Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Name Game

First thing you need to know is that STBEW never changed her last name.

She was born a Fornortoner,* and by God, she'll die one as well. I didn't care. I don't know if I would change my last name for someone else, either.

Before we married, we agreed that the first child would have my last name.

Ah--but what about Puddle and Lt. Trouble, you ask?** Weren't they already in the mix?

Well, I'm not their biological father; however, I've been in their lives since they were 3 and 6, and their dads were absentees. And yes, I'm using the plural. Lt. Trouble has his mother's last name, and Puddle has his father's last name. But I never think of them as stepchildren. They're all mine--all four of them. The only real difficulties in this situation weren't ours, but our friends', who had to write really small when they were addressing their Christmas cards to us.

When my wife was pregnant with our third child, we knew quite a few things: we knew the birth date, because since her first two were Cesearean,*** there wasn't any question of her trying to deliver this one traditionally. Her OB/GYN had the delivery date scheduled from the beginning of her second trimester; we also knew what were going to name our child should it be a boy--Frederick Arthur, after his maternal and paternal granfathers. And, we knew the child would have my last name. And we could have also known the sex of the child, but we chose not to find out. We thought there should be some mystery to the affair.

By the way, we also had a list of girl names, but I don't remember what they were. In fact, they were so unforgettable, that we couldn't remember them fifteen months later, when my wife got pregnant again.****

With this fourth pregnancy, there were a few more variables. Mostly in the area of naming the child. Unlike my son, we really didn't feel that there was anyone in the family we wanted to honor--especially if the baby was going to be a boy. And, to be honest, we were sorta betting it was going to be a boy. After all, the first three were boys. I know, I know--having three boys doesn't predict anything about the fourth pregnancy any more than three coin flips coming up heads will predict the odds of the next flip. But it just felt like we were only going to have boys.

As far as girl names--I had considered doing the same thing we did with our son--naming her after her grandmothers. But my mother told me in a very matter-of-fact way that while it may not technically be child abuse, naming a girl Eleanor isn't a very nice thing to do.

My wife's mother, however, was mum on the subject, having been dead for several years. So Natalie, or some variation of it, was in consideration. As was Veronica, which was my Grandmother's name, as well as STBEW's Confirmation name. Those were the early frontrunners, as well as some others pulled out of a baby book, for both genders.

Which was not unusual. What was unusual was the last-name discussion.

She was a Fornortoner, and I was a Pirate. Whose last name would this child take? It wasn't an easy decision. There was already one child with each last name in the family, so neither of us was 'due' (except, of course, in the child-inside-of-you-soon-to-come-out sense; in which case she was certainly due). What other variables could be used? Alphabetical order? Don't laugh--it's a big one in school. Folks whose last names are near the end of the alphabet often have lingering resentments about always being at back of the line. And although my wife's name was in the last 20% of the alphabet, my last name wasn't that far in front of it. Ease of spelling? My last name's Polish, hers is German. Mine has both unpronounced letters, and sounds without their normally corresponding letters. Hers has vowel and consonant clusters so unusual that it, too, needs to be spelled and re-spelled to people in order for them to get it right.

In the end, we agreed to let the baby decide. Or, rather, baby history: On my side of the family, the babies were born with hair. On her side, they were bald. Should the baby have as much hair or more than Frederick, it would be a Pirate. Less than that, and it would be a Fornotoner.

This colored my thinking about the whole event. A typical exchange was the one I had with my butcher the week before the baby was to be born. Like Fred, her birthday had been on the appointment calendar for months. My mom was up from Florida, and we were stocking up. The women at the butchers loved my son from the moment we brought him in, and they were looking forward to the new baby.

"So waddya want?" the woman behind the glass case asked.

"Five pounds of ground sirloin, ten pounds of chicken breasts, that pork loin..."

"No--the baby,"she clarified. "Boy or girl. What do you want?"

"I want hair."

Believe it or not, those sort of responses endeared me to the butcher. After the explanation, she then asked if we had any names picked out. I rattled off the Scotts and Seths and such we had on our list if it was a boy.

"And if it's a girl," I said, "We've got it narrowed down to either Veronica Nathalia, which are variations of family names, or Zoë Lucille. Zoë means 'life,' and Lucille means 'light,' so--

"Oh, don't name her Zoë," my mother interrupted, "I knew a girl named Zoë, and she was just a mean, nasty little girl."

Oh. Wow. What do you say when your Mom drops something like that on you? I didn't say much, really. I was pretty sure a) we'd have a boy, and b) even if we had a girl, we'd call her Veronica.


I should mention here that my wife and I didn't always see eye-to-eye, as our last-name disagreement (and, of course, our pending divorce) point out. One of our milder arguments came in the concept of children's names. She believed that you can't just give a baby a name; that name has to 'fit' the baby. I thought this was a kooky idea. You name the kid, and then the kid has that name. End of story.

"No," she said, "the name has to fit. You have to see the baby first, before you can name it."

I pointed out quite pointedly that we had Frederick's name picked out for him well before he was born. She looked at me as if I asked her why things hit the ground if I let go of them.

