It has been a long time since I updated my blog, but a lot of people have requested that I tell the story of my son’s name, so that seems like a fitting way for me to start again.
On January 9, 2010, my husband and I had our first son. Now, my husband and I had had a girls’ name picked out since before we were married. And we had spent months discussing boys’ names, but we had been unable to decide on our favorite. We had a list of about ten that were tolerable, but the ones I loved my husband only liked and the ones he loved I only liked. In an effort to delay the decision-making, I suggested to my husband that perhaps we should wait to see what the baby looked like. I hoped that once we met him, he would make known to us what his name should be. I’d heard lots of parents who said this was the case, so it seemed to me like a reasonable way to go about things. My husband agreed, but he insisted that we narrow our list to just three favorites before heading to the hospital. The three we decided we liked best were Julius, Elliot, and Wesley.
I went into labor on the morning January 7, three days after my due date. I was expecting a somewhat long labor, as I knew the baby was face up, and I was also expecting I would probably have painful back labor. We were hoping to be able to have the baby naturally, without any kind of medication, as we thought that would be safest for the baby and for me.
However, after 48 hours of unmedicated back labor followed by nine hours of Pitocin-augmented labor had failed to produce anything close to the desired result, we decided that a Cesarean section would probably be the safest course of action for the baby.
Fortunately, this was not considered an emergency C-section since the baby’s life was not in immediate danger, so the anesthesiologist had plenty of time to prep me and my husband was able to be in the operating room with me. The C-section went smoothly, and I heard the baby cry as soon as he was taken out. But (and some doctors theorize this happens when an infant’s first cry is too strong) unfortunately he developed a collapsed lung immediately after birth and had to be taken to the NICU before I’d had a chance to hold him. The nurses briefly held the baby up from across the room for me to see (I remember thinking that he was big and kind of greyish but otherwise healthy looking), and then he and my husband were rushed off to the NICU.
My husband came back a little while later while I was in recovery. I remember one of the first things he said to me was, “So what do you think he looks like? I think he’s an Elliot.” Now I had imagined that after our baby was born, we would both have a chance to hold him. And after a few hours of bonding with him, we’d look at each other and say simultaneously, “I think he’s a ____________ .” This seemed patently unfair to me that before I’d had a chance to really even see the baby, my husband was already telling me what name he thought fit best.
An hour or so later, the nurses wheeled my hospital bed into the NICU so I could meet our little one. I had been afraid that if my baby was taken away from me before I’d had a chance to inspect him, I could never be sure that he was my own. Well, as soon as I saw him, I knew he was our kid. He looked enough like us that there were no doubts about that. But he looked very different from what I’d imagined. He was big and broad-chested with a wrinkly, wise-looking face and dark dark hair. And he was way cuter than I thought our kid would be. But the problem was he didn’t look like a Julius, an Elliot, or a Wesley. He looked like a Malcolm. Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the name Malcolm. It’s a very handsome Scottish sort of name. But it’s not what I wanted to name my kid. He also looked sort of like a Michael or Christopher, but I didn’t spend months deliberating between uncommon name choices only to end up with something so usual. (I’ve since realized it’s easier for babies to look like common names — I’ve known plenty of babies called Christopher, but I’d never met one called Julius before.)
Our little one had to spend two days in the NICU for monitoring. During that time, I was frequently with him for feedings, but I didn’t feel I was getting a chance to bond with him and get to know who he was. My husband was eager to pick a name — apparently the relatives were pestering him and he felt silly every time he said we still had not decided on a name for our son. But after such a long ordeal, I was physically exhausted and emotionally drained, and the last thing I was in the mood to do was make such an important decision. I reasoned to myself that if all three names were acceptable to me, and if I was too exhausted to make the decision, I should just let my husband pick the one he liked best. I said we could call him Elliot but that I wanted us to try it out for a day or so before making it official. We wrote Elliot Arthur on the birth certificate application, but we decided we wouldn’t turn it in until the next day (when we were scheduled to leave the hospital). So the third day after his birth, our son was introduced to family and to the nursing staff as “probably Elliot.”
We tried it out for a full day, but it just wasn’t working for me. The “t” at the end was too hard to say — it didn’t really flow out of my mouth the way I wanted his name to. And I wasn’t happy with any of the nickname options. We had discussed calling him Lio, but it seemed just a little too grown up for our tiny little guy. I eventually resorted to calling him Baby Ellie, which I knew was a very bad idea.
On the fourth day after his birth, the day were were supposed to leave the hospital, I came out of the shower in tears and told my husband that the name Elliot just didn’t seem right for him. My husband confessed that, while he liked the name a lot, it wasn’t really working for him, either. (To this day, I still don’t know if that was the truth or if my husband felt obligated to agree with the upset hormonal lady.)
We went through our list of possible names again, but none was standing out as the right one. We wondered what it is that is supposed to make one name feel “right” — were we looking for some sort of sign? I brought up the possibility of taking our son home unnamed, but my husband insisted we pick something that day. We ultimately decided that if we needed a sign, perhaps we had gotten three:
- The baby had been born by Cesarean section, so perhaps it was fitting (cheesy? fitting? cheesy?) to name him after the one legend designates as the original Cesarean birth. We would not have considered this reason if we weren’t already in love with the name Julius, but maybe we could take that as a sign.
- Hanging on a closet door in the hospital room was a sleeper with Paul Frank’s Julius monkey on it. Some friends had brought it by the hospital as a baby gift. They did not know what names we were considering; they had simply seen the sleeper on sale at TJ Maxx and thought it was cute.
- And this last one I probably shouldn’t be sharing, but I’ll just say that one of the nicknames for the name Julius means something in another language that has something to do with his conception. We figured if we were going to use the name Julius for any of our kids, maybe that was a sign that it should be for this one. And, no, we don’t plan on telling him this — ever.
And that’s how our son became Julius Arthur. It still took about three months before I was convinced we had picked the right name. I’ve learned from this experience that, while the idea of naming a baby at the hospital may work for some people, it does not work for me. When the time comes for baby #2, we plan to have the name chosen well before the baby is due.