September 16, 2013

How a Name-Obsessed Writer Named Her First Baby

I've got to be honest—naming my child was not an easy process. Some people find this hard to believe. After all, when my husband and I were expecting our first baby, I was five years into writing Nameisms, I had begun a little blogging and editing for Name Candy and The Baby Name Wizard, and I was deep into writing my baby name book. On top of that, being name-obsessed was my reality for most of my life.

But even though I was surrounded by names and had been making lists of favorites for years, I was careful. I didn't want to name imaginary children before becoming a parent was a possibility. Choosing a name before we were pregnant would have felt, in my book, too hasty. I resolved to wait until a baby was in our definite future. After all, our naming styles evolved as our lives changed and time passed.

And I especially didn't want to choose the name by myself, without input from my husband. I wanted naming my baby to be an organic, creative, fun process that my husband and I delved into together. The clouds would part, harps would play, and magical sunbeams would envelope us as we chose our perfect baby name.

Almost 11 years into our marriage, the big moment arrived. I was 19 weeks pregnant when an ultrasound revealed that we were having a baby boy. We were thrilled, and as far as names were concerned, glad that we had managed to avoid serious name discussions up to that point, so that half of our potential choices were eliminated on the spot. Pretty soon it was time for my naming dreams to come true. We each sat down with the electronic version of my book (it hadn't been published yet) and separately listed our favorite choices. This was it—we were carefully considering names we could actually imagine proudly giving our son.

Then, we eagerly compared our lists. Cue the harps! Our styles were similar enough, and we had common ground on two names that sounded great together. Logic would dictate that we had just named the baby; we could use the two names we both picked as a first and middle name choice. But logic failed us. The two names we liked on paper suddenly didn't feel right.

We decided to make a master list from the two we'd created, after considering each other's choices and using veto powers when needed. It came to 47 names. We tried to let these names soak in for awhile. One November evening, the right name seemed to stand out and we were both thrilled with it. This is the moment I'd been waiting for. We had just named our baby.

The only problem was, the bliss I felt didn't last. Days later, I spent an afternoon making a pro/con list about the name. My sudden hesitancy was hinged on what other people might think of it. Would they assume we were a certain type of family? Did my son's name sound, to some people, like the name of a sexy vampire? An Amish kid? A creepy villain from a horror movie? What would our parents and grandparents think of it? Would people mispronounce it constantly? Does it not flow well with our last name? These are the questions that would race through my mind at 2:00 in the morning.

One day I felt head-over-heels for the name we'd picked, the next I was in a panic, telling my husband it may not be the baby's name after all. It probably helped that I was carrying his son, but he was very patient with me. He agreed to pick out a "safer" back-up name and keep an open mind until we met the baby. We also didn't share the name with our friends and family, to keep the decision between the two of us. (I have a tendency to be swayed a bit too easily; even an offhand comment about the name could have made the decision much more difficult.)

Still, I got lots of comments from friends and family to the effect of, "Your baby's name is going to be amazing! You're writing a name book, after all!" Expectations were high.

I researched and debated and flip-flopped until the moment arrived. Our son was born on a brisk March morning nine days after his due date. A very long birth experience and one c-section later, it was time to make it official. "What's the baby's name?" A nurse asked, her pen poised as though we were ready to announce it that second. Even though there were several times when I thought we had named our son, this was the only one that counted. "What do you think?" My husband asked. Despite the exhaustion and drugs, this was a very lucid moment. I smiled as I agreed on the name we'd chosen last November. 

There's something about becoming a parent that puts everything into perspective. Expectations, like the kind of birth experience I may have or the way my baby would be named, didn't have any value in comparison to holding my healthy newborn son. He mattered more than my visions of naming perfection. Choosing a likable name was important to me, but in the end it was up to us to determine what that meant, and no one could name him like we could.

And that's how a name-a-holic like me finally named her first baby. It took me awhile to feel confident about our choice before he was born, but once our little miracle arrived I knew we had chosen a wonderful name for him. It was cool and historical and meaningful and lyrical and masculine all at once. I realized that most people would agree, and for those who didn't, I wouldn't let it bother me. Even if they thought our naming style was Sexy Amish Vampire.

Are you having a hard time choosing a name for your baby?
Feel free to contact me if you'd like my input!

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