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Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic

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The "slyly ironic, frequently hilarious"(Time) memoir about angels, academics, and a boy named Adam... A national bestseller and an important reminder that life is what happens when you're making other plans. Put aside your expectations. This "rueful, riveting, piercingly funny" (Julia Cameron) book is written by a Harvard graduate--but it tells a story in which hearts trump The "slyly ironic, frequently hilarious"(Time) memoir about angels, academics, and a boy named Adam... A national bestseller and an important reminder that life is what happens when you're making other plans. Put aside your expectations. This "rueful, riveting, piercingly funny" (Julia Cameron) book is written by a Harvard graduate--but it tells a story in which hearts trump brains every time. It's a tale about mothering a Down syndrome child that opts for sass over sap, and it's a book of heavenly visions and inexplicable phenomena that's as down-to-earth as anyone could ask for. This small masterpiece is Martha Beck's own story--of leaving behind the life of a stressed-out superachiever, opening herself to things she'd never dared consider, meeting her son for (maybe) the first time...and "unlearn[ing] virtually everything Harvard taught [her] about what is precious and what is garbage." "Beck [is] very funny, particularly about the most serious possible subjects--childbirth, angels and surviving at Harvard." --New York Times Book Review "Immensely appealing...hooked me on the first page and propelled me right through visions and out-of-body experiences I would normally scoff at." --Detroit Free Press "I challenge any reader not to be moved by it." --Newsday "Brilliant." --Minneapolis Star-Tribune


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The "slyly ironic, frequently hilarious"(Time) memoir about angels, academics, and a boy named Adam... A national bestseller and an important reminder that life is what happens when you're making other plans. Put aside your expectations. This "rueful, riveting, piercingly funny" (Julia Cameron) book is written by a Harvard graduate--but it tells a story in which hearts trump The "slyly ironic, frequently hilarious"(Time) memoir about angels, academics, and a boy named Adam... A national bestseller and an important reminder that life is what happens when you're making other plans. Put aside your expectations. This "rueful, riveting, piercingly funny" (Julia Cameron) book is written by a Harvard graduate--but it tells a story in which hearts trump brains every time. It's a tale about mothering a Down syndrome child that opts for sass over sap, and it's a book of heavenly visions and inexplicable phenomena that's as down-to-earth as anyone could ask for. This small masterpiece is Martha Beck's own story--of leaving behind the life of a stressed-out superachiever, opening herself to things she'd never dared consider, meeting her son for (maybe) the first time...and "unlearn[ing] virtually everything Harvard taught [her] about what is precious and what is garbage." "Beck [is] very funny, particularly about the most serious possible subjects--childbirth, angels and surviving at Harvard." --New York Times Book Review "Immensely appealing...hooked me on the first page and propelled me right through visions and out-of-body experiences I would normally scoff at." --Detroit Free Press "I challenge any reader not to be moved by it." --Newsday "Brilliant." --Minneapolis Star-Tribune

30 review for Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    This book was recommended to me as a wonderful read, filled with spiritual strength. Unfortunately, I had a very different experience with it. It greatly disturbs me that so many women have been duped by this book. It's a memoir of Martha Beck's spiritual struggle as she gives birth to a son with Down Syndrome. In reality, it's the story of a woman's fall from truth and grace. She repeatedly rejected the hand of the Lord reaching out to her during her time of need. After I read the book, I resear This book was recommended to me as a wonderful read, filled with spiritual strength. Unfortunately, I had a very different experience with it. It greatly disturbs me that so many women have been duped by this book. It's a memoir of Martha Beck's spiritual struggle as she gives birth to a son with Down Syndrome. In reality, it's the story of a woman's fall from truth and grace. She repeatedly rejected the hand of the Lord reaching out to her during her time of need. After I read the book, I researched Beck and saw how her choices had negatively impacted her life. The choices Beck made later in her life reinforced my feelings about this book. Beck is a gifted writer. This book is extremely well written. Each time I put it down due to my uncomfortable feelings, I felt compelled to pick it up again and continue reading it. As I continued, I felt the Lord's Spirit withdraw from me. When I finished, I had to confess my disillusionment to those who recommended it to me. Through Beck's mastery of the written language, she fools many of her readers. There are very few books that I would characterize as dangerous. This is one of them.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Erica

    Memoirs are tough. They lie in that fuzzy grey area somewhere between truth and fiction, and are, by definition, the subjective experiences of someone you may or may not like. This book is, shall we say, less grey than most--I would actually call it a novel. I had nothing else to read, the library was closed, and I thought this book would be an interesting insight into another family with Down syndrome. The book was entertaining--albeit more for the the author's fantastic experiences and her alm Memoirs are tough. They lie in that fuzzy grey area somewhere between truth and fiction, and are, by definition, the subjective experiences of someone you may or may not like. This book is, shall we say, less grey than most--I would actually call it a novel. I had nothing else to read, the library was closed, and I thought this book would be an interesting insight into another family with Down syndrome. The book was entertaining--albeit more for the the author's fantastic experiences and her almost comical, extreme disdain for Harvard--but hardly a great read. I should have known that I was in trouble when the author purports to have felt the night she and her husband conceived their son that she was "consciously making" herself pregnant, and then two pages later, insists she had no idea her nausea was an indication of pregnancy. A subsequent Google search revealed the author's previous book--Breaking the Cycle--was coauthored with her husband and concerns fighting the "addiction" of homosexuality. Further Google research claims the author and her husband both came out of the closet in 2003. Am I alone in thinking this lowers the author's credibility a bit? Here's the real issue: the book's message, that children with disabilities should be appreciated beyond their intellectual greatness, is one I'd like to get behind in a big way. But the author, in describing the multiple paranormal experiences that took place during her pregnancy (including many voices telling her not to abort the child), makes other parents of children with disabilities wonder: where were my voices? Why couldn't Martha Beck tell us the story of her love for her son and how it flew in the face of her family and community WITHOUT falling back on angelic messengers to take the responsibility?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jami

    I really agree with Jenni's review of this book. There were parts in it that were really fantastic, and the author definitely has talent, but so much of it was contradictory and offensive. I hated how Beck wrote that she detested the arrogance and superiority at Harvard, but she makes it VERY clear how very intelligent and gifted she herself is. She goes on and on . . . really beating the reader over the head with it. She is too intelligent, in fact, to fall for the religious beliefs she and her I really agree with Jenni's review of this book. There were parts in it that were really fantastic, and the author definitely has talent, but so much of it was contradictory and offensive. I hated how Beck wrote that she detested the arrogance and superiority at Harvard, but she makes it VERY clear how very intelligent and gifted she herself is. She goes on and on . . . really beating the reader over the head with it. She is too intelligent, in fact, to fall for the religious beliefs she and her husband were both raised with, but she attributes her experiences with her son to "magic" or some other form of mysticism. She is so clearly confused about herself and her family, that I felt uncomfortable reading the book, despite its redeeming qualities. Knowing more about her background since reading this book has only made it worse for me.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jenni

