Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Empty Lap by Jill Smolow

This book was written by a journalist and it shows. Rather than a novel with a tied up surprise ending it is the chronicle of one couple’s journey through infertility to eventually adopting a baby from China. It’s a great glimpse into the experience of infertility.

Like all couples these Jill and her husband begin the conception journey optimistically, assuming things will work out well. After all, all those years of worrying about conceiving at the wrong time, taking birth control pills and diligently using condoms can’t be for naught right? They wait the requisite amount of time and then they see a specialist, at which point the tests and treatments begin. Eventually they settle on adoption, and they go through several near misses (birthmoms backing out, a shady international adoption attempt facilitated by their foreign war correspondent connections, etc) before they eventually successfully adopt from China.

Smolowe is unflinching in the way she describes the emotional and financial consequences of infertility and adoption. Though the book is outdated in terms of its usefulness for potential adoptive parents, I would probably recommend it to someone who wants to know what friends or family are experiencing or to an infertile couple who wants their friends and family to know what they are experiencing.

As an aside, the relationship described in the book is a fascinating one. I had to struggle throughout to keep from judging Jill and her husband, as they make decisions regarding brining a child into a relationship that is already strained and struggling. Then, I realized that most couples who adopt are at one of the low points in their relationship, because honestly, infertility brings most people to their knees. Still, there is something to be said for at least attempting to heal the loss of infertility before moving straight to adoption. Something to think about.