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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The UK is dangerously close to breaking apart - there's one way to fix it

We must rethink our whole constitutional settlement. 

When the then-Labour leader John Smith set up a report on social justice for what would be the incoming government in 1997, he said we must stop wasting our most precious resource – "the extraordinary skills and talents of ordinary people".

It is one of our party’s greatest tragedies that he never had the chance to see that vision put into practice. 

At the time, it was clear that while our values of equality, solidarity and tolerance endured, the solutions we needed were not the same as those when Labour was last in power in the 1970s, and neither were they to be found in the policies of opposition from the 1980s. 

The Commission on Social Justice described a UK transformed by three revolutions:

  • an economic revolution brought about by increasing globalisation, innovation and a changing labour market
  • a social revolution that had seen the role of women in society transformed, the traditional family model change, inequality ingrained and relationships between people in our communities strained
  • a political revolution that challenged the centralisation of power, demanded more individual control and accepted a different role for government in society.

Two decades on, these three revolutions could equally be applied to the UK, and Scotland, today. 

Our economy, society and our politics have been transformed even further, but there is absolutely no consensus – no agreement – about the direction our country should take. 

What that has led to, in my view, is a society more dangerously divided than at any point in our recent history. 

The public reject the status quo but there is no settled will about the direction we should take. 

And instead of grappling with the complex messages that people are sending us, and trying to find the solutions in the shades of grey, politicians of all parties are attached to solutions that are black or white, dividing us further. 

Anyone in Labour, or any party, who claims that we can sit on the margins and wait for politics to “settle down” will rightly be consigned to history. 

The future shape of the UK, how we govern ourselves and how our economy and society should develop, is now the single biggest political question we face. 

Politics driven by nationalism and identity, which were for so long mostly confined to Scotland, have now taken their place firmly in the mainstream of all UK politics. 

Continuing to pull our country in these directions risks breaking the United Kingdom once and for all. 

I believe we need to reaffirm our belief in the UK for the 21st century. 

Over time, political power has become concentrated in too few hands. Power and wealth hoarded in one corner of our United Kingdom has not worked for the vast majority of people. 

That is why the time has come for the rest of the UK to follow where Scotland led in the 1980s and 1990s and establish a People’s Constitutional Convention to re-establish the UK for a new age. 

The convention should bring together groups to deliberate on the future of our country and propose a way forward that strengthens the UK and establishes a new political settlement for the whole of our country. 

After more than 300 years, it is time for a new Act of Union to safeguard our family of nations for generations to come.

This would mean a radical reshaping of our country along federal lines where every component part of the United Kingdom – Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions – take more responsibility for what happens in their own communities, but where we still maintain the protection of being part of a greater whole as the UK. 

The United Kingdom provides the redistribution of wealth that defines our entire Labour movement, and it provides the protection for public finance in Scotland that comes from being part of something larger, something good, and something worth fighting for. 

Kezia Dugdale is the leader of the Scottish Labour party.