Thursday, July 01, 2010

Hello Baby - 20 weeks

Part One

Twenty weeks. The scan was long and the baby was unco-operative, with his back to us for most of it, fast asleep.
"That's one relaxed baby you've got there," the sonographer said, poking my belly savagely, trying to get him to move.
"Can we have that in writing?" we asked.
The sonographer whisked around doing all her measurements, and as Una and Martin and I tried to puzzle out limbs and appendages, Fred would declare confidently, "There's a foot, there's a leg." And she'd be right. Una got bored and frustrated, I think she thought she'd be seeing, you know, the baby, instead of this fluid creature made of shadows and light.
The sonographer wanted to count the fingers and toes, and managed all but the left hand, which he stubbornly held in a fist.
"It's got a big head!" Fred cried. The sonographer laughed, but didn't correct her. I cringed.
Unfortunately after Martin took them out it got more interesting, though that may have been because I had the chance to take more of an interest. The sonographer sent me off to the toilet to empty my bladder and jiggle about a bit and I came back and the baby changed position, opening up his pesky fist, but waving his foot cheekily in front of his face. The student sonographer zeroed in on the baby's face and switched it to 3D, which is very strange and oddly brown and sepia looking and still fluid, but sort of thickly so. Yet every now and then there would be a clear flash that would take my breath away - there's his nose, his chin. His profile is very similar to Fred and Una's. There's a 3D photo too, but it's one only a mother could love. Anyway, I love the classic ultrasound shot. It's luminous and mysterious, shadows and light.
On the drive home, Martin asks a tired Una, "Did you like seeing the baby?"
"No," replies Una, grumpily. "It was too complicated."
All is well, anyway. And yes. It's a boy.

Part Two

Which brings us to naming.
We've already decided the boy's name we had for Fred and Una - Gulliver - is probably out. I still love the sound of it, the feel of the word on my tongue. But not only is it rising in popularity, there is a Gulliver among the small clutch of children Una's age in our town. And I've used up most of the magic, names, we've discovered, don't always keep.
'What about Edward?' I say.
Martin shrugs. 'I like it, but don't love it.'
And same with Charlie, Laurence, Nicholas, Irving, Isaac (and it's cool nickname Ike), Asher, Satchel (is it a name? Is it a manbag?)...pick a name and we have picked over it. All perfectly good names, all lovely names, all names we like even. And yet. And yet.
We go back and forth. When the girls go and stay with with their Nana for the night, he reads me names out of a library book while I lie in the bath: Names for your Australian Baby. He discovers Toshio. He loves it. "This is it. This is the name." I like Toshi. I really do. I taste it on my tongue. I roll it around for days. Martin makes the mistake of airing it in public. "He has to live with that name all his life," one older relative says. She's worried that it's too different. We point out that Frederique isn't really part of our cultural heritage either. We say that it came from a book of names for Australian babies. In the end she laughs and says "Well good luck to you." I know she will love our baby whatever we call it, but this kind of sours the name for me. Do I love it enough to fly in the face of other people's disapproval? Why do I care so much? I am too sensitive to this sort of criticism. I intuitively feel like my parenting choices are being questioned, that we would name whimsically and without care for our child's possible future as a brickie's labourer/prime minister. With Frederique and Una, when we finally came up with their names, we sealed our mouths closed. I think it's how we knew, finally, that we'd come up with the right one.
"Benjamin,' suggests Una.
"But we have a Benjamin." (The girls' uncle.)
"Geoffrey," says Una. "John."
I like John, I am plainer in my tastes than Martin when it comes to boys' names. "Too plain," says Martin.
"Joe," says Fred.
"We already have a Joseph." (My sister's little boy.)
"Not Joseph," says Fred. "Joe. It's a completely different name."
"Not Joe," Martin and I say, though I am regretful. With my plain tastes, I like Joe.
Fred picks up the namebook. In excitement she exclaims, "What about Barry? It's Irish for "spear"!" We laugh. She's serious.
Una cries, after suggesting Benjamin for the fiftieth time, "You never like my names."
But Fred and Una don't like the names we suggest either. They are deeply, profoundly conservative in their tastes and will only consider names they have encountered themselves through creche, school or literature (Joe is from the Faraway Tree).
"What about Tolliver?" I ask Martin after hearing Tolly (in this case short for Bartholomew) on Poirot. There is a Michael Tolliver in Armistead Maupin's fabulous Tales of the City series. The more I think about the name the more I like it. It's literary, has a similar tactile presence to Gulliver on the palate of the tongue. Martin tries it on for size. A day or two later he says "I don't think I can do it." I nod. A little bit sad. Goodbye Tolliver.
Sacha. We agree on Sacha. We love the name. But has it gone to the girls? There is a girl Sasha in the wider family circle. Does it matter? On this we can't decide, we are equal in both our love of it and our ambivalence. The girls are more emphatic. "That's a girl's name," they insist.
Tonight Fred and Una carry names from me to Martin, in a sort of game - I suggest a name, they relay the message and bring me back Martin's danced gestures (to the Pet Shop Boys) in response, which are either positive or negative. Fred calls it our secret language and asks me breathlessly after each of her performances, "What does it mean?" Una is a censor, refusing to even ferry the name she doesn't like - Marmaduke.
And so the search goes on.

