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The name game

Before I had my own babies, I couldn’t understand why people would say “still deciding on a name” in their birth announcement. What? You’ve had nine months to prepare for this moment! How hard it is to choose a name? Er, actually harder than it looks, I discovered when pregnant for the first time.

Jeremy (my husband) and I had decided not to find out what we were having, so we needed options both ways. We set perimeters on name-choosing rules, such as checking there were no notorious criminals with that moniker, no names of ex-partners or meanies from school, and making sure it wouldn’t sound silly with our last name (when we got married, I was keen on having one family surname, but filled out the forms somewhat reluctantly because my married name makes me sound like a drunk Irishman).

We both loved the same boy’s name. Sorted. A girl’s middle name would be Clare, after my mother. BAM, we were nailing this naming thing and I was only about eleven minutes pregnant.

But then we needed a girl first name option. My favourite name forever had been Nina, but that’s what all the grandkids call my mother in law, so it was struck off for being too confusing. Both of us loved the name Frankie, but we’d already used that name up (without much foresight) on our cat. Jeremy didn’t like my suggestions, and I didn’t like his. And so began months of conversations that started with me enthusiastically reading from a long list I’d compiled that day, then ended with me huffily saying “well YOU think of a better option then. No, not that one. Not that one either”. We opened the floor to family and friends. Ideas flew thick and fast, but none of them quite right. I started watching the credits of movies and T.V. programmes, in the hope that I’d spot The Perfect Name scrolling up our screen. Nope.

I still held fast to my shortlist of favourite names, and one of my wise friends said, “look, pick your favourite, and then if the baby is a girl, just weakly announce that’s what you want to call her in the delivery room. Jeremy will be so relieved you’re ok he’ll go with anything”. Then we found out I was going to need a scheduled caesarean, so that strategy went out the window.

One evening after talking on the phone to my best friend Amy (while making a vat of porridge for my post-dinner snack), I waddled back to the couch and Jeremy said, “Amy is a really nice name. Have you ever met an Amy you didn’t like?” I immediately looked up the meaning and hormonally shouted, “it means ‘beloved’ or ‘loved friend’! It’s going on the shortlist!”

Not long after, our beautiful daughter was placed on my chest, and we immediately agreed she was an Amy. Best-friend-Amy was thrilled, promptly got a puppy and named it Jeremy.

Second time around, I understood why one of my friends got an official government department letter stating they had to register a name for their third baby or one would be allocated for him. We still had our boy name up our sleeve, but not an agreed-upon girl name to be seen. I’d pulled out my old shortlist, but all options were rejected. We started pondering if having a cat and a baby with the same name would really be such a bad thing.

To further complicate things for ourselves, we realised that all our names (including the cat’s) ended in an “ee” sound. Would child #2 feel left out if theirs didn’t, too? Something to ponder as I ate my nightly tub of ice cream.

A few nights before baby #2 was due to make a nameless appearance, as my latest suggestion had just been rejected for sounding like a stripper’s name, I sat down to read a new book to Amy. I didn’t have a whole lot of energy (or ankles, for that matter), but I was totally into the main character in the story – a little cutie called Tilly. “Hey, ‘Tilly’ is a really nice name,” said Jeremy as he walked past on his way to find me another bag of chips, “if the baby is a girl we should call her Tilly”. And so we did.

Several days later, I was explaining to the hospital midwife prodding my breasts that Tilly’s middle name was Judge, after my Granny (that was her last name), which I hoped would balance out the cuteness of a name like Tilly. “Oh love”, said the midwife, “I don’t think you’re allowed to call her Judge – there are rules about giving names that indicate a ranking – like King, General, and Duke”. “Nooo!” I shrieked, “I’ve already announced it on Facebook!”

Fortunately the pleading letter I sent to the department of Births, Deaths and Marriages outlining the family history of the name was accepted. I also threw in that I’d probably only use her middle name when she was naughty and I needed to use her full name for effect…I’m pretty sure if they knew how often I now shout “Tilly Judge McPike!” they wouldn’t have let it through.

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This column was originally published in the NZ Autumn 2017 edition of Little Treasures Magazine.

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