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.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Heredity July 25, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

My dermatologist informed me this week that my latest skin issue is hereditary. It pretty much came over with my foremothers from Ireland four centuries ago and landed on my face, and there isn’t a darn thing I can do about it.

It’s more of an annoyance than a scary or damaging condition, so I’m not too put out by it. And I have to say, as I was leaving the doctor’s office, I thought of one benefit: At least I won’t be responsible for passing it along to any unsuspecting children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren.

It’s Whiny Wednesday, so tell us: What physical or emotional traits have you inherited that you wish your ancestors had kept to themselves?

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her decision to be childfree.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Nostalgia September 13, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

It began with a brief mention in a book: The character stopped to wind her watch before going to bed. Winding a watch. I’ve become so accustomed to my battery-operated Iron Man triathlon digital watch, with all the timers and trackers and buttons that do I-don’t-know-what. I’d forgotten what it was like to have to wind a watch at the end of each day to simply be able to tell the time.

And then, I got into a conversation on Facebook about what’s good about e-mail. I contributed how it helps me stay in touch with friends who have moved out of the country, into different time zones, and recalled the days of typing letters on “onion skin.” Do you remember onion skin paper? I know if I tried to explain it to my nieces, they would look at me like I was crazy. “You peeled the skin off an onion and wrote letters on it?!” I can understand why they would think that was weird.

It wasn’t all that long ago that I sat next to my great-grandmother and listened to her stories about traveling from Montana to Colorado in a covered wagon. In my limited experience, only Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie did that, and that was on TV, so it couldn’t be real, right? But my great-grandmother was a pretty serious lady, so I swallowed my skepticism. In time, I learned to listen and I began to wonder how much the world would change by the time I got old.

I don’t consider myself “old” at 45, but I am older, and I continue to be in awe at how much the world has changed in my lifetime. I love how my place has shifted in the circle of life, how I am now the teller of strange tales. “When I was your age…,” I begin, and my nieces give me that look. It may be weird to them now, but I hope some day they look back and think the role I played in their lives, bridging the gap between my past and their present, was also wonderful.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s old enough to remember when the whole extended family could pile into one car, seatbelts not required.