We are open to suggestions.


  1. Your baby boy is just beautiful! And you look wonderful too. So glad the ultrasound went well. And as for the name debate, we're in the same boat (although we're not nearly as adventurous as you!). I love the variety of names you've talked about already and I'm sure you'll come up with the perfect name soon.

  2. loved reading this Penni.

    And seriously, although I never would have imagined it, we didn't decide on T's name until a day after he was born. And it fits him SO perfectly. So rest assured, the name, when it arrives, will be the most perfect name in the whole world for your little boy.

  3. Aw, lovely :)

    Ah, names. We struggled too :) Our short list looked a bit like this: Kade, Cadel, Oscar (ended up as middle name), Isaac (and I really like Zak as a nickname), Stirling, Woolfe (my grandfather's middle name), August/Augustus (great grandfather), Leo (first boy's middle name - my other grandfather!). And Max, which we stayed on cos it was the only one we all liked! :) Good luck!

  4. I like Harper, though some people connect it more with girls.

    Congrats Penni, Martin, Fred and Una - your family adventures are going to get even more exciting. I look forward to hearing all about them!

  5. ooh yes very important not to mention the name outside your inner family - bad enough you have to jump through 4 people's negative associations with names, you don't want to deal with anyone else's.

    A good friend suggested to me, when I was pregnant and wanting an old fashioned name, that Georgette Heyer novels were the place to go. I didn't get Aurelia from there, in the end, but I always remembered that and hers does sound like it belongs there!

    I suggested Arthur a while back. What about something else Arthurian? So many knights, so little time. Gawain was always a favourite, and Owain is nice too. A good solid book of knights and kings may please the girls, at least, as somewhere to hunt!

    loves to you all, good luck with it, and you know the perfect name will arrive when it needs to. I was totally not prepared for Jemima, and my honey plucked it out of thin air a few hours after she was born.

    One friend of mine was firmly decided on Oberon, but he turned out to be an Oscar after all, so Oberon is free!

  6. Had to come back because I thought of one and then forgot it and then had to TELL you once I remembered because what if that was the perfect name?

    Have you considered George? A lovely old-fashioned name due for a comeback, I think.

    Although that does mean you will have a Fred and a George which people may think is a Harry Potter thing. Never mind, carry on!

  7. My family seems to be awfully fond of Percy...but like a prior comment, I think it's become less old fashioned and more Harry Potter-ish.

  8. I think boys names are harder to pick than girls names. My son is a Samuel. Took about 7 months to pick that name, but it did keep coming up so in the end that's what we went with. Sara's name was picked in one afternoon. It as either Sara or Sophie but Sam wasn't having a sister named Sophie, so that was that.

