Martha and her husband were graduate students are Harvard with a little girl when they unexpected got pregnant with second child. As with her first pregnancy, Martha was sick beyond belief during the entire pregnancy, making keeping up with her young daughter and her classwork very difficult – especially when her husband took a job that caused him to split his time between Harvard (for classes) and Asia, leaving the country for weeks at a time. Already somewhat looked down upon for having even one child while at Harvard, many people disapproved of Martha’s second pregnancy, particularly when they became aware that the baby she carried had Downs Syndrome.
Until becoming pregnant with Adam, Martha really bought into the whole Harvard mentality. Although she still did her best to keep up with what was expected of her while pregnant, her priorities began to change while carrying Adam. Part of what changed Martha was a series of very serious circumstances, all happening while her husband was out of the country. First she felt too weak and nauseous to make food and eat for long enough that she was effectively starving herself, later in her pregnancy there was a fire in her building, at one point she began bleeding profusely. In all of these circumstances, Martha felt the presence of some other, even mystical being(s) protecting her and Adam. Although everyone around them expected Martha to abort the baby – even her doctors and, initially, her husband – Martha became convinced that she HAD to have him. You do know from the beginning how this book turns out. I believe Martha wrote this when Adam was 3 or older and she makes frequent references to what he is like as a toddler.
I read this for book club and, in general, we all really enjoyed it, although we were taken aback at just how hostile Martha perceived Harvard as being towards family life in general and towards a baby with Downs in particular (granted this did take place during the 1980s). We also became VERY frustrated with Martha. She was later diagnosed with an immune disease that made her so sick durnig pregnancy, it seemed as if she was trying to do everything BUT take good care of herself and her daughter when her husband was out of town. If you are feeling nauseous with pregnancy, the solution is generally to eat small doses of whatever does NOT make you nauseous frequently. Knowing how extremely sick she could get, we felt it was inexusable for Martha to allow herself to get to the point where she could eat when she was the sole caretaker for the baby she was carrying and her daughter. She also neglected to go to the doctor when she was bleeding so badly, saying she knew she had been healed, which disturbed us all.
Despite some of our gripes with Martha’s actions, this was a very well-written memoir on an extremely interesting topic and I think we would all recommend it. It certainly made for a good conversation at book club, even in a book club where I am the only one married (although others are engaged) and anywhere near children.