Perfectly Human: Nine Months with Cerian

by Sarah C. Williams

Paperback, 2018



Call number


SELECT gtw_rank, gtw_work, gtw_genre FROM genre_to_work WHERE gtw_work IN ( 22165820 )


Plough Publishing House (2018), 160 pages


She knew they would only have a few fleeting months together, but in that time Sarah's unborn daughter would transform her understanding of beauty, worth, and the gift of life. Happily married and teaching history at the University of Oxford, Sarah Williams had credentials, success, and knowledge. It took someone who would never have any of these things to teach her what it means to be human. This extraordinary true story begins with the welcome news of a new member of the Williams family. Sarah's husband, Paul, and their two young daughters share her excitement. But the happiness is short-lived, as a hospital scan reveals a lethal skeletal dysplasia. Birth will be fatal. Sarah and Paul decide to carry the baby to term, a decision that shocks medical staff and Sarah's professional colleagues. Sarah and Paul find themselves having to defend their child's dignity and worth against incomprehension and at times open hostility. They name their daughter, Cerian, Welsh for "loved one." Sarah writes, "Cerian is not a strong religious principle or a rule that compels me to make hard and fast ethical decisions. She is a beautiful person who is teaching me to love the vulnerable, treasure the unlovely, and face fear with dignity and hope." In this candid and vulnerable account, Sarah brings the reader along with her on the journey towards Cerian's birthday and her deathday. It's rare enough to find a writer who can share such a heart-stretching personal experience without sounding sappy, but here is one who at the same time has the ability to articulate the broader cultural issues raised by Cerian's story. In a society striving for perfection, where worth is earned, identity is constructed, children are a choice, normal is beautiful, and deformity is repulsive, Cerian's short life raises vital questions about what we value and where we are headed as a culture. Perfectly Human was first published in the United Kingdom as The Shaming of the Strong. This edition includes a new afterword by the author.… (more)


