A hospital corridor. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Show Hide image

I was pregnant again. But when the doctor produced a graph I knew that something was wrong

Women’s bodies are very peculiar. I was pregnant and, because I’d had two children already, the feeling wasn’t exactly new: that metallic taste, a strange lightness, the sensation of one’s own flesh being somehow unaccountable.

I also knew something was wrong. The doctor confirmed it with blood tests. When she got out a graph, I knew it was bad. What good news ever came in a graph? Where the pregnancy hormones should be sloping up, mine were a zigzag. “You’re pregnant. But not in the right place. It’s ectopic.” This was no surprise. The surprise had always been that anything could make its way through my Fallopian fortress and turn itself into a human being.

“There’s a new technique,” she said, that meant I wouldn’t have to be cut open. But the day I got to the hospital the pioneer of this technique was off duty. This was a shame because as they were trying to put cannulas into me, I started to feel very cold.

“She’s tachycardic,” I heard them say as they banged me on to a trolley and waltzed through miles of underground tunnel to an operating theatre. “Get some plasma in her now!” they yelled. Christ, I thought, they’re behaving like something off the telly. Internal haemorrhaging, you see, is why ectopic pregnancies can be so dangerous.

I woke up crying, full of tubes and in a mixed ward. A male nurse rushed over and said, “What’s the matter, love?” I pointed over at the bed opposite. “Men,” I blubbed. He rolled his eyes. “Tell me about it. Don’t worry, they’re just cardiacs. You were an emergency. And look . . .” He showed me how to work the morphine syringe driver. “I need to talk to you,” he said.

I imagined perhaps he would offer me counselling, as I’d lost a baby.

“I read your notes and I just have to ask you one thing. Do you know Julie Burchill?”

Weeks later I went back to see the surgeon who had operated on me.

“Thank God,” he said. “I wasn’t going to lose you. I lost the last one in your state on the table.”

“I’m just too old to have any more kids, aren’t I? It’s unnatural.”

“You want natural? That would be having your first child at 16 and dying in childbirth at 26.”

Then he told me he considered it part of his job to help his female colleagues get pregnant.

“None of them want that until they’re consultants. And so usually that’s not till about 38. That’s why my research is on the Transmigration of the Ovum. If you want another baby and you need help, you know where I am.”

I looked up at him. He was gorgeous, a living god of fertility and promise. I did not scream, “Just impregnate me now!” I thanked him for saving my life and got the bus home.

Suzanne Moore is a writer for the Guardian and the New Statesman. She writes the weekly “Telling Tales” column in the NS.

This article first appeared in the 30 January 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Class Ceiling

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

How worried are Labour MPs about losing their seats?

Despite their party's abysmal poll ratings, MPs find cause for optimism on the campaign trail. 

Labour enters the general election with subterranean expectations. A "good result", MPs say, would be to retain 180-200 of their 229 MPs. Some fear a worse result than 1935, when the party won just 154 seats. Rather than falling, the Conservatives' poll lead has risen as the prospect of electing a government concentrates minds (last night's YouGov survey, showing the Tories a mere 16 points ahead, was an exception).

Though Conservative strategists insist they could lose the election, in an attempt to incentivise turnout, their decision to target Labour MPs with majorities as high as 8,000 shows the scale of their ambitions (a Commons majority of circa 150 seats). But as well as despair, there is hope to be found in the opposition's ranks.

Though MPs lament that Jeremy Corbyn is an unavoidable drag on their support, they cite four reasons for optimism. The first is their local reputation, which allows them to differentiate themselves from the national party (some quip that the only leaflets on which Corbyn will feature are Tory ones). The second is that since few voters believe the Labour leader can become Prime Minister, there is less risk attached to voting for the party (a point some MPs make explicit) "The problem with Ed Miliband and the SNP in 2015 was that it was a plausible scenario," a shadow minister told me. "It was quite legitimate for voters to ask us the question we didn't want to answer: 'what would you do in a hung parliament?' If voters have a complaint it's usually about Jeremy but it's not the case that he looks like he can become prime minister."

The third reason is the spectre of an omnipotent Tory government. MPs appeal to voters not to give Theresa May a "free hand" and to ensure there is some semblance of an opposition remains. Finally, MPs believe there is an enduring tribal loyalty to Labour, which will assert itself as polling day approaches. Some liken such voters to sports fans, who support their team through thick and thin, regardless of whether they like the manager. Outgoing MP Michael Dugher (who I interviewed this week) was told by an elderly woman: "Don't worry, love, I will still vote Labour. I vote for you even when you're rubbish."

Ben Bradshaw, the long-serving MP for Exter, who has a majority of 7,183, told me: "We're not anything for granted of course. On the current national polling, the Tories would take Exeter. But having covered five polling districts, although the leadership is undoubtedly a big issue on the doorstep, most people say they'll still vote for me as their local MP and we're not detecting any significant shift away from 2015. Which is slightly puzzling given the chasm in the opinion polls." Bradshaw also promotes himself as "the only non-Tory MP in the south-west outside Bristol": a leaflet shows a blue-splattered map with a lone red dot. The Labour MP warns voters not to be left in a "one-party state". 

As in 2010, Labour may yet retain more seats than its vote share suggests (aided by unchanged boundaries). But the fate of the Liberal Democrats in 2015 - when the party was reduced from 56 MPs to eight - shows that local reputations are worth less than many suppose. Theresa May has succeeded in framing herself as a figure above party interests, who needs a "strong hand" in the Brexit negotiations. At the very moment when a vigorous opposition is needed most, Labour has rarely been weaker. And when the public turn resolutely against a party, even the best men and women are not spared.  

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

0800 7318496