A blog about babies: the babies I lost, the babies I never had, the baby who made me a Mama.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Naming Names; or, When Hobbies take Over [Edited]

Those last three days of the two week wait are the worst, aren't they? You've got a bit of hope left, but it's rapidly eroding. The testing date is so close (less than a week away!) but the odds are you'll never make it there. AF's calling cards are increasingly difficult to ignore. The only worse part of my cycle is when I'm waiting on a late ovulation.

So to distract myself, I'm going to post about one of my favorite topics: Names.

I have always been fascinated with names. I think a lot of writers are. Names are such lovely symbols-- or at least I've been conditioned to read them that way after years of reading fiction. Names are musical. Names are adaptable, changing like a face over time as relationships grow or alter. Names are such a beautiful gift from parent to child.

I'm the oldest of four daughters, and I was seven when my youngest sister was born. My parents never enlisted our help in naming their younger children. They never even let us know the potential names before my sisters were born. But I can vividly remember reading through their baby name books during my mom's pregnancies, making lists of names I liked and suggesting them to my parents.

Over the years I made constant name lists that stand as a record of my obsessions and changing interests. Then in college, the internet revolutionized the way we name children. The SSA began releasing the annual Most Popular Names lists, parents started debating names online, google searches allowed immediate calculations of the incidences of a child's potential full name not only in his or her locality, but across the globe. I became interested in the sociological aspects of naming, the reasons certain names trend up or down, what names parents are drawn to at a particular time and which names they reject. Names are fascinating to research from that perspective, because they are both intimately expressive of parents' class, cultural, and other affiliations and also totally free!

Eventually, a few years ago, after becoming an active member of a community of "Name Enthusiasts," I was picked to co-write an advice column about names for an online publication (under an alias, not my own by-line, as it's a corporate endeavor).

So, suffice it to say, I've spent a lot of time thinking about names.

And naturally, after almost ten years with my husband, we've talked about names together. We hadn't even been dating a year before I started throwing "potential children's" names around, and once Lawyer Guy realized this was just a hobby of mine and not an indication of my desire to get pregnant at 20, he played along. I've even infected him with my name interest. He now remembers noteworthy (or appalling) names he hears on the street or given by acquaintances to tell me about them and has his own firm favorites and strong dislikes.

Our chosen names have changed over time: we started nine years ago with Eloise and James and moved through several other permutations over the years. But four years ago--after we became engaged--we finally settled on a different set boy and girl name. We loved them. When we started trying to conceive, we would talk all the time about what we would do with X or Y, where we would take them, what they would be like.

We purposefully left the middle names undetermined-- until I got pregnant. Roughly a week later, we had those pinned down, too.

After we lost the baby, we still kept those names. Since we don't know the gender of the baby we lost, I think of it only as "m&m," and I'm comfortable doing so. We feel no compunction applying these names to a new baby. They were always potential names, chosen for a potential baby, and they can wait until the actual baby arrives to fill that potential.

But maybe I did attach them to my first pregnancy more than I think I did. Or maybe (what I suspect is more likely), having the same mental names for my hypothetical, non-existent children has grown boring. Much of the fun of discussing names comes from the debate, the discovery, the moment when you and your partner realize that you both love the same special sound. We had those moments four years ago. Talking about these names isn't fun any longer.

So I've been cheating on X and Y. I've been pondering other possibilities. I've been filling out online stationery order forms for baby announcements (shut up, we all do it) with other monograms. There's a boys name lurking in the background, not ready yet to take center stage, but the situation is quite different for the girls. A new contender has emerged, a name we both adore, that is sweet and short and lovely: Nell Isadora (the middle for LG's grandfather).

I'd really like the little zygote to show up already, so we can hammer out this debate. I'd really like the pang that accompanies every column I write to disappear. I'd really like to comment on name blogs and message boards again, something I haven't been able to do since the miscarriage.

I'd really like to not get bored of another set of names before the baby arrives to wear them.

[Edited 1/21/12: Now that we do have a baby and have given him our favorite name, I have removed the distinguishing details from this post to protect his privacy]


  1. Those are beautiful names - all of them! And it's nice to have such nice family names...I am not so lucky with good names on my side of the family. We do have a non-negotiable boy's name for a famous ancestor of B's (also B's middle name), which luckily I love. I just need to do a bit more research on this character to make sure he didn't do anything bad :)
    I hope very soon you will be dreaming and ordering birth announcements with any of those beautiful names.
    Uh, totally random Q on your last post. Is side boob ache really a sign of a period coming than pregnancy? If so, I'm out this month....Ay, this 2ww is brutal. Just a few more days.