    Extremely well written. Has some brilliant moments. But in the end, I just couldn't get past the WAY creepy feeling the book gave me. I know a lot of people that love it...but I think the author is a walking contradiction: not sure of what she believes, what is truth and what is fiction. If you're going to read the book, I would recommend knowing the author's religious/anti-religious bias, background, and current controversies. Just know what you're getting into.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    I'm not exaggerating when I say this is the most beautiful book I've ever read. It's about a subject I've been fascinated by for a little while now and yet one that so many people seem so tight-lipped about. I remember a church leader telling our student congregation my freshman year of college that he felt it was important for us to know that angels really exist and administer to humans on Earth, but that was it: no further details. My mom has confessed that she knows her "guardian angel" is he I'm not exaggerating when I say this is the most beautiful book I've ever read. It's about a subject I've been fascinated by for a little while now and yet one that so many people seem so tight-lipped about. I remember a church leader telling our student congregation my freshman year of college that he felt it was important for us to know that angels really exist and administer to humans on Earth, but that was it: no further details. My mom has confessed that she knows her "guardian angel" is her late grandmother. I've heard other such snippets--enough from enough credible sources for me to believe in the existence of spirits. But finally I feel that sigh of understanding. What makes this book beautiful is that she doesn't push her interpretations onto you. She presents her experiences in clear, precise, yet wondrous language, and her descriptions are so profound that something in me--my soul?--recognized Truth again and again. I felt my thoughts concurring with her experiences: "Yes, that's exactly right. That's exactly how it would be." But then it's also beautiful for doing exactly what Harvard trained her to do that I believe is the best part of higher education: moving past simple answers into complex realities. She seems to completely reject her Harvardness by the end, but I think it still gave her a gift that made me want to read this book. She doesn't fall for the idea that all handicapped people are angels; she doesn't accept every bit of theology fed to her by a psychic just because the psychic does have some real gifts. I like that. And it also seems to extend to the reader: you don't have to accept this wholesale, just believe what you want to. In the end, I don't follow her off into her free-floating theologies. I still believe that organized religion can and should play a large role in my spiritual life. But I do feel like my spiritual life has been amplified by the many, many descriptions in this book that resonated through me.

  6. 5 out of 5

    MCOH

    Here's the review I wrote on Amazon a couple years ago when we read this book for book club: As an LDS woman, Harvard alum, mother, and friend to someone who has Down Syndrome, I anticipated loving this book. I somehow imagined that Beck's experiences might have mirrored mine, that I would find in her a kindred spirit. I was wrong. Beck's Harvard is inhabited with mean-spirited, intensely competitive, narrowly focused, hamsteresque charicatures. None of the students or professors has the wisdom, Here's the review I wrote on Amazon a couple years ago when we read this book for book club: As an LDS woman, Harvard alum, mother, and friend to someone who has Down Syndrome, I anticipated loving this book. I somehow imagined that Beck's experiences might have mirrored mine, that I would find in her a kindred spirit. I was wrong. Beck's Harvard is inhabited with mean-spirited, intensely competitive, narrowly focused, hamsteresque charicatures. None of the students or professors has the wisdom, perspective, and insight of the author. My experience at Harvard was different. I recall a lot of kind, warm, loving people. I remember conversations that lasted late into the night, about spirituality, love, dreams for the future, personal struggles, and more. Study partners who were happy to help me better understand a difficult concept or prepare for a test. Lots of people who volunteered with kids in the inner-city, at soup kitchens, hospitals, homeless shelters, on crisis hotlines. A lot of good people trying to find a way to make a difference in the world. A vast array of religious, ethnic, & ideological backgrounds, all kinds of ways of imbuing their lives with meaning. Complicated people, people with ambitions, insecurities, moments of stress, sure. But overwhelmingly, I remember people with good hearts and a desire to do the right thing. I'm sorry that Martha Beck couldn't see more of that in the people around her. The recurring theme of this book is that Beck was blind, but now she sees. She once was self-absorbed and obsessed with academic prestige, like everyone (sic) around her. But during her pregnancy with Adam and subsequent to his birth, she claims to have discovered the true meaning of life, & found joy and wonder and truth. The problem with her writing style is that stage one comes through loud and clear, while I'm still straining to detect the joy, the profundity, and the warmth that should characterize stage 2.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Britta

    "...you'll never be hurt as much by being open as you have been hurt by remaining closed." "...then I understood. She was talking about the soothing, singsong language mothers speak spontaneously when they talk to babies. Baby talk is found in all nations, all cultures; it is the original Mother Tongue. It translates across any language barrier because it is more about music than about words; the sounds themselves, not their meaning, give comfort and support." "When he got home, the sun came out." "...you'll never be hurt as much by being open as you have been hurt by remaining closed." "...then I understood. She was talking about the soothing, singsong language mothers speak spontaneously when they talk to babies. Baby talk is found in all nations, all cultures; it is the original Mother Tongue. It translates across any language barrier because it is more about music than about words; the sounds themselves, not their meaning, give comfort and support." "When he got home, the sun came out." "...the word mother is more powerful when it is used as a verb than as a noun. Mothering has little to do with biological reproduction - as another friend once told me, there are women who bear and raise children without ever mothering them, and there are people (both male and female) who mother all their lives without ever giving birth." "Real magic doesn't come from achieving the perfect appearance, from being Cinderella at the ball with both glass slippers and a killer hairstyle. The real magic is in the pumpkin, in the mice, in the moonlight; not beyond the ordinary life, but within it." (about sweetness felt): "It comes from looking at the heart of things, from stopping to smell not only the roses but the bushes as well. It is a quality of attention to ordinary life that is loving and intimate it is almost worship." "Angels come in many shapes and sizes, and most of them are not invisible." "...despite all my years of education and training, I have learned most of what I know about living joyfully from one person, and he is not on any faculty. They barely let him into the first grade... people pay me good money to pass along to them what Adam teaches me for free. Luckily, I'm pretty sure he will never demand a percentage of the take. It scares me to think how much I owe him." "Horses live to run; that's what they do... what do we live to do, the way a horse lives to run?... This is the part of us that makes our brief, improbable little lives worth living: the ability to reach through our own isolation and find strength, and comfort, and warmth for and in each other. This is what human beings do. This is what we live for, the way horses live to run." "The meaning of life is not what happens to people... the meaning of life is what happens BETWEEN people." "Life would be completely unbearable if it weren't so hilarious." "...I have never met a mother of any culture who could just whack off her children's hair without a few nittersweet twinges. It's so astonishing to look at a child, an incredibly complex, independent living being, and know that it emerged from your own insides. It seems a pity to throw any of it away." "Whoever said that love is blond was dead wrong. Love is the only thing on this earth that lets us see each other with the remotest accuracy." "...we are born innocent but ignorant, and to remedy the second of these conditions we inevitably surrender the first." "I am always perversely happy to hear that a friend has been knocked upside the head by some unpleasant event. I am not glad they've expirienced the pain, but I am profoundly grateful for the down-to-earth compassion that emerges only when people face their pain and absorb it into the fabric of their lives." "Any person who acts out of love is acting for God. There is no way to repay such acts, except perhaps to pass them on to others." "...I decided to try an expiriment: for that one evening, I would resist assigning any labels to my classmates... I would try to look at them without preconception... of course, this is nearly impossible, but I did make an effort - for a few minutes. After that I had to stop, because I was so overcome by the beauty of every person... that my eyes kept filling with tears. I think that's maybe one reason we screen out so much loveliness. If we saw people as they really are, the beauty would overwhelm us."

