What's in a Name?

By Laurie Beard.

Somehow, it’s winter, here in my tiny section of the world.

Wherever you are, in the world, today, take a look around you.
I look around me. I’m in a coffee shop. My baby is taking a nap, at home, and a baby sitter performs the essential role of “warm body” at the house while I take a few hours for myself.

Wherever you are, whatever you see – can you remember where you were, this week, last year? Is today so different?

My surroundings are wildly different today than they were this week, last year. Almost nothing remains, from that week in November.

Last year, at this time, I was crying in a hospital room. I cried, sitting between my husband and a newborn baby. That was my baby, and she had no name. I had her birth certificate all filled out, in front of me. Behind me, an empty hospital bed and a rolling table holding up a white plastic pitcher. To my left stood the rolling crib, holding up a sleeping, seven-pound baby.

I’d written out this newborn’s full name. But now that it was time to leave, I felt unable to hand the papers in and leave the hospital.

It’s the name that stopped me.

How can you just pick three names, assign them to this tiny, defenseless person who doesn’t even have five senses yet, and walk blithely into the cloudy afternoon?

Here I sat, on this day, at this time, exactly one year ago. My first run-in with just how permanently our choices, as parents, impact our tiny children, for every day of their lives to come.

The enormity of this naming broke my heart. This is the name she’ll turn to, when I call her. This is the name she’ll practice writing when she learns to spell. This is the name I’ll write on every registration form for every baby class, every school form, every doctor’s visit. This is the name that she’ll keep with her, long after my name has begun slowly fading from the world to make way for whatever comes next.

Everything is in a name.

Do I really have the right to select something so intimate for another human being?

My husband and I sat in those hospital chairs next to our sleeping, nameless newborn. I cried imagining that she will hate her name. Then I cried imagining that she will love her name.

After some minutes, or maybe an hour, my tears slowed. I started feeling a little more calm, my breathing a little slower than before. We sat together, the three of us. Silence.

I felt my shoulders drop. Everybody does this, I remember thinking. Everyone has this moment. It felt crazy, that each parent christens a child’s future through this naming. That all people move through this threshold.

Because, there is truly no possible way to know the outcome, the fate, attached to a name. No way to know the adventures this name will have. No way to know all of the many places where someone will call out this name in excitement, in fear, in frustration.

And isn’t it just as possible that all of her adventures remain, even if she took a completely different name?

Maybe nothing is in a name.

But, more than that, maybe, the future of this name has less to do with me than I first thought. Maybe the shape of her name, the shape of her life, the shape of her talents and struggles, all has much less to do with me. Then again, maybe it has almost nothing to do with me.

Maybe, all of the invisible helpers, all of the kind hands, and all of the cruel hands, and all of the forces at play that parent my child whether I’m toiling at home with her every day, or toiling away from her, every day, are instruments of her fate on a grand scale that a name does not begin to approach.

Maybe I’m not so powerful, or nearly as important, in my daughter’s life, as I originally imagined.

On this day, one year ago, God handed me my first lesson in parenting.

I love my daughter’s name. I always have. We both always have — Charles and I. Both of our faces lit up when we rediscovered it during my pregnancy.

On the day that she came into this world, with eyes as clear as water, her name had already found us. Her name was already Amelie.

All that follows in Amelie’s life after her naming, is a poetry, that I was never meant to author, that I was never meant to fully understand.

So, on this day, one year ago, I stood up.

With help from two nurses, my body still broken from having a baby, I handed over my favorite name.

And we started our new life, my little family and I.

Today, I stand up to go home, again. And I feel deeply, and profoundly, grateful.


About the author, Laurie Beard-
Laurie teaches yoga and coaching in her Atlanta, GA- based studio and trains teachers for Yoga Church Yoga + Coaching School in San Luis Obispo, California. A former Manhattan attorney, now published writer, Master Life Coach, RYT-200 Yoga Instructor, Laurie has been featured in Self Magazine,The Wall Street Journal and Jezebel. Follow her writing and various sundries and offerings at LaurieBeard.com.

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