The Freedom to choose love — even when it’s very, very hard

By Dave Andrusko

Sarah C. Williams with her family in Kent, England, in 2003.
(Photo: Family handout)

Like you, I’ll bet, I have more books than I will likely ever get to. Once I created a Kindle account, my book worm habits only got worse.

But having read Sarah C. Williams remarkable op-ed in USA Today, I know I will pull up Perfectly Human: Nine Months with Cerian, Williams’ book about her daughter Cerian, tonight.

The headline to her essay is honest in that it acknowledges something that is undeniably true: “I carried my dying daughter to term. It was a lesson in love many didn’t understand.” What she is attempting to do in this essay is how this deep family tragedy motivated her to join last week’s March for Life.

She learned way back in 2002 while carrying Cerian that her daughter suffered from a terrible disease, “a lethal skeletal dysplasia,” according to the doctor. “When the baby is born, the doctor said, it will not be able to breathe. Quietly, he told us how to schedule a termination.”

What makes Williams’ essay triply powerful is how she responded. Faced with such a devastating prognosis, she readily slipped into doc-speak. Her baby was now an “it.”

Williams tells us part of the “rest of story” immediately. Once the “shock lifted ,” her baby was now “my daughter, a sick and dying child who needed me,” not an “it.”

Cerian died an hour before she was born,” just before the last stage of labor of a placental abruption.” Her “deformities didn’t cause her any suffering or pain,” Williams writes. “[S]he simply went to sleep safely enfolded.”

But “Those weeks turned my life upside down, and they are the reason why I march.” You need to read this story, so I will just mention two of many tremendous insights.

First, “What I did not anticipate in making the decision to carry a sick baby to term was the anger that it would provoke in others. I discovered that we live in a society in which the decision not to abort an abnormal fetus requires a defense.” For example, Williams was asked what if her daughter somehow survived? Carrying for her would “ruin your career.”

If appealing to selfishness would work, what about the friend who told Williams “it is morally wrong to bring suffering into the world when you know you can prevent it.”

With friends like that…

Second, Williams offers the counter-intuitive idea (not to pro-lifers but to many in our culture) that hardship and loss can ever be (in her words), “an unexpected privilege.” How? Carrying Cerian

brought me profound joy as well as grief. It was not until I cared for this vulnerable human being that I came to see the value of all human life. The way our culture treats the most vulnerable — the elderly, the ill, the unborn — reveals our true beliefs about people. We live in a culture that wants to end life when a person’s usefulness, productivity and mental capacity diminish. We live in a culture that assents to the disposal of unborn children with abnormalities and physical challenges of many kinds. But this is a value system that none of us can live by.

She follows with this:

To expect a certain kind of “normality” of everyone is tyranny, not freedom. We celebrate choice but we are creating a culture of selection, not a culture that values the unique diversity of human life.

Please take five minutes and read Williams’s deeply moving essay.