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I am going to have a tough time writing this review. And I really don't even want to write much of anything because all my criticisms make me think I am writing just like Martha N. Beck, Ph.D., shallow as hell, narcissist above all. But anyway, the blurbs and jacket cover are misleading, so I'm adding to the reviews that attempt to give a clearer picture of what is going on in this book. Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic is a pregnancy memoir. Beck, a Harvard grad I am going to have a tough time writing this review. And I really don't even want to write much of anything because all my criticisms make me think I am writing just like Martha N. Beck, Ph.D., shallow as hell, narcissist above all. But anyway, the blurbs and jacket cover are misleading, so I'm adding to the reviews that attempt to give a clearer picture of what is going on in this book. Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic is a pregnancy memoir. Beck, a Harvard graduate student, is married with a daughter when she becomes "consciously pregnant" with her son. Despite her awareness that she is getting herself pregnant, she disbelieves it can be true. What follows is an extremely difficult pregnancy, including severe hyperemesis gravidarum (she goes, at one point, almost four days without eating or drinking anything) and placental abruption at 20 weeks. Shortly after the placental abruption, knowing that there's something going on with the baby, she requests and receives an amniocentesis which reveals Trisomy 21. She spends the remainder of the pregnancy continuing to suffering from HG, while grieving her son's diagnosis and confronting the hatred and pity of her community. And having, almost continually, mind-blowing spiritual experiences, which she hides, downgrades, minimizes, justifies, criticizes and depreciates. Just a pause to note my own cosmology here. I am a born-again, Charismatic Christian. Which means I experience an active God in the Person of the Holy Spirit-- miraculous healing (both physical and emotional), glossolalia, all of that stuff. The Book of Acts writ large. So it's very, very clear to me that the Holy Spirit is acting in her life. I suppose the lesson for me is that God never gives up on anybody. Because while she insists on going from a super-rigid atheist worldview to a super-flexible omnispiritual whatever bring it on worldview, she goes out of her way to reject traditional Christianity. She believes in everything BUT a loving Creator. The entirety of the book is an exercise in watching someone be handed life-changing experiences of love and grace on a silver platter, then being ungrateful about them and asking for more. Eventually Beck acknowledges this, but it's so close to the end of the book that it's hard to believe she actually understands. Her husband accuses her of receiving the universe's tastiest brownie direct from the hand of God and then pouting and asking for a whole pan. And she tells him he's right. And then writes at length about how she immediately begins praying for release from all the pain and grief of her pregnancy and the pain and grief of expecting a child with Down's Syndrome. In response [God-- she never actually acknowledges God. She just says "the bunraku puppeteers" or "the magic presence"] nigh-on knocks her out with an overwhelming sensation of love and peace. After a few minutes of this experience, it subsides. Instead of integrating it and living with the love and peace offered her, she resolves to figure out how to get back to it, to live in it more. Essentially, she was given a pan of brownies and wanted a big box store of brownies. Much of the book flashes forward--or backward, depending on which perspective you want to take. She contrasts her run-of-the-mill life with her retarded son with her high-stress, high-achievement, all-geniuses-all-the-time Harvard life. And what it seems like the reader is supposed to glean from this just how very flexible Beck is and how much she's grown. What I and I'm sure a lot of other readers got instead was that, for a smart person, Beck just isn't very bright. And yet I feel horrible for judging her at all because what I feel for her is largely pity. I'm so sorry that she has to work to achieve what seems like a minimal level of human spirituality. I'm so sorry that she had to be beaten with the love bat relentlessly in order to let any of it into her life. One of the only experiences I don't feel sorry for her about is one we shared-- the feeling of seeing a baby and being reunited with an old friend in an overwhelming wave of relief and love. She writes of seeing her son's profile on ultrasound for the first time (a new technology in 1987) and thinking, "Oh! It's Adam!" Not a baby, or her baby or the baby. Not a face. Not a technological marvel. No, the feeling was of recognizing a dear friend and one you'd been parted from for so long that you'd almost made yourself forget that friend to guard against the pain. Her husband had a similar experience later, via dream. I have had the exact same feeling. The first time I held my nephew Ethan, I burst into tears. And what I thought, at first, was pure joy, was actually joy mixed with an overwhelmingly powerful sense of relief at being reunited, finally, with a friend I had loved deeply and missed desperately. To Beck, it's just another in the endless Mysteries of Adam, given to her in order to help her, make her better, her her her. To me it's a precious gift from God-- a glimpse into just how eternal our spirits are and how very deeply we are loved and love in return across eternity. But enough. Okay. Enough. In the end, this memoir is a tale of the powerful, instructive, loving Holy Spirit of God. It's just too bad that it's getting told by one Martha Beck who goes out of her way to make it about the powerful, instructive, loving spirit of Adam. She falls into that, "all Down's people are magic" trope. And all of Harvard is full of ruthless winners, none of whom know how to love. And lots and lots of other problems. And I have to stop now. Long story short (too late!), a tremendous disappointment of a novel, poorly structured and suffering from a scorching case of cult of self.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Hughes

