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The Story of Gerard

"During the weeks and months Congress was considering legislation to end partial birth abortion, I heard and read many news stories featuring women who said they had undergone the procedure because it was the only option they had to save their health and future fertility as a result of a pregnancy gone tragically wrong.

But based on my own personal experience, I am convinced that women and their families are tragically misled when they are informed that partial birth abortion is their only option. I believe many more women and their families would choose to give birth to their fatally ill babies and love and care for them as long as their short and meaningful lives might endure, if they were fully informed that they could let their babies live rather than aborting them. Dr. James McMahon, who performed the partial birth abortions upon many of the women I heard about in the news, would have targeted our first child, Gerard, because he had Trisomy 18, a chromosomal abnormality incompatible with more than a few hours or weeks of life outside the uterus.

My husband, a pediatric neurologist, and I, a pediatric nurse, learned via routine sonogram halfway through our first pregnancy that our baby had a large abdominal defect. Our OB suggested an amniocentesis to confirm whether our son had Trisomy 18, since abdominal defects this large are frequently associated with Trisomy 18. If he did not have Trisomy 18, we would begin to research our son's need for abdominal surgery and the best pediatric surgeon available to us. The second half of the pregnancy was extremely painful emotionally. I felt that perhaps our hopes of having a large family were dying with Gerard. We had a supportive OB and at each visit we also met with the OB clinical nurse specialist. She helped us with our grief and she also helped us plan for Gerard's birth and death. We also met the neonatalogist prior to birth who informed us about what to expect about Gerard's condition and we let him know that we didn't want Gerard to have any painful procedures.

We did not consider an abortion, for this was our beloved child for whom we would do anything. We prayed that he would be born alive and live at least for a short period of time. My husband and I were drawn very close as we comforted each other and talked about our grief and our evolving plans for our child. At 40 weeks, our OB decided he would induce labor; on the eve of the second day of induction, Gerard was delivered alive. We held him and gently talked to him. The priest who had married us ten months earlier was there to baptize him. Gradually, his vital signs slowed until he died 45 minutes after we met him in person. We took many beautiful pictures of him that are among our most cherished possessions.

We have since been blessed with five additional children, all healthy. Number six was 11 1/5 pounds and the hospital staff marveled at how easily I delivered her. Delivering Gerard alive and giving him even a brief period of life in no way impaired my future fertility, as these five wonderful children can attest to. Our children have internalized our love and respect for Gerard, and babies and others with disabilities.

We have never had any regrets about carrying Gerard to term, giving birth to him and loving him until he died naturally. In fact, it is the event I am most proud of in my life. Our only regret is that he did not live longer.

My hope is that since there is no medical reason for a woman to undergo a partial birth abortion, that each woman listens to her heart and her strong desire to protect her child and love him or her until that child's natural death."

Mrs. Margaret Sheridan, Chevy Chase, MD

If You Have Received A Negative Prenatal Diagnosis, Please Visit These Links:

ABIDING HEARTS Support Organization
The SOFT Website
Jasmine's Story (a child living with Trisomy 18)
The Story of Susanna
The Story of Alex (a child living with Trisomy 18)
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