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What’s-Her-Name

What’s-Her-Name

Not long after I retroactively named my daughter after TV broadcaster, cancer survivor, and all-around inspiration Robin Roberts, the whole world seemed to grow obsessed with names. Okay, mostly because England’s little prince was in need of one.

I’ve never been a royal watcher, but this was different. A very tiny baby was on the verge of receiving a very big moniker. So big in fact, that many people felt compelled to call it a moniker instead of a name.

Through it all, I thought about Kate and William. What I regard as one of the neatest things about having a baby was stripped away from these new parents. In London and Las Vegas, bookmakers placed odds on the favorites, and apparently, Queen Elizabeth had the final say. I’m assuming the royal couple didn’t have a whole lot of flexibility on the issue. This baby would not be named North or Blue Ivy or Buddy Bear.

Maybe this is a woman thing, but I’ve always liked doling out names. Stuffed animals, puppies, baby dolls. My first car, a Ford Festiva circa 1989, was officially christened Raul. When I was a girl, I didn’t have any idea what my dream job would be. I never tried to imagine my wedding day, yet I named my some-day kids (a boy and a girl, of course) before I even figured out where babies came from.

Years later, when it came time to go through the roll of options with the man who helped make the baby, it was difficult to admit the dream-name from my childhood was simply not up to snuff. The mitigating factor was our surname, very different from the one I had when I was seven. My maiden name – which I had considered keeping for a number of reasons – was on the generic side. This meant just about any first name would work with it. In the utterance of an “I will,” I went from five letters to twelve, and a lifetime of “How do you say that?” for my children.

Because of this unique last name, which my husband maintains has character so that’s what we’ll go with, general flow became very important. We sought names that were strong and smart, and that conveyed creativity and originality, without being too trendy.

Between us, we swore a vow to never, ever reveal our chosen name before the baby was born. Do you really need feedback on the name you’ve finally decided is the one? Whether it’s a ringing endorsement, the faintest demonstration of disapproval, or the flat-out statement that just might send you back to square one: “Wow, there are six Madisons on Lily’s soccer team this year!” … Why go there?

We also never wanted to know the sex of our babies, preferring to embrace what we liked to call one of life’s greatest surprises. This way, when we announced baby’s arrival, we could share both the gender and the name with friends and family. Now, when I discover a friend is pregnant and she immediately tells me whether it’s a boy or a girl, I cross my fingers and hope the baby’s name isn’t coming next. Otherwise, the only info I’m getting later is the little bundle of joy’s weight. No oohing about new baby boy or new baby girl. No aahing about the name. I’ve known it for months. I’m left with, “Congratulations, your baby has mass!”

The truth is, being surprised about our baby’s sex meant twice the fun and twice the lively debate up front. We had to settle on both a girl’s and a boy’s name after all. Interestingly, each time I was pregnant, we were absolutely, positively, one hundred percent sure of our girl name. Not once did we have a boy’s name ready to go, and as fate would have it, not once did we have a boy. And what about naming our kids after beloved relatives? We carefully reviewed our choices (was that a faint demonstration of disapproval I detected?) And moved to reserve this distinction for middle names only. That said, our kids’ first names were never chosen to honor anyone in particular.

Unless you count 14-year-old Robin, whom you now know has been retroactively named after the woman who rocked this year’s ESPYs with her emotional speech and walked arm-in-arm off the stage with LeBron James after she won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award . (So hey, there’s even a local connection!)

I’ll be on the lookout for namesakes for the other two as well. But for the record, all middle names will stay the same.

Karen Schwartzkopf
Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family: husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director, and their daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey. You can read Karen’s take on parenting in the Editor’s Voice.
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