Black Cake (2023) s01e07 Episode Script

Birth Mother

BYRON: Previously, on Black Cake
ELEANOR: London wasn't exactly safe,
but it was the devil I knew.
I could blend in.
Until I realized that the
longer you go without being seen,
the smaller and smaller you become.
Until you all but disappear.
B and B you have a sister.
A secret I couldn't bring myself
to even share with your father.
Your mum, did she mention my
birth father in the recordings?
She was assaulted
by her employer around
the time you were born.
Mabel, my first born.
The moment I held you, I knew
I wanted to be your mother.
But by that point, it was too late.
Because the truth is, I
didn't choose to let you go.
You were taken from me.
ELEANOR: By the time I left Scotland,
I was in a daze.
Trying so hard to block out
everything that had happened.

I told you before that I ran into
Gibbs when I got back to London,
but in truth,
it was nearly a year
before that happened.
And those first few weeks
back just seemed to slip away.
ELEANOR: Up until I
started feeling sick.
You don't have the flu, Ms. Douglas.
Oh, that's a relief.
The nausea, the fatigue, the dizziness,
these are all classic
symptoms of early pregnancy.
I take it this isn't the
news you were expecting.
Do you remember when your
last menstrual period began?
I don't know.
Two months ago maybe.
And you didn't think to
come in earlier for an exam?
Do you know who the father is?
I was working in Scotland
when my supervisor took advantage.
That's the only time
it could've happened.
DOCTOR: I see.
Well, young ladies these
days are so liberated,
it's no great wonder when
these predicaments come about.
Do you have any family nearby?
Anyone you can ask for help?
No, I'm on my own.
What about employment?
Do you have a means
of supporting a child?
I haven't been able to find any
work since returning to London.
the good news is you
have options nowadays.
If you choose to terminate,
it's quite safe and perfectly lawful.
I can provide you with
a referral if you like.

I'm sorry, I-I just need
I need some time to think.
DOCTOR: Of course.
Although you mustn't wait too long.
Time is of the essence.
good luck to you.

ELEANOR: Back then,
there weren't many housing
options for people of color,
and I couldn't go back
to the boarding house
with the island girls.
I was dead.
So I found a place where
I wouldn't be recognized.
ELEANOR: I had no plan
and no support.
ELEANOR: I just kept
wishing that this thing,
this problem,
would somehow disappear.
And I had learned long before
that I was on my own.
PEARL: I know you're
still angry at me, Covey.
Believe me,
baking a cake for a wedding,
like this,
for you,
it's not what I ever wanted.
I know Pa made you do it.
I just wanna be left alone.
I brought you something.
From your mother.

When she left the island, her
plan was to come back for you.
But she asked me to hold
onto this just in case.
So you'd always have a piece of her.
A part of me was hoping maybe she'd
[SHARP INHALE] show up today,
somehow fix all of this.
She would be here if she could.
- I know
- Stop.
If she ever really cared about me,
she never would've left
me in the first place.
I don't want nothing from her.
She's not gonna save me now.
And neither is my pa.
And neither are you. So
please just go away.

ELEANOR: I needed to make a decision.
But I could hardly
even hear myself think.
And I found myself begging
for some kind of answer
or sign.

