Since today is my oldest child and only daughter’s birthday, I can’t help but think back on the process of choosing her name.
It was easy, totally easy. My husband and I agreed absolutely: She was going to be named Henry, and called Hank, after Hank Aaron, one of my husband’s favorite baseball players. We were sure she was going to be a boy because….well, mainly because we couldn’t find a name we both liked for a girl.
Surely that was a sign? Fate wouldn’t let us bring a daughter into the world when we found it so impossible to find a name for her, would it?
Just in case, when my pregnancy went one week past my due date, and then two, we spent hour upon hour scribbling down girls’ names and then just as quickly crossing them out. Our early favorite, Flora, was so roundly ridiculed by all our friends and relatives that we’d removed it from consideration, which I still regret. My mother, whose name was Margaret, came up with a dizzying array of varieties of Margaret. My mother-in-law campaigned for Rose, HER mother-in-law’s name, except my husband had dated a Rose — along with girls who seemed to possess every single other name I liked.
One of my favorite names, Eliza, reminded my husband of Liza Minnelli, an association he could not shake. Another of my favorites, Susannah, he ruled out because he had a cousin named Susie. But I found the girls’ names he preferred — Molly, Melissa — just a little too mild for my taste.
Is it any wonder that, in desperation, I turned to the boys’ section of the 1953-vintage baby naming dictionary we owned? It was there I hit upon Rory, an Irish boys’ name that I remembered dimly had been used for the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy who was born after his assassination. I wanted an energetic, Irish name, and the fact that Rory meant red, which related to my maiden name Redmond, made it all the more appealing.
When our baby was finally born and the doctor cried, “It’s a girl!,” I said, “Are you sure?” The fact that our newborn daughter weighed over nine pounds, had long dark hair and a rousing voice convinced my husband that she was more of a Rory than a Molly.
If I had known, back then, that she would be our only daughter, I might have chosen a more frankly feminine name. I thought that, in the years to come, I’d have other chances to choose Carolina or Georgia, to debate the merits of Lily vs. Daisy. But we knew early in my subsequent two pregnancies that we would be having boys.
What I learned from that first real-life baby-naming experience:
DON’T LET ANYONE TALK YOU OUT OF A NAME YOU LOVE. Flora would have been a perfect choice, and I wish I’d trusted our taste over everyone else’s.
THERE’S A REAL ADVANTAGE IN KNOWING YOUR BABY‘S GENDER AHEAD OF TIME. With an extra six months to come up with a girl’s name, we might have ended up with the same choice, but could have made it more calmly.
NOT HAVING THE RIGHT NAME IS NO SURE SIGN OF ANYTHING. Before I knew the gender of my two sons, I was more sure of a girls’ names for them (JOSEPHINE, called JOSIE for the older one, MARGARET, called DAISY, for the younger) and so guessed they would be girls. You would think I would have learned this lesson the first time around.
What about you, dear readers who are already parents? Did you have a name for a baby of one sex but not the other….and did that have anything to do with what gender baby you actually had? How would you choose your names differently if you knew then what you know now?