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 }

    Erika Jurney May 13, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    First of all, I’m guessing Thelonius. And I love it :)

    Secondly, just last week I started using my kids real names and I have to say that it has been liberating. Good luck with your decision.

    Zenobia May 13, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    No one liked my son’s name and we came up with his name while trying to conceive. I told everyone his name just to get them used to it and my mom sounded much like yours the first, oh…50 times. “Are you sure you want to give him that name? Can you at least spell it so it looks more, I don’t know, American?” she would ask. But it was immediately evident that his name fit him and I just adore his name. Adore it.

    As far as names on the scary internets, I do use pseudonyms for our little family, but the real names are not hard to discover at all. Although I must say that Lasers is the name my husband and daughter wanted for the baby and Koko is what my daughter wished she was named.

    Jenn May 13, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    My first two were girls and for some reason I always got isn’t that a boys name ? I was lucky and the next was a boy and nobody said anything . Then this time everyone knew it was going to be a boy and kept asking for the name but we didn’t say it until everyone was in the hospital room after he was born and then they all heard it at the same time ,and so far I haven’t heard anyone say anything bad ! I find once you pick the name and everyone calls the baby that it just seems to fit anyways and you can’t imagine ever calling them anything else . Sorry it was long . Hope all goes well !

    daysgoby May 13, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    Well, when you name your children after Sesame Street characters, you DO have to expect a certain amount of flak….but I feel sure that Princess Snuffleupagus and her brother will be able to handle it.

    (Oops, should I have not revealed her middle name?)

    PS I’m guessing Dashiell. Which is lovely.

    PPS And I do do the unpardonable and call my kids by their real names on my blog. I tried pseudonyms, and they rang false to my ears after awhile. So far, it’s been fine, although just last week I DID get a newsclipping about Dooce (fallout from the Today show, natch) from my GRANDMOTHER, who is sure I ‘won’t make the same mistakes that woman did.’
    Hee!

    The Domesticator May 13, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks! I say name him the name you LOVE…someone will always have an opinion.

    Hmmm….I’m going to guess Jasper as well….

    daysgoby May 13, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Hee! I just googled Edwin Drood, and I have to say: If you continue using pseudonyms, and you DON’T call WonderBoy ‘Honeythunder’, I will be VERY DISAPPOINTED.

    :)

    Lindsay Lebresco (Graco) May 13, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    I actually like Sprout! What a cute little name. It’s funny- we got grief when we used the pseudonym “Jagger” on our blog. My father “Ray” whose real name is Charles wanted to advise me against using nicknames because they could lead to permenant names (perhaps referring to himself or my brother “Chip” who hates them and that name to this very day, for it).

    You’re right that he will become the name and you’ll never imagine him with any other name. But I understand the disappointment- of course we want everyone to love it because to you- it’s him already. It’s almost like they don’t like him…
    Hope Sprout makes an appearance soon for you!

    mamatulip May 13, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    I remember telling my MIL Oliver’s name and she said something like, “Why would you do that to him?”

    But he is an Oliver, and I knew it, and now I don’t think she’d consider any other name for him but Oliver.

    I hope you have this beautiful baby boy soon!

    Candygirlflies May 13, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    I have a mother who sounds very much like yours… And for that reason, I chose not to say a single word about either the sex, or the names of my children. It was MUCH easier just to present her with each baby, and while she was still in a state of rapturous adoration, say simply, “Her name is ___”.

    In the meantime, of course, I had to listen to ENDLESS amounts of advice on the choosing-of-names. It finally drove me SO nuts, I had to admit that I already knew exactly WHO IT WAS I was carrying, but that my husband and I had decided to keep it a secret.

    That put a stop to it. And, of course, I was eventually forgiven (for THAT, anyway…)

    Your decision! Yours alone.

    As is the decision whether or not to share it with us.

    We will always love hearing about your kids, nomatterwhat.

    xo CGF

    marymurtz May 13, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    I would love to know the name(s) if you ever choose to share. My daughter came to us at 14 months as a foster child, so we were not able to choose a first name. We did, however, give her a new middle name, the name we always dreamed of having for a little girl.

