A Quick Observation: another look at the birth scene

I happened to be checking out the CC music videos that Kate has posted on her website and, by chance, one of them led into the final scene of S4 when L gives birth. I have always liked that scene and watched it again. This time, however, I realized that the interaction between M and L can be seen as a microcosm of their relationship.

L has set out on her own to see the obstetrician when Tommy, the taxi driver, loses consciousness and drives off the road. M comes after her because he knows Tommy is compromised by methanol ingestion, a medical condition he can remedy. He tries to tell L, but the phone reception is not good and she can’t hear him. When M finds the car off the road, he is markedly concerned, primarily about L. But she’s mostly worried about Tommy. The scene in the pub they go to so Tommy can be treated depicts their struggles well.

M forces Tommy to drink vodka to counteract the methanol while L looks on and finds M too rough on T. She tells M that making a mistake like T has done is only human. “People make mistakes, people make a mess of things. It’s called being human, Martin. Most of them learn from that, unlike some people.” What she is saying here is both self-reflective and accusatory. Both L and M have made mistakes and a mess of things. Have they learned from their mistakes? She clearly thinks M hasn’t, and we know he hates to admit he’s made any mistakes. She is another case in point, however. She’s seems more willing to accept her own mistakes, e.g. she takes the antibiotics he prescribes for her UTI after she realizes she’s been taking foolish chances just to be contrary. Nonetheless, she can also be intransigent and volatile.

She soon goes into labor and feels the need to sit down. When M pulls the chair out from under her, I thought it was an unnecessary pratfall, but now I’m wondering if that too is a way of indicating that he’s very nervous and that her support structure (Martin) is rather shaky. He helps her up and then his nervousness becomes prominent. He tells L to stay calm, but it’s he who can’t be calm. In the midst of this tense scene, the EMTs arrive and M yells at them too. Significantly, Martin tells them “she’s having her baby,” and L corrects him saying “no, your baby.” She’s making it clear they are in this together. We could see her comment as an admonishment to him, and it is, but I think it’s also a sign that she acknowledges now that the baby is theirs and not just hers.

M’s way of coping is to try to take control, but in this case he has no way to control events and his anger surfaces again. At this point L finds his attitude unhelpful to her and asks him to wait outside. She banishes him from the room. Properly chastened, M leaves while assuring her he’ll be nearby. He struggles to stay out yet his time away from the action gives him a chance to think.

Now L starts having second thoughts about ordering him out and reconsiders. She tells the EMT: “I’ve changed my mind. Let him in, let him in.” As if they can read each others’ minds, he bursts through the door at that moment, finding it impossible to stay out any longer. He feels compelled to tell her “I was wrong.” No sooner are those words out of his mouth than she motions him to join her. As he kneels next to her, he spills out his heart saying, “I was wrong about you, about leaving, about everything. When I saw that taxi, I feared the worst.” This sequence of dialogue reflects what’s been missing in their relationship. She needs him with her and he needs to tell her how he feels about her. They share a passionate kiss that is soon followed by strong labor pains. Nicely done…their love for each other has been renewed but there is pain ahead.

During the ensuing labor and delivery, L holds M by his suit jacket and pushes and pulls him away from her and back towards her. I now see this as a perfect depiction of their interaction throughout the series. First she pushes him away, then she pulls him close over and over again. All the while Martin is literally getting yanked around by Louisa with a look on his face that shows a combination of concern and bafflement. (I don’t want to ignore how funny this scene is and how much it mirrors what most women in labor are like to their husbands. Women should not be held responsible for their actions during labor and delivery!)

Once the baby is born, M is hesitant to hold him, but L tells him he can learn, and he responds by taking the baby and saying “Yes, I could.” The scene now seems a foreshadowing of the end of S6 when M tells L he needs her help learning how to be a better husband. During S5 Martin has made the transition to being a father and helping with the baby. If he can learn that, there is every reason to believe he can also learn what it takes to be a better husband.

(Another post coming soon)

Originally posted 2014-06-01 16:46:48.

