My Baby, By Any Other Name…

May 13, 2008

We’ve known Sprout’s name for a long time. Naming him, in fact, was one of the easier parts of child-preparation for us. It came to us, and it felt right, and that was that. So he has a name, and we – and Wonderbaby – have been referring to him by name for a long time. Which I love, because he’s already part of the family, someone we know, someone whose name is included with all of our own when we talk about the future, or when we whisper good wishes to everyone we love at bedtime. I love that Wonderbaby discusses him freely with anyone who asks – I have a baby brudder his name is xxxxxx I love him I gonna share my toys we gonna have CAKE and and and I love him and I kiss him LIKE THIS (blows kiss at mommy’s belly) – as though he were already here, which he is, of course, in the most important way, in our hearts.

And I’ve gotten accustomed to the occasional eyebrow being raised when Wonderbaby utters his name. It’s not a strange name – artists and writers and characters of fiction have had this name – but it is a little on the eccentric side, maybe. It’s not a name that you hear every day. So, yes, there have been moments when an utterance of his name provokes those arched brows and a politely restrained oh isn’t that an unusual name. Which doesn’t bother me. It’s his name, and I just know that it’s perfect for him, even having not yet met him. I just know. It just is.

Still, I avoided telling my mother, because I knew she’d hate it. I knew, because she hated all the boys names that I mentioned to her when Wonderbaby was just a Wonderfetus, gender unknown. “Theodore? Theo? Oh, NO, honey, I don’t like that name AT ALL. Not AT ALL.” I knew that I would have to preface any announcement of his name with the caveat that she would not like it and that I wouldn’t care and that she’d just have to deal, etc, etc, but still. I knew that it would be an uncomfortable conversation. I knew that there would be an awkward silence over the telephone. I knew that she would sigh deeply and maybe issue a protracted hmmmm before saying something to the effect of I don’t know, Cath and I suppose that I’ll have to get used to it. Which is exactly what she did, yesterday, when I told her.

I’m not crazy about it.

I knew that you wouldn’t be.

I just worry… will kids make fun of him? What will you call him for short?

MOM. It’s not unusual enough for him to be made fun of just because of that. There are far more unusual boys’ names out there. And I don’t know what we’ll call him for short. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that this is his name.

Well… (DEEP SIGH) I suppose that I’ll have to get used to it.

Yes. Yes, you will.

What about Theodore? Didn’t you want that name before? I’ve always liked that name…

I love my mother, I really do, and have always valued and admired her naked honesty – she is very nearly constitutionally incapable of withholding her opinion – and I had told myself that I just wouldn’t care if she didn’t like his name, I had told myself that I knew she wouldn’t like it, that I was prepared for her to not like it. But still… there was a moment there, the briefest moment between his name falling from my lips and her reaction to that name, during which I held my breath and willed her to like it. Wished for her to like it, to recognize it as the perfect name, as his name. And so I was deflated when she reacted as I had expected. Disappointed.

Because, as I keep saying, it is his name, his perfect name, and I feel lucky to have found it, just as I felt lucky to have found Wonderbaby’s perfect name. So, the larger part of me says that it does not matter what anyone else thinks: I am his mother, and, along with his father, I hold responsibility for his naming, for finding the name that is uniquely his. Only we can recognize that name. It is ours to give to him, his to take from us, his to wear, his to own. Even if he grows up to hate it – which is always a possibility – it will remain his name, his original name, the one that I will whisper in his ear the very moment that he is first placed in my arms and that I will shout from the rooftops at every opportunity thereafter.

But, but… my instructions to my mother – get used to it, you will just have to get used to it – remind me that to some extent a name really is just a name, just a word, something that we get used to, something that grows on us, something that becomes our own because of what we make of it, not because it fell from the sky of ideas like a shooting star into our mother’s lap and presented itself as sacred, sacrosanct, perfect. Our boy will be our boy, regardless of his name, regardless of whether we call him Jack or John or Junior or Pilot Inspektor. He will, if our experience with Wonderbaby is anything to go by, have many names, be called many things, be referred to by many terms of endearment. He will be, no doubt, our Prince, our Pirate, our Monster, our Parakeet, our Crunch. And no matter what he is called, he will always be him.

