A Relative “Stole” My Baby Name
At the start of our relationship, my husband and I sometimes talked about what we would call our future children. When we think about names, we really think about our future, wondering what it would look like, what we would be. The names we chose were representative of this imagined future. Serena for a girl (I really liked Rina’s idea for a nickname) and Sascha for a boy (we both loved fictional characters with the name).
We had been together for 13 years before having our first child, and for most of that time, we were attached to these names. In the last two of 13 years, we have had a hard time getting pregnant. We didn’t have the energy to wonder if these names still matched, lest if we deviated from the original names, we might be diverging from the future we had conceived.
When my mother died a year and a half before my pregnancy, the names we had chosen no longer seemed relevant. We knew that if I ended up getting pregnant, we would call our child my mother’s name.
We both come from a long line of Ashkenazi Jews, and Ashkenazi Jews have a tradition of naming their children as deceased parents. This could mean giving them the same exact name or a name starting with the same first letter. It was a particularly common practice in my mother’s family. Her older sister Paula was named after a paternal great-grandmother, and my mother was named after a maternal great-grandmother. My brother and I have names that were chosen in honor of Paula, who died at the age of 5 months. Although neither my husband nor I are particularly religious, the reasoning behind the practice – keeping the memory of the deceased alive – resonated with us.
When I finally got pregnant, we started talking about the girls’ names and found some that were close to my mother’s name, Rosalie. We always came back to Rose, but each time we stopped. One of my cousins had just had a daughter, whom he named Rose. We weren’t sure what we or they would think of sharing the name. Would the name be less special if it were shared? Were there any rules for this kind of decision? Should I first consult my cousin to see how he felt?
The boys’ names were mostly ignored because we couldn’t agree on any of them, so we weren’t very prepared when we found out that we were going to have a boy. But at least the Rose question was a moot point. After a hugely boring search for R boy names, we gave up, choosing Lee (for the latter part of Rosalie) as our son’s middle name. We didn’t like Lee enough for it to be a first name, so for the first name we started over at the beginning of the alphabet. We quickly fell in love with the name Asher, which means happy in Hebrew. It was like the perfect name for a fresh start.
A year later, we seriously reviewed the riddle of the Rose when I discovered that I was pregnant with a girl. This time, I felt more attached to the name. With even more distance between my mother and her next grandson, it seemed even more urgent to ensure a connection between the two.
I almost reached out to my cousin, but when I thought about it more, I started to realize that Rose didn’t match what I thought, just like Serena and Sascha didn’t either. I had started to associate the name with my cousin’s daughter, and I feared that each time I called her by the nickname, Ro – my mother’s nickname – I would think of my mother. I didn’t want my mother’s identity to consume my relationship with my daughter, and I knew that if I let the grief and worry dictate this decision, it could.
Ruby is now 2 years old and I regularly tell her stories with Asher about my mother. I love that my mother is part of their names and that they always carry her with them. Like my mom, Ruby has fair hair and fair eyes. She is also full of energy and stubbornness in her own way. She is my mother’s grandson and she is her own person, and I like the way her nickname, Roo, sometimes reminds me of my mother’s nickname, but most of all it just makes me think of her.