Praise for The First Breath

Excellent . . . superior prose . . . A serious journalistic investigation into foetal and neonatal medicine . . . reads like a thriller. (The Times)

Fascinating and moving. (Adam Kay, Sunday Times bestselling author of This is Going to Hurt)

Heartstopping. Her poignant memoir includes a well-researched account of the astonishing advances in foetal and infant medicine that offer some of the most fragile babies a chance of survival. (Daily Mail – ‘Must Reads’)

This touching and hopeful book skilfully interweaves medical history, reporting and – most movingly – memoir. (The TLS)

A touching, insightful and engaging memoir. (The Lancet)

A triumph of memoir-cum-non-fiction and a love-story starring our current heroes, the NHS…Totally brilliant & and touching…tender, well researched & unputdownable, the best book I read in last 12 months. [The First Breath] opens a new world mysterious as the moon. It moves effortlessly between personal stories of children and cutting edge scientific research…A great storyteller…[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. Endlessly subtle…a wonderful, intelligent writer. (Maggie Gee – BBC Radio 4 A Good Read choice)

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)

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)

Extraordinary . . . An absorbing and awe-inspiring account of the foetal and neonatal medicine that is enabling a new generation of babies to thrive. (Bookseller)

Absolutely gripping (Harriett Gilbert – BBC Radio 4 A Good Read)

Very powerfully told. (Emma Barnett, BBC Radio 5 Live)

A gem…So impressed by the tenderness and science (Dr Rana Awdish, author of In Shock)

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)

Genuinely brilliant…exceptionally powerful, deep and important. (Professor Daniel M. Davis, author of The Beautiful Cure and The Compatibility Gene)

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)

Smart, sympathetic (Sunday Times Style)

Beautifully written (Stevie Davies)

Part memoir, part analysis of neonatal and postnatal care. It’s wonderful. (Clover Stroud)

An affecting and highly personal exploration  of the medical advances that have saved babies who “would not have survived… if born 30, 20, or even 10 years ago.”…A tough but rewarding report from the front lines of fetal and neonatal medicine. (Publishers Weekly)

A book full of emotion and one that medical practitioners should read (Jewish Chronicle)

Heart-warming and insightful. (Bliss)

As the mother of a preemie, I found this book almost unbearable to read. But I’m so glad I did – a brave, detailed, meticulously researched book about the frailest babies, their parents, and the doctors who bring them into the world. (Novelist Tahmima Anam)

Exceptionally moving . . . a pleasure to read. (Professor Dame Kay E Davies, Professor of Genetics, University of Oxford )

Such an excellent book. Throughout reading the book I’ve been deeply moved and learnt so much, both as a human being and as a health care professional in the field. The chapter “Mum” should be a must read for any doctor or nurse working in a neonatal unit anywhere. (Siri Lilliesköld, specialist neonatal nurse, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm)

A wonderfully insightful account of advances made in fetal and neonatal medicine. But it is not a litany of ‘Fathers’ (be it of fetal surgery or neonatal medicine) that sets this book apart, but the voices and stories of the mothers who are so integral to Gordon’s story-telling. These are not the saccharine fairy-tales of devoted motherhood, of strong and unwavering heroism in the face of all adversity. Gordon certainly speaks of devotion, and that emotion that is all too often associated with motherhood: guilt. But the mothers also speak of doubt, of anger, of wavering. It is giving voice to these ‘unspeakable’ feelings that ultimately makes this incredibly moving book such a panacea. (Synapsis, medical health humanities journal)

Fascinating and heartbreaking, it’s one we won’t ever forget…Such a powerful book…These are the children who would not have survived pregnancy, birth or infancy a generation ago, but are now able to live long lives. With this in mind, [Gordon] does not shy away from talking about the complexity of raising a child with additional needs, or the lifelong medical conditions they may forever have. Written compassionately, with deep empathy and understanding of the various emotions parents of sick babies may feel, this was a difficult but important read that will stay with me for a long time. (The Motherload)

…Impeccable research into the medicine and dedication that created it. Written with immense integrity and sensitivity, this thought-provoking book not only made me revisit the choices I have made in my life, but also rethink my preconceptions…highly recommended (Karina Szczurek, The Cape Times)

Fascinating – combines interesting history of neonatology and fetal medicine with valuable and honest insights into her own experience as mother of a baby in NICU. Highly recommended for all working in neonatology. (Dominic Wilkinson, professor of medical ethics, University of Oxford, and newborn intensive care consultant, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford)

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)

‘Magnificent…a treasure in scientific medicine reporting’. (Professor Steven D. Douglas MD, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia)

Such an important, informative and heart warming book. Highly recommended…Heartfelt, passionate…A beautiful read. (PNDandMe)

A brilliant, deeply researched book around the giant leaps medicine has taken in saving incredibly fragile and sick babies…Superbly eloquent in the story of her son, Joel, and the impact being a neonatal parent had on her. The book highlights beautifully the gaping chasm between pioneering medical treatment and the long-lasting impact this has on all of those involved. Incredibly insightful. (Leo’s Neonatal)

Olivia Gordon’s The First Breath skilfully integrates multiple genres to provide a gripping tale of foetal and neonatal medicine. Part medical memoir, part motherhood memoir and part historical account, The First Breath tells of a generation of children who, even as recently as a decade ago, might not have survived past birth. It is, quite properly, an almost unbelievable and almost unimaginable story…Threaded throughout the book, which at times tackles highly complex scientific and medical terminology, is a very human story of a mother and her child. (Medicine 360)

An absolutely compelling read which highlights what a beautiful mix of love, blind faith and science is behind every baby as it takes its first breath. (Rare Revolution magazine)