After a decade of trying to become a mother – eleven rounds of unsuccessful IVF, multiple miscarriages and a pregnancy which proved almost fatal – Jessica Hepburn knew it was time to do something different.
So she decided to swim the twenty-one miles across the English Channel – no easy feat, especially for someone with an aversion to exercise who couldn't swim very well. As the punishing training commenced, Jessica learned you need to put on weight to stave off the cold. This then led to another idea: what if she wrote to a collection of inspiring women, asking if they would meet and eat with her to answer the question: does motherhood make you happy?
The response was overwhelming. From baronesses and professors to award-winners and record-breakers, amazing women from different walks of life – some mothers, some not – all with compelling truths to tell about female fulfilment and the meaning of motherhood. On 2 September 2015, Jessica set out from Dover beach in the dark, taking the words that each of the women had given to sea in her bid to answer the question.
"An amazing, page-turning, jaw-droppingly honest read. In 2–3 pages she might just have summed up the entire truth and meaning of life."
"One of the things I love about the book is how she just keeps going and proves everyone wrong… I have met and interviewed lots of inspiring athletes, but Jessica is the only person I have interviewed who has inspired me to confront my “sad thing”, to take on a challenge outside my comfort zone."
"It was this year’s most keenly awaited fertility book, and Jessica Hepburn’s 21 Miles – swimming in search of the meaning of motherhood doesn't disappoint . . . go and buy this highly recommended book right away!"
"Jessica wins over the reader with her sparkling style, yet her self-deprecating humour also belies an undertow of tremendous sadness too: of an enormous grief of an invisible loss that our society has yet to appreciate, and, also, of her partnership unravelling as she swims on, and on, and on. I laughed, and I cried, in equal measure. Mothers, and non-mothers should find resonances throughout – as I hope fathers, and non-fathers may too."
"Such a rich book that could relate to people in any painful situation who, like Jessica, feel that they have to do something different with their lives . . . I am sure that this book will help so many people."