A hospital corridor. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
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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

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Could Labour lose the Oldham by-election?

Sources warn defeat is not unthinkable but the party's ground campaign believe they will hold on. 

As shadow cabinet members argue in public over Labour's position on Syria and John McDonnell defends his Mao moment, it has been easy to forget that the party next week faces its first election test since Jeremy Corbyn became leader. On paper, Oldham West and Royton should be a straightforward win. Michael Meacher, whose death last month triggered the by-election, held the seat with a majority of 14,738 just seven months ago. The party opted for an early pre-Christmas poll, giving second-placed Ukip less time to gain momentum, and selected the respected Oldham council leader Jim McMahon as its candidate. 

But in recent weeks Labour sources have become ever more anxious. Shadow cabinet members returning from campaigning report that Corbyn has gone down "very badly" with voters, with his original comments on shoot-to-kill particularly toxic. Most MPs expect the party's majority to lie within the 1,000-2,000 range. But one insider told me that the party's majority would likely fall into the hundreds ("I'd be thrilled with 2,000") and warned that defeat was far from unthinkable. The fear is that low turnout and defections to Ukip could allow the Farageists to sneak a win. MPs are further troubled by the likelihood that the contest will take place on the same day as the Syria vote (Thursday), which will badly divide Labour. 

The party's ground campaign, however, "aren't in panic mode", I'm told, with data showing them on course to hold the seat with a sharply reduced majority. As Tim noted in his recent report from the seat, unlike Heywood and Middleton, where Ukip finished just 617 votes behind Labour in a 2014 by-election, Oldham has a significant Asian population (accounting for 26.5 per cent of the total), which is largely hostile to Ukip and likely to remain loyal to Labour. 

Expectations are now so low that a win alone will be celebrated. But expect Corbyn's opponents to point out that working class Ukip voters were among the groups the Labour leader was supposed to attract. They are likely to credit McMahon with the victory and argue that the party held the seat in spite of Corbyn, rather than because of him. Ukip have sought to turn the contest into a referendum on the Labour leader's patriotism but McMahon replied: "My grandfather served in the army, my father and my partner’s fathers were in the Territorial Army. I raised money to restore my local cenotaph. On 18 December I will be going with pride to London to collect my OBE from the Queen and bring it back to Oldham as a local boy done good. If they want to pick a fight on patriotism, bring it on."  "If we had any other candidate we'd have been in enormous trouble," one shadow minister concluded. 

Of Corbyn, who cancelled a visit to the seat today, one source said: "I don't think Jeremy himself spends any time thinking about it, he doesn't think that electoral outcomes at this stage touch him somehow."  

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.