Goodbye Girls’ (Names)

boy names

Guest blogger Deb Levy, who writes with her husband about life in these recessionary times at And For Poorer, had three wonderful girls’ names all picked out. The only thing she was missing was the daughters to give them to.

“It’s a girl!” the doctor cried after the gazillionth push.

My arms reached out to welcome my firstborn, a skinny chicken of a child, who immediately soaked my chest with her inaugural pee. The nurse turned my daughter onto her back to face me, and the arc of urine shot upwards.

“Oops, no. It’s a boy.”

I felt as if I had been hit by a truck. A very large truck. There were so many layers of shock, unidentifiable from each other. The fact that this baby came in July when the actual due date was end of August; my preeclamptic body swollen and unrecognizable; the exhaustion, the pain.

And, yes, the penis.

Ever since I was a girl, my mother has pointed out the difference between sons and daughters. A son will walk down the aisle and away from you, she promised, but a daughter will be yours forever.

Yet as I kissed my dumpling boy for the first time, none of that entered into my mind. Circumcision care, preteen shaving instruction, the challenge of raising a male feminist. Those were the doubts pinging me left and right. Did I miss the daughter I had held for five seconds? Mourn the lack of a girl child? Worry that my nest would be emptier in some way 20 years from now? No, not at all.

I would be lying, however, if I said I didn’t miss Maya, the name we had so carefully chosen. Exotic, yet normal enough. Honoring not only my maternal great-grandfather, but Ms. Angelou. Who wouldn’t want their kid to be as strong and wise and confident as that phenomenal woman? For weeks, I introduced my baby boy to the world by saying “… and if he were a girl, he would have been Maya.”

Four years later, upon the birth of our second son, we silently whispered our goodbyes to Phoebe, the girl name we had picked that time around. Again, it wasn’t the little Mary Jane socks or tea parties that had me wistful. It was that radiant name, like a fine wine, pairing perfectly with pigtails and the corner office both.

And then came Sabine. As baby number three implanted in my uterus, that name burrowed its way into my heart. It would be Sabine who would complete our family’s trilogy. Until the gooey wand crawling across my abdomen showed otherwise.

Leading up to that sonogram, I had prepared myself for the possibility of never raising a girl. Bracing myself for some sadness, some loss. But the moment the sonographer pointed to that fuzzy, foreign genital and said, “Don’t worry, there’s a special place for you in heaven”, my husband and I burst out laughing. Statistics being what they are, we weren’t all that surprised we’d have yet another boy. What shocked me was that I was elated.

Yet … Sabine.

Girls’ names are easy. They can be pretty without being precious. Unique, yet free of schoolyard taunting. Each pregnancy, it was the girl’s name we agreed upon first, my husband and I falling head over heels in love with Maya, Phoebe, Sabine; all the while struggling with what we could possibly call the boys. And each birth, it was the girl’s name we woefully set free. The name. Only the name.

And what of the boys? The real live children we actually lost our hearts to?

Jacob Avram. Asher Myles. Zane Remer. Beautiful names filled with meaning. Meaning, I’ve discovered, that means nothing as my three sons, every day and on their own, define for themselves who they are and who they will be.

Deb Levy is a copywriter, graphic designer and co-blogger with her husband, chronicling their journey through life, love and layoffs at And For Poorer. She lives in New Jersey with her three sons, whose names she loves. She is working on her first book.

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15 Responses to “Goodbye Girls’ (Names)”

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namefan Says:

October 26th, 2009 at 8:42 pm

I don’t mean to hijack this discussion, but when having boys you need not (and should not have to) worry about “circumcision care” like she mentioned; for a site explaining why search for “circumstitions” on the Internet.

twinkle Says:

October 26th, 2009 at 10:08 pm

I enjoyed this post a lot – thank you, Deb! And may I just say that I love your children’s names. I agree with the point raised that chidren don’t become a name, rather the name changes to fit them, in a bizarre way. (I am exhausted, and I doubt this makes any sense!)

