It’s all in the name

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I remember where I was, exactly, when I found it. I still feel the warm, almost too warm, water covering my legs and back. The bath water no longer reached up to cover my burgeoning belly, swollen with my weight gain and pulsating with a baby’s sharp kicks. I had my phone in my hand and was scrolling through one of those obnoxious, uppity baby name websites that claims to know exactly the trends for the next set of littles’ names (so you can avoid, at all costs, being trendy). We were pretty sure we had a name picked out for her, our unborn kid. In my mind I could hear it, this name we practiced just between the two of us like a secret benediction. Yet, I could not commit. This, my husband would tell you, may be a pattern of mine.

I remember when we were dating I called him, tense, because I had just dropped $300 dollars on a new cellphone. He asked me what was making me so uneasy. I was not usually squeamish about spending money.  It was not the money, I explained. It was the fact that I had signed a document for a two year commitment. Two years. A long, long time. He asked if my fear of a two year obligation should concern him. I laughed. I could not picture my life in two years. I, I thought languorously, could be anywhere.

Eight years later pregnancy itself was a huge commitment. This too made me very nervous but somehow seemed to exist outside of reality. The idea of a person (me) with another person (yet unnamed baby) growing and rolling about inside of me, feeding someone I had never met with taco bites and seeing only the occasional heel shaped lump poke out, was too big to fully comprehend. Once again, I could not imagine how my life would look when this next immense change came about. It was unprecedented in our lives. What I did think about, often, was prehistoric woman or even Victorian woman. Did they really understand what was happening to them? Were they scared? I was. I, who regularly saw my first baby on a screen at the doctor’s office, barely understood the mystery of it.

We were going to have to name her. I remember seeing her name listed on that pretentious website and repeating it in my mind over and over. It sounded good. It sounded unique but comfortable. I liked that it was romantic but able to be shortened to something masculine. I did not want to constrain her. I called my husband into the bathroom.

“What do you think of this one?” I asked him, hoping he would not be irritated at me vacillating once again on something we had set. I flashed the screen at him, the name highlighted there in pink.

“Hmmm,” he said, looking at it.

I waited, pretty certain this was going to be one of his vetoes. Knowing me, I was probably already growing just slightly irritated that one of my ideas could be shot down so quickly.

“Can I think about it?” he asked. That I could accept.

Though to be fair my husband has developed this method of dealing with me that often translates into “I’ll think about it,” becoming “not going to happen but easier to hope she forgets about it.” I rarely do.

A few days later he brought the name back up, saying, “I think I like it.”

We went to the hospital with two names picked out. I imagined her, this baby that felt like she had been growing in me forever, with her dad’s smile and my nose. I thought that, banking on my Thai heritage, she would have a head of coal black hair and olive skin.

About twenty four hours into labor but no closer to holding our daughter my husband asked me, “What’s her name going to be?” and I told him I had picked one. It was the one, the one I found in the bathtub that he had to think about for days. The one that, to me, sounded like the name of a 1920s baseball reporter.  It was both dreamy and perfectly acceptable for shouting out on the soccer field. It would not constrain her.

Forty two hours after my water broke she was there, silently blinking up at the doctor that delivered her, her cord wrapped about her neck but not strangling her. She was so pink. Her hair was light brown, blondish in the light. Her eyes, turned down a bit at the corners like her daddy’s, were an enigmatic and beautiful grey. She looked nothing like me. She looked nothing like the baby I had imagined, the baby I had thought I named. I, however, was deeply enraptured.

There really are no words to describe that feeling of falling in love with your baby over the course of the days following delivery. Her hair, her squeal, her tiny fingers always clamped tightly shut were mesmerizing. Like falling in love at any stage (at least for me) it was not sudden. It took the holding of her, the smelling her, the whispering coos and nonsense into her ears for that love to bloom and then explode. I carried her, but I still needed to get to know her which I did as they tested her and observed her after her lengthy birth.

I used and reused her name. I tried out nicknames. I frowned when other people substituted her given name with something silly, with some other riff on what I thought was a classically beautiful name. I felt a sudden, demanding protectiveness of this child and this name. I still do.

We welcomed her into the world, our feisty girl, our Lucine. I am happy to see her growing into it, becoming more ‘Lou’ every day. It does not constrain her. I hope it never will.

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