"That's because he's a Frederick."

Ah. He's a Frederick. It all makes sense to me now.


The day of the birth was upon us, and the hour of the birth was nigh. I was sitting outside the OR with my wife's OB/Gyn, while his team prepared her for the C-Section. This, by the way, was not the crusty old gasbag who delivered Lt. Trouble.

Her new doc was an energetic, genteel metrosexual Kentuckian, and my wife adored him, partly for the reassuring way he presented things, and partly for his accent. "That's normal," was his typical response to questions and concerns. Only it came out as "Theyat's nuormel." For instance, we used to meet up at the reservoir at lunchtime and walk two laps around it, but she started getting these pains in her pelvis, so we mentioned this at a checkup.

"Theyat's nuormel," he said. "It's not uncommon for women who've had three or four babies into their thirties to have the bones in their pelvises separate, and some of the smaller bones will poke, like little daggers, into the muscles and tissues surrounding the vagina, it's to be expected..."

This was some new meaning of 'nuormel' that I was not familiar with. I had a physical reaction to hearing it. "Gaaah!" I said, covering my ears. "Stop talking about that! My testicles are retracting!"

"Theyat's nuormel," he said. Testicle retraction in the husband when talking about these things is to be expected..."


So, there we were, sitting outside the OR, and he was expressing to me just how nuormel things like spurting blood and amniotic fluid can be, and that since this was a teaching hospital, there would be a group of interns assiting him.

And after he finished telling me about this, he asked, "Is there anything else we need to talk about?" To which I replied, "I will give you $20 if the first words out of your mouth are 'Look at all that hair.'"

And he said it. And although I will never admit it, he shouldn't have. Best twenty bucks I ever spent.

He also said "It's a girl!" Which surprised the hell out of both of us.

And just like with my son, I went over to welcome my daughter into the world, to sing to her, and tell her who I was...

But there was a doctor there. With a stethoscope, and a worried look on her face. "Can I get a nickyou nurse in here?" she asked.

Nickyou? What's a nickyou?

It is, I soon found out, a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. NICU.

What's wrong with my daughter? Soon, they were bundling her into a special gurney, and we went down the corridor to a small little room filled with very small babies. This was a serious room. Suddenly, hair or no hair was of little consequence.

The intern told the nurse that she couldn't hear sustained heart sounds. Or something like that. The nurse thanked the intern, and told her to get back to the OR.

She listened to my daughter's chest for a minute. Then she looked at me and grinned. "She couldn't hear her heart because she's crying so loud. Any baby that's crying like this has no problems. Get her out of here."

The gurney was much lighter on the way to the recovery room.


"What's her name?" My wife asked me. I was holding my daughter in my arms, walking her back and forth. She had stopped crying, but was odd in my arms. Not like my son, who felt right. She didn't. It was unusual.

I walked back and forth, saying names in a low voice. "Veronica Nathalia. Natalia Veronica. Natalie Veronica. Veronica Natalie. Nat. Ronnie." Nothing. I looked at my daughter, and I realized the truth. She wasn't a Veronica. Or a Natalie, or even a Nathalia, or any variation on those names.

Oh, well. Mom's gonna have to live with it. I whispered in her tiny ear:"Welcome to the family, Zoë Lucille." And with that, she settled perfectly into my arms, and my heart, and has lived there contentedly, my Life's Light, ever since.*****

And theyat's entaherly nuormel.


*Not her real last name, nor anyone else's real last name either. Do a google search for 'Fornotoner,' and you'll end up right back here.

**Only if you're a regular reader of this blog, that is. For those who just showed up: Lt. Trouble is my oldest son, an Air Force cop, and Puddle is his brother, a musician/author/artists, which means he works at a video store. Both are in their 20's, and neither lives at home.

***STBEW doesn't dilate. She was in labor with the future Lt. Trouble for 60 hours before her OB/GYN said, 'well, I guess we better do a C-Section, or they'll probably die.' Needless to say, she no longer required his services after the delivery.

****Of course, I can't tell you any of the boy names we had picked out for my daughter either, so maybe that just says something about us.

*****For what it's worth, my Mom recovered quite nicely. "Oh I didn't mean Zoë--I thought you said Zelda. The girls' name was Zelda. Zoë's a lovely, lovely name." Nice save, Mom. You should be playing for the Sabres.


Blogger Heidi the Hick said...


I love birth stories!

3:36 PM  
Blogger terry said...

lovely. i love the hair-as-name-choosing device. priceless!

4:06 PM  
Blogger mal said...

*L* great story!

having been on the other end, I appreciate the "Testicles retracting"..the OH was the same way ROFL!!! I guess "thyauts nooorrmal"?

8:53 AM  
Blogger Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I wish Fornotoner was a real surname...

10:12 AM  
Blogger Madame X said...

I was supposed to have a c-section with thing 2, she was laying sideways and was refusing to move, but when the doctor informed me that I'd need a catheter I metephorically retracted my tesicles and willed that baby to turn eliminating the need for both c section and catheter.

You people must drive the postman wild with all those last names!

9:47 PM  

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