In the late afternoon on day two at the hospital, my husband and I still hadn’t named our daughter. We had plenty of names on our lists but little opportunity to talk it out.
We would hear a knock from an aide who needed to check my blood pressure, or a knock from a nursing professor and her student who wanted to assist me with breastfeeding. Or it would be my sister. Or his parents. Or my parents. All these interruptions were welcome, yet Michael and I weren’t in agreement about a name, and we needed some time alone to decide.
So, he left our four-year-old daughter with his parents and returned to the hospital. Our baby slept in the bassinet. Michael settled himself on the couch, and I sat up in bed. We were ready to brainstorm. We were going to find the name.
“I like Lillian,” I said. This was one of my top picks. I wanted to name our daughter after my great aunt Lillie. Michael said he didn’t want to use a family name. He offered Cordelia and Maeve, two names that were new to me.
Again, a knock. Hospitals are damn busy places.
“Housekeeping,” a voice said. The housekeeper moved the privacy curtain to reveal herself, a short lady in blue smocks. “Can I come in?”
I nodded. “Sure. Come on in,” I said. Thankfully, it wasn’t a nurse ready to firmly push on my new caesarean scar to check my uterus. (That really hurts, by the way.) A housekeeper would do her thing and go. She started her routine in the bathroom.
Michael and I were quiet a moment, trying to regain our momentum. I remembered a teacher I adored because of her witty stories and spunk. And I loved her name. “How about Margaret?”
“That’s my mom’s name,” he said. I laughed a little at this, since I had completely forgotten. She’s Muggs to me.
Michael and I decided to make a game of it. He wrote names on slips of paper. We would put first names in one bowl and middle names in another. We would pull out a first name and match it with a second name to see what sounds right.
The housekeeper moved her wide mop around the chairs and bedside table to dust the floors. I heard the clang of the stick as it hit chair legs.
Michael pulled Jillian out of the first name bowl and Jo out of the middle name bowl.
“Jillian Jo, come to dinner!” I said in a sing-song voice, pretending to call the kid to join us at the table. This was my test to see if we liked a name.
“Nah,” Michael said. “And isn’t your sister’s middle name Jo?”
“I really like Fiona,” he said. This was his top pick. He asked for Fiona every time we discussed names. I would try to like it, but after meeting our daughter, it didn’t fit.
He added, “Or even Finlay.”
“Finlay?” the housekeeper said. Her voice surprised me. “That’s a weird one.”
I looked over at her for the first time. I noticed the mop stick in her hand, her round glasses and graying hair. Perhaps my face told her to keep working. She looked down at the garbage can and emptied it. She quickly figured out we weren’t going to talk to her about names.
Our baby woke up. Michael brought her from the bassinet to me. I would need to breastfeed again soon. This other adult in the room wasn’t part of the plan.
We tried to ignore the mopping. We tried to get back to our game of drawing names out of the bowls, but each pair didn’t work. Isabel Helena or Cordelia Fiona sounded worse than Jillian Jo, especially with extra ears in the room. The housekeeper finished and left.
Michael looked at the clock and said he needed to go. He had planned to go out for an early supper with his parents. He’d make arrangements for his parents to keep our daughter overnight and come back later.
Alone, I told myself to be patient. A few more hours wouldn’t matter. This decision was too important. I held our baby, cooing names at her. “Hey there, little Lillian. What’s new? Hey, Fiona! You have sweet little cheeks. Isabel? Isabel, come to dinner. Are you an Isabel? Or a Cordelia?” I put my face to hers and gave her a kiss.
Inspired by the DPchallenge to write about names–their meaning, their power, their history.