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Call the Midwife

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Nurse Chummy Arrives

This episode begins with Nurse Jenny Lee cycling to a patient’s home in the wee hours to deliver a baby. This process is becoming more second nature for the young nurse. Nurse Jenny is calm and collected, and I manage to maintain dry eyes during the birth. Victory for both of us!

Then we are introduced to a young woman eking out an existence as a prostitute. Her name is Mary, and she has a bun in the oven. Mary has come her on her own from Dublin and has no family to help her. Mary is told by another prostitute that she will be forced to have it “taken care of”. Let’s not think about what that entails for a woman in the 1950’s.

Thankfully, it’s back to Nonnatus House and the arrival of a new midwife, Nurse Chummy Browne. Nurse Chummy is a tall woman given to clumsiness; I see pratfalls ahead! Blessed with a open temperament, she gives a lovely speech about growing up with six brothers (while changing clothes in front of an embarrassed Nurse Lee, who spends that time staring at the wall). Nurse Chummy arrives in a pink uniform (and with one in "eau-de-nile" a soft yellowish green), but these nurses wear blue uniforms, none of which fit Nurse Chummy. Luckily, she is handy with a sewing machine, so she fixes that problem quickly. She does not know how to ride a bike, so the nurses spend time trying to teach her, but the neighborhood kids circle them and taunt Nurse Chummy, making her fall over.

Poor pregnant Mary has run away from her pimp, stolen money from his jacket (you go, girl!), and manages to meet Nurse Jenny on the street. They share a meal together, and Nurse Jenny has her eyes opened even more about the world as Mary explains her situation. Nurse Jenny winds up bringing Mary home with her to Nonnatus House to spend the night. The next day, Sister Evangelina sends her to Father Joe, who runs a house for unwed expecting mothers. Mary is loath to go outside, scared that someone from her former place of work will see her and force her to have an abortion. She describes seeing a girl have one with a tool resembling a knitting needle, and I think it’s safe to say the audience is also now scared for Mary to go outside.

Father Joe explains to Nurse Jenny that Mary has been sucked into prostitution as many girls are; she met a man who treated her kindly and seemed to care for her, then was pushed into working for him. He tells her that true poverty is never having been loved or respected and not knowing the difference between love and abuse. Nurse Jenny continues to visit Mary throughout her pregnancy at Father Joe’s, but after Mary’s pimp was spotted loitering outside of Father Joe’s, Mary is moved to a similar house out in the country. While there she gives birth to Kathleen, and is obviously very much in love with her child. Her baby is given up for adoption, and Mary is beside herself with grief. Did she know her baby was going to be given up? Did Nurse Jenny? It seemed like a surprise to both of them. We see Mary for the last time as Nurse Jenny is binding her breasts to stop the milk. Mary protests, saying the milk is for Kathleen.

Nurse Chummy proves herself to be an excellent nurse, with a calming and soothing beside manner (when she’s not knocking things over in a spectacular fashion). She wins the respect of the doctor in the clinic after she comforts a woman in the clinic ( Brenda) who has problems delivering babies. Brenda had rickets earlier in her life and the disease caused her pelvic bones to be misshapen, meaning she her deliveries are much more complicated that most. She has had nothing but stillborn children, and is understandably nervous. The doctor is recommending a c-section for this pregnancy, a procedure that is being used more often in the 1950’s.

Nurse Chummy is called to a wedding to help the mother of the bride deliver a baby. It turns out the mother is also mother to one of Chummy's neighborhood tormentors, but she manages to win the boy over with her excellent care of his mother. The baby is presenting in a breech position, so Nurse Chummy calls for help, but manages to deliver the baby by herself as help arrives. Everyone is obviously scared, but Nurse Chummy keeps a cool head and remembers her training perfectly, delivering the baby perfectly. In case you were wondering, the wedding reception is still continuing as the baby is born. I hadn't realized that the "Hokey Pokey" was also for grown ups until then!

At the end of the episode, Brenda has her c-section and is finally a mother to a beautiful baby girl. The narrator tells us that the National Health Service is to thank for the surgery, but I pay scant attention as I am looking at the lovely baby. Brenda names her child Grace Miracle, and I cry.