    My nephew knew we had wanted someday to have a boy and name him Samuel. when his own son was born, they emailed me to let me know they wanted to name the baby Samuel and did we mind? I thought that was sweet.

    As far as anonymity, I just couldn’t keep up the pseudonym thing. I use my husband’s real first name, and mine, and April’s. My siblings, on the other hand, are not household hostages, so they have pseudonyms on my blog. There are 11 of them, however, so I have to use a spreadsheet to remember who is supposed to be whom.

    Her Bad Mother May 13, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Anon – no worries! I have let her name slip here and there, and yes, a lot of people do know it already.

    :)

    Angella May 13, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Oh! Emilia is beautiful!

    I’m curious about Sprout’s name, but only if you want to share.

    I use my kids’ names, and now my last name (have to watermark all my photos), but you have to do what YOU are comfortable with.

    I hope you just HAVE him soon!

    Sass E-mum May 13, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    I’m curious, but you’ve done a good job on anonymity and you’ll be pleased about that as they get older.

    Wonderbaby is a great pseudonym.

    Names are obviously very personal to the parents. People should really only say ‘Ooh, what a lovely name’. My parents didn’t understand me calling our daughter Eleanor – but they totally get Ellie.

    ewe are here May 13, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Ooooh. Well done, HBM. I love that name, as well as the national park in Alberta. In fact, if we were to have a third boy (assuming we have a third, whole other issue), that’s the name that currently sits at the top of our ‘boy list’ …. it was the runner-up to Baby Boo’s name!

    We did clues last year re our boys’ names to keep them ungoogleable…

    ewe are here May 13, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Oh, and we told nobody, and I mean nobody, the boys’ names until after they were born… because I know what my family is like. heh heh

    mrinz May 13, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    I have a sister in law who is like your Mother – incapable of with holding her opinion. Even when she knows that voicing her opinion will not change the outcome one little bit.

    And like you, I have held my breath and just waited for her disapproval. What has annoyed me even more is that her approval should matter to me!

    I pondered this one for a few years and eventually decided that it only mattered to me when I was feeling vulnerable in myself. Now I don’t care at all!

    Looking forward to hearing about the end to your labour! All the very best wishes.

    A Mom Two Boys May 13, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    This is something that is near and dear to my heart. We closely guarded our son’s names until birth for this very reason. If ONE person had even hesitated when I told them their names I would have punched them in the gut. I figured that once the baby’s were born no one would DARE say anything bad about them. Then my sister-in-law had her son and named him a slightly “different” name and my Mother-in-law & Grandmother-in-law gave her shit for it for WEEKS. I almost punched them in the gut on her behalf. Drives me crazy. CRAZY! I’m sure his name is beautiful and perfect, much like he will be…when he finally arrives.

    On another note, my sister was rear-ended on Mother’s Day & ended up going into labor 3 weeks early. Not that I’d recommend it, but…

    Anonymous May 13, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    I vote Jasper too. A perfectly lovely name. In fact, it meets my personal criteria of being relatively unique (unlikely he will be Jasper X at school) and it’s pronounced the way it’s spelled (I assume you’re not going to be kreativ). Good stuff.

    Leah May 13, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    It will be his name because it was chosen for and given to him by the people who made him. And it will be perfect because HE will be perfect.

    Can’t wait to meet him!

    Jenifer May 13, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Of course we want to know! I find myself checking my reader more often these days waiting for the big news!

    Laural Dawn May 13, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    we didn’t tell anyone our baby names till the baby was born. It was cause of the comments.
    But, I’ve loved my daughter’s name forever (Chloe) and I think it fits her and I love it.
    It took people awhile to get used to it, but like you I don’t care.
    A name is special.
    My name is really unusual and I hated it as a kid and now I feel like I grew into it.

    Casa Wasabi May 13, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    I happen to LOVE the name Jasper. It’s definitely not way out there or anything. You want to talk about shocked reactions? I named my daughter Cousteau. It suits her SO well, but when some people first heard it they were completely weirded out. It’s funny – some people would rather you name your child a completely ubiquitous name. Frankly when I come across babies named ubercommon names, I kind of gag a little.

    kgirl May 13, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    I made the mistake of telling my mother that if Bee was a girl she was going to be India (which she isn’t, but she was supposed to be), and then had to suffer through months of her fretting over a name she hated.

