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“Call the Midwife” family, we’ve made it to the season finale and oh what a time it has been over these past few months. The midwives of Nonnatus House have suffered heartbreak and loss, been tangled in the arms of romance, ridden the waves of medical change to remain relevant in their community, and so much more. We’ve seen mothers grieve the death of their children and patients face painful and exhaustive illnesses, but the midwives have always been by their side. So before we say goodbye, let’s join the gang for one final ride, chiming bike bells, red hats and all.
An Unexpected Visit to the Hospital Ward
When we last caught up with Valerie, a prison visit to see her grandmother Elsie left her in a panic over the elderly woman’s health. After witnessing her grandmother’s painful near-choking incident attempting to eat solid food, Valerie returns to the prison this week to check on her condition. Once there, she discovers that Elsie has been moved to the hospital ward and observes that she’s thinner than before, likely because she’s still having difficulty eating. Despite her attempt to explain this to the prison staff, the hospital ward matron claims Elsie was simply admitted for heartburn and nothing more. Of course, Valerie knows there’s more to the story than Elsie will admit to.
A Grim Future
While Valerie ponders her options to help Elsie through her suffering, we make our way across town to the Department of Health where Sister Julienne is in a mood - and with good reason. After receiving a letter from the Tower Hamlets Council notifying Nonnatus House that their budget will be cut by 50 percent, Sister Julienne meets Dr. Knightly Grimes, the Chief Medical Officer. When she demands to know the motivation behind the department’s drastic decision, Dr. Knightly Grimes explains that with expanding maternity wards at St. Cuthbert’s Hospital, the department doesn’t see a lasting need for the Order’s presence in Poplar.
He also notes that Nonnatus House’s operating costs, including the rent of their house, is quite high and informs her that the Department of Estates and Housing will be requesting the full commercial rent from the women moving forward. Sister Julienne is shocked to hear this, acknowledging that the Council has always allowed the women to pay a discounted rate for their lodging. Now, threatened to receive half of their usual pay, the midwives struggle to understand how they’ll be able to continue their services and help Dr. Turner keep the clinic and his maternity home running.
A Wedding and a Baby
Despite receiving Sister Julienne’s somber news ahead of yet another busy Tuesday clinic, the women go about their day as if everything is fine and well. It’s the first clinic appointment for Petra Bevan, who’s been excitedly planning her wedding to fiance Eddie. In addition to the thrill surrounding lace bridal gowns and a hubby-to-be, Petra is also expecting and according to Lucille, is almost four months in. Petra explains that Eddie lives in his own home while Petra resides with her mother Ada, but that the two have been apartment hunting together in preparation for their growing family and spending the rest of their lives together.
A Hard Day’s Work
A temporary employee for the Nonnatans, Kevin doesn’t quite feel the impact of Nonnatus House’s troubles like the others, but he still battles his own issues with his work in the field. Last week, Kevin was a Nonnatus House star rising to the top, but he gave Sister Frances quite the scare after performing an episiotomy that could have endangered both a mother and child during delivery. Unbeknownst to Sister Frances, the young doctor had been under the influence, and we witnessed his addiction to pethidine take over both his personal and professional life.
Though Sister Frances weighed the decision to report her new friend’s grave errors to Dr. Turner, she has yet to come forward this episode and we see Kevin as he continues to struggle with the heavy nature of his work. After spending his day at a deceased Poplar man’s home to find that he was a meths drinker who overdosed, Kevin returns to Nonnatus House emotionally weary. We see him alone again as he uses another dose of pethidine, which he’s been stealing from the clinic. When he returns to work later that week, he runs into Miss Higgins, who notifies him that the rules of the clinic’s drug cupboard use will be refreshed as a result of discrepancies that she and Nurse Crane have noticed in their records.
Baby Makes… Five?
As if relatives in prison and the doom of Nonnatus House weren’t enough for the midwives to juggle, things are only just starting to heat up. Though Poplar has sadly seen its fair share of affairs, Eddie Tannerman might take the cake for one of the worst ones yet. While Petra makes plans for their wedding and a newborn, it’s not long before we uncover the real reason behind her fiance’s decision not to move in with her. When a new patient, Bonnie Medlar, drops in at the clinic to see Phyllis, she admits that while she’s not yet married, her boyfriend Eddie has been taking care of her throughout the pregnancy.
Though Eddie has somehow managed to keep his two lives under wraps for several months, it’s not until the so-called loyal boyfriend accompanies Bonnie to one of Sister Hilda’s couples’ relaxation classes that his secret unravels. After dropping in on Fred to inspect a wedding order, Petra and her mother see that there’s been a bit of a hiccup when they discover Violet has ordered a pink veil and storm over to the Iris Knight Institute to find her. What they actually find is far worse. As everyone in the relaxation class practices their breathing exercises, Eddie gets caught, sitting there with his arms wrapped around Bonnie.