Hello, child. Can I help you?
I'm I'm sorry.
I-Is the church closed?
No. No.
You seem upset, dear.
May I help?
That's okay. Let it all out.
You have no idea how long it's been
since anyone has said
anything genuinely kind to me,
[SNIFFLES] let alone
someone from the island.
Are you in trouble?
Are you in the family way?
Well, you've come to the right place.
Now, when was the last time
you had anything to eat?
NUN: Church runs this place
especially for unwed mothers.
So you can take comfort
knowing that you're not alone.
We offer room and board free of charge.
And when the time has come,
we'll help to place the
child into a loving home.
So you won't have a
thing to worry about.
How does that sound to you?
Better than I could've hoped for.
Thank you.
Normally, we would sit
down for an intake first,
but since it's late, we can
save that for the morning.
For now, I would like to
introduce you to the other ladies.
Quiet, girls.
Hello, everyone. This is Eleanor.
She'll be joining us here for now,
and I trust that you'll
make her feel right at home.
Sister Madeline, may I
help Eleanor get a plate?
Yes, you may. Thank you, dear.
I'm Irene.
How do you feel about beef stew?
Well, to be honest, I haven't
been able to keep much down lately.
The first few weeks, I could only
eat cheese and Marmite sandwiches.
In fact, I just about ate my weight
in cheese and Marmite sandwiches.
How about some plain broth
with bread and butter?
That ought to settle your stomach.
Sounds perfect.
So how far along are you?
Almost three months, I think.
I'm just a little further than you,
so we'll be due around the same time.
How fun.
Are you still with the baby's father?
Don't worry.
Most of the girls here are
in the same boat as you.
I'm one of the lucky ones.
My boyfriend, Tommy, and I have been
going together for almost two years now.
And he knows why you're here?
Although he never wanted me
to come in the first place.
COVEY: What do you mean? Why not?
Sorry. I don't mean to pry.
You don't have to tell me
anything you don't want to.
But you should know, I'm
very good at keeping secrets.
My parents have never approved of Tommy.
They forced me to come here.
They've been telling everyone
I'm studying in Brussels.
But me and Tommy have a plan.
He's going to sneak me out
of here when the baby comes.
We're getting married,
and we're keeping Henry.
He's going to be a boy. I just know it.
Tommy wants to name him after his dad.
That's quite a plan.
Where will you go?
Do you have a place to live?
Not yet.
But Tommy's got a good job at
a factory, and he's saving up.
think I'm mad, don't you?
No, not at all.
I just think you must
really want to be a mom.
What about you?
Not now.
Maybe not ever.
IRENE: Well, you're in
good company at any rate.
I'm glad you found
your way here, Eleanor.
So did you have everything you
needed in the dormitory last night?
Yes. Thank you.
It was comfortable and quiet.
Good. I'm glad that you're settling in.
Now, a few ground rules.
As I told you before,
there is no cost for you to stay here.
But to cover expenses,
all our girls are expected to help
with the cooking and the cleaning.
Are you prepared to do so?
Of course.
I'm not afraid of a little hard work.
Good. Glad to hear it.
Now, I'll have you complete
these forms on your own.
Date of birth, etcetera.
And may I just ask,
what is the race of the baby's father?
he's Scottish.
Alright now, one last thing.
By signing this,
you are allowing the church to
find a good home for the child
with a stable family.
Do you understand, Eleanor?
I just want to get through all
this and move forward with my life.
You're making the right decision
for yourself
and for your child.

ELEANOR: From that moment on,
my days were full,
from dawn until dark.
The work was hard.
But it was also a welcome escape.

And so the months slipped by,

And I did my best not to think about
what was happening inside my body.
Baby's heartbeat sounds perfect.
Would you like to hear it?
No, thank you.
MIDWIFE: Have you been
feeling a lot of kicks lately?
They usually start to get
pretty active around now.
I don't know.
I haven't noticed.
The little one should be about the
size of a head of lettuce by now,
and they love to roll
around doing somersaults
Please, I'd really rather
not know. Thank you.
If it's all the same to you.
Alright. As you like.
Let's get you onto the scales.
You haven't gained enough
since your last appointment.
I can't keep anything down.
It's late in your pregnancy to
still be having morning sickness,
though some women just never
feel well until the baby comes.
Did your mother have the same
problem when she was expecting you?
I wouldn't know.
But this thing is making
me sick around the clock.
Look, I can see that you're trying
to distance yourself from this baby.
And that's fine, I understand.
But there is a baby in there
whether you like it or not.
And if you don't feed it
the nutrients it needs now,
then it'll turn out to be a sickly child
and no one will want to adopt it.
What am I supposed to do?
Everything I eat just
comes back up again.
Try smaller portions more often.
I don't care if you eat nothing but
chips or gherkins or custard creams.
Just find something you can
keep down and eat it every day.
Do you understand?

What is it?
It's Tommy.
He's changed his mind.
He says he's not ready
to be a father after all.
He's not coming to get us.
[CRYING] I can't let
them take my baby away.
But you signed the paper, didn't you?
We all did.
m-maybe I can still find a way.
M-Maybe I can sneak him out after
he's born, when no one's watching.
M-Maybe I can raise him on my own.
[SNIFFLES] What am I asking you for?
You chose to be here.
Nobody forced you.
How would you understand?
I told you before that
I could keep a secret.
So if I tell you one of mine,
do you promise to do the same?
Of course.
Before I came here, I
was working in an office.
And my supervisor had
had been so kind to me.
I thought he was someone I could trust.
But one day,
he attacked me.

That's how I ended up here.

Eleanor, I had no idea.
This baby wasn't conceived in love,
not like yours was.
But even though you and I
have very different stories,
somehow we've both ended
up in the same predicament.
My parents will hardly speak to me.
Everybody's turned their back.
If there's one thing I've learned,
it's that the only person
you can truly count on
is yourself.
So you have to ask yourself, honestly,
are you gonna be able to
raise this child alone?
Are you gonna be able to find a job
and a place to live?
Are you gonna be able to look
into that child's face every day
and be reminded of his father?
I know, for me, I couldn't do it.
But I want this baby.

