Ruby Roberts was a young mother of three who appeared in Series 2 Episode 4. Before the start of the series, Ruby had two daughters with her husband Douglas, and, in this episode, she gave birth to a baby son with spina bifida. She is portrayed by Leanne Rowe.
Douglas Roberts is first shown gambling with Fred on whether his baby will be a boy or a girl. When Ruby is first shown going into the antenatal clinic for a check up, she is shown to be rather snobbish to other women, particularly Joyce, who shows disdain for her attitude. Ruby haughtily boasts to the other woman that her husband has been promoted, to which Joyce replies that they live in the same place, and that she isn't better than the rest of them - "Your backside don't smell of roses either". Ruby counters saying that hers smells of lavender and leaves with her nose in the air.
That night, Ruby and her husband go to bed, and Ruby remarks that this baby doesn't move like the others. Douglas is not concerned and says the baby is too laid back to put up a fuss and squirm around all the time.
When Ruby goes into labour, she says she thinks the baby is too early. Sister Evangelina, who helped Ruby through her last two births (and insisted on helping with this one), assures her it will be over soon. As Douglas anxiously reads the paper, listening to his wife groan up the stairs, Ruby soon gives birth to a baby boy. However, Nurse Lee and Sister Evangelina are stunned silent to see the baby have a cyst low on its back. Both women know what it means, and Jenny is distraught, and is unable to help the sister. Sister Evangelina quickly gathers herself and tends to the baby.
Sister Evangelina keeps the baby boy away from his mother, and when Douglas arrives to celebrate with his wife, the nurses refuse to let him in (despite Ruby saying she wants him with her), citing the afterbirth as an excuse. When the door closes, Ruby jokes that "he's seen worse after ten years of marriage".
Ruby listens to her baby coo as Sister Evangelina dresses the wound on his back, and she says she loves that sound. When she sees Nurse Lee sniffle, and when the nurse asks her if she'd like some water, Ruby realizes something is wrong with her son. She sits up and demands to know, and as the sister holds the newborn, she says the baby has had "complications" and that there's a "problem with his back". Nurse Lee rings for the doctor.
Dr. Turner arrives and explains to the confused and heartbroken parents that the baby has hydrochephalus, "water on the brain", that was caused by the break in the spinal cord. Sister Evangelina continues to cradle the baby, as neither parent seems to be able to, or want to. The newborn is then transferred to the London Hospital.
As Ruby falls into despair and depression, Douglas is shown to be taking care of their two young daughters, while their son stays in the hospital.
Some time later, when the baby is ready to come home, Nurse Lee arrives to check in on Ruby. Douglas is shown to still be hurt over their son's condition, and when Jenny goes to see Ruby, she finds Ruby in front of the mirror, happily doing her hair and make up. Jenny is surprised to find Ruby out of bed, and Ruby replies that "it doesn't do no harm to look good, does it?". She goes on to say that she can't "wallow forever". When Jenny tries to bring up the baby, Ruby cuts her off and asks if they'll have him back soon. Ruby seems very pleased to know that he'll be back soon, though she does not want to discuss his condition.
Later, at Nonnatus House, the nurse discuss spina bifida at the dinner table. Sister Monica Joan gently tells Jenny that when she first encountered a spina bifida birth many years ago, the "humane course for treatment was considered to be chloral hydrate" or a sedative, that would "let the child pass peacefully". The other nurses are horrified, but Sister Julienne says that in those days there was little to be done and it was considered a kindness. But now, with new medical advances, there is much to be done. Ever blunt, Sister Evangelina says that the baby will likely be confined to a wheelchair, have no bowel control, have kidney complications, and a short life.
Sister Monica Joan remarks that green potatoes are the cause of spina bifida, and Cynthia replies that it's recently been proven a myth. Alas, the actual cause remains unknown.
When the Roberts baby returns home, bandages on his legs, Ruby does not get up to see him in his cradle. One of their daughters ask what's wrong with his legs and the parents are at a loss of what to say. Douglas, seeing his wife is about to cry, quickly ushers the girls out, leaving Ruby alone with her baby, though she doesn't go to him when he begins to cry.