    Before you embark on this book, you need to know something about yourself. Are you comfortable reading fiction that insists on being called Drop-Dead True Memoir? Would you rather know some background before beginning, or would you rather just stay uninformed and enjoy the story? I've had to ask myself this as I read books like The Education of Little Tree and Papa Married a Mormon. Believing they were true as I read made for a magical experience that left some nasty Santa-Claus-isn't-real disill Before you embark on this book, you need to know something about yourself. Are you comfortable reading fiction that insists on being called Drop-Dead True Memoir? Would you rather know some background before beginning, or would you rather just stay uninformed and enjoy the story? I've had to ask myself this as I read books like The Education of Little Tree and Papa Married a Mormon. Believing they were true as I read made for a magical experience that left some nasty Santa-Claus-isn't-real disillusionment later. Would I have been happier leaving my oblivious, lovely reading experience alone, since learning more later meant feeling angry at being duped? If you are the kind of reader who would rather stay blissfully ignorant and enjoy the ride--and I still respect you for it if that's your decision--stop now. If you'd like to know before you read, here is a little background information, a short review, and then a sample from the book. Briefly, a little background, any of which can be confirmed with a quick internet search. Martha Nibley Beck is the daughter of famous Mormon scholar Hugh Nibley, one of eight children, and was raised in Provo, Utah. She married David Beck in the LDS Salt Lake Temple in 1983. After receiving advanced degrees at Harvard and having her three children, Martha Beck taught women's and gender studies at church university BYU in the early 1990s. When several colleagues were excommunicated, Martha and David became openly critical of the LDS Church and left it in 1993. In 1990, while at BYU, Martha and her husband co-wrote a book about homosexuality being a compulsive behavior that could be overcome. Then in a bizarre twist, in 2003, David first and then Martha Beck came out as gay, and they divorced in 2004. Interestingly, in Expecting Adam, published in 1999, readers will notice Martha gushing about her "friend" Karen who lives with her and her family. After coming out, Martha took her son Adam and moved in with friend, now partner, Karen. None of Beck's siblings apparently have a good relationship with their father, but in 2005 Beck accused Hugh Nibley of sexual abuse in a scathing tell-all book that appears to have as its only purpose tearing down every sacred thing in her life, including her membership in the church, her relationship with her parents and family, and her now-allegedly-terrible marriage. Beck's siblings recant her recollections of abuse as fiction. Her ex-husband David also calls the book hurtful, with many untrue elements. Martha Beck is in Oprah Winfrey's inner circle of gurus and has been writing a regular column as a life coach for O Magazine in 2001. You read that right. A. Life. Coach. Because now that you know about her life, you would trust her to fix yours. Reader, be vigilant about where you go for wise counsel. Charismatic and charming does not equal true. When I began this book, I enjoyed Martha Beck's conversational voice, I admired her love of her family and how she apparently learned the true meaning of life from her son who has Down Syndrome, and I was engaged by the spiritual overtones that suggested Beck was in tune with herself and her God. However, the longer I read, the more uncomfortable I became. After I did a little research, my conclusion was that she was trying to dupe her readers to make a buck through fictionalized memoir. I couldn’t in good conscience finish the book. I feel sorry for Martha Beck and her need to be in the spotlight by whatever means necessary. Under the guise of humility, she reminds the reader on almost every page that she is a Very Smart Person, Harvard Educated, and Alone In A Friendless World. She uses people in her life as props to tell her story. The oldest daughter is just a problem to be fixed with a bottle and some Sesame Street. I don't remember seeing anything about her second daughter. Even Adam himself seems to be secondary to HER story. At least her husband is perfect...when he's around. But it doesn't matter that he's gone so much because of their apparent paranormal ability to connect across continents. These paranormal experiences and angelic visitations actually become the theme of the book. I am an active Mormon, and the concept of angelic visitors does not upset my world view one bit. What bothers me is the disingenuous way Beck describes the supernatural. She acts like the person at the party who brags loudly to get attention and then demurs when everyone's eyes are finally on her and she's pressed for details. She tries to modestly downplay the fact that she, unlike us, receives this kind of fantastical attention from the universe. Afraid of religious connotations, she makes up words like "Seeing Thing" for visions and "friends" for angels. The unexplainable is filtered through a feel-good filter of magic and New Age-ism. Here are a couple of pages you can sample to see if you'd like the book. It was actually about this point where I decided to stop because Beck’s prose had degenerated to become falsely modest, all-out untrue, and just plain snarky. I've interjected a few of my opinions in brackets. “I didn’t know what they were. The word angel never occurred to me at the time. Neither did ghost, spirit, or any of the other terms ordinarily used to describe such intangible visitors. Even now, thinking back on it, I don’t know what I would call them. They could have been emissaries from the Spiral Nebula for all I know. … suffice it to say that any way you want to explain ‘paranormal’ experiences like this, from blaming them on delusion to believing they are being broadcast life from the Hale-Bopp comet, is fine with me. The only thing I can tell you is what I experienced” (p. 163) “I had been raised around people who believed such things, devout Mormons who would credit God and angels with just about everything that ever happened to them. For example, when I was little my family knew a woman who was so enormously fat that one day she got stuck going through her kitchen door. The woman’s entire family prayed for her relapse from the doorframe, until finally, with a great heave, she popped loose and headed on into the kitchen, presumably to get something to eat [Snarky! This is not Winnie-the-Pooh]. Another acquaintance had actually arranged for a neighbor, who was not Mormon, to care for her pet ducks after Jesus came again, since she (the Mormon) was going to be caught up to heaven, while her neighbor would be left behind with all the other sinners [doctrinally untrue]. “I had spent most of my life trying to disassociate myself from such people. It had not been easy. My parents were Mormon, though by no means typical; they believed in a strange blend of religion and intellectualism that had made me a childhood pariah among both my Mormon and my non-Mormon peers. All the neighbors and the kids at school believed in a sort of Republican, apple-pie-eating God, whose primary concern was that we all live exactly like the von Trapp family in The Sound of Music. My parents, by contrast, believed in a God who backed the Democrats in every election and whose pet peeves were brainless evangelism and kitschy art of any genre. In Utah, children take each other’s views of Divinity very seriously [untrue]. I got beaten up regularly in elementary school because of my fidelity to my parents’ God. By sixth grade, I—or rather, Fang (my alter-ego)—had become a “problem child” who made Sunday school teachers cry with her scalding sarcasm. “By the time I left for Harvard, I was an atheist. I had come to agree with Albert Camus that the only significant decision left in a godless universe was whether or not to commit suicide. The decision was pretty close to a toss-up for me. It had weighed so heavily on my mind that I took the next year off from Harvard and read a lot of Western philosophy, from the pre-Socratics to the postmodernists. Then I read the basic texts of several world religions and finished off with a layperson’s tour of theoretical physics. I was looking, in case you haven’t guessed, for the Meaning of Life. I couldn’t find it” (pp. 168-9). Martha Beck has spent all of her life looking for the Meaning of Life despite it being given to her over and over by a provident and infinitely patient hand. As readers, we will never find meaning from a "life coach" who does not know—who refuses to learn—it herself.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tanya W

    Although Martha Beck has some writing talent and this book is in some ways a very interesting read, the drawbacks make it more of a one or two star read. In spite of it being a one plus or two minus star read, I admit I was wanting to know what would happen next and read it quickly. As it went along it felt more like a movie or book that I realized at some point wasn't really very good, but I wanted to know what was going to happen anyway. Its contradictory nature made it more of a garbage book Although Martha Beck has some writing talent and this book is in some ways a very interesting read, the drawbacks make it more of a one or two star read. In spite of it being a one plus or two minus star read, I admit I was wanting to know what would happen next and read it quickly. As it went along it felt more like a movie or book that I realized at some point wasn't really very good, but I wanted to know what was going to happen anyway. Its contradictory nature made it more of a garbage book in the end. I believe she had some amazing experiences and that she needed these experiences to be able to make the decision to keep her baby. I find her book more offensive knowing her background. She truly is a woman of contradiction, at least she is clear where she stands in her life now, whereas she was still teetering between two distinct camps when she wrote it. As others have said, her initial feelings about having a disabled child are offensive. She tries to disassociate herself from Harvard community values, portraying herself as extremely intelligent, but more appreciative than her peers of the mentally less fortunate. She seems to be continually trying to convince herself or justify choosing a different pathway from Harvard folks around her. After a struggle, she realizes she shares the values which she grew up with in the LDS church (believing every person is a worthwhile child of God, regardless of abilities). She is trying to give herself the credit instead of just admitting the values she grew up with in her family and religious community were very good. It's funny to know a little more of the truth behind the story. She tells the reader, a bit subtly that she is above the faith of her family. Hmmm... She then conveniently neglects to give credit to that faith or even mention that it was women from the same church whose spiritual sensitivity brought them unbidden to her doorstep when she was in her hour of desperate need. I would not say as some have said that I felt "creepy" reading it, but I will say that it did not ring true in parts, I felt I was reading the words or a conflicted individual who has not really learned to seek or recognize the influence of God in her life.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Feistykel