How am I supposed to just give him up?
You have to do what I've been doing,
and remind yourself he isn't yours.
He belongs to some other
woman, some other family.
And he'll have a good life with them.
Better than anything
you or I could provide.
The sooner we can get through this,
the sooner we can put it all behind us.
Come now, girls, this isn't social hour.
Don't you have chores to do?
Coming, Sister Janette.

MIDWIFE: There it is. Praise God.
MIDWIFE: Strong and steady.
You've got a little
fighter in there, Eleanor.
Can I hear it?
Oh, surely.
Right there.
It's so fast.
MIDWIFE: That's normal.
They're growing so rapidly,
the heart has to pump
extra hard to keep up.
IRENE: Do you need anything before I go?
No. Thank you.
I just don't know what I'm
gonna do with myself all day
with nothing to distract me.
If I were you, I'd be thrilled
not to have to scrub
another dirty bed sheet.
Enjoy your bedrest.
SISTER JANETTE: It's quite easier.
UNWED MOTHER: Thank you.
I keep it by the bed.
ELEANOR: I had felt
little flutters before,
but I ignored them.
Now for the first time,
I started to wonder
about this little life
moving around inside of me.
Was it a boy?
Or a girl?
Would she have my eyes
or my mother's smile?
And what kind of hopes and
dreams would she have one day?

What is it? What happened?
[STRAINING] Something's wrong.
It hurts!
Someone go wake up Sister Madeline!
Tell her Irene needs help.
Please! Now! Hurry!
My belly feels like a fist.
[PANTING] What's happening to me?
I don't know.
Just squeeze my hand
when it hurts, okay?
ELEANOR: The night
Irene went into labor,
we had no idea what labor even was.
SISTER MADELINE: It's all right, Irene.
Settle down.
We are taking you to the hospital now.
ELEANOR: Nothing had
been explained to us.
What's wrong with her?
Is she gonna be all right?
The baby's coming. Everything is fine.
ELEANOR: Everything
was shrouded in mystery.
girls get back to sleep.
It's none of your concern.
ELEANOR: So all I could do was wait.
Irene, I've been so worried.
How did it go?
SISTER JANETTE: She needs to rest,
and so do you.
Now leave her alone.
Let her sleep.
I'll be back later to check on you.
How do you feel?
Is everything okay?
Where's little Henry?

I was wrong.
It wasn't a boy after all.
She's down in the
nursery now, I suppose.
How is she?
What did you name her?
I didn't give her a name.
But they told me that she was
the third baby born this month.
So they just wrote "Baby
Number Three" on all the forms.
Well, even though it wasn't
a boy like you planned,
it could still make you feel
better to give her a name.
Maybe something meaningful to you.
But she's not my baby.
So there's no point in
naming her, is there?
She's just Baby Number Three.

And yours will be Baby Number Four.
Or Five.
Or Six.
The sooner we can all
get on with our lives
and put all of this
behind us, the better.
- Right?

IRENE: It's adoption day.
Hope one of those couples will
take a liking to Baby Number Three.
Say a prayer for me, won't you?
Of course.
She's so precious, I'm sure
they'll be fighting over her.
They better.
I feel like a dairy cow.
I don't understand why they
keep us here for six weeks
when they can just buy formula.
They say it's the cost.
- it's what's best for the baby.
- But what about us?
I don't know how much more I can take.
Eleanor, what are you doing out of bed?
I'm sorry, I ju I just cannot
find a comfortable position.
Well, that's too bad because
the midwife was quite clear.
You plant yourself back in that bed
'til you're instructed to do otherwise.
Now, Irene, those floors aren't
going to scrub themselves, are they?
IRENE: Coming, Sister Janette.
MATHILDA: Breathe deep and wide, Covey.
Deep and wide.
Deep and wide.
You're not coming with me?
MATHILDA: Breathe deep and wide.
MIDWIFE: Eleanor, you have to breathe.
If you want to swim on
your own one day, my girl,
you must learn to control your breath.
Breathe deep and wide.
And take it one stroke at a time.
Ready to try one more time?
What are you afraid of?
What's underneath. What I can't see.
MIDWIFE: You have to breathe.
- MIDWIFE: Eleanor
Breathe deep and wide.
And I'll be right here.
Breathe in.
In. Out.
I wanna see.
Calm down, dear. We do
this with all the girls.
It's what's best.
[GRUNTING IN PAIN] No! I need to see!
MATHILDA: Breathe in.
- Breathe in.
- MIDWIFE: That's it.

