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If my child had not been born in a first-rate hospital with access to the latest, greatest technology in modern science, he would have had no chance of survival. Even if Joel had been conceived in the year I was born, 1978, he would still have died a fetus, his lungs crushed by amniotic fluid.

Yet here I am writing this, the mother of a cuddly, whimsical little chatterbox who asks for sausages for dinner every day and can’t quite decide which snake he prefers, the boomslang or the inland taipan.

I decided to find out how, exactly, modern medicine got my son here.


I’m a journalist and have written for The Times, Guardian, Observer, Independent, Telegraph, Red, Psychologies, The Pool, Broadly and more. 

Having read English Literature at Cambridge University, I spent my twenties and thirties working as a journalist.

I was twenty-nine weeks pregnant with my first child when a scan found that he was critically ill. Thanks to a risky operation in utero and five months in neonatal care, my son survived.

My book about how doctors save the sickest babies, The First Breath, was published on 13th June 2019.

I live in Oxford with my husband, two children and two cats.

I’m proud to have been invited to be the first patron of Leo’s Neonatal, a groundbreaking neonatal charity which, among other work, founded #NICUHour on Twitter and is leading awareness of neonatal mental health across the NHS.

Contact me: olivia [at] oliviagordon.com

Here I am in scrubs, observing at one of the world’s most progressive neonatal units at the Karolinska, Stockholm, while researching The First Breath.