Original language


Physical description

160 p.; 8.4 inches


0874866693 / 9780874866698

User reviews

LibraryThing member BevFuller
This beautiful book tells how a family treasured the life and death of their unborn baby.
LibraryThing member AudrieClifford
This book certainly rates three stars for its cover and for being so well-written. I wouldn't be comfortable giving it a higher rating because I disagree so strongly with the author.
I don't question the heartbreak in hearing that the child you've planned to give birth to has no chance of living
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beyond that point, and while others may applaud the decision not to abort, this is where I feel the author went wrong.
The main reason for feeling this way is because she already had two children, one of whom had a serious health problem and needed a mother's comforting and care.
Devout Christians will probably love the book. For the rest of us, it's only a tale of suffering.
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LibraryThing member JSBancroft
A heart wrenching story of a couple learning their unborn child suffers from an abnormality that will result in her death at or shortly after birth. The parents make the difficult decision to continue the pregnancy. This book explores extremely topical issues such as how do we decide what lives are
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worth living, what makes a person human, and where is God when things seem hopeless. Ultimately, the author concludes that the time she spent with her daughter prenatally was a great blessing that taught her about love and humanity. I am in awe of the author and her husband for their willingness to share their story.
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LibraryThing member LudieGrace
An absolutely beautiful book. I was amazed by the thoughtfulness, grace, and dignity with which Sarah shared her story. Even if you have abstractly considered questions surrounding personhood and the value of human lives, you will think about them differently after reading Sarah's candid account of
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her short time with Cerian. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member BradKautz
"What does it mean to be human?" The answer to this question, lies at the heart of Sarah C. Williams' book, Perfectly Human: Nine Months with Cerian. Williams, a history professor at Oxford, married to Paul and having two young daughters, goes to a routine appointment at 20 weeks into her third
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pregnancy. The results are anything but routine, as she learns her baby has a birth defect that is likely to be lethal to the baby at birth. Conventional wisdom of the medical establishment is to abort the baby, but the response of Sarah and Paul is to keep the baby, and to trust God as they go into a future that they know will be fraught with physical and emotional pain, but one where they never waver, knowing that their unborn daughter is just as much a person in need of loving care as anyone else is. And so they do, sharing their experience in this book. I found their story, and the answers they arrived at to that opening question, to be riveting. I very highly commend this book.
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LibraryThing member yukon92
I received a free copy of this book from the LTER in exchange for my honest opinion. This book was heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. The incredible strength of the author (and her whole family) to go through with this "doomed" pregnancy was amazing. The author did not gloss over the
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physical and mental pain these 9 months caused her. My only negative comment would be that I totally understand her faith in God sustained the author and her family throughout the whole ordeal. However, her frequent bible comments might be somewhat off-putting to people of other beliefs who would otherwise benefit from a story of great strength.
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LibraryThing member DianneBottinelli
This is a heart wrenching tale of a mother who decides to carry her genetically impaired child to term.
This book explores the moral and ethical issues of such a choice and the pressure she and her family experiences as the results of this decision.
On page 43 she states in quoting theologian Jurgen
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Moltmann :"In reality, there is no such thing as a handicapped life;only the ideal of health set up by society and the capable condemns a certain group to be called handicapped.Our society arbitrarily defines as the capacity for work and a capacity for enjoyment, but true health is something different. True health is the strength to live,the strength to suffer, and the strength to die. Health is not a condition of my body; it is the power of my soul to cope with the varying conditions of my body."
In the Epilogue, written years later after Cerian died, the author raised the issues of being human and what that means to us today in 2018.
This is a thought provoking book that raises the issue of abortion,assisted suicide, and the power of love for those of us who care for the handicapped.
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LibraryThing member ellasmeme
Sarah Williams invites the reader into a heartbreaking account of her daughter, Cerian's, short life in the womb while sharing a profound understanding of God, human suffering. and bioethics. Knowing Cerian was God's gift to her, she carries on with the doomed pregnancy without questioning God, but
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instead endeavoring to value the short time He has given her with her third daughter. Once starting this book, I was unable to put it down and read it in 1 sitting. While love, family, and faith are foremost in the telling, Sarah also exposes the dangers incurred when a society chooses to make decisions about which lives are valid and which are not. What joy is waiting for the Williams family when they are united one day with Cerian!
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
This was a lovely book - part memoir, part meditation on the worth of a human life. Ms. Williams shares her experience of caring her daughter to term, knowing that Cerian would not survive the birth process. Her choice to love and care for her child while in the womb was inspiring and thought
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provoking. The author and her husband made something beautiful out of the tragedy of losing their child.
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LibraryThing member debristow
I received this book as part of the Early Reviewers program. Author Sarah Williams tells the story of learning her daughter Cerian has skeletal dysphasia and is not expected to survive her birth. Williams shares her story of the affect on her husband and daughters and her faith in God along with
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herself in her decision to carry Cerian to term. Told with such utmost honesty and details I found myself ready through many parts teary eyed. My favorite line was found towards the end of the book- “The strange thing is, bereavement enhances our capacity for life.” Williams honors Cerian with a true testament and tribute to Cerian’s life.
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LibraryThing member benruth
This book is about a mother who carried a daughter for a full pregnancy, much of it while knowing the child would not survive due to birth defects. I can respect the family's choice, but even though the author was trying not to be dogmatic, it did feel like a little much in places. I'm glad this
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was the right choice for this family, but I'm not sure it's as meaningful a story for a wider audience.
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LibraryThing member jennannej
A sweet, hard, challenging memoir on what it means to be human. Thought the epilogue in particular brought up some interesting thoughts and questions about our concept of what makes a human life valuable.

"Even though the image of God is marred in all of us as a result of sin, our intrinsic worth as
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human creatures resides not in our qualities, characters, or achievements, no in our physical bodies or mental capacities, but in the eternal character of God. We treat one another with dignity because of the intrinsic worth of every person as a relational being loved by God."
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LibraryThing member pinklady60
The memoir of Sarah and Paul Williams, a British couple who, early in their pregnancy, discover their child shows sign of skeletal dysplasia, which will be fatal. However, they decide to continue on to term, even while being pressured by others to terminate the pregnancy.

This book was written with
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such intimate sentiment that I sometimes felt as though I was intruding. It was heartbreaking and raw, yet uplifting to know that this brave family wanted this little girl to be part of their lives, even if only in the womb for a short time.