    This time around, knowing it was a girl, my mother wanted to know her name. I wouldn’t give. She asked if it was going to be India. I said no, but added (after her huge, dramatic sigh of relief), ‘You are going to wish it was India.’

    Little Mrs Trish May 13, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Wonderbaby is so sweet and beautiful, and your son will NO DOUBT be EQUALLY handsome.

    Oh PLEASE! Oh PLEASE! Tell us the names!! :)

    Beck May 13, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    We just hold off on telling anyone what the baby’s name is until the baby is actually out and find that really helps people keep their opinions to themselves. Being horrified at “Harold” is one thing – being horrified at BABY Harold is entirely another. (Are any babies still called Harold? Is that what you’re going to call your little fella?)

    Heather May 13, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    I think Bazzard is a lovely name. Why wouldn’t your mom like it? ;-)

    Michelle May 13, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    That is my husband’s great-great grandfather’s name…it’s time to use it again.

    We used Oscar. Not a family name (and certainly not liked by my mother-in-law), but it has fit our child all 13 years of his life…and he is proud of it.

    Michelle May 13, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    I meant Jasper, of course.

    Mumma Boo May 13, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    Sharing is such a personal decision – whatever you decide has to be comfortable for you. For our daughter, we kept it a secret because we knew the grief we would get because we didn’t include my husband’s family in the name somewhere, but mine was. For our son, we had a tough time coming up with a name we both liked and that hadn’t been used by one of my siblings or nine million cousins. We finally turned to one of our favorite movies for inspiration, and found what we had been seeking. On a side note, my mother always threatened to come back from the grave and haunt us if we ever named one of our kids after her. (She wasn’t particularly fond of her turn-of-the-century throwback moniker.) None of us took the chance…

    Chicky Chicky Baby May 13, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    People have physical reactions to the names we give our children. Wonderful or horrible, they always have an OPINION. An opinion in all caps. That’s why we’re struggling with this one’s name. But at the end of the day you have to love it because you’ll be the one who is yelling it when the child has gotten on your last nerve.

    womaninawindow May 13, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Oh, your mom will get used to Oliver in time. Oliver, right? I got it right, didn’t i?

    Haley-O May 13, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    I love the name we chose for Rascal more and more everyday. At first I wasn’t totally sure (like you are), but now I KNOW my instincts were right in giving him this name. I LOVE it now. Say it proudly all the time…

    The monkey’s name was always perfect for her — from the moment she was conceived!

    Don’t you love how they say “my brudder”? Monkey does that, too…. :)

    chris May 13, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    I would love to find out the baby’s name now that you’ve piqued my curiosity. Did someone guess Holden?

    Baby in the City May 13, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    It’s Vlasic, no?

    GIRL'S GONE CHILD May 13, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    What’s so funny is that I never even though to give Archer a pseudonym when I started blogging. What I did manage to do (I think) is keep the internets from knowing his last name (as it is different for mine) so if someone were to google his full name, he would be anonymous. Do you and your husband share a last name? I feel like I should know this, probably but eh. THINKING OF YOU, Catherine! So excited to meet your boy and hear all about his awesome pirate-princeness.

    And re: names. My mother not only hated our first pick for a daughter (Salome) but sent my husband literature on why she was a murderous tramp in the bible, so while I was away, she manipulated Hal into hating the name and boycotting it for all eternity. So I hear you. We have two names, now that we like. One is old and beautiful and the other isn’t even a name at all. But it is to me. And I love it anyway.

    Seriously, when that babe comes out, every one who meets him won’t be able to picture him as anyone besides who you’ve named him, which like you said, is perfect.

    xo and thoughts to you for asap labor.

    Her Bad Mother May 13, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    GGC – we have different last names, so both WB and Le Sprout will have last names that aren’t directly traceable to this blog. Which, yeah, gives me added comfort.

