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am 7. Juni 1999
Martha Beck has the gift to share the experience of profundity with wit, love and insight. It is a book that must be read by all those who seek to discover the nature of reality behind illusion. Thank you for taking the time to write this book....is my most heartfelt and important message to the author.
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am 17. November 1999
Expecting Adam is not the story of a child with Down syndrome. It is the heart-felt confession of one woman's personal journey from fear to grace. As the mother of an eight year old boy with an autistic disorder, I fought and wrangled with her story for about the first half of the book, and found myself saying "Come on, Martha, tell me something I don't know." Having conceived my second child while my husband was completing his doctorate, I found eerie similarities to my own experience, from questioning mysticism and other-worldly phenonoma, to being in complete awe of our son when he does what we call his "God Thing." Even so I felt she was exaggerating her own experience,and taking liberties with the academic environment in which she lived. Since most readers won't have an insider's understanding of what it is like be the parents of a "non-perfect" baby in the halls of academia, I felt that I would qualify any recommendation that I made by saying, "Take in all the parts except Harvard - she went a bit overboard there."
But then, somewhere in the middle of the book, it was as if Martha was right there whispering in my ear, "open your heart..." And so, I did. The next morning, after finishing the book, I was shouting orders to my four children, doing my best Captain von Trapp imitation, and getting nowhere fast in readying them for school. There was spilled juice, slopped cereal, and a screaming baby. My "disabled" son, sensing my mounting frustration, asked just at the wrong moment to have his shoes tied. I threw down the kitchen towel in exasperation and left the room for a few minutes to collect myself. I then sheepishly returned to the rallying cry of, "Lets all be chickens!" And there he was, my son, making the others laugh and smile, clearing away the mess, collecting backpacks, and all the while flapping his arms like wings and making his best chicken sounds. We all piled into the car, slightly late, but smiling, and as he got out he gave me a wet, sloppy kiss. He took me by the shoulders and said, "Mommy, if I ever lose you, my heart will not feel so good." He walked away, doing his best imitation of a man walk, and I drove back home, crying and laughing at the same time.
And then I felt them. Martha's Bunraku puppeteers. Or at least, my own version of them. Because at that moment I have never been happier to be parent, let alone the parent of a child with very special needs. All my fears for his future (and mine) were obliterated by a wonderfully calm place in my heart, something I have felt many times before, but could never have expressed as beautifully and honestly as Martha Beck. Thank you, Martha, for putting into words so many of the feelings that I have, but have been too fearful to admit and put down on paper. I hope that I become more graceful in time with my own journey, as you have shown the world that you are with yours.
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am 22. Februar 1999
An exploration of the process of discovering that an expected child will be born with Downs Syndrome. The story is intriguing because it is set in the competitive mileau of Harvard, where the author and her husband were students during the pregnancy. Also unusual is that the expectant parents are blessed with visions during the pregnancy which help them cope and convince them that this is a special baby (shades of Touched by an Angel?). Beck's writing occasionally breaks down into the gushings of an adolescent girl. Still, it's a hopeful story, and will support readers dealing with similar situations.
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am 9. Oktober 1999
I was shocked by the review describing Martha Beck as a whiner. I read this book yesterday (yes, in one day--I was mesmerized) and can't remember any whining. It was the opposite--a description of her joy, wonderment, and surprise that life could hold what it began to hold for her when she was expecting her son, Adam. I can't get this book out of my mind; I am still processing it. Although I am not a skeptic about supernatural things, her experiences don't exactly fit into my worldview and I'm trying to figure out what they might mean. Meanwhile, however, the book changed my perceptions of what it might be like to have a child with Down Syndrome (something I've contemplated and even researched before, when a friend got suspicious test results during her pregnancy). And I thought the descriptions of her life at Harvard were equally as fascinating as anything else in the book. As the wife of a former academic, I was both amused and amazed by her encounters with people at Harvard and her own ivory tower naivete, and as a southwesterner I had a bit of a culture shock reading about people who would just step over a pregnant woman who had fainted rather than stop to help her. This book is very well written and full of incredible insights and experiences (I read many passages aloud to my husband). I think parts of the story will resonate with anyone who has been struck by the incredible, unbelievable gift of a baby, as I have been with my own son. I imagine that those who are suspicious of anything they can't see will find much to narrow their eyes at while reading this book, yet it seems to me that only those who have never known what it's like to love a child could truly dislike it.
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am 24. September 1999
The thing that becomes obvious as one reads Beck's book is that (her claims of paranormal birthing experiences aside) she had a tremendous amount of support throughout her pregnancy and that she is one of those highly fortunate people with strong, natural luck that allows her hard work to always achieve what must have become to seem to Beck like its natural reward.