29 thoughts on “A Quick Observation: another look at the birth scene

  1. waxwings2

    Nice insights on the birth scene at the pub. Yes, it can definitely be viewed as a mini reprise of their whole relationship, from their issues with control, rejection, confusion, anger, but especially because the scene stands in as a metaphor for their on again—off again relationship. This is captured best in the moment when Martin, who has been banished from the pub by Louisa, suddenly re-enters with his confession and apology of being all wrong about everything! She is already holding her arms outstretched, waiting for him, and with the kiss, begins Louisa’s exercise, pulling Martin by the lapels of his coat, back and forth, back and forth. We know exactly what this means, don’t we? It is soooo them! And don’t forget how perfect is the choice of the tango music that we always hear in variation throughout: the back and forth dance steps of the tango mirror the back and forth of the lapel pulling—the back and forth of this duo’s relationship. Good one Karen!

  2. waxwings

    Just to clarify my reply statement here: I don’t believe the writers of DM wrote this birth scene in the pub as a deliberate “metaphor” specifically showcasing the Doc/Louisa profile. I think rather, that they wrote it for a script that was faithful to its characters. Each of the personalities were portrayed as faithful to our understanding of who they are. Doc and Louisa in this scene came to it with all their baggage and past grievances, and with their hopes and dreams, fears and phobias, love and trepidations. Thus, we have the final (credible) scene with Martin holding up his newborn son, looking into its eyes, perplexed and terrified at this little being, but also fascinated, humbled, and open to the possibility that he could be a good father to him. We know this as he hands the baby back to Louise with that ever-so-slight smile and easing of his facial tension. Louisa, receiving the baby back, shows her optimism and hope in her own, less-contrained, more natural smile. Can we think anything else, but What a great final scene this is! I never tire looking at it. Kudos to BP. Again. And thanks to Karen for re-raising it for us to recall and consider and relish in our memories.

  3. Linda

    Your analysis of this important episode amazes me. You seem to see things in ways I never do and I love the way you write about them. I absolutely LOVED his face when he held the baby – masterful! It was such a tender moment. As for the push and pull thing, I think it was a metaphor for their relationship but as well, IT WAS ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS!!!!! Series 6 was quite serious and lacking in funny moments which were hallmarks of the early years, so I really enjoyed that. Anyone who has been in labour with their husband by their side could totally buy the way Martin AND Louisa were acting! Most couples are ready to kill each other during labour and it is ONLY because a baby arrives that they get through it alive. Usually, it becomes a funny story to share and most of the venom is forgotten! Martin CAN change and LEARN but one thing he has not learned to do is to figure things out BEFORE they are in CRISIS or up against it. Sometimes I nearly chew my hands off watching him, (and her), wanting them to be the smart people they are and to SAY what they FEEL. I want them to TALK things through to avoid such turmoil and heartache. I guess that would not make for good story lines but I’d sure feel better if they weren’t so hard on each other all the time. Just a bit more tenderness from him and a bit of romantic behaviour would be a refreshing change. Thanks for a great post!

  4. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I, too, doubt the writers wrote the scene entirely as a way to represent the relationship. There’s every possibility that they were unaware of all of the ways it could be interpreted as analogous to the relationship as a whole. Many times writers are surprised by what people see in their writing. These writers seem to have a pretty good idea of what they’re doing, although they may figure some of it out in hindsight. So many good moments in this final scene.

  5. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    You know I agree that so much of the humor was neglected in S6, and I missed it too. I’m afraid it will be quite a surprise if M ever reaches a place where he is proactive. If you are on the edge of your seat, the writers have been successful and they want to keep it that way. I actually think they will be softening M and L’s behavior somewhat in S7, but I don’t expect them to change dramatically. My hope is they’ll go back to the spats but include the humor and the tender moments again. I really appreciate your comments.

  6. Mary

    Thank you for the terrific insight, its always a pleasure to read and absorb!
    This episode was very funny and I totally agree that it was a microcosm of their relationship. Having a baby tends to bring out all the issues between a couple and it is often birth which changes a relationship forever, for better or worse.
    Although they love each other deeply, they both appear frustrated by the push-pull of their relationship. The birth of their baby humbles them in such a way that their troubles are set aside. They realize what matters most and allow themselves to be caught up in the joy of the moment. What a blissful, sweet look on ME’s face as he stares into the face of his son for the first time. All I could think of was his earlier dismissal of Louisa’s comment about bonding with the baby at birth. This doesn’t last of course; the Doc soon reverts to diagnostic mode, commenting on the shape of his son’s head while Louisa gives him a look of exasperation. And then baby wails. Back to square one!

