, he’s noticeably unfocused and in a daze. Assuring Yvonne she’s in good hands with the doctor, Sister Frances briefly leaves the room to get towels for the procedure but returns to a disturbing scene. She enters the room to witness Yvonne, horrified, after Kevin has performed an episiotomy on her, a surgical incision made for complicated deliveries that are generally unnecessary and risky. Realizing instantly that something isn’t right, Sister Frances takes over to earn back Yvonne’s trust and encourages her to push through the pain to deliver her baby boy. Dr. Turner rushes in not long after Yvonne’s son is born and praises Kevin’s good work, to which Sister Frances and Yvonne share a knowing glance at one another.
When they’re alone after Yvonne’s recovery, Kevin attempts to convince the new mother that she was never in danger from the episiotomy and that they had it under control. She promptly gives credit where it’s due to Sister Frances and comments on how Kevin’s no different from her husband Victor, scared and unwilling to own up to their poor decisions.
Marion Learns the Hard Way
After one birth for the midwives, it’s on to the next. At home, Marion has a successful delivery with Stewart and Trixie by her side and gives birth to her daughter Rosemary. Yet knowing that social services could drop in at any moment following the birth, Trixie makes frequent check-ins on the couple to ensure they have everything they need to prove they’re fit to parent their baby. Even Beryl, guilty for reporting her sister, drops by their home to explain her reasoning for doing so. She reveals to Trixie that Beryl and Marion were only children when their mother died, and as the eldest, Beryl had to look after her sister and constantly feared for Marion’s wellbeing. Similar to how she felt caring for Marion, she worries that if anything happens to Rosemary in Marion’s care, Marion would have to live with that for the rest of her life.
Marion takes this into consideration but when she’s alone with Stewart, she continues to refuse help. On the other hand, seeing that they would be able to better manage life with a newborn with additional assistance, Stewart pushes back and storms out when Marion ignores his plea. Left alone at the house, Marion carries on with her day and prepares hot water for Rosemary’s bath. Attempting to pour the water, hot off the stove, into the bathing jug, she accidentally burns her hand and drops the jug which shatters across the floor. Rosemary cries for her and without anyone there, Marion forces herself to walk across the floor, glass shards and all (10/10 do not recommend watching this scene) to get to her baby. A mother’s love, truly. Luckily, Trixie arrives soon after to help clean up and care for her injuries. When Stewart returns to see the state that she’s in, he and Trixie encourage Marion to give more thought to an additional caretaker around the apartment.
Still at the maternity home following the near-disastrous delivery with Kevin, Yvonne receives a second visit from Victor after he receives word of their son Billy’s birth. He’s intoxicated once again, but with Kevin nowhere in sight, Dr. Turner jumps in just in time to escort Victor out of the building - appropriately this time. When he’s gone, Dr. Turner advises Yvonne to find alternate accommodations with her son when she’s finally released from the maternity home. She mentions that she has an aunt who lives in the seaside town of Margate and Dr. Turner and Sister Frances promise to keep her whereabouts a secret from her husband.
Marion’s Not Alone
Later, hoping to patch things up between the sisters, Trixie asks Marion and Beryl to meet her at a patient’s home across town. When they arrive, they meet Peggy, a mother of three who’s also blind. She gives Marion tips on everything from diaper changes to having medications labeled in braille, and says she and Marion are entitled to extra help and to take it when it’s offered. As Trixie had hoped, the visit gives both Beryl and Marion a new perspective on the outcome of Marion’s future with Rosemary. While it’s entirely possible for Marion to raise a family with her condition as Peggy has done with three, it’s also ok to ask for and accept help when it’s needed.
Kevin Spirals Out of Control
While Dr. Turner and Sister Frances help Yvonne with the last moments of recovery from her delivery, Kevin returns to Nonnatus House where he’s distraught and ashamed for what he’s done. The savage burn delivered by Yvonne haunts him, and after Dr. Turner rejected his request for another pethidine prescription, Kevin uses the remainder of the vial he stole instead. He battles his demons alone in his room and it’s a sad but familiar reminder of Trixie’s past addiction to alcohol.
A Touch Decision for Sister Frances
Once Yvonne has safely departed from the maternity home (peace out, Victor!), Sister Frances reflects back on Kevin’s serious errors during the delivery and struggles with the decision to report him to Dr. Turner. So as anyone at Nonnatus House would do, she turns to the wise Sister Monica Moan. Her fellow Sister advises against taking on the burden of this terrible secret alone and persuades her to disclose the encounter with the rest of her peers.
Bringing Families Together
As Sister Frances weighs her options, things are looking up over at the Irmsbys’ as they settle into their new routine. Following her meeting with Peggy, Marion looks to her sister to help her with Rosemary. Beryl willingly obliges and the two work together to learn how to dress, feed and clean up after Rosemary. Teamwork makes the dream work. Though it won’t be an easy process for the family, it’s a positive change that will give Marion the tools she needs to raise her newborn and prevent too much interference from social services.
It’s a win for everyone, including Trixie! So as we conclude this episode on a high note, we can only hope that this positive energy carries over as we prepare to wrap up this chapter of “Call the Midwife.” Everything considered, the midwives experienced far less trauma this week, but we anxiously await the events to unfold in the Season 9 finale. Will Sister Frances snitch on her new friend? Will Elsie get better? All this and more when we return.
Forgot how we got here? Catch up on “Call the Midwife” with the Season 9, Episode 6 GIF Recap.
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