    I like Nathan for a boy. But it wouldn't fly here in germany...

  9. Really loved this post! As someone who hasn't experienced the mystery of pregnancy it is the perfect balance of beauty and intrigue!

    As for names, you may have already considered them but personally I like Julian, Jared, Jack and Rhys. (Yes, I have a thing for "j" names and Enid Blyton characters).

    For something more unusual, my sister was almost a Dane. I've only ever met one young lad by that name, but personally it always makes me think of Greaf Danes (no reflection on the boy, who was sweet). Best of luck in your hunting!

  10. I like Theodore at the moment. Or how about Pascal?

  11. My first son is Dominic; my second is Jack Henry. We’ve already had a friend ask permission to use Jack’s name - he was honored. :^)

    The name I didn't get to use and still love, pinched from a friend, is Sullivan, nickname Sully. Loved the boy, love the name.

  12. oops - and congratulations on your beautiful boy :^)

  13. Boy names are HARD. I'm kind of in love with Theo and Kieran, neither which would make sense in Swedish. That makes me very sad.

    (Luckily having children is a far away thing for me. Maybe I'll find something better with time.)

  14. I am with Fred at the shortening thing, though. I like to name my characters shortened versions of names, and I love Theo, but hate Theodore. Same with Luke - Lucas and Zach - Zachary, to name a few...

    Ooh, and congrats! Baby feels very real now, with pictures and everything!

  15. Oh I don't envy you having to name a bub. Mine were all named when they came to me - kinda like a Cabbage Patch Kid, but, you know, more work ... eek.
    If I were to have bubs of my own, which I won't, but if I did, I had decided on Meg for a girl and something simple, like Tom, for a boy. Sort of Famous Five names, See Spot Run names. I imagined calling them for dinner. Meg! Tom! Turn the TV off and come to dinner! Yup, works, I think.

  16. You are looking amazing well Penn, pregnancy suits you, I always felt that :)

    I'm in the same mind too about 3d scans the whole thing just freaked me out a little. I much prefer a few shadows and a little mystery.

    Boys names are so much harder, you want something strong but something people will remember. Good luck xx

  17. he's looking lovely!!!

    i suggest jonathan. it's my brother's name, and it is a beautiful name.

    i think my dad chose it partly because he loves the tragic story of david and jonathan in the bible.

    we like sacha too.

    also arthur and tristan. i love arthur but my family thinks it's dreadful. it's still on my hypothetical list though...

    i'm going to have a problem if i ever have a boy, because my cousins already have so many lovely names: joseph, thomas, samuel, benjamin, liam, jacob...

  18. Sometimes I want a third baby and for it to be a boy just so I can name him! I love all the names you like. I like Theo but I also like Reuben and Clancy and Stirling. I had a friend Stirling and he got `Stirl the girl'. Good luck...I had last minute revelations with both my my baby's names and they're perfect.

  19. Ah names. Indeed. You know my stories and that I fret and discuss to the enth degree as you do. I had to keep giving myself 'time off' as in rightio no thinking about names for five weeks but it didn't stop me from obsessing.
    at 31 weeks I had had enough and said to my husband lets just choose, which we did. The girls and we all called baby by that name but at birth we had that horror moment, 'oh no, the ob and midwife slightly recoiled when we said the name and we almost decided to change to our alternative, but the girls came rushing in to meet 'Geordie' so it stuck. I'm glad it did.

    I was going to add Quincy but that's out for you I guess. Gah! I love Joe and Johnny too. Stanley. Stan. Awesome.

  20. I like Sullivan too! (but you know I have a thing about v names)

    Or Joss (kind of an oblique Buffy homage while you were at it...)

    Oh I so can't wait to MEET him!!

  21. He is a beautiful and mysterious thing!

    Maybe too plain but I thought of Joshua, as something that might please the Joe-lovers. Shame about Tolly.

  22. Anonymous5:41 PM

    I used to think that all ultrasound photos looked the same until i had my bub and could recognise her features and now I can see how your baby looks so distinctive.