  7. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Good point about his earlier dismissal related to bonding with the baby at birth. It’s one thing to read studies and quite another thing to have the experience personally, isn’t it?

  8. Lynn

    I also really liked the analysis and comments. They reflect what is best about this series in its most stellar episodes. The writing and actors stay true to the characters: complex and contradictory as they are.

  9. Carl Jame

    Here’s a more important question: Why did Tommy have to be dragged into the pub? Wouldn’t it have been much simpler to bring the bottle of vodka out to the car and force feed it to him there?

    Perhaps dragging him into the pub was another metaphor to describe Martin and Louisa’s relationship. Martin has to be dragged kicking and screaming into situations in which he is not comfortable and Louisa is always there whinging about everything.

    This seems just as plausible as all the rubbish in the original post.

  10. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks for your input. You have a point about carrying the bottle out to the car.

  11. Linda

    I just watched that episode and the ones from season 5 again. I found my self quite confused about the time line of it all. In the pub, Martin says that he was wrong about Louisa and wrong about leaving. He doesn’t explain what this means. Shortly after, he is STILL going to London, (although he asks her to go too). He says that things are different now, “now that it’s (the baby) is here.” That thought is just left dangling except for Louisa questioning him about whether or not things had changed. He never tells her (or us) what he meant about being wrong about her. Did this mean he made a mistake calling off the wedding or not being in contact withher for 6 months or what?

    Next, he stays on for a week when Auntie Joan dies. He then agrees to stay in the surgery when Doctor Dibbs goes – supposedly because his locum in London doesn’t want to come from Durbin for less than 2 months. I think he agreed to stay on till the end of October. the baby would then be 4 months old.

    In that time, Louisa and James move into the surgery, they name the baby, and James is supposedly christened (June 26th). Louisa decides to go to London with James and Martin and gives her notice at the school. She goes back to work at the beginning of September, planning to stay till half term. The series cllimax was Mrs. Tishell taking the baby.

    In the next series, they marry but there is no more talk about London. James seems to be aging. I think Lousia told Margaret he was 6 months old? That would mean it was December in Portwenn so one might expect it to be much colder, wetter, and windier. What happened to his job in London? His haemophobia has returned but he has not told Louisa? Is this why they have not gone to London and Louisa is still teaching? Has anyone else wondered about all of this? Maybe I missing something but in retrospect, I think they crammed a lot of events into a very short amount of time. I know I am confused. I wonder how they will start Series 7? Will James be much older or will they just begin where they left off?

  12. Linda

    You are right about the bottle. Wasn’t it interesting too that the car was clean of glass when they left the hospital? It would have soaked the carpet and there would have been shards of glass.

  13. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    The vodka bottle in the pub is one issue. The one in the car is another. All of this can be explained by the action. They need Tommy in the pub so that the rest of the scene can take place there.

    In my post on continuity problems I wrote about the Buddha figure and the bottle of vodka in the car and how they were handled. What I said was that Martin sets the Buddha figure in the back behind the passenger seat and straps it into the seatbelt. He considers the Buddha valuable and doesn’t want the movers to take it. But, when he puts the bottle of vodka in the back seat, he puts it in a precarious position near the Buddha and I found that strange. He could have placed the bottle on the floor where it would be a lot less likely to fall and break, not to mention spill on the Buddha. I wondered whether there was supposed to be some symbolic reason the vodka ended up all over the Buddha, but haven’t found anything to support that. (If you know of anything, please tell me. I know that Buddhists are against intoxicants of any kind because they might cause heedlessness, but I can’t think of a good way to apply that here. We could say that Tommy was heedless in driving while compromised, but he didn’t expect any problems. I just don’t know. When the bottle of vodka breaks, spilling liquor all over the Buddha, is the Buddha being christened like a boat?) Anyway, when M puts Tommy in the car, he places him in the seat where the Buddha had been. It works for filming because we can see Tommy in the back seat, but where’s the Buddha and is Tommy sitting in vodka and glass? As you say, by the time Louisa gets into the back seat, the car is clean and the Buddha is back where it started. How did L get to the hospital after the baby was born? In the ambulance with Tommy? In another ambulance that came after Tommy was taken first? I think we aren’t supposed to get into all those details, and I don’t want to get too wrapped up in them, but there are a few things here that strain logic.

