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Twin Baby Names: Naming Julia and Jackson

February 10, 2017 Linda Rosenkrantz

Saundra Wright didn’t know if she’d ever get to choose one baby name, never mind twin baby names.

It was early April in 2014 when my husband, Rick, and I learned we were pregnant. After a long struggle with infertility, we were stunned, cautious, and absolutely thrilled. My husband immediately got busy turning the home office into a nursery; I immediately got busy searching for the perfect name. As an academic who spent years studying naming practices, I was excited to finally put my research skills to personal use. And when I later learned that I was expecting twins – a boy and a girl to boot – I felt like I hit the onomastic jackpot. Choosing the perfect twin names for our little girl and our little boy became a top priority during the pregnancy.

I attacked this project of finding the perfect twin baby names like I attacked my scholarly endeavors – by burying myself into the research. I read every book I could find on the topic and perused countless baby name websites. I charted popularity rankings and tracked down name origins; I analyzed nicknames and combinations of initials. And yet just weeks before the twins were due, I had discovered that my shortlist of names had been dwindled down to exactly none.

While Rick had tried initially to help with the naming decisions, he quickly learned that his time was better spent repainting the nursery and hanging shelfing. Nonetheless, watching me sit there in tears as I flipped back through the name lists, he knew he had to dig deep for one last suggestion. Thrusting a box of tissues in my hands, he asked timidly, “What would your mother have suggested?”

Like me, my mother had a deep fascination with names. She was born in 1943 and had been given the name “Harley” in honor of her grandfather. Despite the family connection, she resented her name. Not only was the name unique, but it was virtually unheard of as a name for females at that time. She spent most of her life explaining and rationalizing her name.

In a perfect world, Mom would have been the exact person to consult with about twin baby names. In addition to her genuine interest in names, she was an incredibly thoughtful, passionate, and creative person. She had the ability to be forward thinking, while maintaining important connections to the past. Crucially, she was able to provide advice to others without ever sounding judgmental or dictatorial. The problem was that I couldn’t ask Mom, for she had passed away just months before the twins were conceived.

Even so, Rick’s question was exactly the prompt I needed to do one last bit of research. I needed to figure out what Mom would have suggested and knew just where to find the answer. Slipping off the couch, I moved to the bookshelf and pulled out a large rectangular memory box filled with letters from my mother. In addition to her other amazing traits, Mom was an incredible letter writer who never allowed email, texting, or social media to get in the way of her old-fashioned habit of sitting down with pen and paper and thoughtfully composing a letter. When we had started fertility treatments several years ago, Mom’s letters began to arrive with even greater frequency. Ever the optimist, she treated each IVF cycle as though it would be a success, penning long letters about the beauty of being pregnant and the gloriousness of being a parent. She talked about sleeping strategies and eating habits and ways to raise voracious readers. She discussed discipline and tantrums and the importance of remaining balanced. And, as Rick reminded me, in one particular letter, she wrote about names.

It took me only minutes to find it.

The letter was written shortly after we began our third round of IVF, when my excitement had given way to trepidation, and my faith was starting to become shaky. “Dear Saundra,” she wrote, “Once again I hold out hope that things will finally go your way. You and Rick have been through so much already, and I know how much this is all weighing on you. Please do your best to remain positive. I’m confident your time will come, and when it does, it will be even more beautiful than you could imagine. You asked once about baby names and how I selected the names for you and your brother. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was honestly stressful. I worried so much about pleasing certain family members, without upset others, and I fretted over the need to be current but not trendy. My advice to you would be to forget trying to make others happy and forget trying to be too clever or unique. Just pick names that you find beautiful and names that are meaningful to you. If I were to have another daughter, I’d call her Julia, and if I were to have another son, I’d call him Jackson. And I wouldn’t look them up and analyze their origins and track down every namesake. And other than your father, I wouldn’t ask anyone for opinions. I’d simply choose these names because I love them and because they mean a lot to me. You’ll figure it out. Love, Mom.”

I sat in silence for a long time after rereading that letter. As always, “conversations” with my mother provided me with an incredible amount of peace. Slowly I made my way to my desk and gathered up all of my naming research – my lists, my charts, and my diagrams – and tossed them in the garbage. I put away the baby name books, and I abandoned the web searches.

Six days later, the twins arrived. The nurse handed me the birth certificate documents, and, confidently, I wrote down the names “Julia” and “Jackson” on the forms. Smiling at my beautiful babies, I silently thanked my mother.

Saundra K. Wright is a Professor of Linguistics at California State University, Chico.

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