    The reviews of this made me furious. Seriously - 1 star because she ignored Gods hand reaching out to her. Who the hell are you?? How dare you? "I believe all miracles stem from God in my life" well whoop de doo. This book inspired me, it changed my life and i can't quite explain why. I have 2 healthy children, I don't even know anyone with Downs Syndrome, but this book was full of realism and emotion. It also introduced me to the word natsukashii which also changed my life. Why is it that religi The reviews of this made me furious. Seriously - 1 star because she ignored Gods hand reaching out to her. Who the hell are you?? How dare you? "I believe all miracles stem from God in my life" well whoop de doo. This book inspired me, it changed my life and i can't quite explain why. I have 2 healthy children, I don't even know anyone with Downs Syndrome, but this book was full of realism and emotion. It also introduced me to the word natsukashii which also changed my life. Why is it that religious idiots cannot be objective? Cannot be themselves? Hide behind their GOD so often? A god who lets face, if he exists doesnt really give a rats about most people. So pompous and arrogant. Infuriating!!!!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kristine

    So good. So much to say... true story, and I love Beck's writing style. Here's the hook: Beck is in a PhD program at Harvard. She gets pregnant, has amazing visions and intuitions during the pregnancy, like seeing what her husband sees as he is in China (or somewhere). She finds out the baby she is carrying has Down's Syndrome, and from then on, no one in the department mentions her pregnancy. They are horrified that she wouldn't terminate an imperfect baby... this is when she realizes that acade So good. So much to say... true story, and I love Beck's writing style. Here's the hook: Beck is in a PhD program at Harvard. She gets pregnant, has amazing visions and intuitions during the pregnancy, like seeing what her husband sees as he is in China (or somewhere). She finds out the baby she is carrying has Down's Syndrome, and from then on, no one in the department mentions her pregnancy. They are horrified that she wouldn't terminate an imperfect baby... this is when she realizes that academia's ultra competitive mindset might not work for her anymore. That's just the beginning of the book- the story goes many places after that, as do Beck's thoughts about herself. Expecting Adam works on so many levels- the story, her writing style, her opinions, and of course, that it raises the question of what you would do in her situation. My book club read the book and it was one of our favorites. We are opinionated little shits, so if we all liked it... well, that says something. Martha Beck is a regular in the Oprah magazine now, but this book is, I think, what put her on the map. I've read some of her other books and this is the best, and it's way better than her columns, which I always find SO disappointing because Expecting Adam was amazing.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Milica Carter

    I enjoyed the parts of the book about her actual life. I even enjoyed the narratives of the "Angels" helping her. When she started the seemingly never-ending personal introspective analysis of God and Angels and religion my mind went numb with boredom and my eyes inevitably rolled. That, and the fact that I don't think I've ever met such a clueless pregnant woman. I mean, seriously, she is an idiot despite her Harvard education. (oh, she will bash you over the head constantly with this fact - an I enjoyed the parts of the book about her actual life. I even enjoyed the narratives of the "Angels" helping her. When she started the seemingly never-ending personal introspective analysis of God and Angels and religion my mind went numb with boredom and my eyes inevitably rolled. That, and the fact that I don't think I've ever met such a clueless pregnant woman. I mean, seriously, she is an idiot despite her Harvard education. (oh, she will bash you over the head constantly with this fact - an excuse for her complete idiocy perhaps) I had my first child as a 17 year old high-school student in 1986 in the Midwest and I knew more than this Harvard educated second time mother. Also, despite what she portrays, everything- CVS, ultrasound, amnio - were regularly available to all mothers, even way back then. Despite her constant professions of psychic connection to her beloved husband, he seems just as clueless and self-absorbed as she is. I also can't help but feel sorry for her poor neglected daughter who barely seems to register on mom's radar except as a prop in her "look how hard my life was and how sick I was but I have angels helping me" diatribes. Poor baby seems to have been raising herself. Maybe the puppet-angels would have been better off helping her.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nora

    This book describes the author's experience of carrying to term a Down's Syndrome baby while she and her husband were graduate students at Harvard in the 1980's. The juxtaposition of this non-practicing Mormon family's religious heritage, intellectual milieu, and vivid spiritual experiences made this book fascinating to me, doubly so because the author and her husband were acquaintances of mine long ago. The book is funny, witty, and wonderful in its descriptions of intellectual and family life. This book describes the author's experience of carrying to term a Down's Syndrome baby while she and her husband were graduate students at Harvard in the 1980's. The juxtaposition of this non-practicing Mormon family's religious heritage, intellectual milieu, and vivid spiritual experiences made this book fascinating to me, doubly so because the author and her husband were acquaintances of mine long ago. The book is funny, witty, and wonderful in its descriptions of intellectual and family life. Its biggest appeal to me, however, lay in the outlandish descriptions of spiritual encounters that, despite their unusual nature, closely match some of my own. I am left with a sense of reassurance and wonder about the universe and my grossly inadequate interpretation of it--always a good thing.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Quirky Shauna

