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Empty Lap: Couple's Journey to Parenthood, infertility, by Jill Smolowe

An Empty Lap: One Couple's Journey to Parenthood

by Jill Smolowe

Purchase at:  Amazon.com | Barnes and Noble (click on "Read Chapter" link to access an online chapter)

Hardcover - 288 pages (November 1997)
Pocket Books
ISBN: 0671004360

Description from Amazon.com

Amazon.com

As more and more men and women delay starting families until they're well into their 30s and even 40s, infertility in the United States has become a greater problem. Plenty of anguished accounts of couples unable to conceive have turned up in magazines, books, and on afternoon talk shows as a generation of would-be parents discover that maybe they can't have it all. An Empty Lap is the latest in this genre of infertility literature. Written by Jill Smolowe, the book details the trials and tribulations she and her husband suffered on the long road to parenthood. Smolowe begins at the beginning, with her courtship and marriage to Joe Treen, a twice-divorced man 13 years her senior who was very clear about his indifference to having children. Despite her own desire for a family, Smolowe married Treen, hoping to change his mind about children, only to discover seven years later that conception was an impossibility anyway.

Infertility treatment followed--only tepidly supported by Joe--and when that too failed, Smolowe sank into a deep depression. Eventually she decided to pursue adoption, despite Joe's warning that he might leave her. The rest of the book follows Jill and Joe through the labyrinthine process of international adoption, and the effects a child has on their marriage. An Empty Lap is as much about the growth of trust and intimacy between Smolowe and Treen--the twists and turns in a marriage--as it is about the quest for parenthood.

Amazon.com

How do you become a parent? In journalist Jill Smolowe's An Empty Lap, the journey to parenthood joins the "coming of age" book as a meaningful description of the passage from one stage of life to another. In her late 30s, Smolowe wanted a baby. Her husband Joe was, at best, ambivalent. An Empty Lap is about physical and emotional journeys: the Smolowes travel through doubts and resistance, fertility treatments, desperation, and depression; from doctor's office to doctor's office, vials of sperm in hand, to adoption agencies; and finally, from New York to China to full parenthood. An Empty Lap is well written and moving, but never sappy. And even though we know the positive outcome from the beginning, the process is both what fascinates and what is important. An Empty Lap is a journey deep into one couple's relationship. That Smolowe shares their innermost processes with us feels like a gift.

Entertainment Weekly 

Her unromanticized understanding of what it takes for two highly opinionated adults to work through some of couplehood's most stressful challenges is what gives this book its appeal. In her unlabored ability to discuss just about anything--sex, squabbles, the late-30s-and-what's-it-all-about blues of sophisticated '90s women--Smolowe makes compelling general-interest reading out of a special-interest subject.

The New York Times Book Review, Peter D. Kramer 

... the overstuffed narrative remains unsettling. Among memoirs of the travails of the affluent, the sparest are the best.... An Empty Lap is eminently readable, but the book rarely transcends the focus on personal history. The moral complexity of international adoption is passed over lightly. The marriage remains enigmatic.

Book Description

"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 text refers to the Paperback edition.

Ingram 

Perfect for the large number of baby boomers who have delayed starting families and are now running against their biological limits, An Empty Lap recounts the struggle of the author, an award-winning former senior writer for Time, and her husband as they attempt to have a child.

The publisher, Pocket Books , October 27, 1997 More Reviews: 

"This harrowing but ultimately joyous book...[is told] with a combination of wit, raw emotion and skill...The insight the author brings to bear on the couple's mutual journey has a powerful effect." Publishers Weekly

"Written with vitality and wit, it is intended for all adults–those whose laps are full and those whose laps remain to be filled, Recommended." Library Journal

Description from BarnesandNoble.com

Annotation

The story of one couple's struggle to have a child.

From the Publisher

In her late 30s, 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.

FROM THE CRITICS

From Entertainment Weekly
Professional couple's quest for a child is chronicled in this compelling tale.

From Peter D. Kramer
Eminently readable. -- The New York Times Book Review

From USA Today
[A] heartwrenching account. . .readers of either gender will relate.

From Entertainment Weekly
Professional couple's quest for a child is chronicled in this compelling tale.

From Peter D. Kramer
Eminently readable. ó The New York Times Book Review

From Publisher's Weekly - Publishers Weekly
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 Magazine 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.
 


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