I work with many women who are struggling to conceive, and may be enduring the stress of fertility interventions. One mentioned reading Jessica Hepburn’s The Pursuit of Motherhood – so I did the same. This is a refreshingly honest account of many years of trying to conceive and the high hopes, and agonising repeated disappointments of periods arriving and expensive IVF’s failing. Jessica endured a dangerous ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage and tantalising ‘biochemical pregnancies’ along the way – begging the question as to how she could muster more energy and hope to continue her quest to become a mother. She shares little about her imaginings of motherhood – just the quest to get there – and we learn only a few thoughts of how she views other ways to create a family.

Jessica captures what I understand to be exquisitely human reactions to the desperate desire to become a parent – including the envy of other women’s pregnancies. It’s especially hard to share in the joy of a loved one’s pregnancy when you want your own so much. It’s a bit easier to be envious of someone you don’t care about. Jessica also denies to herself how stressful treatments can be – IVF often involves daily injections of synthetic hormones, which she sometimes administers at work, in the loo, while working 18 hr days. At times she invests in anything that she thinks may maximise her chances to conceive – including colour coded diets, a ‘crash’ therapy week (via the Hoffman Process), and a visit to a Tarot reader. This is what we do when we really really want something – we make bargains with ourselves, other people, other beings.

Stating the obvious, this book may not be helpful to all – her tone is light-hearted and her story is ultimately a depressing one. But I reckon it serves to normalise some unpleasant, scary and lonely-making feelings and she has some helpful tips at the end of the book for anyone going through something similar.