When Jenny arrives later in the day, she tries to encourage Ruby to feed him. Ruby vehemently refuses, saying her milk dried up and that he has powdered milk. When Jenny relents and asks Ruby to hold him while she makes up a bottle, Ruby shakes her head no. Ruby expresses guilt for why her son has spina bifida. She says Douglas wanted her to stop working when she got a bit further along in pregnancy, but she refused, and rested baskets on her bump. Jenny tells her not to blame herself, as lots of women work. Ruby asks why can't she blame herself, as "he came out of me like that". She goes onto to ask if this was God's way of punishing her for vanity and pride, and Douglas' gambling. Ruby begins to cry, asking herself "what did we do?".
Downstairs, Douglas smashes a plate in the sink out of frustration. When Jenny arrives to make the baby a bottle, she suggests that he take the baby and girls out for a walk. Douglas refuses. He holds the baby as the nurse makes up a bottle, and asks if Ruby has even touched the baby yet. When Jenny replies that Ruby is not well, Douglas hands the boy back and leaves, grumbling that there's no point.
When asked by Sister Julienne about the Roberts, Jenny relays that she thinks Douglas is capable of seeing it through, while Ruby is still struggling to cope. The Sister says she can sympathise, as Ruby has "dreamt of a perfect healthy child since the day she conceived".
That same day, Sister Julienne sends with Jane to St. Gideon's, a home for mentally and physically handicapped children. When the matron in charge says that most of the children there have families, but there are a small number of abandoned children, Jenny asks how a mother could abandon her child. The matron says that often the mothers feels guilty. Jenny sees how well the children are treated, and how they can grow up happy and surrounded by others who will not judge them, and people who will provide support. When she voices her thoughts that the Roberts baby would do well at St. Gideon's, the matron sternly replies that St. Gideon's is a home in name only, and that if the baby can stay with his family, Jenny must do "everything in her power" to make it happen.
A while later, Jenny tries to get Ruby to bond with her son by going for walks, but Ruby initially refuses. Jenny tiredly says she can't keep taking care of the baby for her, and Ruby does agree to walk with her, but when she steps out, Joyce, the woman who Ruby initially clashed with at the start of the episode, mocks Ruby and the baby, calling him a "cripple" and mocking Jenny by saying she's Ruby's own personal nurse. Joyce leaves by saying "not so high and mighty now, is she?".
That night, a drunken Douglas picks a fight with a group of young men, and is beaten until Reverend Applebee-Thornton breaks it up. Douglas laments that Ruby has "turned her back on [his] flesh and blood".
Once again rendered bedridden, Ruby confesses that she doesn't care what people think. She says she can't hold her baby because if she does she thinks she "might die with the sadness". Ruby begins to cry and asks why they saved her son, when he'll be lucky to live to 16, and will have to live in a wheelchair. Jenny repeats what Sister Julienne said earlier: "Life is never without hope".
Later, Sister Evangelina scolds Jenny for helping the Roberts so much, as it will not help the mother to bond if she's there taking over all the work.
A while later, the Roberts decide to put their son in St. Gideon's. Jenny goes with them, holding the baby, but Ruby won't leave the car, seeming fearful of what she'll find inside the home. Inside, speaking with the Matron, Douglas spies Jacob, and asks why he is the way he is. The Matron simply replies that he was born that way. Douglas asks how he likes living here, and Jacob replies that there's a biscuit factory next door, and that they "get the broken ones".
Douglas is very affected by Jacob's situation, and tells the nurse "I know my Ruby, nurse. And I like a gamble". He goes out to the car and flippantly tells Ruby the home can take him and that they go back home to "pack its things". Ruby is shocked by his brazen attitude and the way he calls the baby "it", but goes along with it, and goes home to pack the baby's things.
Back at their home, with the baby in the cradle, Douglas hurriedly packs the baby's clothes. Ruby seems to be uncomfortable, and says that Jenny was helping them, to which Doug replies "she can't do that forever". As he prepares to go out the door, he tells Ruby to grab "it" meaning the baby. Ruby looks down in the cradle and lets her son grab her finger for the first time. Quietly, she says "He's not an 'it'. He's not an 'it'. He's a baby". When Douglas cheekily asks "yeah?" she snaps back "Yeah. He's my baby boy. How could you think of sending him away?" She then picks up the baby for the first time.
Happily, Douglas goes down stairs and tells her there's been a change of plans. From upstairs, Ruby calls down "Douglas Jr. is going nowhere!". Douglas confidently tells Jenny that their family will be fine.
The last we see the Roberts family is them walking down the street with their baby boy, Ruby proudly showing him off. In voiceover, Jenny relays that "The Roberts baby defied all odds, and thrived, and was cherished always."