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'Call the Midwife' Recap: Season 13 Holiday Special

Daniel Hautzinger
The cast of Call the Midwife all smile and laugh in front of a Christmas tree
The midwives and their friends celebrate the holidays by recreating a childhood Christmas of Sister Monica Joan. Credit: BBC

Call the Midwife is available to stream for a limited time. Recap the previous and following episodes and other seasons.
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It’s not just Christmas at Nonnatus House: it’s also a time of great change. Trixie has moved out to live with her new husband Matthew, and they’re hoping to form some new holiday traditions as a family – not an easy prospect, since Matthew’s mother is still “fragile” after the loss of her husband.

After learning that Nancy applied to another position because it offered living quarters that could accommodate her daughter Colette, the nuns have set up an apartment for both of them at Nonnatus, furnished with some duplicate wedding presents from Trixie. Colette writes to Santa that she doesn’t need any presents; she already has everything she wants.

Nurse Crane is away taking a refresher medical course, but she calls Sister Julienne every night to plan the relaunch of a midwife training program at Nonnatus.

Mae’s birth mother has sent her a Christmas gift from Hong Kong for the first time, upsetting Shelagh, but Shelagh and Dr. Turner decide to give it to their adoptive child. Shelagh remakes the dress in a size big enough for Mae.

In the wider world, the space age is progressing as NASA prepares to launch Apollo 8, captivating Angela Turner and Sister Monica Joan.

The aging Monica Joan has announced that this Christmas will be her last. She does not believe she will live to see another. She recalls a cherished childhood Christmas in vivid detail to Colette, who tells the adults of Nonnatus about the memories when Dr. Turner diagnoses Sister Monica Joan with depression. Everyone decides to recreate Monica Joan’s Victorian Christmas, complete with a living nativity scene based on a Flemish painting.

Nurse Crane will knit a stocking to fill with the gifts Monica Joan recalls, while Sister Veronica spearheads the nativity. She soon becomes overwhelmed, but gains aid from an unlikely source.

Trixie’s brother Geoffrey has found his life in a bit of flux and has arrived at Trixie and Matthew’s home to stay for some time while he tries to secure a new job. Trixie is happy to have him, but eventually tells him that she and Matthew are trying to start a new life together, and he immediately feels bad and leaves them to their newlywed lives.

He goes to Nonnatus House, where he will rent a room for a few weeks – and prove his worth by helping Veronica plan the nativity. He acquires costumes from a movie studio while Veronica continues to enlist everyone from around Nonnatus to chip in.

Cyril will build a crib and serve as a magi. He’s currently occupied in his role as engineer for the local Council boarding up some basement units in buildings once owned by Matthew’s father that are unsafe to live in. One old woman asks him to keep feeding a cat she befriended. While doing so, he notices one of the men he evicted removing the boards from the door to go back inside.

Cyril tells Mr. Sharma that he won’t report him, but warns that he shouldn’t be living in the roach-infested, waterlogged flat. Cyril returns later with a gift: Fred and Violet have been selling Christmas boxes to the neighborhood, and are donating one for every ten sold. Sharma is enticed by the pineapple and invites Cyril in to share it with him.

Cyril returns with disinfectant to clean and help with the roaches, and Sharma asks for some for his sore-ridden legs. Cyril tells him he should see a doctor, but Sharma gets upset and refuses.

Sister Veronica visits instead and treats the sores, but also recommends a doctor. She thinks Sharma might have diabetes. He again refuses.

Since his unit has no running water or electricity any more, he gets water from a neighbor. He collapses outside the next time he does so, and she calls an ambulance.

He does indeed have diabetes, but panics when he wakes up in the hospital. He dresses and leaves, even though it is snowing outside. As he is slowly crossing the street in the heavy snowfall, a car swerves to avoid him and hits an ambulance that has stopped on the side of the road. Sharma slowly gets to his feet and stumbles onward.

The ambulance holds Sister Julienne and Nancy with a patient, Brenda Shelby. Brenda and her husband tried to have kids for seven years with no luck – which was especially difficult, given her large family – but a new fertility treatment now has her pregnant with twins.

She feels so overstuffed that she can’t lie down. Dr. Turner keeps her at the clinic and the posh doctor who administered her fertility treatment comes to examine her. He forgets her name and dismisses Dr. Turner’s speculation that she might have more than twins. He insists that she have the babies at his hospital, given that she is one of the first patients to use the fertility treatment and the press will be reporting on it.

When Brenda’s labor begins, Dr. Turner is afraid to move her because her blood pressure is high and it’s snowing, but the other doctor insists. Turner and Tim follow the ambulance in the snow.

The babies are ready to come, and Sister Julienne orders the ambulance to pull over while she delivers the first. That’s when the car hits the ambulance, not doing any damage but blocking its path. Dr. Turner decides to bring Brenda to a closer hospital, but the other car must first be pushed out of the way.

In the meantime, Sister Julienne and Dr. Turner deliver the second baby, which is breech. Brenda is bleeding and begins to lose consciousness, but a third baby arrives easily. The ambulance finally reaches the hospital, and the babies are rushed to incubators and Brenda to surgery, where a fourth baby is delivered.

Cecil learns that Sharma left the hospital and goes to Sharma’s old flat with Matthew to search for him. They find him walking through the snow nearby and bring him inside. He won’t let Matthew light a fire for warmth; he’s afraid of fire.

He was in the Indian and then British air force during World War II, as he reveals when he finally allows Dr. Turner to visit him. He was discharged because doctors diagnosed him, essentially, as being a coward. He survived a crashlanding in which he heard the pilot’s neck snap, and then watched the pilot’s body burned to a crisp. He refused to ever get in another plane, and the doctors dismissed him. Hence the fear of doctors and fire.

He never returned to India for the shame of being discharged. Dr. Turner offers to arrange a psychiatrist, while Cyril secures housing for him through an organization for veterans. Cyril also asks him to be one of the magi in the nativity, as a fellow “learned man.”

The baby Jesus in the nativity is to be the newborn son of Toni Douglas. She lost her whole family in the war and has generally been alone, as she is now: her boyfriend is at sea. She and Brenda went to school together, and she bullied Brenda. But they bonded at the maternity home before Brenda gave birth but after Toni had her son, and learned that they were simply jealous of each other as children: Brenda of Toni’s nice clothes from her caretaker, Toni of Brenda’s large family.

Brenda can’t feed her babies on her own, while Toni has been having issues breastfeeding and has too much milk, so she begins to pump for Brenda’s infants. Brenda’s mother in turn brings Toni some treats in the maternity home and gives her a standing invitation to have Sunday dinner with her family. The day before Christmas, Toni’s boyfriend arrives home to see her and his son.

Nurse Crane barely makes it to Nonnatus for Christmas, having injured her back right before her long drive back. She takes a nap in the middle of the drive and arrives at the door of Nonnatus on hands and knees, but Geoffrey, an osteopath, fixes her right up.

Geoffrey has also identified the exact painting on which Sister Monica Joan recalls the nativity from her childhood was based. The angels look like they have Down syndrome, like Reggie – who wanted to be an angel anyway.

Sister Monica Joan is brought to the church in a carriage with Colette, just as she remembers. She beams at the nativity, featuring Trixie and Matthew – as the most recently married couple – as Mary and Joseph, and numerous other of her Nonnatus friends smiling in the tableau.