REVIEW: Series 5 of Call the Midwife is born
It is Spring 1961 in Poplar, and a new start to the year as our ladies look forward to a new beginning. Things kicked off with a very modern looking, leotard-clad Trixie in a ‘keep fit’ class, and being qualified as an instructor to run her own classes.
The midwives were also given brand new uniforms that were more ‘nipped in’ than the old ones, emphasising their bodies much to the disapproval of the Sisters.
The first baby born last night was a malformed little baby girl who beat the odds and survived her condition despite the consultant’s medical opinion that she would probably not survive overnight as the external malformation – a side-effect of Thalidomide, a drug prescribed to expectant mothers to combat anxiety and morning sickness – was usually an indicator of serious internal malformations. The baby was whipped away from mother Rhoda Mullucks (Liz White) before she could see her. The father unexpectedly saw his new born daughter and exploded to the doctor “How could you let this live!” as he stormed out of the hospital. Pass the tissues.
Meanwhile in the Keep Fit class, Trixie discovered that one of her older participants suffered incontinence and needed medical attention. The poor lady, Olive, who had a prolapsed womb had been trying to manage the situation by shoving a ‘spud’ in her ‘parts down there’. With Trixie’s help, the lady was booked in for an operation to fix her problem. This made her realise how much good her Keep Fit classes could be to the women in the East End who had no idea about their own bodies.
The underlying theme in this episode was clearly about the body, and how most are fortunate to have a normal, fully functioning one that is often taken for granted until something goes wrong with it. The story also showed how precious and beautiful the little life of the baby was despite being born malformed. We were made aware that the life ahead for her would not be an easy one, but that she would be given great love by her mother and siblings. It was very clear that her mother, Rhoda, would see to that.
Rhoda was portrayed as a lady of great courage and bravery, who refused to give her baby up, even though she knew that they would have to endure much in the years ahead. There was an especially great bit of acting when we saw the steely determination in her eyes when she called on her other children to protect their baby sister from other people. With the baby swaddled she looked very much like any other newborn, with her sweet beautiful face peering out from the blanket.
It was only when she was unwrapped that we saw the full extent of her deformity. Therein lies the message. Look past the external presentation and see the real beauty of the person beyond the ravages of their bodies. I am sure that when we saw the precious little newborn babe for the first time, we collectively felt the ‘awww’ factor in our hearts.
“Sometimes in life, we have to be grateful for what we have got, not what we have not got” was repeated by the baby’s mother to her other children when they visited their new baby sister. The father was eventually won over by his wife’s love for their newborn and accepted her as one of the family, having declared earlier: “I ain’t allowing that monster into this house!”
As fully expected there is always much to tug at the heart strings in this popular low key series as it tackles life issues in the deprived area of Poplar. Although unglamorous and not very grand, unlike Downton Abbey, this programme is rich in human stories and never leaves us floundering in the dark mire of despair as it always offers hope in the end with the goodness and love dished out in full measure by the caring team of midwives and nuns. A little bit of of a sparkler for the dark and gloomy nights.