Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Don't Make Me Name the Baby
When I was a little girl I dreamed about having babies. Other little girls dressed up in fairy princess outfits and acted out their dream weddings. I packed my toy stroller with all the appropriate supplies and took my posse of baby dolls out for walks. Other little girls dressed and undressed their Barbie dolls, making sure she had just the right shoes for each outfit. My Barbie doll, dressed in only a practical pantsuit and sensible shoes, was no fashionista. She was the mom to a mismatched assortment of children. Any doll who was shorter than Barbie qualified as a child and my afternoons were spent lining up these assorted kids so Barb could make sure they were all well cared for.
Once my own real life children came along I was thrilled. My prince charming had shown up just in time, halfway through my college years, and by the time we'd both graduated we'd had many talks about our future offspring. We both came from big families so we were pretty sure we wanted to have more than the typical 2.5. We talked about finances and logistics. We talked about desired genders and spacing. But one thing we didn’t talk much about was names. I never knew it would be such a difficult part of the child producing process.
The first two were accidentally easy. Jeff came from a family of five boys so when we were engaged I joked with him that I needed a girl up front, then he could have all the boys he wanted. (words that would later come back to haunt me). Sometime in the middle of college I had heard a radio interview and the expert was named "Dr. Meredith Something or the Other." The name stuck with me. Meredith. Not trendy but not an exotic name. Something people would recognize and probably know how to spell without it being too common. It stuck in my head and I knew if I ever got that sacred daughter, her name was already chosen.
Jeff and I didn't really discuss names during my first pregnancy. It was a detail we overlooked as he worked full time and kept up graduate school hours at night. Somehow he coerced the Man upstairs into giving us a baby girl and as she was wailing her first cries of earthly air he turned to me and said, "So, I guess her name is Meredith?" And so it was.
Just a year later, in the same room, at the same hospital, her brother joined our family. Knowing our first son would carry his grandfather's name, Michael proved to be a second easy pick. But then we decided to try for the next baby.
As my belly grew round with each passing month I realized we were going to be stuck if we didn't at least discuss this matter. Both of our reserve names had now been used. We needed to get serious about picking another. Since we both have J names and our first two offspring had M names we knew we had to find something outside those alphabetical parameters. That left all the possible names starting with the remaining 24 letters. We were just a bit intimidated.
We needed to pick something that fit in a name trio. I knew that for the rest of our lives we would be saying these three names together. They had to have some kind of flow. We also liked unique but not weirdly different. Something special but not strange. Something friendly but not dorky. It became a huge burden.
We went to the library and checked out all of the baby name books. That became too overwhelming. There were hundreds of names in those books. They didn't feel real. They felt like words on a list. I needed to feel comfortable calling this kid's name in public. I needed to know how it sounded as I shouted it across the playground. I wanted to be proud when the nurse at the pediatricians called my child's name in a crowded waiting room. We scoured the credits of movies we watched. They provided a nice assortment of ideas from every culture. But nothing stuck. Nothing grabbed us.
We finally settled on a girl's name we both adored. The boy's name still escaped us but at least we had half the job done. Then came the telling ultrasound. No need for girly names. Back to square one. In a last ditch effort, I propped the baby name book up on my mountain of a belly and we methodically read the lists out loud to each other. As I read the name 'Isaac' and continued on, Jeff suddenly said, "Stop!...that's it!...Isaac." He paused. "What do you think?"
I loved it. It was different but in a good way. He could be Isaac, Zac, or Ike, depending on who he turned out to be. It was only later that we realized he fit nicely with his big brother, as they saw their names on the candy box for the first time, "Mike and Ike." He arrived safely in the world on Father's Day, and we were so relieved that the name picking job was complete.
Then, just to torture ourselves, we decided to have that fourth baby. We spent the first half of the pregnancy hoping it was a girl because we still loved our 'girl' name. And of course he was a boy. Which meant the only logical name we could give him was Sam.
Sam I Am.