The him that he is, though – the him that he will be – that ‘him’ has a name, a name that I, we, have given him, a name that we love him by, and will always love him by. His name, his very own name. It is indeed special, and it will be the first word that he hears.

What anybody else thinks of it? Doesn’t matter. It’s between we and him.

(A question that vexes me, though: DO I TELL THE INTERNETS? I’ve long wanted to stop calling Wonderbaby ‘Wonderbaby’ and call her by her real name. And I’d so love to share Sprout’s real name. But I’ve become so accustomed to using pseudonyms, even as I’ve become less convinced of their protective effect. This, however, is another topic for another day, and something to distract me while I continue suffering through this interminable, unpredictable labor.)

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    { 130 comments }

    Susan Getgood May 14, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Hope he comes soon, for your sake and all these curious folks.

    Was glad to see Erika’s (Plain Jane Mom) comment as I was going to suggest you ask her how she came to the decision to share her boys real names after using pseudonyms. Not that those of us who have always used our kids’ actual names couldn’t give good advice, but always good to hear from someone who has worn the same shoes.

    Anonymous May 14, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Tell us. Just tell us.
    (I’ll probably react just like your mother.)
    Jenny

    kristen May 14, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    I love Jasper (if that is what the name is). My husband and I met at Manhattan College whose mascot is the Jaspers (named for Brother Jasper)http://www.manhattan.edu/athletics_mc/what_is_a_jasper.shtml
    I did consider it as a middle name if Baby #2 was a boy. My oldest was named after Daddy.

    delurking May 14, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    I didn’t know Wonderbaby’s name but she always looked like an Emma to me. So when I read the first comment I was surprised that I almost got it right! And now hurry on, little Jasper!

    Oz May 14, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    I’ve always thought the won’t he/she be made fun of comment about names (unless they’re something totally crazy like, oh, say, Oz) was sort of stupid. My mom’s middle name is Lucy – can’t get much more regular than that – and she still talks about being made fun of.

    Once Sprout is here, your mom will probably love his name – I think grandparent reactions to their named grandbaby are rarely as critical as those to a name pre-birth. That’s how my in-laws have been – although my father in law did just ask if we were calling our six month old something other than Axel by now…

    kittenpie May 14, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Well, as you know, I am obsessive about names, and even so, I refused to tell relatives until after Pumpkinpie was born. I told about two friends, and that was it. My mom kept calling with absurd suggestions (Gertrude? Huhh? Are you serious?) even after I told her I was not seeking opinions, as she already has been this time – all girl names, funnily enough, though still bizarre. But that way, even though we thought her name was perfect and beautiful, people would be insulting her as much as her name if they reacted badly. Not that anyone has, though. Which is nice.

    And if all those people above are right and it’s Jasper? I know a young Jasper, and he is a lovely kid and no one that I know of has thought it a weird name, let alone one to pick on him over. I quite liked it, in fact.

    Anonymous May 14, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    The older I get the more I appreciate less common names. I gave my kids fairly common names that were not too popular but I’ve noticed that one of them is rapidly on the rise. So far, my son is the only boy in his grade with his name, but I’m sure that will change once he hits university and the work force. Ugh. I need a do-over. Although, the name does suit him, so at least there’s that.

    Jenni May 14, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    my husband’s father was the only one that liked our son’s name, Oscar. We loved it and it’s perfect for him. We kept it a secret until he was born because I didn’t want to deal w/any editorial comments (which I got anyways.)

    The City Gal May 14, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    Aristotle, Archimedes, Plato, Da Vinci, Einstein, Newton….Edison

    Did I get it right?

    I really hope not! Don’t name your baby those names!

    Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah May 14, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Of COURSE you tell the internets.

    Well, I want to know anyway.

    tallulah May 14, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    Out of our 5 children, we only got to name 1 (the other four were adopted after infancy). We never told a soul until after he was born, we knew everyone would hate his name. But yes, they grew into it and couldn’t imagine calling him anything else.

    By the way, in my blog I just named all of my children normal names (although not their real names). People can connect to Leroy or Tori or Christian because they are real names….just not their given ones as to protect identity.

    Sprout & Wonderbaby are just fine!

    mo-wo May 15, 2008 at 1:42 am

    My mother changed her own name TO Gladys.