  14. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Here’s my view Linda. When M says he was wrong about L and wrong about leaving, I think he means he was wrong to allow her to deal with her pregnancy on her own so much, and wrong to treat her as if their relationship was now more of a business interaction. I could imagine he feels he was wrong about thinking she wouldn’t make him happy. (It wasn’t only his decision to call off the wedding though. L would have left whether he still wanted to marry or not.) When he says he was wrong about leaving, he means he should not have planned to leave before the baby was born and he could be there with her for that event. Standing outside while she is in labor has made him realize how important she and the baby are to him. She has just told him that people make mistakes and some people learn from these. I think we are supposed to connect that to his reconsideration and see that he has come to the realization that he made mistakes. He’s made a commitment to go to London and his best way of managing that at this point is to have her come with him.

    I think you wrongly calculate the age of the baby. L and M slept together twice in mid-Oct. according to what L tells Edith. That would place the birth at the end of July or early August. The baby would be 2 months old in Oct. I don’t think the christening ever takes place. It was scheduled by M for possibly Sept. 23rd (since the school term has started), but L was angry about being left out of the planning and left M before that date, canceling the plans for the christening. They talk about still needing to plan for the christening when she visits M with the baby, but we never reach that point.

    There is no more talk about London after they marry because when they recover JH from Mrs. T, M tells L that he hates Portwenn but it’s where he wants to be because she’s there. He’s telling her he’s not leaving. After that scene he must have told the folks in London that he wasn’t coming after all.

    When Margaret shows up, L tells her James is 9 months old and that would mean we are now in May by my calculations. (If James is 9 months, as she says, that reconfirms my calculations.) The weather is consistent with the month of May too. It also makes sense in terms of the school schedule. Half-term would be at the end of May and L plans to go to Spain for that because she needs a break from M. (I’m not sure how she can take so much time off except, as I said in a previous post, that she might have asked for a leave due to her broken collarbone and broken marriage.) Once Margaret arrives things do move very fast and fall apart dramatically.

    The only thing I can say about the beginning of S7 is they have rarely started a new series by jumping too far into the future. They could always depart from this practice, but M and L have so much to deal with I would expect them to start off from where we ended. They did that when the baby was born and it makes sense here too, to me.

  15. Santa Traugott

    When Martin writes a check to settle his personal account with Mrs. Tishell, on the day of his leaving, he says specifically, “is it the 14th?” So July 14th I think is the date, which really coincides with about the time schools in England break up for the long holidays.

    DM gets a week extension for Aunt Joan’s funeral; then Chris Parsons asks him for another 2 weeks so he can find a replacement for the inept Dr. Dibbs. Somewhere in that period, they tell him he has to stay for 2 months. Louisa’s resignation was to take effect at about half-term, somewhere in the middle of October, about the time the 2 months would be up. I think all in all that James Henry was 3 months old when S5 ended, and that 3 months had elapsed between the castle scene and the wedding (there was some dialogue that gave me that impression, but I can’t remember exactly). 2 weeks later, Louisa is preparing to return to work. Perhaps she had two weeks off for getting married — coinciding with another half-term break? By the time Margaret arrives, JH is said to be 9 months old. Plenty of time over 3 months for their relationship to deteriorate, I suppose. Then we have Sports Day. Maybe that takes place around the May half-term?

    Time in the series is quite elastic and probably mostly deliberately fuzzy. I agree that they will probably start up close to where they left off, although I think there’s a possibility that S7 will open with them having been separated for some time and Martin finally persuading Louisa that he is serious about marriage counseling.

