Monday, December 7, 2009

Choosing a Name

We have a name in mind for our baby. Nothing is set in stone, but this name is the one that seemed to rise to the surface out of a handful of other possibilities, the one I kept repeating to myself to feel if it was right. At first, I could only think of girl names that I liked. But somewhere along the way, this boy name started to call out to me, and the girl names no longer interested me. This was around when I started to concede to my husband’s early intuition that we were going to have a boy. The ultrasound confirmed it.

People often want to know if you’ve chosen a name. I am hesitant to tell them, even my close friends, hesitant to say this name aloud. Why? It is too easy to gauge their approval or skepticism, and I don’t want to search for another’s approval. To name one’s child feels too intimate, too much a private ritual. Although approval may feel good (“I love that name!” – pat yourself on the back, good choice), another person’s hesitation or lack of enthusiasm can feel…disheartening. You wish you hadn’t told them, wish you hadn’t said the name aloud, taken away from its sacredness.

Even though I am pretty sure that we will go with this name, it still feels too early for my husband and I to call our baby by it. In his present form, floating in fluid, otherworldly, he doesn’t feel like he should have a name yet. Somehow, the formal bestowing of a name seems like it should happen later, after this creature has taken his first breath, after this being has joined our world of light and air, not while he is still in this in-between place. Somehow, calling him by his name too casually places him too soon into our world of category and definition, personality. I don’t wish to place my baby in this world quite yet, in this world where we and then he will write down his identity—first name, middle name, hyphenated last—onto a form. Babies in utero feel too mysterious for this. Like gifts from God we mustn’t be too eager to place our mark on.

When we first found out he was a boy, it even felt a bit strange to suddenly call him “he.” I’ve since grown used to the shift, however, and “he” feels better than “it,” but to make this transition into a distinct pronoun was also to withdraw him one layer away from the mystery. That was a choice we made and not one I regret, for there is something grounding in knowing the sex; somehow it makes this child feel more real. I can understand though why others might not want to find out. And either way, of course, it’s still a huge mystery.

I realize I’m being a bit contradictory. On one hand, I don’t want to assign too many projections on this being, I don’t want to draw him too firmly yet into this world; but on the other hand, the more I can imagine him and practice whispering his name, the closer I feel. I imagine how this baby will quickly turn into a boy, and then a teen, and eventually into a full-grown man. I imagine calling out his name across a playground or out the back door, calling him inside from the yard where he is climbing trees and aiming slingshots. I indulge in these mini daydreams—even as I know to remind myself that not all boys are the same.

How our child will go on to embody the name he is given, no one can say. Perhaps it will fit him perfectly, or perhaps it will hang off him awkwardly someday and he might even choose a new name. All I know is, you choose the name that speaks to you for whatever reason, the one that rises to the top of the list of infinite possibilities. Then you practice holding that name in your heart, whispering it in your dreams. You listen closely, trying to sense whether your child accepts this name, because you want to believe that it was not you who did the choosing.


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