Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Maybe Baby, Maybe Not: What’s in a Name? October 4, 2012

You Seinfeld fans out there might remember an episode where George revealed that he had always wanted to name his first child “Seven” after Mickey Mantel’s jersey number. When his wife, Susan, tells her expectant cousin, Carrie, of George’s plan, Carrie becomes enamored with the name and “steals” it for her own child – much to George’s dismay. It’s a ridiculous storyline, but like every great Seinfeld script, it’s rooted in the truth of crazy we become over such silly things.

So what is it about baby names that makes us all go a little insane? Even without knowing whether I wanted kids or not, I’ve kept a list of names I loved in a journal for as long as I could remember. That list is now more than a decade old, and I still get a little annoyed when someone I know has a child and takes one of them. I’ve watched Penelope, Ava, Maximilian and Lucas go down the drain for me in the last year alone. And each one seems like some chance that’s just slipping by me.

Maybe it’s because naming another human being is a pretty monumentally important task, and you hold all the power in making the decision. You may not be able to control whether you have a boy or girl (unless you want to pay a few thousand dollars for gender selection), what kind of temperament they’ll have, or what career they choose. But by gum, you can decide what people will call them for the rest of their life!

Maybe it’s wanting to grab a piece of the mystery. Parents-to-be seem to be keeping their baby names pretty close to the vest these days. Sometimes it’s because they don’t want anyone to talk them out of it or taint it for them by saying they, “I went to school with a [insert name] and he was a complete jerk.”, But sometimes it seems like it’s all just part of whipping up this dramatic froth for the big reveal in the birth announcement.

Or maybe there’s less sinister forces at work, like a desire to honor a grandparent or use an old family name. I’ve always loved the idea of having a boy named Hayes to keep my mother’s maiden name alive. And I can only imagine the look on her face if I told her that her grandson was going to carry on her family name; she’d be so blown away and touched. If I don’t have kids, I’ll never be able to make that grand gesture.

And what are those of us without babies to do with all our dream names? Yes, we can use them on our pets. But little Wolfgang (“Wolfie”) is so much funnier on a human than on an Alaska Malamute, and would make no sense whatsoever for a Calico. I suppose I’ll just keep crossing names off the list and try to be happy that my friends have had such good taste in naming their kids. Or maybe I’ll be like George, chasing them through the maternity ward corridors, trying up until the very last minute to wrestle the name back. That does seem the more likely scenario.


5 Responses to “Maybe Baby, Maybe Not: What’s in a Name?”

  1. Maria Says:

    When I was a child, I loved making a list of names for my future children. It was an odd list – beautiful names for a sweet, good child and ugly names for a difficult child. Think Jennifer or Stephanie v. Hortense, Henrietta or Esther. When my husband and I were trying, there were only 2 names on the list – Heather for a girl (because I’ve found all pretty girls are named Heather) and Oskar for a boy. We both loved Oskar from the book “the Tin Drum”. I told someone I worked with that if we ever had a son we intended to name him Oskar and he responded, be prepared for him to be beat up every day for the rest of his life. When I heard that, I understood why people keep their baby names a secret until they are born and it’s inscribed on the birth certificate. Anyway, years later after we stopped trying my sister got a dog and named him Oscar. She didn’t know that was my baby name but I felt very sad about it. No one has used the name Heather.

    I read about the names Lisa Manterfield had picked out for her children and what she pictured them to look like and I felt the same way. Heather would be a sweet girl with brown hair and blue eyes and freckles. Oskar would be a blonde scrappy little guy who was accident prone (like my husband). Lisa said that her children will always be perfect because they can never be and that they live in her heart. I feel that way too.

  2. jeopardygirl Says:

    Now that I’m certain I’m not having kids, all the names I wanted to give my children sting a little when I hear them–not so much as they did for some time after we stopped trying, but every now and then, I get a shock. Yesterday, a man with a name exactly the same as one I once wanted for a son was arrested for pedophilia in Vancouver. I’m kind of glad I didn’t saddle a child with that. It would be like having a last name like Tyson, and naming him Michael. Or Michael Bolton (like in the movie, Office Space). Still, I have one sister who is planning to have children, and I would love it if she would give one of her children one of the other names I had picked out, in honour of our Dad.

  3. j thorne Says:

    A few years back, when we still thought it was a possibility that we would have children, my husband’s brother and his wife had their first son and named him with my husband’s name! We were planning to name our son (if we had one) after my husband, so needless to say, I was not happy about that! It was like they “stole” the name and felt like a punch in the gut! It still bothers me a little to this day, but of course I love our nephew so I am mostly over it 🙂

  4. Elena Says:

    I’d love to name a baby girl “Lia” after my sister Julia’s nickname, but it’s not going to happen. 😦

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