    Although lately I have been wondering again about Louisa’s hospital bed speech: “THIS doesn’t change anything.” What does “This” mean here? It could mean that the fact that she’s not going to Spain, probably has to return to the surgery, that he has at least finally reached out to her, doesn’t change the fact that their marriage is in trouble, or that she hasn’t decided ultimately what to do about it. So she could be tentatively agreeing to going home, although that isn’t clear, probably left deliberately ambiguous to allow for different stoty lines.

    The “I was wrong” speech is such a great one. I agree with Karen’s interpretation, but I think “I was wrong about you” meant that he recognizes he was wrong to assume that she didn’t want him involved and was in fact pushing him away.

    All the little legal difficulties like breaking your contract with Imperial and getting re-hired by Chris are just brushed aside. I think we’re just meant to understand that they happened somehow.

  16. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I had forgotten about the check date. So that moves up the delivery date to July 14th and when Margaret shows up it is April not May. Possibly late April. That still works pretty well.

    I think you’re right about what L means when she says “this doesn’t change anything.” She appreciates the fact that he came after her and that he made sure her AVM was repaired properly. Nevertheless, they still have a lot of work to do and he should not assume that even the effort he made to save her from devastating consequences has fixed their marital problems. He says he knows, which is a good indication that he doesn’t consider their marital problems ameliorated by the surgery either.

    It’s definitely left ambiguous and I would agree that they do that to give themselves all sorts of ways to handle things, including whether L will go home to the surgery with M or not. For practical reasons it would be easier for her to have James at the surgery in his regular room than to find a place to stay and set up a nursery for him. I agree, though, that they could still start S7 with L living somewhere else and M needing to demonstrate his commitment to working on their marriage. We don’t know if she remembers his plea for help from her in the surgical suite. She was pretty drugged up at the time after all.

  17. Theresa

    I always thought that James had to have been born June 14 since Louisa got pregnant between the 11 and the 15 of October and James was born 2 weeks preterm and we know it was on the 14th. A due date of Aug 1 means she would have gotten pregnant in Nov not Oct. I think the due date was around July 1.
    I also thought that their summer holiday is much shorter than in the U.S. Louisa said something about not having to go back for 6 weeks after the baby was born and so I assumed she only had July and half of Aug for their summer break.

  18. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I think Santa has it right. If you count 9 months from mid Oct you get mid July at the least. Normal gestation period is 38 weeks, or between 9 and 10 months. Summer holiday in England is shorter but they don’t return to school until early Sept. As Santa says, M writes Mrs. T a check and says it’s the 14th. It must be July 14th and that would still put Louisa at 36 weeks.

    I must say I have to laugh that we’re being so precise about this, but they do occasionally mention James’ age and that leads to wondering about when everything is happening in their lives.

  19. Linda

    Hey! Great insight about what he meant when he was at the pub when the baby was born. I think you may be absoutely right. Why do you say Louisa would have left even if he had wanted to marry her? I just think if they had just taken some time to really consider the question of whether or not they made each other happy, things would have been different. There might not have been a wedding. God knows, it was doomed from the get-go. I think they took all that bad luck as some kind of sign that they weren’t meant to be together but they never TALKED about it. that was both DUMB and SAD.

    Because Louisa suggests that the last time they had sex was mid October, it would mean the baby was due in mid July, Of course we don’t know the baby wasn’t conceived earlier. Martin told someone that the baby was born out of hospital, 2 weeks early. Was that possibly doctor Dibbs? That means the baby was born at the end of June, which is the date most schools here close for the summer. I think that is why she could take time to go to Spain. they had their sports day and I felt that the sports day was probably a closing activity for the year. In 9 months, it would be April 15th which would account for the spring like weather. James would not be considered 10 months until May 15th. So you are quite right. I guess the christening did not happen, as you say and Martin must have called off London after Mrs. Tishell took the baby. Considering the length of time, they sure left out a lot of living for that little family didn’t they? I sure think they should have made more of the fact that he didn’t go to London in the end don’t you? I found that quite baffling.