    I love people with Down's Syndrome. I am bothered by the fact that 90% of fetuses with a known dianosis of Trisomy 21 are aborted. It scares me that the world can do away with anyone who is not perfect. Favorite quotes: "...the word 'mother' is more powerful when it is used as a verb that as a noun. Mothering has little to do with biological reproduction. You can always find it, if you're smart and know where to look." "...the Taoist saying that "when two great forces collide, the victory will go t I love people with Down's Syndrome. I am bothered by the fact that 90% of fetuses with a known dianosis of Trisomy 21 are aborted. It scares me that the world can do away with anyone who is not perfect. Favorite quotes: "...the word 'mother' is more powerful when it is used as a verb that as a noun. Mothering has little to do with biological reproduction. You can always find it, if you're smart and know where to look." "...the Taoist saying that "when two great forces collide, the victory will go to the one that knows how to yield." The idea is that a fluid substance, like water, may seem to give in to a rigid substance, like stone - but in the end, it is the water that shapes the stone, and not the other way around." "God's joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box, from cell to cell. As rain water, down into the flowerbed. As roses, up from ground. Now it looks like a plate of rice and fish, now a cliff covered with vines, now a horse being saddled. It hides within these, till one day it cracks them open. Anne Lamott quoting Rumi - a Persian mystic" "...you'll never be hurt as much by being open as you have been hurt by remaining closed." "...then I understood. She was talking about the soothing, singsong language mothers speak spontaneously when they talk to babies. Baby talk is found in all nations, all cultures; it is the original Mother Tongue. It translates across any language barrier because it is more about music than about words; the sounds themselves, not their meaning, give comfort and support." "When he got home, the sun came out." "Real magic doesn't come from achieving the perfect appearance, from being Cinderella at the ball with both glass slippers and a killer hairstyle. The real magic is in the pumpkin, in the mice, in the moonlight; not beyond the ordinary life, but within it." (about sweetness felt): "It comes from looking at the heart of things, from stopping to smell not only the roses but the bushes as well. It is a quality of attention to ordinary life that is loving and intimate it is almost worship." "Angels come in many shapes and sizes, and most of them are not invisible." "...despite all my years of education and training, I have learned most of what I know about living joyfully from one person, and he is not on any faculty. They barely let him into the first grade... people pay me good money to pass along to them what Adam teaches me for free. Luckily, I'm pretty sure he will never demand a percentage of the take. It scares me to think how much I owe him." "Horses live to run; that's what they do... what do we live to do, the way a horse lives to run?... This is the part of us that makes our brief, improbable little lives worth living: the ability to reach through our own isolation and find strength, and comfort, and warmth for and in each other. This is what human beings do. This is what we live for, the way horses live to run." "The meaning of life is not what happens to people... the meaning of life is what happens BETWEEN people." "Life would be completely unbearable if it weren't so hilarious." "...I have never met a mother of any culture who could just whack off her children's hair without a few bittersweet twinges. It's so astonishing to look at a child, an incredibly complex, independent living being, and know that it emerged from your own insides. It seems a pity to throw any of it away." "Whoever said that love is blind was dead wrong. Love is the only thing on this earth that lets us see each other with the remotest accuracy." "Any person who acts out of love is acting for God. There is no way to repay such acts, except perhaps to pass them on to others." "...I decided to try an experiment: for that one evening, I would resist assigning any labels to my classmates... I would try to look at them without preconception... of course, this is nearly impossible, but I did make an effort - for a few minutes. After that I had to stop, because I was so overcome by the beauty of every person... that my eyes kept filling with tears. I think that's maybe one reason we screen out so much loveliness. If we saw people as they really are, the beauty would overwhelm us."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    A few months ago, my husband and I went to the Friends of the Seattle Public Library book sale, a huge book sale held in an old airplane hangar. Books are piled up everywhere, and people are toting around bags and suitcases, nudging--even pushing--each other to discover the treasure of a good book...it's great fun! I found a few books I thought worthy of my time, including Expecting Adam. For some reason, I'm drawn to stories about real people and real lives. I often agree with Mark Twain that "t A few months ago, my husband and I went to the Friends of the Seattle Public Library book sale, a huge book sale held in an old airplane hangar. Books are piled up everywhere, and people are toting around bags and suitcases, nudging--even pushing--each other to discover the treasure of a good book...it's great fun! I found a few books I thought worthy of my time, including Expecting Adam. For some reason, I'm drawn to stories about real people and real lives. I often agree with Mark Twain that "truth is stranger than fiction." In this book, that is indeed true. And the story is indeed strange. As I read the summary of the book, I was taken in immediately. It is a story about an intelligent Harvard couple who goes through a life-changing experience by having a child with Down's Syndrome. In the Harvard culture, this was unheard of, and unacceptable. Their journey is one from intelligence to wisdom, from studying life to truly living it. I resonate with this story in many ways, though I myself have not had a child with a disability. But my life perspective has been transformed due to knowing people with disabilities, after graduating with honors at a large university. It made me realize that all the academic studying in the world couldn't teach me the important truths about life. Expecting Adam is told by Martha Beck while she was pregnant with Adam, a Down's Syndrome baby. I must admit, I was hoping to learn more about Adam and his family after he was born. So be forewarned that the reader does not learn much of Adam apart from glimpses into the future. The story is more about people's reactions to him when they discover he has a disability. Nevertheless, Beck makes some really great points in Expecting Adam. In ironic humor she writes, "You can tell a great deal about people by the way they react when you tell them you're going to have a retarded child. You might want to try this on a few of your own friends, as a kind of litmus test to see what the world looks like to them." Though I would never joke about it with my friends, there is a ring of truth to what Beck says. It's very similar to how people react when someone mentions the words "Jesus Christ": we might get uncomfortable at first, but then we react according to our current beliefs (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-31). Now, I tend to stay away from "New-Agey" type books because they often leave me unsatisfied. They are usually based on one person's experience of some sort of supernatural phenomenon, interposed with possible truths about why they occur such as luck, coincidence, karma, cosmic energy, etc. Expecting Adam has this sort of tone. Whether out of humor or ignorance, Martha Beck attributes many of her experiences to "Bunraku puppeteers," giving the impression that her life is like a puppet on a string. Things happen to her, and she has no control over her actions. Ideas like this seem plausible, but are they really true in the world that we live in? Is it Bunraku puppeteers who are playing with our lives, or a God who loves us intimately and allows us to make our own decisions? Though we may not be able to control our circumstances, we can control our reactions to those circumstances. Overall, I like the fundamental story in Expecting Adam, but the reasoning behind the story left me expecting more.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I have a real hate/love relationship with all things Oprah, meaning I get the magazine but hate myself in the morning, you know what I mean (or maybe not... major root canal, people, I don't even know what I mean). But I love Martha Beck, her sanity, her clarity, her humor. She's got a regular column in Oprah which is one of the reasons I keep getting the magazine. Before I really knew she was a life coach (doesn't that just sound dreadful, but get over it, she's not a jerk) I read this book and I have a real hate/love relationship with all things Oprah, meaning I get the magazine but hate myself in the morning, you know what I mean (or maybe not... major root canal, people, I don't even know what I mean). But I love Martha Beck, her sanity, her clarity, her humor. She's got a regular column in Oprah which is one of the reasons I keep getting the magazine. Before I really knew she was a life coach (doesn't that just sound dreadful, but get over it, she's not a jerk) I read this book and I thought it, she, the whole kittenkaboodle, terrific. I like her Alice Hoffmanesque magical life moments as well - makes me forgive her for all things Harvard (oh, just read the book).

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lesley

    This book is very hard for me to rate... there are some things about it that I want to give it a High Five, and some things were so hard for me to believe that I thought about making it a single star. So here I am riding the fence and going with 3 stars. Martha Beck wrote this as her story about her second pregnancy…it was very hard on her physically, and then was made even harder when she found out that the baby she carried had Down Syndrome. She proceeds to tell the story of all the things tha This book is very hard for me to rate... there are some things about it that I want to give it a High Five, and some things were so hard for me to believe that I thought about making it a single star. So here I am riding the fence and going with 3 stars. Martha Beck wrote this as her story about her second pregnancy…it was very hard on her physically, and then was made even harder when she found out that the baby she carried had Down Syndrome. She proceeds to tell the story of all the things that happen to her during her pregnancy, mixed with stories of her son Adam as a child. Adam is someone I would love to meet... he sounds like a wonderful special kid. She pretty much bashed everyone else in her life, outside herself and Adam. The book is funny, easy to read, and sometimes hard to put down. There is a lot about it that I was impressed with... and a whole lot that makes me frustrated... and I want to say that she does not speak for most people who have children with disabilities. In fact, one of my biggest issues with Dr Beck is her constant use of the word "retarded". As a parent of a child with special needs (actually Daniel was born in the same month and year as the child in this story) I know that this term was not appropriate way back in 1988... even if you are from Utah and even if you have a PhD from Harvard. I could go on and on, but you got to read the book and then we can really discuss this one!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    A friend told me about this book. It is not something that I normally would have picked up on my own. It is the author's autobiographical story of her second pregnancy. During the pregnancy, she found out through amneosenthesis (sp?) that her son would be born with Down's syndrome. By the way, both she and her husband were studying for PhDs at Harvard during this time. [As a side note, the friend who recommended this book was in the second year of her Master's studies at Harvard when she was pre A friend told me about this book. It is not something that I normally would have picked up on my own. It is the author's autobiographical story of her second pregnancy. During the pregnancy, she found out through amneosenthesis (sp?) that her son would be born with Down's syndrome. By the way, both she and her husband were studying for PhDs at Harvard during this time. [As a side note, the friend who recommended this book was in the second year of her Master's studies at Harvard when she was pregnant. I e-mailed her that after reading this to tell her that I actually feel bad for her that she went to Harvard.] During her pregnancy, things that the author describes as paranormal start to happen to her. Martha Beck, the author, makes it very clear that she is not trying to convince anyone to believe anything. She is merely relating what happened to her. I have to say, I found this book to be extraordinary. Whether you believe in forces that we cannot see or not, the way that this event--knowing that as two life-long super achievers would be parents of a retarded son--drastically altered their lives for the postive is worth reading. The thing that I found most moving about this book is the way that, if we let them, unplanned events can shape and redirect our lives for the better. I will be thinking about this book for a long time.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Christia