A Love Triangle
Busy in conversation over the midwives’ budget crisis, Violet, Phyllis and Sister Julienne overhear a racket coming from the next room. They rush in to find Petra’s mother Ada clobbering Eddie with her purse after seeing him with another woman. Petra and Bonnie are in total disbelief when they come face-to-face with one another and realize that not only are they in a relationship with the same man, but they’re both pregnant. Surprisingly, Bonnie shows a more empathetic side and expresses her concern for Eddie when he runs off into the night.
At home the next day, Petra and Ada discuss the previous day’s events. Protective of her daughter’s reputation, Ada exclaims Eddie will have to leave Bonnie so that Petra won’t become a jilted bride and unmarried mother. Petra feels otherwise. Beyond the distrust she now has for Eddie, she reveals to her mother that she’s recently started spotting, an early sign of miscarriage. To monitor the health of her baby, Petra goes to the maternity home for an overnight stay.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Meanwhile, Bonnie is also experiencing pregnancy complications and arrives at the maternity home complaining of a terrible headache. Close to delivery, she too is asked to stay at the home and surprise surprise, guess who she ends up next to? Poor planning? Maybe. With Eddie’s betrayal still fresh on everyone’s minds, the women begin bickering over their shared maternity home space and their shared beau, and the argument only escalates when Eddie walks in. With flowers. For Bonnie.
Enraged, Petra takes a vase of flowers from her bedside table and throws them at Eddie. She misses and hits the wall, but hey, at least it was therapeutic. Phyllis later finds the humiliated boyfriend/fiance sitting outside the women’s room and the two have a heart-to-heart. Raised as an orphan, Eddie explains that when he met Petra, he so desperately wanted to feel the traditions and comforts of family. When he met Bonnie however, he realized that there were other ways to live and be happy, and he ultimately fell in love. Though Phyllis disapproves, she believes Eddie’s regret is genuine and advises him to let Petra and Bonnie come to him on their own terms.
While Phyllis and Lucille try to get a handle on their patients’ relationship drama, Valerie copes with her own personal problems. Following a visit to St. Cuthbert’s, Trixie sees Elsie being brought into the hospital on a stretcher and notifies her friend. Valerie rushes over to be by her grandmother’s side, and while Elsie plays off the emergency as “digestive troubles” Valerie finds her medical notes in the room detailing the true cause of her release from prison.
Her worst fear comes to life as she reads through them and realizes that the source behind Elsie’s pain while eating food, in addition to other side effects, is a result of cancer of the oesophagus. It’s a major hit to the close knit family but Elsie, the strong matriarch as always, puts on a brave face for her granddaughter. After her release from the hospital, Elsie returns to her old home where Valerie takes care of her. Valerie blames herself for sending Elsie to prison, feeling as if she’s at fault for her illness, but Trixie argues that she was right alongside Valerie in court, and that what they did was right (let’s not forget the death of Jeannie Tennant). All Valerie can do now is love and care for her grandmother in her remaining days.
A Decision Is Made
At the maternity home, with nowhere to go and no other patients around, both Petra and Bonnie are forced to see each other far more than they’d like. After their awkward encounter with Eddie, the two women later run into each other in the middle of the night unable to sleep. Bonnie apologizes to Petra for everything that’s transpired, and while the conversation is civil and no heavy objects are thrown, Petra says she won’t fight over Eddie with her even though she still loves him.
The next day, Bonnie goes into labor and despite all Eddie’s done, she asks for him to be by her side. Petra, seeming to understand where Eddie’s heart truly lies, waves her white flag, defeated, and the love triangle quickly dissipates. Outside the surgery room, Petra overhears Bonnie’s delivery and waits in the hallway as Bonnie gives birth to a healthy baby girl. Shelagh finds her standing there, happy to hear the baby has safely arrived but obviously heartbroken. She lets Petra know that an ambulance is on its way to bring her to St. Cuthbert’s, and perhaps alluding to her future and a life without Eddie, Petra says she’s glad because she’s been bleeding again since arriving at the maternity home. It’s a heavy moment as she parts with the future she had planned for herself and Shelagh, who had her own miscarriage scare, comforts her.
A Strongly Worded Letter
Meanwhile, as the women try to manage a heavy workload, including 30 new patients at the clinic, they must also confront the demise of Nonnatus House. After the midwives learn that the Board of Health has invited them to speak at their next committee meeting, the women take this as an opportunity to fight for their home and place of work. Only one speaker can take the floor on behalf of the house for a five-minute speech, and so the women elect Trixie, which is fitting since she’s one of the OG midwives.
With only three days to prepare, the women gather over 600 signatures from their current and former patients for a petition to keep the house. Though this would seem like enough support on its own, Sister Monica Joan reminds Sister Julienne of a chest full of decades-old thank you letters and cards of support from past patients that they can also use. Additionally, Sister Julienne finds several old ledgers, similar to the ones she currently keeps in her office to keep record of every patient serviced by Nonnatus House. As the women gather the evening before the meeting, they read through them together and help Trixie as she works on her speech.