    So what would her opinion have counted for anyway?

    You have select fine names for lovely little persons. You don’t need to tell us. I enjoy the aliases, to be honest.

    Metrodad never calls Peanut peanut either.

    Jozet at Halushki May 15, 2008 at 2:21 am

    Atticus, Linus, Arunas, Cornelius, Constantine, Edmund…all names I loved, and all got shot down.

    My son has a very old-school but currently trendy three syllable boy’s name. But, we call him by the tres rock-n-roll nick name.

    As long as the name has a rock-and-roll nick name, you can’t go wrong. ;-)

    Wishful Mommy May 15, 2008 at 4:05 am

    Here’s a little story for you:

    We decided our girl would have a name that started with C since our last name did. I went to hospital in labor with 5 names in my pocket. One was Carly (not my fave but one of my hubby’s faves). We told our moms the 5 names.

    My MIL said, “You can’t name her that! There is a woman of ill repute named that on General Hospital.”
    My mom said, “You can’t name her that! There is a sl*t named that on As the World Turns.”

    Miss CC is not named Carly.

    I hope Wonderboy comes soon!
    P.S. did you know there is a T-shirt with Wonderbaby on it on the Chasing Fireflies website?

    twelvekindsofcrazy May 15, 2008 at 9:24 am

    Her Bad Mother? Are you in labor? Sending you good thoughts.
    -Tina

    Cynthia Samuels May 15, 2008 at 10:16 am

    I keep checking my blog reader and Twitter to see if Anything Has Happened but no. You continue to keep us in suspense. Now:
    FIRST of all Wonderbaby is amazingly gorgeous.

    Secondly , a warning: We had a perfectly lovely name picked out for our second and then — he emerged — and he just didn’t look like a “James.” (He was to be named for Sweet Baby James – you know, rockabye sweet baby… What can I say, it was the 70′s) He ended up Daniel because that was who he just was. So even if you don’t use this perfect, decided-upon name you must reveal it here for your groupies and friends. Good luck C.. And HAPPY BIRTHDAY (Mine is the same day, albeit a few years before you…)

    Anonymous May 15, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    HBM your mom will love sprout as much as wonderbaby and she will gwt used to his name.and i’m sure it is a very special name for apeciAL liitle boy.who we all hope for your sake comes soon. hugs to you LAVANDULA

    HerImperialMajesty May 15, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    I’m sure you’ve chosen wisely.

    For years and years, I wanted rid of my first name, thinking it wasd pedestrian and a bit nice and dull.
    but i could never come up with anything else that fitted (apart from Bitch Cassidy and i’m keeping that for my burlesque breakthrough).

    Nowadays, I don’t mind when doofuses run my first name and middle name together and i’m v. partial to being called by my surname (in fact if i were ever to marry, i’d give some thought to taking it as my first name, just to confuse everyone) (then my first name could be a secret thing. Ish).
    So i guess i was named correctly after.
    Hope your baby comes soon

    justmylife May 15, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    I called my youngest by her name before I knew she was a she. The shortened version is unisex. My husband always called her BooBoo, she came 10 years after our youngest son. I am glad you are going to share the names at some point. I may do it one of these days myself, in fact, I may have slipped a time or two.

    Cara May 15, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    I can totally relate to this post. When I would tell people what I was going to name my boys, I always got “what nickname are you going to call them?”. I’m not, I call them by there full name. I also get from my MIL, you know they are going to get “XXXX” as a nickname, I say not if I start the nickname I prefer.
    I also struggle with using my boys real names and still am on the fence.

    linda May 15, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    How funny that others have guessed Jasper because even before I read the comments, I guessed that name based on your description. I know a three-year-old boy named Jasper and I think it’s a lovely name — it really suits him, is familiar enough, but not common.
    Whatever he’s called, your little boy has clearly been named with thought and love.

    Veronica Mitchell May 15, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    If it were about anything but names, that conversation would sound just like my mother, but my mom has difficulty with a lot of pronunciations, so with names she only asks that it be something she can say. She cannot say my father-in-law’s name, for example.

    When I revealed my last baby’s name, I did it by photos of famous people or things with those names, so all my readers would know the name, but it still wasn’t google-able.

