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Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic Paperback – August 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Expecting Adam is an autobiographical tale of an academically oriented Harvard couple who conceive a baby with Down's syndrome and decide to carry him to term. Despite everything Martha Beck and her husband John know about themselves and their belief system, when Martha gets accidentally pregnant and the fetus is discovered to have Down's syndrome, the Becks find they cannot even consider abortion. The presence of the fetus that they each, privately, believe is a familiar being named Adam is too strong. As Martha's terribly difficult pregnancy progresses, odd coincidences and paranormal experiences begin to occur for both Martha and John, though for months they don't share them with each other. Martha's pregnancy and Adam (once born) become the catalyst for tremendous life changes for the Becks.

Focusing primarily on the pregnancy but floating back and forth between the present and recent and distant past, Martha Beck's well-written, down-to-earth, funny, heart-rending, and tender book transcends the cloying tone of much spiritual literature. Beck is trained as a methodical academician. Because of her step-by-step explanation of her own progress from doubt to belief, she feels like a reliable witness, and even the most skeptical readers may begin to doubt their senses. When she describes an out-of-body experience, we, too, feel ourselves transported to a pungent, noisy hawker center in Singapore. We, too, feel calming, invisible, supporting hands when she falls. Yet, whether or not readers believe in Beck's experiences is ultimately a moot point. There is no doubt that Adam--a boy who sees the world as a series of connections between people who love each other--is a tremendous gift to Beck, her family, and all who have the honor of knowing him. --Ericka Lutz --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Wickedly funny and wrenchingly sad memoirs of a young mother awaiting the birth of a Down syndrome baby while simultaneously pursuing a doctorate at Harvard. Sociologist Beck, now a columnist for Mademoiselle and a regular on the television show Good Day Arizona, became pregnant with her second child in September 1987, a time she and her husband now refer to as ``the month It All Went To Hell.'' To put it mildly, the unexpected pregnancy complicated their busy lives and academic careers. At the time, Beck kept a voluminous and detailed journal of her thoughts, conversations, and experiences, which provided the basis for these memoirs. Early in the pregnancy, Beck began having paranormal experiences that took auditory, visual, and tactile form. In what she refers to as ``the Seeing Thing,'' she would see brief, vivid images of where her husband was on his frequent trips to Asia. Calming voices spoke to her (and to her husband) in times of stress, and invisible helpers rescued her and her young daughter from a burning building. A Mormon turned atheist, Beck cannot explain the presence of comforting spiritual beings during her pregnancy, but she accepts them as real. Once Adam was delivered, she no longer felt ``like the focus of all that magic.'' Adam himself became the source of magic in her life, teaching her values unlike those she had learned at Harvard. In her son she sees wisdom, beauty, and a way of looking at the world that is astonishing and joyous. Besides a sense of humor that pokes as much fun at herself as anyone, Beck has both a sharp eye and a sharp tongue. Her portraits of Harvard academics, omniscient doctors, and uptight in-laws are priceless. Even skeptics will find magic in this story, and parents of a Down syndrome child will cherish it. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade; Reissue edition (August 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425174484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425174487
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (299 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #961,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Martha Beck is a writer and "life coach" who specializes in helping people design satisfying and meaningful life experiences. She holds a bachelor's degree in East Asian Studies and master's and Ph.D. degrees in sociology, all from Harvard University.

She worked as a research associate at Harvard Business School, studying career paths and life-course changes in today's economic and social environment. Before becoming a life coach, Dr. Beck taught sociology, social psychology, organizational behaviour, and business management at Harvard and the American Graduate School of International Management. She has published academic books and articles on a variety of social science and business topics.

Her non-academic books include the New York Times bestsellers "Expecting Adam" and "Leaving the Saints", as well as "Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live", "Steering by Starlight", and her newest book, "Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaiming Your True Nature". Dr. Beck has also been a contributing editor for many popular magazines, including "Real Simple" and "Redbook", and is currently a columnist for "O, the Oprah Magazine".

More information can be found at marthabeck.com, including Dr. Beck's lively blog posts and video blogs, books, speaking appearances, and life coaching strategies and suggestions.

Dr. Beck lives in Central California with her family.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 62 people found the following review helpful By John M. Foraker on March 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
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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74 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 20, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Maya Angelou once said that "there is no greater agony than holding an untold story inside of you." This piece of work represents Martha Beck's luminous journey towards choosing to mother Adam, her son who was prenatally diagnosed with Down's Syndrome.
Like many mothers of exceptional children I've known, Martha has touched on the one theme most of us feel reluctant to talk about--that our lives are peppered with unexplainable, prescient experiences that served to pave our way towards accepting a child that a highly educated world often believes is less than worthy of a chance at life.
Because Ms. Beck's Harvard Education and academic's resume brings the reader into a metaphycial journey towards coming to accept Adam through a skeptics eyes, her story seems more credible than that of the average person who sits down to write a book that says "oh, but my child is so much more than what he seems."
Martha's tale is as convincing as it is spellbinding. Her range as a writer is vast--she is both a comedian and an accomplished dramatist.
Expecting Adam hits its intended mark. It reminds us that every child comes into this world for reasons that often lay beyond the realm of human reckoning. It offers proof that all lives have purpose, meaning and dignity. On top of all this, Expecting Adam offers the reader the benefit of an excellent writer.
As the mother of two boys with autism, one who "came back" and one who "didn't", I commend this writer for sharing her story.
Ms. Beck's experiences felt universal to me, and true in a way I can't begin to put into words.
When I look into my children's eyes, I understand without reservation that nothing is left to chance. Like Ms. Beck, I feel both humbled and awed by the opportunity to mother children like mine.
It is impossible to read "Expecting Adam", and fail to see that every life has meaning and dignity.
For all things, there is a season...
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I was surprised 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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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 8, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've just completed Expecting Adam which my wife calls her favorite book she's ever read. This high praise echoes my own sentiments although, I did find it was a bit hard to get into the book. But once it happened, I was whisked into the wacky world of a self admitted overachiever from Harvard who is expecting a Down Syndrome child.. As I read I grew to love many things about this book. First and foremost, here we have a master crafter of language weaving her story from past to future.,giving us a glimpse of Adam at his 2nd birthday or a troubling moment. Then gracefully returning you to the present or recent past. Her honesty is slightly raw but frankly I feel that it is something that you begin to trust deeply as the story progresses. If she's telling you the truth about her fears and problems with her pregnancy, she must be also telling the truth about her paranormal experiences. I have read some of the other reviewers who accuse Martha of being a whiner and I can actually understand where they're coming from. I don't personally think of her as whining but someone without a certain kind of background might interpret her self criticism and problems at Harvard this way. My way of viewing her "whining" is that she freely details her frustrations, fears and feelings around stereotyping of down syndrome kids and her problems with her health and raising a family. My reactions to this evolved with each chapter. I felt I grew to understand her frustrations more as I got to know her and in the end grew to love every complaint that she cared to share with us because it seemed to invite me deeper into her intimate world.
Beyond this very intimate portrait of Martha and her family, this story also let's us view a spiritual story which began with her pregnancy.
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