When my youngest daughter was born, she came out crying. The doctor said, “It’s a girl!” but my daughter just cried at the sound of the doctor’s voice. The nurses checked her vitals and said she had a great set of lungs, but she just screamed when they talked. And I came up to her and said, “I’m your daddy, and I love you!” But all she did was cry when she met her dad for the first time.
Then the nurses placed her on my wife’s shoulder, and my wife said softly, “Hi Gloria!” And do you know what my daughter did? She stopped crying. She didn’t do that when she heard the doctor and nurses talk. She didn’t even stop crying when she heard her father speaking. But her mom—that’s a different story. Gloria had spent nine months inside of her, listening to her mom’s voice. Already a relationship was growing—a deep, profound relationship. At the traumatic moment when she entered this world, the voice of her mommy was a familiar one that set her at ease.
There are a host of factors people point to when talking about the preborn. Things like heartbeats, brain activity, and feeling pain are all important ones. There are a couple other factors I think are worth considering. The first is the fact that the unborn are capable of relationships. There is human interaction and relationship building taking place long before the child is born. To the point that a mom can say two words less than a minute after her daughter’s birth, and the nine-month context of the relationship can hush the infant’s terror. That doesn’t happen with nonliving things. It happens when a relationship has formed. And that’s part of being human.
The second factor I think is worth considering is the reality of sacrifice. Just think of the sacrificial progression that begins once conception happens. The woman’s body instinctively shifts to giving the proper care to the fetus. It comes at great difficulty to the woman and her body. She deals with cravings, nausea, pain, kicks from inside of her, and a plethora of ways in which her body has changed. Why? To take care of the child inside of her. To make sure that the developing baby is healthy and protected until he or she is ready to be born. Sacrifice is something we do for other humans. We don’t willingly endure pain and difficulty for the nonliving. Having someone sacrifice for you is part of being human.
Relationship and sacrifice. These are channels for love. And the capacity for love is one of the great dignities of being human. I sometimes find the whole discussion about abortion and the unborn to be rather intellectual and theoretical. But when you also consider factors like relationships and sacrifice, the discussion tends to become more practical. It enters the realm of love and human interaction.
As a man, I’ve never been pregnant or given birth. While I can do my best to understand what it’s like, I will never actually know what a mother really experiences. But I have a profound respect for mothers. They sacrifice so much for their children, well before the day of delivery and long after. They have a special relationship with their babies.
It’s a picture of God. He sacrificed his own life for us. He wants nothing more than to have a relationship with us. Mothers often get a glimpse of that better than the rest of us do.
If you or someone you love is ever in the position of being pregnant, it won’t be easy. It just won’t. But there is dignity in it. There’s something heroic about it. There is a beautiful, life-giving hospitality wrapped up in bearing a child. It’s unlike anything else on earth.
Because that wonderfully made being inside its mother is a relationship being. A being worthy of sacrifice. A being that is special.
A human being.