    Ms. Huis Herself May 15, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    My husband and I were rather indecisive… and then Pumpkin (our first) came two weeks early. So when I was frantically finishing packing my bag (post-water-breaking!), I had to grab the Excel spreadsheet with all of our choices on it!

    But it was nice to be able to look at her as we chose. There were some names that she just WASN’T. (Like Cassie. Cute name, but not her.)

    And we chose an unusual (but real) name and love it.

    And when we were expecting our second, we didn’t stress out about it, but once again went to the hospital with a list and figured it out when we were there. (But this time the name we chose was one I was really thinking about and thought she looked like right, right away.)

    Anyway, sending you let’s-go-labor thoughts! (Which should be powerful ones, ‘cuz each of my girls came two weeks early!)

    Christina May 15, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    You’re right – you’re the only ones who have a say in his name, and everyone else will just need to accept it. You know what the best name is for him.

    I knew Cordelia’s name would be the right fit. It took me some time to realize that was her name, but once I knew I was certain.

    I actually was never certain about Miranda. I’m still not – I think she would have made a better Bianca, but let family talk me out of it. But her nickname Mira fits her well, so that’s what I call her most of the time.

    I can’t wait to hear this guy’s name. I’m sure you’ve picked just the right name for him.

    IRISHKAT May 16, 2008 at 10:34 am

    I feel your pain. When I told my parents what we were naming our oldest son they said “Oh. I don’t like it.” To make me feel even better a year later my mother said “You know, I hated the name Drake when you picked it out, but now I guess it suits him.” Soooo does that mean he is a sucky kid and the name fits or that you finally pulled your head out of your ass and see his name rocks?? Yeah I picked the second choice too!

    I am sure the name you pick is as wonderful as Wonderbaby’s. Hope he come REAL soon!

    Anonymous May 16, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    i want jasper, but my husband said no. i’m mourning the loss of the name, even though i am only 6 months pregnant and don’t even know it’s a boy.

    heck, you might not even be using that, but it’s my guess.

    our other kids are gracie, slater, and finnegan. slater is a girl and is often mistaken for a boy when i’m on the phone and when she was a baby.

    domesticblister May 18, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    With my first (twins) we told the names (one pretty common, one a little more unusual.) Some family members loved them, and some loved one and not the other, but pulled the ‘I’ll get used to them.’Which they did because I knew that was their names.
    With # 3 we thought we had the name, and decided not to tell anyone, which lasted until 8 weeks before she was born. When we told my mother the name was Eliza, she quickly got used to it. But then kept saying it in a long high pitched southern drawl, dropping the E, to be’ Liiiiiiiza’. Irked me so bad. My MIL on the otherhand, loved Eliza, and kept going on about how dainty and feminine it was. Irked me even worse. So, in an insane pregnant woman moment three days before my due date, I asked the baby her name, and somehow came out with an answer, and it was not Eliza. So we made a deal. If she’d kindly be born ASAP, she could have that name. I was in labour within 24 hours, and we had the fun of surprising everyone with a completely different name than they had been expecting.
    Here’s hoping your babe is not being un-cooperative and fishing for a name change like mine seemed to be! Good luck!

    Emma in Canada May 20, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    My daughter is called Saoirse, Irish for freedom. It was an important name for me to use. My mother hated it. My grandfather calls her Sarah (he also calls my son Liam Billy…he’s anti Irish), for months my friends tried to convince me to change it. We wouldn’t. They can’t imagine her as anything else. She is Saoirse. Jasper will be Jasper, and no one will ever be able to imagine him as a jacob or Ethan. Congragts by the way!

    berto May 22, 2008 at 7:41 am

    I agree with you about these. Well someday Ill create a blog to compete you! lolz.

    ladybughugs June 5, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Jasper is a great name.

    I’ve known kids to be saddled with some names that will cause problems down the line. One boy, if his name is shortened might be called Sue. Seriously. The dad is not American and they chose a name from his country. I hope he’s tall like his dad. And strong. So no one will mess with him.

    I picked both my kids names because they were not in the top 100. Scout’s name was just over 100 and Lil’bug’s name was about 450 the year she was born. I like a name that is unique, that they won’t hear every day.

    Here’s a cool site. You can see how a names have increased/decreased in popularity over time. Where the name ranked in any given year, etc.
    http://www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/babynames/

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