a response to tash’s recent post at glow in the woods:

effie, like all of our children, had in in utero nickname. it was funny, not particularly appropriate, and we loved it. we had more or less decided on a girl’s name (although we didn’t know her sex and knew we’d need to come up with boys’ names eventually). the name we were leaning toward was a combination of a name we loved with an important family name. when effie was delivered and we learned she was a girl, i took one look at her and said to mac, “i would have named her ‘x’.” “yes,” he said. but we couldn’t. she was so tiny, and the name felt so big, too big…it just wasn’t right. so her nickname became her real name.  she was delivered so early that there is no formal documentation of her (non)existence: no certificate, no social security card. her little baby bracelet simply says ‘baby girl,’ and that’s because we were too shy about what we chose to name her to tell the nurses what her name actually was.

with bitsy we felt that we had learned one relevant lesson: the baby will have a lot of say about her name. so even though we knew she was a girl, we went to the hospital with a list of about a dozen names. sure, there were clear frontrunners, but there were some darkhorses as well. the names we would have given effie — first and middle — were nowhere on the list. they did not seem available to us, although of course they were. but considering them as names for bitsy felt too much like telling bitsy she was a replacement baby. so bitsy got a fresh list, which included names i’m sure i never would have considered for effie. but one of the names was also an important family name, and that was one of the names we chose. i felt that bitsy’s life was an extra-special gift and we needed to honor an extra-special family member by using her name.

when we were pregnant with mae, though, we considered returning to the names we had originally chosen for effie. we talked about using one, or both, or using them in different combinations with other names. there seemed to be some psychological space to go along with the chronological distance between effie and mae, which made recycling the name seem possible. but long before we had settled anything my water broke; the instant i found out she was a girl her name came to me, clear and strong — and it had been nowhere, nowhere, on any of our lists. i cried when i told mac what it was. and we agreed to treat it as her nickname while we were waiting to see whether she would live. by the time she was delivered i was so used to talking to her and calling her by her name that there really was no other choice for me. there is a small family connection to her name, but more than anything her name means something deeply personal to me. it has a lyricism to it that still has the power to make me cry. and she was delivered late enough that we have formal documentation of her name, something for which i am so very very grateful, and which brings on twinges of guilt for what sometimes feels like a failure of courage in not-naming effie.

now that this last baby is a boy, i also find myself grieving effie’s “lost” name. we’ll never use it. and i’ll never get to name another girl. i’m not sure why that makes me so sad.