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19 November 2015

When my child was born I got so high on morphine that I started talking about risotto

I looked at the baby, recited some Auden at him, decided he could look after himself, and asked for a book.

By Tanya Gold

August 2013: the heatwave. Ice was my pregnancy food, which I ate out of buckets; my body was a stranger. Apart from a column in the Guardian, in which I pondered my own death in childbirth, I made no plans, read no books.

I went to be induced. I took my laptop because I thought I might write a column. But I did not feel like writing a column.

In the high-dependency ward (for women too column-dependent to have children before 39, and too fat to do it safely) I realised I could get morphine if I made sad faces and lied about the pain.

I have not had a drink for 13 years, for reasons that will soon become obvious. I did so much morphine, I almost forgot I was pregnant until people reminded me. This annoyed me. It contaminated my drug dream. I wanted to do morphine and never come back.

I got an epidural. It failed. I got a spinal block. I couldn’t feel anything below my tits and I seriously feared I would never feel my legs again. They told me to push but I couldn’t feel my body. So I made faces designed to make people think I was pushing.

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I was so high that when two hot doctors came in, and I was in the stirrups pretending to push, I screamed: “Hi!” I wasn’t quite high enough to attempt to seduce them – what would be the point, during childbirth? – but I could have. They could have been mine.

When the emergency C-section came, they were on to me. “You will tell me when you can’t feel the pain, won’t you?” the anaesthetist asked. Ha! Bollocks I will. When my child was born – I mean removed – I was so high I was talking about risotto. I looked at the baby, recited some Auden at him, decided he could look after himself, and asked for a book. I was chasing my high across the sky.

The crash: the next day, a nurse asked me if, when in labour, I had told my husband I didn’t love him. No, I said, I told him I’d never loved him. Then I began to vomit shit. This is called paralytic ileus; my bowel had stopped working, possibly as a result of the C-section, but probably because of the morphine. The doctor did not believe in the pain at first; she offered me Gaviscon, which I vomited, cinematically, over myself.

Then she did believe me, and consoled me by saying Caitlin Moran had also had paralytic ileus, and written very wittily about it. I hope you’re a better doctor than literary critic, I wanted to say, but didn’t.

She didn’t return, so I took my shit vomit to the desk. They put me in a high-dependency ward. The chief surgeon called with his crocodile of students to gawp at my shit vomit. There, after I had done a fart, which meant I would live, I became delighted with my condition. I am a hack, and my body had produced a column!

Suzanne Moore is away

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This article appears in the 18 Nov 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The age of terror