An Intimate History of Premature Birth: And What It Teaches Us About Being Human

Sarah DiGregorio

Inspired by Sarah DiGregorio’s harrowing experience giving birth to her premature daughter, Early is a compelling and empathetic blend of memoir and rigorous reporting that tells the story of neonatology – and explores the questions raised by premature birth.

Early is a definitive history of neonatology, written with urgency and clarity, beauty and compassion. DiGregorio is at once a clear-eyed reporter and a mother who has lived through the reality of neonatal intensive care, and her balance of the two narrative strands is pitch-perfect. A popular science book that deserves its place among the best’ Francesca Segal, author of Mother Ship

The heart of many hospitals is the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). It is a place where humanity, ethics, and science collide in dramatic and deeply personal ways as parents, doctors, and nurses grapple with sometimes unanswerable questions: When does life begin? When and how should life end? And what does it mean to be human?

The NICU is a place made of stories – the stories of mothers and babies who spend days, weeks and even months waiting to go home, and the dedicated clinicians who care for these tiny, developing humans. Early explores these stories, as well as the evolution of neonatology and its breakthroughs – how modern medicine can be successful at saving infants at five and a half months gestation who weigh less than a pound, when only a few decades ago there were essentially no treatments for premature babies.

For the first time, Sarah DiGregorio tells the complete story of this science – and the many people it has touched. Weaving her own experiences, those of other parents, and NICU clinicians with deeply researched reporting, Early delves deep into the history and future of neonatology, one of the most boundary pushing medical disciplines: how it came to be, how it is evolving, and the political, cultural, and ethical issues that continue to arise in the face of dramatic scientific developments.

Eye-opening and vital, Early uses premature birth as a lens to view our own humanity, and the humanity of those around us.

Reviews of An Intimate History of Premature Birth: And What It Teaches Us About Being Human

    • ‘Sarah DiGregorio delves deeply into the fraught world of premature birth. With bracing honesty, she recounts her own story and the stories of other women who draw on the power of love and meld it with cutting-edge science as they struggle to save the life of their newborn. This book opens our minds and hearts to a world that is rarely seen with such clarity’ Jerome Groopman, MD, Recanati Professor, Harvard Medical School, author of The Anatomy of Hope
    • ‘A must read for anyone interested in the science – or the experience – of preterm birth’ Emily Oster, author of the New York Times bestseller Cribsheet and Expecting Better
    • ‘Fascinating. DiGregorio has strung together a riveting history, from carnival incubator shows to the possible future of baby ziplocks. At times shocking, heart-breaking and inspiring, the tension between technology and humanity is evident throughout, and DiGregorio does not shy away from it’ Jennifer Block, author of Everything Below the Waist