Elsie’s Final Wish
As her peers work to save Nonnatus House, Valerie remains with Elsie to keep her company. As they spend this fleeting time together, Elsie makes two final requests of her granddaughter: to bring a minister of religion to her home and for Valerie to start wearing her midwife uniform again. The next day, Lucille and Cyril (now a minister) accompany Valerie on one last visit. As they wait with Elsie, the sound of an ice cream truck sounds in the distance, and in a longtime family tradition, Elsie tells Valerie to go buy herself a 99 Flake. Though Valerie protests, Elsie convinces her to leave, perhaps sensing that her time has come and not wishing for her granddaughter to see her this way. While Valerie is gone, Elsie falls asleep. Lucille observes to Cyril that her breathing has changed and that she likely won’t wake up again. The couple begins to sing “Amazing Grace” over Elsie to help comfort her in these final moments and provide release, and Elsie passes only seconds before Valerie walks in the door with a cone in hand.
Kevin’s Last Day at the Maternity Home
Following Elsie’s death, we return to the maternity home where Kevin’s battle with addiction is finally unveiled, and thankfully without Sister Frances needing to intervene. During one of Elsie’s last home examinations, Kevin had delivered a few bottles of pethidine to help with her pains, but when he revealed his stash to Valerie, she quickly asked him to take them away knowing that it would upset her grandmother. Back at the office, the discussion around Elsie’s pethidine use arises again when Miss Higgins stops Kevin during his shift to comment that while Kevin had prescribed it to Elsie multiple times, Lucille had commented that Elsie never took it. In a confused state and dizzy on his feet, Kevin asks her to check the records again shortly before collapsing on the clinic floor and seizing. When Dr. Turner and Shelagh arrive to examine him, the doctor rolls up Kevin’s sleeve so they can check his blood pressure. There, they find injection sites along his arm where, not long before, he had been using Elsie’s unused medication.
The Speech of a Lifetime
While the Turners are left to manage Kevin’s situation, it’s the day of the midwives’ meeting with the Board of Health. Though the women share the same nerves over what’s to come, a crowd of patients cheer them on as they leave Nonnatus House and it’s the little boost they need to get through the day. When they arrive, Trixie takes the floor for the short five minutes she’s allotted to prove the midwives’ worth in their community. She explains to the board that through her research she discovered that the Department of Health publishes an annual report documenting all cases of illnesses, epidemics, births and deaths across Poplar. Despite the 80+ pages that are dedicated to these cases however, she notes that these statistics don’t ever illustrate the finer details surrounding the hundreds of thousands of patients the local hospitals and the midwives see every year.
Holding up one of the ledgers Sister Julienne retrieved from the Nonnatus House archives, she goes on to note that Nonnatus House has recorded every person, every name that has walked through their door since WWI. From these patients’ occupations to their home life, from their emotional needs to their likelihood of survival, every part of these individuals’ lives have been recorded in great detail, because unlike the department’s report, the midwives’ patients are not simply numbers on a page. As Phyllis hands out handwritten letters from their patients to the board, Trixie explains that the women have always been a part of their patients’ world, (and in some cases, almost spanning an entire lifetime) as their patients have been a part of theirs. She warns the board that while their reports have never once mentioned the contribution of Nonnatus House over the past 30 years, the absence of the women’s work in Poplar will undoubtedly be missed by the many men and women they’ve helped through the decades.
It’s a rousing speech, applauded by all her colleagues and community supporters in attendance, and after consulting with his peers, Dr. Knightly Grimes informs them that the midwives’ rent has been reduced and that their budget is restored. This good news is met with celebration from the crowd, but of course, there’s a catch. Before the midwives depart, he exclaims that the board’s order will expire after 12 months, and though it gives the women more time to think over their options, it still leaves their fate unknown.
A New Start
Following his overdose, the Turners bring Kevin into their home once he’s recovered and is able to leave the clinic. Dr. Turner relays the midwives’ worries that his drug abuse could have endangered their patients but are also concerned for Kevin’s wellbeing. His future in medicine is unclear, but Shelagh says that until he’s received treatment from a facility to make sure he’s no longer dependent on pethidine, nothing has been confirmed. Kevin admits that the hardships of their patients, like that of the Bryant family losing baby Warren and the man who died from meths drinking, have taken a toll on him, which often leads to his use of the drug. When he asks Dr. Turner if he’s ever broken down on the job, Dr. Turner admits that he has but that he’s become a better doctor for it. Though it’s the end of Kevin’s journey at Nonnatus House, there’s no saying what the future holds when he fully recovers.
It’s Not a Goodbye, It’s a See You Later
When the midwives return to Nonnatus House after their meeting with the board, they plan a celebratory bonfire night for the neighborhood. The gathering is a beautiful reminder that they have and always will be at the heart of their community. Possible demolition, growing hospitals, and increasing rent still threaten their work, but there’s nothing like caramel apples, games and fireworks to put their minds at ease. Not to mention, a straw figure that closely resembles a board member who shall not be named may or may not be sitting atop their main attraction as it’s set aflame. With all their loved ones around them, while also remembering those who have passed, the group closes out this chapter of their story with hope for the days ahead. We too cannot imagine what we’d do without the ladies of Nonnatus House and the familiar sound of a midwife calling.
Forgot how we got here? Catch up on “Call the Midwife” with the Season 9, Episode 7 GIF Recap.
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