In the epilogue, written several years after the book itself, the author talks about how our society strives for perfection, and in doing so we’re dumbing down what it means to be human. “Precious though we all understand children to be, we behave as if they were commodities - - commodities that we acquire as an extension of ourselves. We have grown familiar with the idea of conferring personhood selectively on the ones we choose at the time we choose them in the form we find desirable, preferable, and acceptable. Indeed, in the Western world, choosing what we desire has become the essence of what it means to be human.”
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LibraryThing member pwagner2
I didn't realize this was a religious book or I wouldn't have requested it.
The writing was good, but the constant bible verses were very off putting.
LibraryThing member frankiejones
While portions of the book were not incredibly well written it was still interesting, captivating and I would say profound. I appreciated that while the author is a Christian and surely her choice to carry her terminally ill baby to term was influenced by her Christian beliefs her discussion of
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what it means to be human was universal and is pertinent to everyone regardless of their religious beliefs. A thoroughly thought provoking read.
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LibraryThing member scotlass66
A heartbreaking beautiful book about author Sarah Williams’ decision to carry her baby with lethal skeletal dysplasia to term. Birth with this condition is fatal for the child.

Sarah is happily married and teaching history at the University of Oxford — with academic credentials, success, and
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knowledge — but it took her fatally disabled unborn child to teach her humbling humanity.

She and her husband find themselves having to explain their decision to bring to term their already cherished baby, whom they call Cerian (Welsh for “loved one.”) They face disbelief and even outright hostility from others.

As Sarah writes, “Cerian is not a strong religious principle or a rule that compels me to make hard and fast ethical decisions. She is a beautiful person who is teaching me to love the vulnerable, treasure the unlovely, and face fear with dignity and hope.”

In this tear-inducing and inspirational memoir, the author describes her heart-stretching journey towards Cerian's birthday and death-day. She does so without self-pity, rather expressing gratitude for the gift of Cerian and her lessons about the value of a life, no matter how perfectly “imperfect.”
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LibraryThing member cvaughan0708
What would you do if you discovered your unborn child would not survive life beyond the womb?

For Sarah C. Williams and her husband Paul, the decision to carry their severely deformed daughter to term comes without much consideration for the alternative - termination. Sarah rejects advice from
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medical professionals and instead chooses to protect and love the tiny human within her for as long as possible.

Sarah's memoir is a vulnerable, honest, and heartbreaking account of her 9 Months with Cerian. Sarah discovers that her daughter, while imperfect in the eyes of the world, is actually a very perfect gift. She begs us to consider the questions: What does it mean to be human? What defines a human being's worth or value?

Grounded in her faith and belief that all life is valuable and should be treasured, Sarah has shared her story with the world in hopes that we will also look beyond a person's physical and mental abilities and find their true worth.
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LibraryThing member Brenda63
Forget the prolife/pro-abortion debate, this book encompasses so much more than that. Following the horrendous news that her daughter will not live past birth, Sarah Williams is faced with a mountain of decisions and emotions. The raw openness of her story is absolutely inspirational. The greater
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question of "What is a person" is answered completely and perfectly. Cerian life is celebrated and cherished even though she does not draw a breath outside the womb. Her legacy has far reaching arms embracing each life as the gift of God as it was intended. Breathtakingly powerful.
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LibraryThing member kustomambition
Wow. Right from the first Chapter Ms. Williams grabs you into this story. She proves to be a very beautiful writer, connecting me into her life and the story of her family's experience right away. She is funny at times, reflecting at others, sharing in sadness in some, but most of all this story
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tells of how she found wonder, hope, and new definition to her life and her family's life through her experience.

This book had some Biblical/Religious references and I am not religious; I say this not in any negative comment, but simply to say that I probably was not connected with the material as much as someone who has the same beliefs or has studied the Bible and yet still - my overall comment is, "wow". I truly enjoyed this book and the messages it had about Love. Thank you Ms. Williams for sharing your story openly.
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LibraryThing member boingerhead
I didn't realize this was a religious book or I wouldn't have requested it. The constant pushing of bible verses was very off-putting, and the writing was so raw and intimate that it was often uncomfortable. I usually embrace discomfort; it's okay to be uncomfortable or else there is seldom growth.
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What I disliked about this book was the deeply religious themes. Simply not for me.
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LibraryThing member nirrad
A very powerful read, I loved the way she showed the love the whole family and friends loved the little one while still in the womb. Also showed the treatment they received for not having an abortion. A great book showing how important life is after conception.

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