Nearly everyone has a story about how they picked their child’s name. For some it was the only name both partners could agree on. For others the name has some kind of sentimental or historical significance.
My father (May he rest in peace) claims that my parents put names on a dartboard and hoped for the best. He also said one of the other choices was “Petulia.” I was never entirely sure whether my father was fucking with me, but ultimately I ended up with a name that had no family history, and no middle name to boot.
As a child, I used to make up middle names for myself, because it seemed so cool to have a middle name.
When I found out I was pregnant we immediately started talking about names. We didn’t know the sex yet, so we had two lists. Thank goodness that we didn’t have a boy, because no boy’s name could be agreed upon. My husband agreed to Homer (which I still love), but I know that he would have changed his mind once the time came to make it official. I was hugely relieved when the ultrasound tech told us it was a girl, only so we could put the boy names aside!
For girls, I had a long list. A very long list. Eleanor, Maude, Rose, Tilda, Margot, Leah, Anna, Halle, Allegra, Lucinda, Edith, Agnes, Agatha, Gwendolyn, Iris, Rosemary, Amelia,Vera, Ilsa, Madolyn, Kiernan, Poppy, Elizabeth, Raquel, Beatrice, Goldie, Esme, Rita, Emmylou, Cate, Caroline, Florence, Ophelia, Daria, Fiona…
Ted was stuck on Margaret, which just didn’t appeal to me. It was so versatile, he kept telling me. She could be Maggie or Margie or Meg or Peggy! I wanted to name her Frances, after my mother (isn’t Franny a cute nickname??) but it was immediately struck from the list because a guy named Francis shot my husband in the eye with an arrow when he was fifteen. Can’t make this shit up.
The name at the top of my list was Dagny. Ted hated it. I loved it, and I couldn’t tie my shoes by myself anymore, so it stayed on the list in sympathy. I started using it as my password at work. I tried it with all of the possible middle names. I Googled to make sure that there wasn’t a notorious serial killer named Dagny that I had never heard of before. Over time, Ted grew to accept and even maybe like Dagny a little.
In December 2010, we went to see “The Black Swan” starring Natalie Portman. I’m a pretty big NP fan, and I liked the director’s previous work, so I had been looking forward to seeing it. I told Ted he didn’t have to come with me because it might be a little weird and he might not like it, which made him insist on coming along. We both loved the movie, and Natalie’s performance as Nina. (And later, so did the Academy.) I immediately added Nina, in teeeeeeny letters, to the short list.
When Nina was born, she had a head of dark hair and olive skin, a lot like my husband’s. I felt like Dagny was a blonde girl’s name, so I immediately went back to the short list for something more suitable. I think the baby had three different names before finally settling on Nina. In the recovery room, she was Tilda. On the first night in our hospital room, she was Rose. For about three minutes, when the nurse was ‘strongly encouraging’ me for the hundredth time to sign the OHIP paperwork, she was Maude. And Ted was still calling her Dagny.
I could not believe the pressure from the hospital staff to pick a name so that you could complete the provincial health insurance papers! Prince Charles wasn’t named for almost a month, and he is the future heir to the throne of England, for Pete’s sake.
The mom that I roomed with in the hospital could not decide on a name for her son. On her last day in the hospital, she grudgingly signed the papers with a name her husband had chosen, and she confided to me that she hated. I thanked my lucky stars *again* that we didn’t have to pick a boy’s name.
Finally I decided on Nina. Ted didn’t like it. Mostly because he had spent so many months getting used to Dagny and he didn’t understand what had changed my mind. Even now, he rarely calls her Nina but refers to her as “Nin” (ryhmes with “kin”.)
Nina has turned out not to be dark-haired or dark-skinned after all, so Dagny probably would have worked out fine. I’m still very happy with Nina, and I hope that when she grows up she likes it as well.
And if she doesn’t like it, I can point out that at least it didn’t come from a dartboard.