    Now, in season 6, the marriage has happened and they are having the usual adventures as new parents who work. Now the big mystery is why his blood phobia has returned, and why his health has suffered and how they may be connected. We can’t really blame it totally on Margaret because he was already shutting down before she arrived in series 6. Of course, her last visit had been very devastating for Martin and Louisa knew nothing about it. She is clearly trying to find out why Martin is shutting down and not willing to talk to her, and he is obviously trying to find a medical cause for his angst rather than to accept that it is a psychological matter. It would be interesting to connect the dots from the first time he encountered the phobia, to this episode, and see if there is any connection. I wonder if he sought help the first time? We really don’t know much about that do we?

    I guess the big question now is – does she go home from the hospital or not? It looks like she will and it would make sense to begin there as you say.

    Thanks for your help in sorting out the timeline for me. I WAS quite baffled.

  20. Linda

    Yeah, absolutely! Lots of questions about that episode eh? These were someI had not even thought of! Well done! Food for thought!

  21. Linda

    Oh gosh! You interpret this well too! It is SO confusing! I went back to him settling his account and you are right about the date. That throws a wrench into my theories for sure! I didn’t know that English schools let out for the summer in mid July! In Canada, they are out June 29th because Canada Day is July 1 and it is a national holiday. Teachers get 8 weeks off. I think when she says “this doesn’t change anything”, she means the accident, the surgery , etc. I DO get the feeling she will go home though. As you say, it may have been left ambiguously because they haven’t really decided on where it is all go.

  22. Linda

    Just saw the episode called “Don’t Let Go”. It was the day Louisa returned to school. Martin wanted Louisa to look at the pamphlet for St. Benedict’s Prep School. Louisa exclaimed that James was 8 months old and was offended that Martin was making plans to send him to a prep school in Hampshire. It made no sense to me. 8 months before would have been January. So confused!

  23. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Linda, when I watch that episode, I hear both Louisa and Martin say that James is 8 WEEKS old, not months. Somehow you’ve misunderstood what they are saying. Martin also tells L that it’s been two months since she had the baby. Check again if you don’t believe me.

  24. Linda

    You are right – they did say 8 weeks! Silly me. I seem to get confused easily when trying to figure this all out! Thanks!

  25. Linda

    I think “this”, in the comment about this doesn’t change anything, meant her brain VMF and his surgery on her. I think she WILL return home because he told her he didn’t want to pretend things were fine or go back to the way things were either. She replied “OK”. She CAN’T fly so where WOULD she and James go? We don’t know what has happened to her cottage or Mr. Routledge’s place do we? I wonder if she remembers what he said to her just before the surgery? If she did, that would be comforting for her. But if she didn’t, will he say it again or will he just assume, (Martin style), that she didn’t buy what he said? Oh yes, we DO have lots to look forward to!

  26. Amy Cohen

    Great post, and definitely one of my favorite scenes. Martin sure did learn how to care for the baby. From that first awkward way he held him to the next time we see him comfortably and casually holding JH—quite a transition.

    I’ve not much to add, except that I found the analysis of the dates fun and fascinating. I’ve not paid much attention to all that since so much time passes between series in real life, it’s hard to focus on the “Portwenn” calendar. Given all this analysis, how does it fit with the timing of JH’s first birthday in S7?

    Also, I wince a bit each time I read the predictions of what S7 would be like. There was so much hope for a more upbeat, softer set of episodes. Sigh. And it’s also interesting that no one seemed to think that Louisa was going to Spain.

  27. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    As I’m sure you know, I think it made very little sense for her to go to Spain. Your interpretation of Louisa telling Martin “this doesn’t change anything” is the only cogent explanation for how we were supposed to hear that – in other words, she was saying “I’m still going to Spain” even though you chased after me, told me you need my help, repaired my AVM, and are clearly unnerved by the whole event.

    Louisa wants to see him, appears grateful, speaks tenderly to him, and yet she heads to Spain. Not to mention the risks involved with flying and how most people would be in need of some rest post-op. But, no. In S6 Louisa is some sort of super woman. Nothing physical affects her for long.

    What exactly would have changed if Louisa had not gone to Spain, I can’t judge. They could have still gone through the whole thing about not living together and we would have had one more episode they could have used to advantage. Obviously I’m not making these decisions!

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