From triple helix - summer 2006 - The Shaming of the Strong - The challenge of an unborn life (Book Review) [p21]
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To date, there has been a shortage of accessible material on the experience of continuing a pregnancy where the child has been found to have a severe abnormality. Here, at last, is a book where allied medical professionals, pastors and friends can see into the hearts of a family living through the dilemmas, sorrows and joys that this experience brings.
Sarah and Paul Williams' third daughter, Cerian, was diagnosed prenatally as having thanataphoric dysplasia – a condition incompatible with life outside the womb. The book is beautifully written, carefully crafted and, at times, completely heartbreaking. Sarah Williams takes the reader from the scan where the bad news is given, right through to the death, birth, funeral and her return to work. The only autobiographical details given are those we need in order to understand her journey, and so her story is uncluttered and can be read in just a few hours.
For some, the theological and ethical discussions, which are a normal part of Sarah's academic life, may make sections of the book hard going. For some, her relatively comfortable, middleclass life will be hard to relate to. It is out of this context, however, that the title of the book comes: 'Cerian was, by the world's definition, a weak thing, but the beauty and completeness of her personhood had nullified the value system to which I had subscribed for so long'. Hear the tribute Sarah reads at Cerian's funeral: 'You were not precious to me because of the things you did.Your worth was written into your being from the very first moment of your existence'.
Is this a book you could give a couple going through a similar experience? It is certainly not reading for the faint-hearted, but such a couple won't be and are likely to be eager to learn from those who have gone before. It is not a formal resource book – there is no index or reference section or list of helpful agencies – but it will be a valued resource: ways to help other children in the family, ways for family, friends, pastors, colleagues and staff to make the journey easier.
Ultimately, this is an uplifting book. It tells of our wonderful God, who loves and treasures the damaged, and calls us to do the same. Sarah Williams writes as a Christian but not a legalist. She works through a variety of issues honestly and humanly – not in a way that would be unattractive to non-Christians but in a way that is likely to intrigue. Is it a book to give to your obstetric colleague or your obstetrician? Most definitely! Mine should get his in the post any day now.