Is the baby okay?
Miss Sheila, is the baby okay?
Miss Sheila, please.
SHEILA: Congratulations.
We have ourselves a
healthy, thriving girl.
- Mm. You're so sweet!
SISTER JANETTE: And so easy to place.
SHEILA: Feeding time.
Down you go.
ELEANOR: "So easy to place." Of course.
My sweet girl with a shock of dark hair
and a birthmark on her
perfect little pink head.
- SHEILA: Come on, Eleanor.
The baby will latch better
if you scoot down a bit.
Her name is Mathilda.
ELEANOR: Before I met you, my firstborn,
I was afraid that you
would be a reminder
of that horrible thing
that happened to me.
And then, all of a sudden,
my past didn't matter.
All of a sudden,
- you were my future.
My everything.
You'll feed every two hours.
And you'll do so in the
nursery, no exceptions.
One of us will wake you
to keep you on schedule.
IRENE: Please take her away.
- Please! I can't do this.
- NUN: You need to try again.
IRENE: Please, just
take her away. I can't.
NUN: She needs to
feed. Pull the chin up.
What on earth is going on?
It doesn't matter what I
do, this baby will not feed.
Hush, child. Untuck the baby's chin.
IRENE: I've tried that already!
I'm not a machine. Just
You take her. I can't do this.
You must try. She's starving.
Untuck the baby's chin.
- She bit me!
- Quiet yourself, Irene.
And keep at it.
- See! She won't stay on.
- Dear God.
IRENE: Please, just
let me go back to work.
I can't do this.
NUN: She won't latch, what
other choice do we have?
You only upset her anyway.
Go on, escort Eleanor
back to the dormitory.
Could I maybe sit with her
for a little bit longer?
She did not feed much at the hospital.
We have them on a schedule.
It makes for an easier
transition when they're placed.
Irene, go on.
Well, you did it. You're one
step closer to the finish line.
How are you feeling?
Yes, of course.
When the shock wears off,
you'll feel like a split turkey.
You'll want to slip into that.
- To heal your privates.
It's awkward,
but like everything else in this
hellhole, you'll get used to it.
How lovely. Did you do this?
Me and the other girls.
Thought it was about time we
were, I don't know, acknowledged.
After all we put our bodies through.
Do you know what I mean?
I do.
Especially considering we don't
even get a couple of days to recover
before they send us back to work.
At least we get to rest during feedings.
I'd rather scrub floors
until my knuckles bleed.
- Stop it.
- Stop what?
Acting like you don't
care about your baby.
It's not my baby, remember?
I'm sorry I said that, Irene.
But it was months ago.
I didn't know.
I couldn't have known.
Now that I do, I think
I think maybe you should
try and bond with her.
I can't.
Not when I know she isn't mine.
But if you enjoy the
time you do have with her,
feed her, soothe her,
maybe it'll make this
time less miserable.
Maybe years from now,
it'll be the one thing you hold on to.
Can't you just try?
I know you're tired of pretending.
Believe me, I understand how hard it is.
Don't worry about me, Eleanor.
In a few weeks, this will all be over,
and I'll be able to
move on with my life.
We both will.

- [CLAPS] Time to feed.
SISTER JANETTE: I hear ya. I know.
COVEY: Where's Irene?
it's any of your business,
but she's been discharged.
- But it hasn't been six weeks.
She was unable and unwilling to nurse.
We needed to free up the bed.
- Where did she go?
Home? But her parents
They came to pick her up this afternoon.
It was quite a warm reception.
They're eager to move on,
as a family.
Hush now.
We have a hungry baby on our hands.
Hello there, Mathilda.
Are you hungry, my sweet girl?
I'm here.
SISTER JANETTE: Oh, it's a bit of rash.
Terrible stuff.


And where do you think you're going?
I don't know.
I just
I have to get outta here,
and I have to take her with me.
I understand.
You do?
Of course. It's perfectly
normal to feel this way,
so close to the birth.
But let me ask you something.
How far you think you're gonna
get with two diapers and a blanket?
The child won't survive.
Neither will you.
You're not in your right
mind to make such a decision.
You've been waking up
all hours of the night,
barely eating or sleeping.
Why don't you get some rest?
And we'll talk about
all this in the morning.