    If I were starting all over again, I’d probably not even consider pseudonyms. It feels strained now. And, these are, in large part, THEIR stories. So, I think that a further lifting of the veil is coming ;)

    Lindsay May 13, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    I love how people pause after I tell them my son’s name is Josey. It’s like *ohmygod. Is he actually a girl? It really looks like a boy. No, it’s a boy, but who would DO that to a boy?* “Oh!” Every time I tell someone his name I get a deer-in-the-headlights look and an “Oh!” It’s rather amusing.
    I definitely think you should tell :)

    Fairly Odd Mother May 13, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Our son has a name that is perfect for him, but not a name you hear every day either. My mom hates it. My dad, on the other hand, told me that it was a strong name and he raised his fist in the air above his hospital bed. This made me so happy since they had such a short time together. And, there is also no ‘real’ nickname for our guy which is why I call him by his first initial: D. That’s his name on my blog and his nickname in real life. Any name, chosen with love and caring, is the perfect name for your son.

    rocksinmydryer May 13, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    Good for you! My firstborn has a name that is unusual (not weird), and it could NOT have been more perfect for him. I’ve never regretted it one day.

    liz May 13, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    My grandmother on my step-father’s side was like your mom. When my uncle told her what his son would be named, she said, “Really? You’re kidding right?”. When he told her what his daughter would be called, she said, “But there are so many PRETTY girls names.”

    So we didn’t tell ANYBODY what Muffin Man’s name was gonna be until we had him physically there and his name was already printed on his hospital records.

    liz May 13, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    And hoping that tonight will see you pushing that sweet Sprout OUT!

    Karianna May 14, 2008 at 12:05 am

    Ah yes. Both sons’ names are traditional but spelled the Scandinavian way. I’ve gotten odd comments from folks, but in the end most people have liked them.

    We considered Theodore, too, but my mom did the same “THEO?!” with a wrinkled brow. Husband wanted “Cicero Octavian.”

    I LOVE names. Used to write ‘em out in long lists as a hobby when I was a kid.

    Laura May 14, 2008 at 12:37 am

    It’s NOT Dick Datchery, is it? Though, if it is, I applaud your independent spirit.

    In any case, best wishes for an easy labor.

    gisarah May 14, 2008 at 1:31 am

    there will always be doubters. my favorite retort from family and (ahem) friends: “but what will you CALL him?” well, his name of course. why would you name a child something you didn’t want to call him? i know people do it from time to time, but…

    my mother, who is the most non-judgmental and lovely person, has the exact same sorts of things to say about a certain category of names, most especially names that are commonly surnames, or what she thinks of as boy’s names used for girls (like mackenzie, which fortunately not one of her children likes in the slightest). and my poor, poor sister-in-law, who at first chose “maya” and “mendel” for her twins, suffered mightily at the tongue of her sister and two mothers, who regaled her in the recovery room with all the reasons why they hated those and any other names she came up with.

    no wonder she never picks names until the babies are nearly six months old.

    in panama, where one of my sisters lives and just had a baby, evidently it’s so common not to have a name for a newborn yet that she now asks new parents, “so, have you decided on a name for the baby yet?” that seems so much more luxurious.

    Anonymous May 14, 2008 at 4:34 am

    I’ve tried naming pets in advance and always end up changing my mind after I finally “meet” them because the name just isn’t right, so I think I’ll be one of those crazy people who wait to name their baby until after the birth.

    Hope the Sprout makes an appearance soon and you get some much-needed pregnancy relief!

    zellmer May 14, 2008 at 7:23 am

    If it’s Jasper, I’m so jealous. I wanted to name my son that, but couldn’t convince the husband.

    Anonymous May 14, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Isn’t Jasper What James Lileks named his dog?

    Lamont

    wright May 14, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Great post. I so want to know his name, but I am for a bit of privacy when it comes to the net. I use pseudonyms.

    And when are you gonna have that dadgum baby?!?!

    Elizabeth May 14, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    When you said it was the name of artists, writers, and characters of fiction, I thought of Homer or Hugo, but if your Mom wants to know how you will shorten the name, those probably aren’t it. Dashiell sounds possible, as does Pablo. Or Ivan!

    I think I freaked you out at BlogHer last year when I asked how your daughter was and called her by name :)

    ericablonde May 14, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Just don’t let your mom near the birth certificate, OK? When my mom was born, her grandmother filled out the form. Incredibly, it wasn’t until years later that they discovered that mom’s legal name was in fact not Constance, but Cornelia.

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