Poor Beck! Her husband, having completed his M.B.A. from Harvard while still working on his Ph.D., is forced to buy suits for his--obviously highly lucrative--consultancy that lasts the course of her pregnancy. Poor Beck! After some missteps, her friends discover that she is suffering during her husband's absences and they come over to buy her groceries and cook for her in the throes of her miserable pregnancy. Poor Beck! She needs a place to dump her daughter during the day while pregnant and trying to complete her own academic work. The top local day-care is oversubscribed--but, surprise, surprise, a last minute cancellation offers her a place just when she needs it. Poor Beck! Her academic work is flagging owing to her physical condition--a sympathetic professor assigns her an "A" grade instead of an "incomplete" because she trusts Beck to finish the paper under her own supervision during the summer term. Poor Beck! Her husband, having completed his nasty lucrative year of consultancy, is given six months by the consultancy company's founder to work on finishing his Ph.D. thesis--with no real other expectation from the founder other than that this will help Beck and her husband cope with the first six months of life with a Down's syndrome child. Clearly, these are people who suffered from the hard side of cut-throat Harvard and business competition!
Reading this book, one begins to suspect that much of the suffering has been created (indeed nurtured) in Beck's own mind. Certainly, she runs into some nasty people who don't understand her decision to keep her Down's Syndrome baby. But one suspects that she might have come into contact with some people even outside the Harvard environment. Neither her own family nor her husband's family's reaction to the news can be described as "instantly thrilled by the prospect." So "HARVARD" just becomes a literary device for "the nasty people who don't understand me." The people at Harvard who supported Beck throughout her pregnancy must be squirming!
This book may read as a comfort to some--but for others, it's a disappointment, a tale of an over-achieving whiner who just can't accept that everything in her life is meant to be perfect and special.
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am 17. November 1999
You begin this book with a certain amount of doubt. But it soon becomes clear that no one is more doubtful than the author herself, and this gently reassures you, allowing you to open up to the miracles in her life as she, in the book, is gradually coming to understand them. The characterizations are especially apt, and you feel you're in the cramped, grim office of the aging Harvard professor who cannot begin to fathom why anyone would keep a "defective" child. You feel the author's mixture of prickly attention and uneasy resistance when a crazy-sounding woman goes into a trance and afterwards mentions that her (the author's) son is an angel. All the unbelievable parts of the book - the hemorrage that would have killed any other pregnant woman, the author's "seeing" through her husband's eyes when he was on a trip halfway around the world - ultimately have the effect of making you wish for such miracles in your own life, rather than disbelieving that they have occurred in hers. It is a measure of the book's extreme honesty and ultimate reliance on faith - the author's and the reader's - that this book has not been a huge best seller. It just may be too intelligent, and too "irrational," for most professional book reviewers.
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am 11. April 1999
I was so moved by this book that I would like to give a copy to every person I love and care about. This book is about how truly misguided the idea of "success" in our society has become. It is about choosing to make your life more meaningful and happy.
Although some reviewers refer to it as a spiritual book, it is a powerful sociological analysis of the deep-seated prejudices in our society against being "different" or "unusual". What could be more natural than a mother deciding to behave like one? Yet what is most astonishing in the story is the refusal of so many people to understand and support that decision.
I myself am a person who deeply believes in a woman's choice, and yet I remain amazed by those ignorant enough to insist that "choice" means believing in abortion-particularly with regard to disabled children. Martha Beck's "choice" was to give birth to her child. How many times have I thought to myself how lucky my husband and I were not to have known that our daughter would some day be labeled "disabled". I cannot imaging being deprived of her miraculous and deeply treasured self, simply because she has turned out to be different than our expectations. When women choose abortions, it has to do with their own lives, and needs, and resources. This book is about why that is such a wonderful way to help a child enter the world. Martha Beck made her choices understanding that she was choosing for herself, and not because the baby she was carrying met, exceeded or disappointed her own or others' expectations. She has a lesson to teach all of us-even the reader from Brooklyn so offended by the way the author uses Harvard in the book.
This story is the story of a couple, both of whom suffered from a belief that their "value" stemmed from their intelligence, their academic achievement, and their professional potential. At different points in their lives, both were forced up against the knowledge that they had been pursuing goals and lives entirely devoted to proving them worthy of being loved. These lives were called into serious question by the challenge of being faced with the birth of their second child, who would be born retarded. Although the author talks a lot about Harvard, it is not about trying to impress us with the meaning of her Harvard degrees.
For those readers who start out their lives already so wise and well-adjusted they can't imagine why kids who go to exclusive schools are sometimes so in awe of that achievement-which seems so egotistical-perhaps this book is not necessary. However, for those like the rest of us, who question the values around us, but still founder when daring to imagine things differently, the book is a godsend. Though it may come as a shock to many educationally and professionally successful people to hear that the reverse side of a high IQ is sometimes an enormous sense of self-doubt and a lack of feelings of self-worth, it is nonetheless very true. One has to be fairly driven to compete in much of today's academic and professional world-given the costs demanded as "ritual sacrifices" by the Gods of Success. And in order to ignore our natural tendencies to seek pleasure rather than pain, a certain amount of necessary approval from parents and teachers has to be made contingent on academic and professional achievement or else normal folk won't be willing to suffer the sacrifices. By allowing us to understand the Harvard environment, the author helps us to understand just how desperately she and her husband believed they had to be "successful" in that world in order to feel worthy of love.
