I was watching Call the Midwife today and I got up to the fairly recent episode where May’s mother turns out not to be dead and comes to London wanting her daughter back. It’s one of the very few CTM episodes I don’t like* because no-one seems to act in a sympathetic way towards the bio mother at all. She’s presented like an obstacle the heroic Turner family must overcome rather than a person in her own right. And there’s this conversation (paraphrased)
May’s mother: I work for an English family, I already have a job looking after children.
Sister Julienne: And what’s going to happen when your employer finds out you have an illegitimate child?
Um surely the employer is the person you should be going to, then, Sister?! And it’s also galling because the nuns have been in situations like this before and they’ve managed to find work for unemployed single mothers. But, nothing.
The situation isn’t really Patrick and Shelagh’s fault I guess, since they had no way of knowing May wasn’t an orphan and they clearly do love her. But May’s mother was right when she said “my daughter won’t even know she’s Chinese” because so far they haven’t really done anything at all to connect May with her heritage, they haven’t taught her the language or anything. (Granted that’s probably hard with a child her age but they could’ve learned the language themselves and spoken it around her, anything like that.) So I mean, really there was nothing anyone could’ve done to keep May’s biological mother in her life? Arrange for visitations between them, letter-writing, anything?
Obviously CTM takes place in the Sixties but I think if it didn’t, if it took place in the modern day, the Turner parents and the adoption agency would be considered absolutely the villains of the story. And this isn’t anti-adoption! I am very very pro-adoption! But oh man does it need to be done with better care than anyone in Call the Midwife is currently taking.
*This episode also involves the death of a baby so yeah, it’s upsetting all round.