Letters of Significance

We thought we were having a boy.  I like surprises, and thought the birth of a child was quite possibly the best one out there (nailed that, eh?).  So we did the obligatory lists of boy names and girl names.  Which over time grew shorter.  Until we were down to one boy name (really, days before birth this was agreed upon) and two girl names.  I'm not going to say we phoned in the girl names because they were both lovely, but I never really took them seriously.  Because I was having a boy.

Until I had a girl.

And we stared in her face, and pondered, and said them both out loud, and then they took her away for observation.

And then the wheels came off the bus.

And not quite 48 hours later, not long after a doctor informed us we were at the point of palliative care, we named her.  I will confess that the thought flitted across my brain that I was using this name up -- that I was wasting this name -- that it could never be used again, that it would be turned to ash along with her.  Perhaps I should use the name that by now was a distant #2?  But #2 name didn't fit.  I looked at her, and it just didn't fit.  It didn't sound right with her nose and closed eyes and delicate lips.  And even though I thought when I added her name (the one I ultimately chose) to the girl list a few months earlier that I would use the nickname "Lena," it now seemed completely inappropriate.  I looked at her lying in her cot, a perfect little 6lb girl plugged into a sea of tubes, and "Maddy" (or "Peanut") just flew out of my mouth as I reached for her still limbs.

I picked up the NICU form that they wanted us to fill out regarding visitors, and across the top, in a ballpoint pen, finally set it down for the first time:  Maddalena.

When a small part of my imagination tries to -- forcibly or unconsciously -- wonder if I could ever dare to be pregnant again, one tiny pebble in a series of roadblocks that inevitably springs to mind is the name.  What if I had a girl?  What on earth would I ever name her?  I could never now use the other name, the one that might have been destined for her.  (I'm not even sure I could use our top boy name any more if I were to have a boy, it's so close to this whole series of events now.)  And I feel as though I used the best one.  On a dead baby.  On someone who's not even here to hate it or enjoy it, to curse us or bless us, to go through a life of misspellings and mispronunciations.

Since wandering into and through the blogs of parents who lost children, I have run across numerous stories of naming:  As Niobe wrote here on GITW, she didn't want, couldn't bear to name her twin daughter.  But was forced to record something on paper.  Some of you didn't want to use a certain name, with the small ember of hope that someday it might be used on a live child.  Some of you, knowing your baby was dead already, turned to family lineage, or nicknames from your pregnancy.  Some, I'm sure, grasped at the air and understood that name would never be that of a supreme court justice or a punk rock singer, but simply letters on a death certificate.  

I know Niobe's story, but how did you settle on your dead child's name? Or did you decide not to name him/her? (Were you given that choice?  Did you WANT that choice?) Was it a family name or one you simply liked? Did you decide what your child would be named before you found out s/he wouldn't live? How do you feel about the name now? Or the art of naming in general? If you use nicknames or initials in cyberspace, please don't feel pressured to spell the name in order to talk about the significance.