Woman plans and God laughs.
You meet someone, fall in love and then … well, despite the above twist on a Jewish proverb, sometimes you actually can get what you hoped for.
Of course, in order to even meet someone, you have to be in the right place physically, emotionally and mentally. The lives of the Jewish women whose stories we learn in Three Wishes didn't exactly fit the mold.
"In my early 20s," writes Pamela Ferdinand, "I had imagined myself in the future as a married mother with five children living on a farm in Vermont. Just how I was supposed to achieve that rural reverie was not clear after almost a decade-and-a-half in newspapers, covering blood-splattered double-murder scenes, neighborhoods flattened by hurricanes, and terrorists on trial for bomb plots. I knew I wanted a mate and wouldn't be able to have children forever, yet I hadn't made it a top priority."
"We'd lived full lives, waited and worked hard to have kids," admits Beth Jones, the most outdoorsy of the three, in describing their lives.
In many ways, these three baby-boomer women — including Carey Goldberg — fit an old Jewish stereotype: "family and community and passing our values to the next generation is so important to us," explains Ferdinand.
As the book begins, it is Goldberg — The New York Times, and later, Boston Globe reporter — who is settled in bed, reading a novel, when out of nowhere the telephone rings.
When she picks up the phone, she hears something not intended for her ears; an on-and-off boyfriend mistakenly called her and went into a tailspin about how Carey was not for him.
Soon afterward, Carey, again in bed — this time in northern Maine on assignment — debates whether or not to have a baby before it's too late.
That's when she decides upon Donor No. 8282 from a California sperm bank. She orders eight of this donor's vials and stores them at a local Boston fertility clinic. The reader recognizes this as "Wish One."
In time, Goldberg fell in love, and eventually became pregnant naturally.
The women's stories span a period of more than 10 years, during which each came to the same realization. Each, who had already achieved success in her chosen field, decided when she reached her late 30s that she wanted to be married and have children. And if there was no man, well, there could still be a child.
"We were the generation who were told we could have it all," says Ferdinand.
When we meet Jones, she is teaching stress resiliency skills to students in urban classrooms and ending her unhappy eight-year marriage. She wanted a child, he didn't; though this was only the least of their problems.
It took her a while post-divorce and trying lots of fun things — including rock-climbing, Jewish speed-dating on Christmas Eve and paying a matchmaker to find her the right man — to realize what she wanted.
But she hoped she hadn't waited too long for a child.
Through her good friend Ferdinand, Jones met Goldberg, who happily transferred ownership of Donor No. 8282's vials to her: "Wish Two."
And, in time, Jones, too, met a man, became pregnant, lost the baby, fell in love with the man and had a child.
The vials now belonged to Ferdinand.
Pam was also a newspaper reporter. She'd spent earlier parts of her working life in London, South Florida and New York, where she had an adult Bat Mitzvah.
When her tale begins, she is in Vermont, covering the story of civil unions of gay and lesbian couples for The Washington Post. Goldberg is covering the same story and one evening, they begin talking — about having a baby. Goldberg, who at that time was still considering pregnancy, encouraged the also-single Ferdinand to take the same leap — sooner than later.
In time, like her friends, Ferdinand met and fell in love with an unlikely man. She miscarried, and had pregnancy problems and some heartache before becoming pregnant the old-fashioned way.
The three women attribute both their professional success and their familial desires to their sense of being Jewish.
"I think that one of the reasons we were all successful journalists was due to the outsider sensibility of being Jewish," says Ferdinand.
And Goldberg, who admits to being surprised when people comment on her candidness in the book, says that "part of my honesty in telling my story is being a Jewish woman in my 40s."
As for Donor No. 8282's vials of sperm?
There was no "Wish Four," but the vials did go to a fourth woman who, we are told, used them unsuccessfully.