“Damn you Claire!” Jenny
“That’s right, damn me.” Claire
“I cannae do this.” Jenny
“Yes. Yes, you can.” Claire
The heart of this episode is in the exchanges between Claire and Jenny before, during, and after the birth of sweet baby Margaret. The rough edges of Jenny are shed as she and Claire enter into a respectful, trusting, and supportive sisterhood. As a disclaimer, I am a midwife in my every day life. The topics of women positively supporting women, healthy female relationships, and life coming forth are of utmost importance to me on a daily basis.
Yes there is also an unexpected double cross leading to Jamie being captured by the redcoats, the brotherly connection rekindled between Ian and Jamie, MacQuarrie being humanized, perhaps ultimately having honor, even in his dastardly role as leader of The Watch, and the heart gutting scene between Jamie and Claire discussing her assumed infertility. Good scenes? Yes. Important scenes? Some. I contend the other scenes pale in comparison to what is experienced when Claire and Jenny are interacting. I assure you the material not discussed here is covered and reviewed in my latest podcast.
I found the evolution of these sisters-in-law to be beautiful and intimate. A relationship one can only hope to grow with another woman. The positive modeling of women in relationship matters. All too often women are shown onscreen as hateful, jealous, and competitive toward each other. Time to check off another Outlander for the win ideas.
At the onset of the episode, Jenny comes to Claire’s defense to MacQuarrie as she is a Sassenach married to her “cousin” Jamie. Her good will and heart for Claire are showing. The easy, comfortable discourse between them seamlessly unfolds through the mundane work of running Lallybroch before flowing into the more private and intense event of childbirth.
Jenny’s waters break while doing the laundry. With labor being in the early stages, the wait, watch, distract, and Claire becoming a midwife begin.
The one criticism I have of the labor and childbirth sequences is what happens next. Claire palpating Jenny’s belly through her shift and emphatically stating the baby is breech. Maybe she did a vaginal exam out of camera shot to make certain the umbilical cord was not prolapsed and to assess position for confirmation of what she was feeling externally. Of course no one but an OB, midwife or labor and delivery nurse would want to see that onscreen. Nonetheless, clinically I was begging for more information. Claire decides she needs to perform an external version (turning baby head down via firm directed pressure on the outside of the belly). As a midwife, I am very leery of this process with membranes already being ruptured. The procedure is less likely to be a success because of it and it is more risky to the baby. An external version is quite painful to experience for the mother. Jenny calmly chatting with Claire while Claire grunted and pressed was very awkward and actually left me mouth agape. Someone, likely Mrs. Crook would have been holding Jenny still during the arduous attempts to turn baby. A dram or three of whisky could have been helpful in relaxing her enough to handle it in any event. It would seem Claire has SEEN childbirth but never performed this advanced skill on a woman before. She is great in stressful medical situations, but this one is a bit dicey for me to accept as her area of expertise. Jenny clearly shares not my concerns and wholeheartedly puts trust into her knowledgeable sister-in-law.
The attempt ultimately fails. They decide simply to continue as normal with labor and have a breech baby. This is of course is when they believe the midwife will be coming from the village.
Claire deciding to properly distract Jenny from her strong but early labor contractions, asks Jenny to describe pregnancy to her. The description of early fetal movement is like the wind, strengthening over time to the tug of a fishing line, ultimately to the feelings late in pregnancy when the baby has much force to kick with. Jenny equates those late-term movements akin to what is felt during sex when the man is deep inside the woman and has an orgasm. Claire appears dumbfounded almost. Her expression reads sadness and longing to me. She more than anything desires to feel all of it, even the labor pangs.
Finding out no midwife is coming, Claire assures Jenny the baby can come breech but she will need to help the baby out. Jenny says she’ll need whisky. Claire says then the baby will be drunk as well. Jenny scoffs and said well then he’ll be a true Scot. Of course a dram or two will not make the baby drunk as it would not make Jenny drunk. Her plainness about it is terribly funny and charming nonetheless. Again, they together decide to proceed as normal. They move forward together with a steady ease about them. An unspoken trust of strength and common ground is shared.
