The hardest part about giving birth to a child is not the pain, the breathing, learning to push or getting along with your hands-on dolphin-loving doula. The hardest part about having a baby is coming up with his or her name.
I can’t even understand those parents that wait until birth to find out what their child’s sex will be. I needed to know right away. So then I could eliminate 8000 of the names from the 50,000,000 Names to Give Your Child book.
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Your kid will be angry at you for a lot of things but if you name her Christmas Penguin Pocketwatch she will certainly have good reason to. That’s not going to help her resume if she ever wants to work at a bank or get along with the other second graders. And I believe any jury would agree.
I poured through the baby books to find a name for my daughter and it was hard. Being Jewish, the tradition is to name your child after someone who has died. This means you get to use the first letter of their name. I got the “P” after my grandmother Pearl. For a minute I flirted with the possibility of naming her Pearl Heller Jr.
I could do that. I love that as a single mom, she carries my last name. But I didn’t. She was going to be a unique individual and I wanted her to have her own unique name.
Each name had meaning and rhythm. What worked best with my last name? Who did I think this child would be? Was there a loathsome someone in my past who had the same name? Or had someone I knewn given that name to their pet? I didn’t feel right choosing a name that felt foreign like Japanese, Russian or even Hebrew. I liked Pualani which means “heavenly flower” in Hawaiian, but I didn’t want her name to feel so far away from mine. And just when I thought I’d exhausted the whole list of names. Out comes the book of 70,000,000 baby names. And the Internet opens up a world of endless Google searches. The diversity of lists alone is overwhelming. I could choose a Biblical name (Puah), a Hipster name (Poppy), Vintage (Patience) or Arthurian legend (Pridwyn),
Or I could have lessened the future sadness of another child. One who made the list of “50 of the Craziest Celebrity Baby Names”. I could have made one of them feel one person less alone.
Yep, those are all real. I’m not creative enough to make them all up.
Then there’s the make up your own name club. Or spell a word backwards like Heaven and Nevaeh. Or pick a product. Porsche or Pajamas. Or an occupation. Painter. Or a noun. Pepper or Pear.
Exhausting. But something to do when there’s not much else you can do. Even if I wanted to paint my toes when I was 8 months pregnant, I couldn’t see them.
I chose Penelope. It looked good and sounded good to me. It worked in many countries around the world. It was well known (thank you Penelope Cruz) but not trendy or popular. As importantly, I couldn’t find any infamous people who shared it.