    Oddly enough, another one of my all time favorite books. Martha Beck and her huband are both caught up in the world of academa at Harvard University and find themselves expecting their second child, only to discover he has Down Syndrome. An amazing story of how they prepare themselves for their son's birth (keeping him is never a question) and of the strange, supernatural events occurring during Martha's pregnancy. (For example, prior to Adam's birth, both parents independently somehow know that Oddly enough, another one of my all time favorite books. Martha Beck and her huband are both caught up in the world of academa at Harvard University and find themselves expecting their second child, only to discover he has Down Syndrome. An amazing story of how they prepare themselves for their son's birth (keeping him is never a question) and of the strange, supernatural events occurring during Martha's pregnancy. (For example, prior to Adam's birth, both parents independently somehow know that their child will be a boy and decide also independently of each other his name should be Adam). Martha (who later leaves academia to become a life coach) is a very spiritual person, although not necessarily Christian. You would think this would be a very sad book, but it isn't. Martha has a wonderful sense of humor that is very evident as she tells her story. I re-read this book immediately following 9-11 because I found it so comforting.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    While the story itself was amazing, I just couldn't get past the authors underhanded bad comments about the LDS church. She lumped all members under what she grew up with. I kept waiting for her to get a clue and realize the "puppets" she had helping her along the way was really God. I kept telling myself I wasn't going to finish reading the book but I kept going back in hopes that she would wise up. For a Harvard graduate with a bunch of degrees she isn't all that wise. If I had known more abou While the story itself was amazing, I just couldn't get past the authors underhanded bad comments about the LDS church. She lumped all members under what she grew up with. I kept waiting for her to get a clue and realize the "puppets" she had helping her along the way was really God. I kept telling myself I wasn't going to finish reading the book but I kept going back in hopes that she would wise up. For a Harvard graduate with a bunch of degrees she isn't all that wise. If I had known more about her and he life choices before I read the book I would have passed on reading it. While she is a very good writer I will not be reading anymore or her books. I do have to say though, her humor in the book was great. I couldn't help but laugh out loud at a few stories! I actually didn't even want to put on here that I read this book but I wanted others to know about it (unlike I did)and then to make their own choice about reading it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    Martha Beck made me think hard about many things. In particular, she made me ask, "Am I listening and acting upon the messages that come to me?" The title uses the phrase "everyday magic," which I guess is a good enough label for the things that happen to her while she is "expecting Adam," but the word magic doesn't quite get to the essence of what I decided she was revealing through her story. However, I don't have a better descriptor, and that doesn't matter because Beck communicated her meani Martha Beck made me think hard about many things. In particular, she made me ask, "Am I listening and acting upon the messages that come to me?" The title uses the phrase "everyday magic," which I guess is a good enough label for the things that happen to her while she is "expecting Adam," but the word magic doesn't quite get to the essence of what I decided she was revealing through her story. However, I don't have a better descriptor, and that doesn't matter because Beck communicated her meaning through skillful writing that goes beyond that singular label. She writes about the way in which she was transformed from one kind of thinker to another, and she offers this story as a gift to others who might need a nudge to get moving in a better direction. "Expecting Adam" was a satisfying read, thought provoking as well as entertaining because Beck has no problem poking fun at herself and the world we live in.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    I can't help it. I love this book. And I cry, every time. Every time. A lot of crying. It's definitely cheesy at times, and I'm not 100 percent into the whole spirit world thing, but I love the naked honesty of this and it's a good thing to cry at how life can be messy and beautiful and scary all at once. I guess it should be all those things.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    What an amazing story. It follows Martha Beck's pregnancy with her down syndrome son, Adam. More importantly though, it tells the story of coming to understand the amazing spirits that are born into our homes, and the love and support we are always receiving from the other side of the veil. There were certainly things about this book that bothered me, as a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; however, I loved Martha's perspective that the things that we stress about What an amazing story. It follows Martha Beck's pregnancy with her down syndrome son, Adam. More importantly though, it tells the story of coming to understand the amazing spirits that are born into our homes, and the love and support we are always receiving from the other side of the veil. There were certainly things about this book that bothered me, as a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; however, I loved Martha's perspective that the things that we stress about most in this life are not the things of greatest importance. Rather, the most important things are our relationships and recognizing that this life is a time for joy--all the details of life can and should help us find just that: "He put his arm around my shoulders again, but I had the feeling that instead of clinging to me for support, he was holding me up, embracing me, trying to help me trust that everything around us--the dolphins, the birds, the sun, the sky, the whole vast, blue Atlantic--was there to bring us joy. I think he may be right."

  25. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    To the friends (and other Goodreads readers) who chastise me when I say this book touches my soul: I know. I know Martha Beck grew up Mormon, left the Church, and wrote a nasty book where she accused all Mormons of being child molesters and liars and other things. I've heard it all several times before, so I'm going to ignore any comments that point this out to me. (And by the way, that other book of hers wasn't nearly as bad as everyone says.) Martha and her husband, John, are in post-graduate p To the friends (and other Goodreads readers) who chastise me when I say this book touches my soul: I know. I know Martha Beck grew up Mormon, left the Church, and wrote a nasty book where she accused all Mormons of being child molesters and liars and other things. I've heard it all several times before, so I'm going to ignore any comments that point this out to me. (And by the way, that other book of hers wasn't nearly as bad as everyone says.) Martha and her husband, John, are in post-graduate programs at Harvard and already have an 18-month old daughter, Katie, when Martha finds out that she's pregnant again. Even before the results of the amniocentesis reveal that the baby has Down's Syndrome, their decision to have a second baby is frowned upon by the Harvard intellectual community. But after they find out about the baby's diagnosis, the pressure to abort the baby increased. Even though Martha and John believed, intellectually, in a woman's right to choose whether to give birth to a "retarded" child, they decided to keep this baby. And they both had these...experiences. Very special experiences, and this is the part of the book that speaks to me so strongly and keeps me coming back every couple of years. Suffering through a very difficult pregnancy, with a two-year-old and a husband who had a part-time job in Asia, Martha repeatedly feels spiritual beings helping her, and helping Adam to survive and be born. They bring others to help her when she can't help herself, they help her out of a burning building, and they help her know that she is loved, truly loved, just for being herself. And this is hard for a competitive Harvard woman to understand. John, for his part, has a vision that I'm not even going to try to describe here. But I'll just say that the message in the vision has brought me comfort during times that appear to be terrible--God really is in charge. Here's one of my favourite quotes, from when Adam was about three and had barely, after years of hard work, just barely uttered his first word. "He looked at me with steady eyes, and I knew what I had known--what I should have remembered--all that time: that his flesh of my flesh had a soul I could barely comprehend, that he was sorry for the pain I felt as I tried to turn him into a "normal" child, and that he loved me despite my many disabilities."

