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The Story of Elizabeth & MaryAnn

"We have noted with concern statements made by several couples suggesting, from their very personal and very tragic experiences, that the partial birth abortion is the only procedure available to a woman when the child she is carrying is diagnosed with a severe abnormality.

We have had experiences that were very similar and yet so very different. We have had three children biologically and have adopted three more. Two of our children were born with a genetic abnormality---5p Trisomy. One also has hydrocephalus. The medical prognosis for these children was that they would have at best a short life with minimal development. Some medical professionals recommended abortion; others were ready to help support their lives. We chose life. That decision carried some hardships.

However, God blessed us immeasurably through their short lives. Our first child, Elizabeth, was diagnosed after her birth. We were deeply saddened but desired to give her the best life we could. Though she never could say a word and could not sit up on her own, she clearly knew us. She learned to smile, laugh, and clap her hands. She was a joy to us for 2 and one half years. We clearly saw how many lives she had touched when over 200 people attended her memorial Mass! One child was touched in a very personal way when he received Elizabeth's donated liver. Two others received sight through her eyes.

Our third child, Mary Ann, had been diagnosed with hydrocephalus in utero and shortly after birth with the same genetic abnormality that our oldest daughter had. (We could have known this during pregnancy via amniocentesis, but refused the procedure due to the risk to the baby.) Terry's obstetrician said that we were fortunate, though, that Mary Ann would have the chance to go home with us. We learned to feed her through a gavage tube as she was unable to suck to receive nourishment.

Our son, Andrew, developed a special bond with his sister. We spent the next five months as a family, learning, growing and caring for our children. When our precious daughter died, we celebrated her life at a memorial Mass with family and friends. Our belief in Jesus Christ and His gift of salvation provided comfort for us as our daughters entered their new home in heaven. They remain a part of our family and are always in our hearts. They enriched our lives and touched the lives of many others. Our Creator sent these children to us and we were privileged to love and care for them. What a tremendous loss to all of us who know them to terminate mtheir lives because they were not physically perfect!

We look forward to a joyous reunion with them in heaven. It is so easy to see the half of the glass that is empty when we face difficult problems; will we have the courage to allow our children to have the half of the glass that is full? We pray for other mothers and fathers who are faced with agonizing decisions that they will remain open to the gift being entrusted to them. God's love is ever-present during our times of joy and sadness. He is with us now as we are parents to Andrew, now nine years old, and three children--Maria, Christina and Joseph, ages 11, 9 and 7--who joined our family through adoption."

William J. and Teresa M. Heineman, Rockville, Maryland

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