Andrea Says:

October 27th, 2009 at 12:22 am

I’m about to have my final child. It’s my fourth boy. I, too, am sad I never got to use the girl names. So, instead of Emily, Hayley, Madelyn(Maddy), and Avery– I have Devon, Logan, Hayden, and (undecided between Mason, Drake, Hunter, Alex, and Owen). Choosing the girl names always seemed so much easier–but maybe that’s because I knew they were boys. Four boys……Oh my!

Charlotte Vera Says:

October 27th, 2009 at 1:01 am

I loved this article. It’s so true, children become the names we give them, and because of that, the names we give our children become defined by who they are.

My husband and I had our firstborn six months ago, and were we ever ready for that little boy! We had a name picked out that we were in love with and that we’d been whispering to each other for the two years of our marriage — then we were told that the baby was going to be a girl. We never did both fall in love with the same girls’ name, so we decided instead to honour a deceased family member. Despite that fact, it would already be hard to imagine Roseanna by any other name.

Still, when I threaten my husband with a family of four girls, he panics.

Jill Says:

October 27th, 2009 at 1:27 am

I LOVED this blog! Thanks for the laughs. 🙂 I think your boys are beyond darling, and I’m happy that you were able to find such special, meaningful names for them.

Best wishes to you! 🙂

Deb Says:

October 27th, 2009 at 7:48 am

Thanks, everyone, for your supportive comments! And to the mother of (almost) four boys – HATS OFF TO YOU!!! Not to hijack the conversation even more, but for us, there was no discussion over whether to circumsize or not. It is a religious practice very much a part of our culture. Happy parenting, all!

Alma Schneider Says:

October 27th, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Great post and thanks for your honesty. There can be a lot of shame involved with feeling badly about not having a girl. Thanks for allowing people to feel comfortable with having mixed emotions.

bernadette Says:

October 27th, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Wonderful story, and hilarious Deb! Knowing your three beautiful boys, I can’t think of any other names that would suit any of them better than the ones you picked. Thanks for sharing!

Janice Says:

October 27th, 2009 at 2:59 pm

I know the feeling, Deb! Before my two children were born, I couldn’t wait to name the first girl, Nora. I never got the chance. I had two boys, Gabriel and Daniel. As for the girl’s name I loved, I used it for my cat!

Victoria Says:

October 27th, 2009 at 3:42 pm

I love your sons names! They are adorable also! I wish I could have boy/girl twins because I love both of the names I have picked out for my baby. Primrose Victoria and Ezekiel Thomas. They just seem so perfect to me. They reflect our style without forcing it on the baby so that they can be who ever they want.

Deb Says:

October 27th, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Hmmm – cat names! Never thought of that! Alas, even our cats are male. Says:

October 28th, 2009 at 4:38 pm

I agree that female names are definitely more fun and less stress ridden to choose than boys names. The female names I have picked out are all quite unusual. My male names are not so unusual. Popularity for a female name is a concern for me, while for a male name its the opposite, I would prefer if the name was the norm. I was so relieved when Sebastian came into the top 100. I have planned to use it on my son for years, but before it was a mainstream name people would raise their eyes and tell me it was a fou-fou name and that my son would hate me if I used Sebastian. That is not the case anymore. People accept it as a normal name now that it is popular.

namefan Says:

October 28th, 2009 at 7:06 pm

To the previous commenter: I don’t think that your son would have not liked you if you had named him Sebastian even if it was less popular; don’t listen to those people who make those comments (I am male and not afraid of going for something less common [but legit] for a boy).

kirst828 Says:

October 29th, 2009 at 3:57 pm

I am pregnant, don’t yet know what I’m having, but totally disagree – it’s been easier for me to come up with a ton of potential boy names, and only a few girl names! I think boy names are much more fun….

Lauren Says:

December 22nd, 2009 at 8:38 am

On the drive home from the chemist with the first pregnancy test, my partner and I decided on a girl’s name: Winter. Easy! That was so easy! We both still love the name and I am hoping to use it one day. I mean, pregnancy hadn’t even been confirmed at that point!
Now I have 6 weeks to go until the due date. Yep, it’s a boy, and choosing a boy’s name is causing us lots of grief…we are both clinging to the hope that we will instantly think of a name as soon as we see him. That happens, right?…

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