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Sammis

    I received Expecting Adam by Martha Beck as a gift when I was about 14 weeks pregnant with Harriet. That's the time when one is tested for possible genetic abnormalities like Down Syndrome. Expecting Adam is Beck's memoir of her difficult pregnancy with Adam, her son who has Down Syndrome. As some one who has suffered through two miscarriages for unknown reasons, I completely understand Beck's decision to continue with her pregnancy even though her son would require extra help at school and would I received Expecting Adam by Martha Beck as a gift when I was about 14 weeks pregnant with Harriet. That's the time when one is tested for possible genetic abnormalities like Down Syndrome. Expecting Adam is Beck's memoir of her difficult pregnancy with Adam, her son who has Down Syndrome. As some one who has suffered through two miscarriages for unknown reasons, I completely understand Beck's decision to continue with her pregnancy even though her son would require extra help at school and would be at risk for heart problems. I would have done the same with either of my children too. Like Beck, I would have used remaining time in my pregnancy to learn as much as I possibly could about my child's condition. Beck's memoir covers the time just before her second pregnancy, through her pregnancy and shortly after the delivery. She also bounces forward and backward in her life to show what life was like before Adam and what it's like with him. He is bookended by his two sisters. On top of the stress of a difficult pregnancy (Beck's descriptions of her morning sickness makes mine seem like a cake walk!) she also had the stress of being a graduate student at Harvard and having a husband who was constantly traveling as part of his research. Although I'm not a graduate student, Ian has been through both pregnancies and he had to do a lot of traveling when I was pregnant with Sean. I usually shy away from parenting memoirs but I really enjoyed this one. I felt a connection to Beck and when I was done with the book I immediately called my mother to tell her about it. In fact I'm mailing the book to her next week. The book does have a few flaws. The writing is rough in places and sometimes in need of clearer segues. Nonetheless, it's one of the best books I've read this year.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    There were a few great insights and some incredibly frustrating attitudes that both existed in this book. I thought this book would be solely about the author’s emotional and physical journey through a pregnancy of a child with Down Syndrome, but it goes beyond that in ways that were interesting and extremely frustrating. She and her husband were both die-hard Harvard students when she became pregnant with their second child. She felt incredible pressure to abort this baby, but she started havin There were a few great insights and some incredibly frustrating attitudes that both existed in this book. I thought this book would be solely about the author’s emotional and physical journey through a pregnancy of a child with Down Syndrome, but it goes beyond that in ways that were interesting and extremely frustrating. She and her husband were both die-hard Harvard students when she became pregnant with their second child. She felt incredible pressure to abort this baby, but she started having incredible experiences of being guided by inner thoughts and impressions and even conversations with other loving beings not in this world. But yet she could or would not say they were angels or any kind of heavenly help because of her feelings about her former religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Her father is Hugh Nibley, a noted religious scholar, and whom she had a huge falling out and seemed to resent bitterly. Even though she describes her experiences just as a guardian angel would, she prefers to call them Japanese puppeteers or magic or mysticism. Even when she felt them so closely to help heal her, she was put off because they were men “guardian angels “ instead of women. To me her ingratitude was endless. I do believe in guardian angels and God’s power in our lives, and was emotionally hurt when she would callously mock anything religious, such as comparing Christ’s resurrection to Ground Hog Day. And she would repeatedly call her son with Down Syndrome “retarded”, which is painful to read and feel. She did finally realize that the joy her son brought by slowing down their lives and being an example of savoring the journey here on Earth was its only redeeming quality. She is a very talented writer, but that wasn’t enough for me.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    This book is about a woman who is pregnant with a Down syndrome baby. During her pregnancy, she experiences many different spiritual occurrences and tiny miracles. She and her husband are both deeply embedded in the Harvard community, and tend to have to ask the question, "Is it rational?" At the beginning of the pregnancy they are both very skeptical of the feelings, voices, and visions but grow to embrace it as a part of their son. I really enjoyed this book, but there was one thing that real This book is about a woman who is pregnant with a Down syndrome baby. During her pregnancy, she experiences many different spiritual occurrences and tiny miracles. She and her husband are both deeply embedded in the Harvard community, and tend to have to ask the question, "Is it rational?" At the beginning of the pregnancy they are both very skeptical of the feelings, voices, and visions but grow to embrace it as a part of their son. I really enjoyed this book, but there was one thing that really bothered me throughout the story. She continually used the word "retarded" in reference to her son. "Our retarded son," "My retarded child." If this book was a little older, I might not let it bother me so much, but it was written in the ninetys and the copyright date is 1999. "Retarded" is a word full of negativity and I cringe when I hear it in reference to a child, especially. I can tell from reading the book that this mother has huge amounts of love and respect for her son. But I think she could have picked a different word to use when writing about her experiences.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    A fantastic, poignant, funny, moving memoir from Martha Beck, one of my all time favorite authors. This is about her experience of being pregnant with a son she found out would have Down Syndrome while pursuing a Ph.D. at Harvard and raising another daughter, alternating with chapters about examples of the magic her son brought into her life as he grew up -- proving that a disorder she thought would be an unbearable burden ended up being her greatest gift and teacher. Gave me an amazing sense of A fantastic, poignant, funny, moving memoir from Martha Beck, one of my all time favorite authors. This is about her experience of being pregnant with a son she found out would have Down Syndrome while pursuing a Ph.D. at Harvard and raising another daughter, alternating with chapters about examples of the magic her son brought into her life as he grew up -- proving that a disorder she thought would be an unbearable burden ended up being her greatest gift and teacher. Gave me an amazing sense of perspective on life in general, and reinforced the idea that making decisions for others or living for society's social norms can be soul-sucking (her time at Harvard) and that sometimes our biggest fears and disappointments (finding out she would have a son with Downs) are actually the best thing to ever happen to us, beyond even our wildest imagination. Humbling story in every way.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    This is an amazing book! The author writes profusely in many magazines, from GOOD HOUSEKEEPING to the magazines that you find in airplanes. She is an academic and this book talks about her experiences at Harvard while she is expecting a child that has Down Syndrome. The emotional pace that the author manages to capture in relation to this troublesome pregnacy, and even more troublesome venue, is exhausting, but brilliantly done. And, in the end, the book is hopeful.

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