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The First Breath


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A powerful medical memoir about the extraordinary foetal and neonatal medicine bringing a new generation of babies into the world.

About the Author

Educated at Cambridge University, Olivia Gordon is a journalist who has written for publications including the Guardian, Times, Telegraph, Red and Broadly.


Fascinating and moving. -- Adam Kay, Sunday Times bestselling author of This is Going to Hurt
Excellent . . . A serious journalistic investigation into foetal and neonatal medicine . . . reads like a thriller. -- The Times
Heartstopping -- Daily Mail
A triumph of memoir-cum-non-fiction and a love story starring our heroes, the NHS . . . Totally brilliant and touching . . . tender, well researched and unputdownable, the best book I've read in the last twelve months. [
The First Breath
] moves effortlessly between personal stories of children and cutting edge scientific research . . . [Gordon makes] us feel the great and risky adventure of surviving a difficult childhood and becoming a person: and the linked one of being a parent . . . a wonderful, intelligent writer. -- Maggie Gee - BBC Radio 4 A Good Read choice
A touching, insightful and engaging memoir. -- The Lancet
Pacy and accessible . . . It is the female experience of such invasive surgeries that remains the focus here; expectant mothers steeling themselves for "needles as long as rulers" and learning to navigate a "strange form of knowledge" about a child that has yet to enter the world. -- Prospect - who named The First Breath one of the best science books of 2019
Part memoir, part analysis of neonatal and postnatal care. It's wonderful. -- Clover Stroud, author of The Wild Other and My Wild and Sleepless Nights
Smart, sympathetic -- Sunday Times Style
Very powerfully told. -- Emma Barnett, BBC Radio 5 Live
This touching and hopeful book skilfully interweaves medical history, reporting and - most movingly - memoir. -- The TLS
A meticulously researched history of fetal medicine and a heartfelt account of parenting preterm babies. -- Leah Hazard, bestselling author of Hard Pushed: A Midwife's Story
We take pregnancy and childbirth for granted. Now please read The First Breath and be thankful for your children's lives. A compelling and uplifting book. -- Heart surgeon Professor Stephen Westaby, bestselling author of Fragile Lives and The Knife's Edge
A wonderfully well written, brilliant discussion of the evolution of genetics, prenatal diagnosis, fetal and neonatal medicine, ethics and popular prejudice interwoven into a framework of [the author's] own very human story and the other mothers who tell of their experiences so graphically . . . moved me to tears. -- Professor Stuart Campbell, British fetal medicine pioneer
Exceptionally moving . . . a pleasure to read. -- Professor Dame Kay E Davies, Professor of Genetics, University of Oxford
Extraordinary . . . An absorbing and awe-inspiring account of the extraordinary foetal and neonatal medicine that is enabling a new generation of babies to thrive. -- The Bookseller
Genuinely brilliant...exceptionally powerful, deep and important. -- Professor Daniel M. Davis, author of The Beautiful Cure and The Compatibility Gene
Absolutely gripping -- Harriett Gilbert - BBC Radio 4 A Good Read
A book full of emotion and one that medical practitioners should read -- Jewish Chronicle
A gem...So impressed by the tenderness and science -- Dr Rana Awdish, author of In Shock
This jaw-dropping story of medical discovery is interwoven with Gordon's own deeply moving story of her own experience as a new mother with a child in neonatal care. It conveys, brilliantly, the devastating emotional impact of being separated from one's child, and the shock of an unexpected diagnosis. -- Useful Reading, The Birth Trauma Association
Beautifully written -- Stevie Davies

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