"Joe and I had been forthright about children. I was pretty sure I wanted them, Joe was pretty sure he didn't. Since we each perceived in the other some room for movement, the difference didn't worry us. Then priorities shifted, needs changed...."
In her late thirties, journalist Jill Smolowe's life and career at Time magazine was on track. Her husband, Joe, was still her most trusted confidante and best friend. And now that she and Joe had decided finally to have a child, Jill assumed the pregnancy that had come so easily to all the women in her family would be her own next chapter. But nature had a different script in mind.
As her quest for a child swerved from the roller coaster of infertility procedures toward the baffling maze of adoption options, Jill's desperation deepened -- while Joe's resistance to children only hardened. In the fog of depression, disappointments, and dead ends, their marriage began to founder. Then, halfway around the world, in Yangzhou, China, she encountered a future she'd never imagined might be hers.
Honest and intimate, An Empty Lap is as much a window on a marriage as on a high-stakes baby chase. Compelling, beautifully told and as insightful as a novel, it's filled with emotions that anyone who has yearned for a child will recognize.
This harrowing but ultimately joyous book chronicles one couple's struggle with a string of decisions that will be familiar to many readers: whether to marry, whether to have children, how to deal with infertility, whether to adopt. Smolowe, a freelance journalist, tells her story with a combination of wit, raw emotion and skill. Once married, she and Joe Treen, chief of correspondents at People and 13 years her senior, decided, with mixed feelings, to have children. The author's determination evolved into obsession even as her husband's misgivings deepened. She recreates her near dissolution in grief and anger when she learned that she was unable to conceive, and she describes with sympathy her husband's ambivalence toward parenthood as they pursued fertility treatments. After years of tortuous negotiation, a near divorce and much anguish, the couple finally adopted a baby girl in China, whom they named Becky, in a denouement that would have been saccharine-sweet in the hands of a less skilled writer. Instead, the story's resolution feels natural and satisfying. The book suffers somewhat from the absence of the husband's perspective; but the insight the author brings to bear on the couple's mutual journey has a powerful effect.