Their lesson-part of the spiritual tale which is also a focus of the story-is that we all deserve to be loved-not for what we achieve but for who we are. This is not what they teach at Harvard-or any other academic institution of high repute, as far as I have observed. Lots of people will not need to hear that lesson-but every parent should, even if they already believe they know everything about parenting. Imagine a world in which all children were as wanted and as loved as Adam-it would be like heaven on earth.
This book is about trying to get back on track with what the most profound goals of our lives should be, and how to achieve them. Ironically, there is not as much information about having a disabled child, or about that child himself, as there is about the beauty in taking life as it comes. My mother used to say that every person wakes up every day and is forced to decide whether to see the donut or the hole. My mom always chose the donut. That was her greatest gift to me. My daughter has continued in that family tradition of giving. Reading this book, which made me weep and chuckle out loud all week on PATH trains and New York City subways--to the dismay of other passengers--, has given me a "refresher course" in why such help remains necessary. Too many people have lost touch with the real beauty in life or have lost the ability to notice simple beauty--it is a natural talent of children, and the gift that Adam brought to the Becks. Many people of course, have never had it. In a time of great "prosperity", books like this can help you to focus--or refocus--on what is most precious in our lives.
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am 10. April 1999
In medieval times, babies with Down Syndrome were sometimes thought to be "changelings". Legend had it that fairies had stolen the real baby and substituted one of their own in the rightful owner's crib. When our daughter was born 14 years ago, like Martha Beck, we discovered the darker side of medicine (my gynecologist was revealed to be a soulmate of Dr. Kevorkian). Then, metaphorically, like the author we began to see things that are invisible to the real world. For us - we are atheists - these "angels" aren't messengers from a Higher Being, but the manifestation of the better side of human nature or, perhaps, those fairies keep intervening in the lives of their littles ones! My sister, a social-worker whose career has been devoted to advocating the rights of the mentally handicapped, told me "Down Syndrome is not so much a disability as it is another system of values". It's sort of an alternative reality where success is measured by how much fun you have, how much you love and are loved. Where magic occurs on a daily basis and the parallel universe that only the marginalized perceive, lets you see, hear and feel what is essential. The father of a "normal" friend and classmate of our daughter - an author and psychiatrist (a profession which usually excels in its inability to interpret Down Syndrome) said "Rather like an extraterrestrial, we have made Sarah learn our language and adapt to our world. But we don't bother to learn about hers or the language she may speak in secret to herself. She must cross the bridge to our side. But if we met her half-way, what could we discover ? And why do we presume her world is less interesting than ours ?"
Mary Ritchie, Geneva, Switzerland
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am 5. November 1999
Martha Beck dubs her tale "A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic" and sets the imagination churning with her wit and wisdom. An account of a Harvard sociology graduate student from Utah who decides not to abort her Down Syndrome baby sounds more like the recipe for a tragedy than a satire, but Beck is full of surprises. For me Beck's book was a witty critique our success-oriented society, on academia, on pretense and on parents. Beck dreads the mindset that leads our society toward perfect babies, perfect students, and perfect breadwinners, and away from perfect content.
This story carries you high and low over the hurdles and under the weather with Martha all through her pregnancy. You feel the harsh sting of the truth, the terror of the unknown, and the crumbling of life-long plans. Over and above all else this book is a secret look at one of the ways in which life manages to outwit our calculations. The strong survive because they bend, because they stretch to fit the life that chance throws in their path. Perhaps those of us who plan our life events as though they were dinner parties are really weak, weak because we do not know how to rejoice in the unexpected.
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am 9. März 2000
As a mother of an eight month old baby with Down Syndrome, I avoided this book at first because I thought it would be too wrenching and close to home. It had the opposite effect. It has been an absolutely incredible experience. Martha Beck bravely and genuinely shares her true account of her pregnancy and experiences before and after her son Adam's birth. She discovers he has Down Syndrome before he is born but cannot even consider abortion. Throughout the nine months, Martha (and her husband)experience many paranormal/spiritual events. This might seem unconvincing or even wacky from any other source, but as a Harvard trained academician, Martha makes her story not only plausible but grippingly real. Her sense of humor is hilarious and I openly laughed out loud several times! I also openly wept at her raw and vivid descriptions of the revulsion so many of us have for those who are different. I think this book is a fantastic tool for parents of children with disabilities to give to the outside world. This is how we see our children, truly! It would also be a terrific book for any teacher or educator to read. To me, it's been a hope, a salve, an inspiration.
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