One of the women who works here at the Pontifical Council for the Family is currently pregnant. When I greet her, I say in Italian, "Come state voi?"
In English, there is no change in the word "you" when it refers to more than one person…But in Italian, "voi" indicates more than one. She responds appropriately, "We are fine today."
Indeed, there are two, and that is the simple truth at the basis of the pro-life message. It is a truth which is either denied outright by some people, or diluted by those who hold that though there are two, the two do not have equal rights.
It's a good practical habit, however, to reflect in every way possible the awareness that the child in the womb is present and in full possession of his/her human rights. We can reflect that truth in our language and in our celebrations.
When a woman is pregnant, people often say she is "expecting a child" or is "going to have a baby" or is "going to be a mother." We all use these expressions from force of habit, and using them has no reflection on the strength of our pro-life convictions.
Nevertheless, they do not accurately describe what is happening.
A woman who is pregnant is not "expecting" a child. She already has one. The child exists, is living and growing in her womb. She is not about to bring the child "into the world." The child is already in the world. The mother's womb is as much in the world as the mother herself.
The pregnant woman is not "going to be" a mother. She already is a mother. By saying she is "going to be" a mother, we inadvertently reinforce the notion that motherhood begins at birth. This reinforces the idea that the child really is a child only at birth.
A pregnant woman is fully a mother. She does not have "half" a child, or a child "on the way." ("On the way" from where?) The child is here, already in the world, fully unique and in possession of the same dignity as every other person.
Our awareness of this truth can then be applied to ourselves, and lead us to realize that our life did not begin on our birthday, but rather some nine months earlier. If that is the case, why not celebrate our "Firstday"? In fact, Firstday cards have been made and are used by people who want to celebrate the actual beginning of someone's life.
Habits of language and culture like this in one sense seem small. But when we see how hard they are to change, we realize that, after all, they are big. If we can begin to change some big things about the way we speak of and celebrate unborn life, we may begin to see some changes in the way that life is treated.