The First Breath: How Modern Medicine Saves the Most Fragile Lives (Hardback)
  • The First Breath: How Modern Medicine Saves the Most Fragile Lives (Hardback)

The First Breath: How Modern Medicine Saves the Most Fragile Lives (Hardback)

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Hardback 368 Pages / Published: 13/06/2019
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'Fascinating and moving.' - Adam Kay, author of This is Going to Hurt

A BBC Radio 4 A Good Read choice

This is a story about the cutting-edge medicine that has saved a generation of babies.

It's about the love and fear a parent feels for a child they haven't yet met.

It's about doctors, mothers, fathers and babies as together they fight for the first breath.

The First Breath is a book about motherhood and medicine.

Olivia Gordon decided to find out how, exactly, modern science saved her son's life. Crossing medical memoir with popular science, The First Breath is an investigation into the pioneering fetal and neonatal care bringing a new generation into the world, who would not have lived if they had been born only a few decades ago.

The First Breath explores the female experience of medicine and details the relationship mothers develop with doctors who hold not only life and death in their hands, but also the very possibility of birth.

From the dawn of fetal medicine to neonatal surgery and the exploding field of perinatal genetics, The First Breath tells of fear, bravery and love. Olivia Gordon takes the reader behind the closed doors of the fetal and neonatal intensive care units, resuscitation rooms and operating theatres at some of the world's leading children's hospitals, unveiling the untold story of how doctors save the sickest babies.

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
ISBN: 9781509871179
Number of pages: 368
Weight: 498 g
Dimensions: 223 x 144 x 37 mm

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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“Courageous, honest and inspiring.”

The story, this book tells is amazing, the sheer scope of the medical advancement, over the last twenty years is well documented here. It’s not just about the science, and the pioneering doctors, there is also the... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 20


I read this book because of my previous life as a midwife and because it was from a mothers point of view. It is incredibly moving, sometimes bringing me to tears as I read of the lives and deaths of tiny babies.... More

Hardback edition
4 similar books recommended
Helpful? Upvote 19

“Complex issues of birth and medicine.”

This is a very personal story bravely tackled. Inevitably there is a great deal of historical and medical background which makes for stilted flow. It tackles many of the issues faced by medical professionals and... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 17

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