Lisa Ling: Her Toughest Year
updated 02/28/2011 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 02/28/2011 AT 01:00 AM EST
Losing her pregnancy was only one of many heartbreaks that Ling and her husband of three years, physician and biotech firm president Paul Song, suffered during a tumultuous 2010. "Last year," says Ling, 37, "was one we never want to repeat." In April Song's father died of gall bladder cancer; two months later his mother had a horrific car accident, breaking her hip, neck and wrist. Even the year's one bright spot-Ling's sister Laura, who was freed from North Korea in 2009 after nearly five months in prison, gave birth in June to Ling's niece Li-"was bittersweet," says Ling, "because all this was going on with Paul."
Not long after Li's arrival, Ling discovered during a routine checkup that her own baby's heart had stopped beating after seven weeks. "It was a fluke," she says, "but as someone who fancies herself as competent, when the doctor said, 'You lost it,' I thought, 'Oh my God, what did I do?' I felt like such a failure." Her husband, preoccupied with work and his parents' tragedies, was of little comfort. "Had I been less of a doctor and more of a husband and friend," says Song, 45, "I would have been there for her."
In her grief Ling and pal Sophia Kim created secretsocietyofwomen.com, a website for women to anonymously discuss tough issues. "Sharing and reading what other women are going through helped me," she says.
Ling began to heal but realized her marriage also needed mending. "Both of us needed each other but didn't know how to be there for each other," says Ling, explaining that dual independence, frequent work trips and various traumas (like Laura's imprisonment) "brought our relationship to the brink numerous times." The miscarriage, she says, brought a new perspective. When she heard she was expecting, "I wasn't thrilled initially," Ling admits. "I was more scared because I'm such a career person. But when I found out I lost [our baby], it was at that moment I realized that I do want to have a kid, and I want to have that child with Paul."
In November the couple began therapy, which "has done wonders," Ling says. "We are communicating in a way we haven't before," and they have rearranged their work schedules to spend more time together. Adds Song: "We realized we really need to make each other the No. 1 priority. We've evolved to a great place now."
After putting their brutal year behind them, Ling and Song are ready for a happy 2011. The couple just moved into the modern Santa Monica home they spent three years renovating, and Ling's new documentary series, Our America with Lisa Ling, just premiered on the OWN network. Now Ling wants to give her niece Li "a little cousin to grow up with," she says. "In many ways we weren't ready last year because we were going through so much tumult. But we're really ready now."