After the sweet and heart stomping conversation Jamie and Claire have about her assumed infertility, Claire is back offering her services to her sister-in-law who is on the verge of active. The discovery of Sawny the carved snake Willy made for Jamie as a birthday gift allows for the discussion of more serious things, such as the death of Ellen (Jamie and Jenny’s mother) in childbirth merely two years after Willy’s passing. The matter of fact treatment of this difficult topic is respectful and appreciated. Into the 1900’s women died from postpartum hemorrhage and infection too often. It was a very real fact childbirth was a risky undertaking. Today in westernized countries it is rare to lose a woman to childbirth outside of unusual circumstances. The last 100 years has given us great insight and knowledge of prevention and treatment for the common childbirth problems and so much more. As a midwife I am grateful to have little fear surrounding the process with increased understanding and tools to treat with. The pressure is on Claire to deliver on her promise to keep Jenny safe.
All the men in the house while labor is happening is very bothersome to me. Why are they in the main house at all? Food and beverages could be brought to them elsewhere on the property. It seems highly unlikely to me the men would have chosen to be present anywhere near a laboring woman, nonetheless while she was loudly vocalizing upstairs from them. Clinically, all those people being on the premises could prolong labor. They should have been shooed out. Jenny’s mobility and using upright positions is definitely the right thing to be doing to facilitate the birth.
Jenny’s labor is longer than usual likely because of the breech presentation, though in my knowledge breech deliveries can be quite fast. Second births are generally quick and “buttery”for women. She’s definitely getting the short end of the stick in this labor. Poor Jenny. Claire is doing a fantastic job midwifing her as labor gets active and the men leave to meet up for the raid on the Chisolm’s.
When the labor gets deeply active into transition it is fierce, powerful, and swift. Jenny crawling around, complaining, damning Claire, wanting to give up just before pushing is totally believable and realistic. Women are the most beautiful, strong and capable beings in labor. It is primal grit in bringing life forth. Sometimes vocalizing, yelling, singing, cursing, crying, laughing is needed to get the job done. Labor and childbirth takes every woman to the edge of herself and shows her what she is made out of. It is a process and design that nearly always works without requiring intervention from anyone. Respectful, loving, generous support should be offered. I am in awe of each woman during the labors and births I attend. I am over the moon with Laura Donnelly’s performance. She rocked it out.
It is no surprise that she births rather quickly after she damns Claire. Transition to delivery can be short minutes especially when a woman has had a prior birth. Claire is all in with Jenny. No fear. Steely calm. She is a good midwife.
Jenny moving to hands and knees is a great example of a birthing position. It is a natural position, like squatting for a woman to choose. Hardly ever do women spontaneously choose to be in a reclined or laying back position to birth in. This whole sequence makes me a very happy midwife.
It is wholly acceptable for her to yell her baby out. This is a big intense work to be done. It is a good thing. I adore the look on Claire’s face. I wonder if they all watched unmedicated home birthing videos prior to filming.
The afterglow of birth is caused by the extraordinary high levels of oxytocin and endorphins mixed with catecholamines and adrenaline. Not only does the birthing mother have access to the hormonal high, the baby, and the attendants (including the husband or partner, midwife, assistants, doctors, nurses) do as well. Everyone gets the birth high. The oxytocin bonds the mother to her baby, the baby to her, and often the mother to the birth attendants as well. It is the very worst birth control to witness a positive birth. The experience can be almost addicting and always alluring. Claire’s face says it all.
A healthy vaginal breech delivery of sweet baby Margaret. Jenny is happily surprised she has a lassie.
These women triumphed together in a difficult situation. Breeches indeed happen, but they can be more complicated overall. The bond between them now fortified with a solid foundation under them.
The next days are in waiting for word or the return of Jamie and Ian from the raid with The Watch. Claire frets and worries. This time it is Jenny who is the voice of reassurance and support.
Two beautiful tusk bracelets are gifted to Claire. A wedding gift to Ellen from an admirer, Jenny believes they suit Claire much more than herself. Claire has received full acceptance by Jenny. She IS her family. Her sister.
The smiles are short lived as Ian returns injured without Jamie. Claire is devastated to learn Jamie has been taken by the redcoats after they were ambushed.
The new found friendship between these two extraordinary women is deep and solid. Seeing two women work out their differences, come together in harmony, support each other fully is wonderful modeling. A fine example for others to learn from. This is a core truth to rest upon. I am proud to be an Outlander fan. This episode receives an A overall. Fantastic job by director Metin Hüseyin and lead writer Toni Graphia.
Now in complete chaos and terror, Claire needs to rely on Jenny. She will be Claire’s rock and wing woman as they set out in episode 1×14 The Search to locate and save Jamie.
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