You're right.
I'm so sorry to have
worried you, Sister Madeline.
[SOFTLY] That's okay.
You go and get some sleep.
Right now, you're in a fog.
But tomorrow, everything
will be much clearer.
I promise.
ELEANOR: I had grown
accustomed to pretending.
Pretending I was a girl raised by
my grandmother in the mountains.
Pretending I was an orphan nurse.
And now, I would pretend
that I was the same person
who walked into that
home for unwed mothers.
A young woman unwilling
and unfit to be a mother.
But I knew something
Sister Madeline did not.
I knew that love was enough
to make me a fit parent,
that I was enough.
I just had to wait until
the right moment to prove it.

I'll be home soon, my girl.

PEARL: The boat leaves
in an hour, Mathilda.
You'll just make it if you hurry.
I'll write to you when I reach America,
and then I'll be back for Covey,
when I find somewhere
safe for us to start over.
Here. It's my share of the cake money.
No. I can't accept this.
You have your own family.
You are my family.
Promise me you will protect her,
and wrap your arms around
her for me every single day.
- I promise.
Now go.
Go on.
Before you lose your nerve.
Where's Mathilda?
Wh-Why didn't anyone wake me
to feed or for morning chores?
Our mistake. Get dressed and head
on down to the kitchen, will you?

Sister Madeline!
Sister Madeline!
MAN: What a beauty.
Oh, she's absolutely perfect.
Oh, would you look at that,
Ron? I think she smiled at me.
What are you doing?
me take care of this. Hello
Sister Madeline, you
have to stop this! Please!
SISTER MADELINE: Everything is fine.
- Give her to me! That's my baby!
- Everything is fine.
- No, you lied to me!
- No.
Please, don't do this to me!
- Please, please!
- Oh, okay.
I-I changed my mind.
I take it all back.
- It's too late!
- No! I didn't know what I was doing.
I didn't know what I was signing.
Please, I want her. Please!
That's my baby!
- No! Mathilda!
[SCREAMS] No! No! Please!

praying for a baby for years.
And they've agreed to keep Mathilda
as her middle name at my request, so
A little piece of you
will be with her always.
Take comfort in that, will you?
Come on, dear.
Let's get you packed and on your way.
[CRYING] Where will I go?
You've done a good thing.
God will lead the way, child.
ELEANOR: I will never
know what kept my mum away.
If you're travelin' ♪
To the north country fair ♪
ELEANOR: But I believe,
with all my heart,
that she wanted to come back for me.
Remember me ♪
To one who ♪
ELEANOR: I have to believe that.
Oh she once was ♪
A true love of mine ♪
ELEANOR: For weeks, I walked
the streets, hoping I'd find you.
Speak now, brothers and sisters.
Let our burdens be known!
ELEANOR: And then I saw him,
my reason to keep living.
See for me that her hair's ♪
ELEANOR: If Gibbs Grant had only known
what he was getting into that day
when I nearly walked in front of a bus,
instead of into his arms,
I'm not sure he would've kept walking.
But I'm so grateful that he did.
[ON RECORDING] Just as I am
grateful for the time I had with you,
Mabel Mathilda.
You must know, my firstborn,
that even if I couldn't find the
courage to tell my family about you,
you are always here with me.
With us.
You are everywhere.
- Know that.
I'm sorry. I just, um
I just need a break. [SNIFFLING]
the daffodils.

I am so sorry.
For coming here unannounced
and storming out
yesterday like a madwoman.
come on.
There's something you should see.
- Ma was obsessed with this garden.
- BYRON: Hmm.
And now, after hearing her talk
about the daffodils in bloom
when you were born
She planted these for you.
I hope that you will
find comfort in knowing
that you are not alone in this world.
As I reach the end of my time here,
I find myself feeling closer
to my mother than ever before.
If only I had more time to
find out what happened to her.
Maybe you can do that for me, my loves.
B and B, I don't know how you will feel
after hearing everything
I've had to say.
You may be upset.
You may be asking yourselves
if you can ever really know who I am.
And this is what I need you to hear.
You have always known who I am.
Who I am is your mother.
[ON RECORDING] My children,
I've reached the end of my story.
This is it for me.
I realize, of course,
that I'm leaving you with
so many unanswered questions,
particularly about my wedding.
And I understand if
you still want answers.
So you deserve to know that
there is still someone out there
who can give them to you.
Someone who knows what really happened.
Although, I must admit
I'm afraid of what you'll
think if you find out the truth.
So please,
before you go digging into the past,
just know that it might
not be what you expect.

And please,
try to understand that nothing
about that night was easy.

But in the end,
it had to be done.


Previous EpisodeNext Episode