  2. i love the name eloise, but it doesn't go with our last name at all. fiona is another favorite of mine, but hubby hates it. we came up with a very very unique girl name last year and i will be crushed if i never have a girl to use the name on. it's a secret though, so i'll be annoying and not sure, but thanks for sharing yours!!

    ps - dh wouldn't play along with my name game either until he realized i wasn't trying to trick him into child while we were dating :o)

  3. You have beautiful names picked out for your future children. I can relate to your fascination with names--I've been looking in baby name books for YEARS. I used to write down names I liked from books or meeting strangers on pieces of paper. I still have a napkin from on of DH and I's early dates, where we had one too many beers and came up with a whole list of baby names. Now it's a struggle to think of names... because I don't know if I will ever get to use the ones we've chosen.


  4. I love Josephine. And Nell Isadora. I used to read baby name books, too, but lately I've stayed away from them. When we discussed names a while ago (like some of your partners, H first had to be convinced that this didn't mean we'd have kids right away), we found some girl names that we could agree on, but none for boys, somehow.
    Hoping your zygote, beta, heartbeat show up soon so that you can get back to the name discussion!

  5. You fill out baby announcements online? Ha ha! That's so sweet and cute! It makes me smile. I mean, of COURSE I've envisioned what kind of announcement I'd have. So no, you aren't at all alone, even if I hadn't thought to actually shop for it yet. Won't that be FUN? I can't wait. I'll have to pull out all the stops, when/if that day does finally arrive.

    I'm so glad you posted about names. being the expert and all. Plus, I too am totally fascinated with names. I think about them constantly. And like you, I read baby name books for fun when I was younger. And I also regularly look into the sociology of naming online. AND I've strongly considered 'Isadora' in the past. Maybe it's a name that appeals to idealists :) (or former idealists in my case). I also like Dorothea, which is similar. I've thought about that one a lot.

    E refuses to discuss names at all. So I am anxious to see what names he likes, when/if the time actually comes. I used to think it was annoying that he wouldn't discuss his preferences, but now I think it will, hopefully one day, be a pleasant surprise to find out what he likes and doesn't in a name.

  6. I love your names and your naming obsession!

    I also love to think about names but I sorta made it off limits since we started trying. To me it felt like the equivalent of looking at bridal mags before being engaged. I worry about jinxing myself. HA, and look how that worked out!

    I think it's very cool you got LG all into your hobby, too. I sooooo hope you guys are on the cusp of 9 months of naming convos. xo

  7. You are too cute, and I'm just like you that I've been hammering my names out for years! I have a post it note sitting in a mug in my cube that may be 3 years old, no joke. I have a terrible memory so if I didn't write them down somewhere safe I'd totally forget! And I've always kept them a secret so nobody else would use them before me, but maybe I'll share further down the road. Especially since we're not finding out!

    I love all your names, really beautiful!! Hoping so hard you'll be ordering those birth announcements very soon!!

  8. I think it's important to think of names in all stages of the life cycle, and potential careers a child might have . . . like I don't have a lot of confidence in names that sound like a stripper's stage name - and therefore don't want them as my kid's surgeon. I want something solid on the person doing my taxes. Something respectable for my attorney. Something believeable on granny in the nursing home. Not something common - cause I have a super-common first name, and it SUCKS! And be prepared to have the name shortened into a nickname many times, and ask yourselves if you can learn to live with it on occasion.

  9. p.s. I think you might also get some sort of 'vibes' from the baby too, when you are actually in the later stages of pregnancy, and those feelings might make you pick a totally different name! Also, dude, if you're crying over my fortune cookie, you are TOTALLY pregnant.

  10. I'm also fascinated by naming traditions. (Have you read The Namesake? Really good). I know exactly what you mean, though. It's strange - and painful - to be waiting with a name. Waiting, waiting.

    But I think Nell Isadora is perfect and lovely. And my hope is that you get to put it to use very, very soon.

  11. I think about names all the time and keep a little email to myself that I update anytime I hear something noteworthy. Still, I have no clue what we'd actually name a child, were one to finally show up.

    Also, I just wanted to note that we MAY be related in some distant form, since my mother's maiden name is also Kelly. I'm named after that part of the family.

  12. OMG - you totally snaked my post ;) I was all set to publish a naming post today, and my end-of-the-2WW blues just wouldn't let me.

    What a riot how our minds run in similar circles!

  13. Thanks for sharing your names and your naming obsession. They are beautiful names and I hope you get to use one of them very soon.

    Yes, those last few days are the absolute worst..you are so close. Hope you get good news soon :-)

  14. I have an acquaintance who named their daughter "Elliot." I kid you not. Your names are lovely. The Mr. comes from a long lines of Josephines. I also have to say that despite all those well devised and carefully selected names, your child will really speak to you and you just never know what sort of wackado thing will strike you.

    I am named for two great-grandmothers and I carry those names with a lot of pride.

    I also hate to tell you that despite all those wondeful names, you are just going to call her Neenee or him Scooter. :)

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