Like when they participated in a measles vaccination trial, the Poplar clinic is again at the forefront of modern medicine, instituting pap smears to screen for cervical cancer. Women over 35 who have already had a child are more at risk, but a young woman shows up for the inaugural screenings. Lois Parry is getting married in a month and is worried that there’s something wrong with her: she’s 22, and has never had a period.
Doctor Turner cannot find Lois’s cervix during his examination, so he refers her to the hospital. There, she suffers a humiliating examination by a doctor who uses her as a teaching tool for his group of male medical students. He doesn’t even give her a diagnosis, she tells Trixie and Shelagh through tears afterwards.
Given such inhumane treatment, the midwives decide any future medical interaction had better be through them and Doctor Turner. So it falls to him and Trixie to deliver Lois’s diagnosis: while she appears physically female, she is genetically male, with two male testicles where her ovaries should be. She does not have a cervix, and cannot have children.
Pam and George Sharp are preparing for a child. They lost their first. Pam’s pregnancy this time is going smoothly – but she thinks George might be hiding something from her, as he has been acting strange. He is keeping a secret, but not out of malevolence: he’s been experiencing unusual pain in his gut, and doesn’t want Pam to worry about him.
When Pam goes into labor, George’s pains intensify and begin to come every five minutes or so. Sister Julienne can’t find any reason for them, so she calls Doctor Turner, who sits with George while Julienne and Sister Hilda successfully deliver Pam’s baby daughter. Doctor Turner suspects the anxiety of a pregnancy and grief over a lost child have induced a “phantom pregnancy” in George, where he psychosomatically manifests the same symptoms as Pam. Luckily, that means that once she gives birth, his symptoms also go away – and he’ll never begrudge women a complaint again, having experienced a taste of what they go through in pregnancy.
New mothers like Pam Sharp can attend mothercraft classes at the clinic to learn such necessary skills as how to safely bathe a child. Sister Julienne has asked Sister Frances to lead one of these classes, much to the young nun’s terror. Frances is afraid of public speaking, but with Valerie’s support she manages to overcome her fear and genially teach the expectant parents.
Lucille and Phyllis also have some fears to overcome. Phyllis’s car has broken down, and the mechanic who comes to Nonnatus to fix it is a friendly young West Indian man named Cyril who immediately takes an interest in Lucille. Sister Monica Joan enjoys his company, learning about the car’s engine from him, and at dinner one night she and Valerie smilingly compliment him, hoping to interest Lucille. He’s studying to be a civil engineer and is a part-time preacher – perfect for Lucille. But when he asks her to go dancing, she refuses; she can’t be distracted from her work.
Sister Monica Joan encourages Lucille to give Cyril a chance, and gives the young nurse a cup of tea to bring to Cyril while he works. That leads to a small bit of dancing in the street, but Lucille quickly breaks it off and hastens back inside.
Phyllis pulled a similar move when asked on a date. Sergeant Woolf offers to drive her to her rounds, given that her own car is broken, and when he asks her in the confines of his car if she would go to dinner with him, she quickly hops out without answering. When Lucille later tells her that she regrets turning Cyril down, Phyllis says they both need to stop being cowards and address their situations. And that’s how Lucille finds herself in the sidecar of a motorcycle, being driven by Cyril to a social club for a night of dancing.
Lois Parry is having her own relationship problems. Her intersex diagnosis has engendered an identity crisis. She doesn’t want to tell anyone, not her fiancé nor her mother, from whom she has hidden the fact that she doesn’t have periods. The only person she can talk to is Trixie, whom she has come to trust. But there’s little Trixie can do, besides offer cold comfort.
Lois decides that her fiancé, Paul, will never be able to love her now. She rips up her wedding dress and lies to Paul, telling him she doesn’t love him anymore and can’t make him happy. He refuses to take back the ring. When her mother comes into her room and finds the wedding dress in shreds, Lois reveals her diagnosis.
Lois’s mother marches to Nonnatus House and desperately berates Sister Monica Joan when she opens the door. Sister Monica Joan was her midwife; she should have done something about Lois’s condition when she was born. Sister Julienne intervenes and calms Mrs. Parry down. She reassures her that Lois is still the same person, and that Mrs. Parry should not blame herself for anything.
Lois has yet to accept that she is still the same person, and she tries to commit suicide by overdose. Her sister finds her unconscious, and after being rushed to the hospital, she is revived. Trixie again offers comfort, helping Lois accept herself: “Our bodies are only part of who we are,” she says. And Lois’s mother and sister offer steadfast support and love; this doesn’t change anything about how they feel about her or will treat her.
When Lois returns home from the hospital she finds Paul waiting outside, but she doesn’t talk to him. Her mother tells her he has been waiting there every day. Moved, Lois goes to speak with him and reveals that she is intersex. Like her family, he tells her that he still loves her; in fact, he loves her even more now, no matter that they can’t have children. And yes, he still wants to get married.