  23. I think Joss is lovely. Junior has put forward 'Anil Fitzpatrick'

  24. I too enjoyed reading this, Penni. We had a terrible time finding the right boys name for Toby. The good thing is that whatever name you end up arriving at will be the perfect name for your little boy, so you can afford to just let it happen. Congrats on hitting the big 20!

  25. You guys are awesome! Lots of our favourites are mentioned here:
    George (Martin says no)
    John Henry (which is v. close to Jack Henry) is in Martin's family, and I do love Johnny
    Clancy (my personal favourite for girl or boy, I honestly can't comprehend how or why Martin doesn't like this)
    Joss is cute.
    I am not sure about Anil.

    Tony - recalling what you said about Tony/Toby, Marvin is not on the list.

  26. I love Seth and Silas. Also Sebastian, and Sullivan. Raphael, Raffy.

    I laughed at the Fred and George HP reference. We have a George in our extended family and it's such an old fashioned, sturdy name.

  27. Yes, Silas. That's what I've been thinking your baby is called. Though I can see Una's point about Benjamin. Still, you could point out Benny & Penni don't quite work together.

    Here's some leftover boys' names that I never had enough sons to give them to:
    Absalom, Valentine, Taliesin, Roy, Wolfgang, Roby and, of course, Astrolabe (he was the son of Heloise & Abelard). Hmmm, looking the list I can see why my family weren't so easy to convince.

  28. Roy! My dear friend Elizabeth was determined to call her son Roy and we all howled her down (most unfairly I think in retrospect).

    Poor little boy was nameless for two weeks while his parents tried on Emile and then Lewis -- he was Emile for twelve years, then he himself firmly discarded that in favour of Lewis.

    So you see even if you get it "wrong" they can always fix it themselves later.

  29. I've always liked Louis for a boy. We wanted to call Tara that if she was a he but my mother protested too much (her maiden name was Lewis and well you heard snippets of the dysfunctionality of that family when we met up for coffee and cake at Jo's recently to understand why). Molly was going to be Morrisey :-)

    I think a classic boys name would suit well with the girls names. A good excuse to go back and read some of your favourite children's classics for inspiration again!

  30. a boy! um I too like silas and seagull and arturo and there's a tolly in the green knowe books (I think) (or you could go tolle after eckhart ...NOT!) Literary names ... Raymond, atticus (maybe not) holden (ford? toyota?) zooey,seymour, tristam, jorge, minty, Partial to donovan but also plain old fashioned edward (teddy) and william ...
    Looking good penni!

  31. Gilbert was on our shortlist. Very marmite - love it or hate sort of name.

    I love Murray for a boy's name, and Spencer (although a bit Thomas the tank engine)

    Lots of Evans and Ethans here. My friend has a little boy called Llwellyn, love it!

  32. I love these pregnancy updates.

  33. Anonymous10:49 PM

    I know a five year old Arthur, and he's gorgeous, he's an Artie sometimes for short.

    How about Harold? Then if he wants to be conservative in his teens he can be a Harry.

  34. SO hard to pick boys' names. When I had my third we still hadn't decided on the boy's name. Turned out to be a girl, so that was lucky really -- we had a girl's name picked out.

    I love Pascal. My husband wouldn't agree to it. :-P

    Christopher? (Kip for short?)

  35. There is a Tolly in the Children Of Green Knowe series (but it's short for Toseland).

    I've always liked Jasper for a boy.

    Happy naming!

  36. Frangipani5:43 PM

    Silas (Marner) found Eppie which is what you called yourself when you were two.

  37. Chester, Josh, Gilbert, Maxwell

  38. Lilybett8:56 PM

    Have come across a few names recently that are traditional but quite unusual that have been rolling round in my mind.

    The first was Hector, which I'd never liked much but for some reason has now really grown on me.

    Another is Erasmus, which is shortened to Elmo (as in St Elmo's Fire, rather than Tickle Me).

    The last is Galileo, which I adore. I loved it even more after an episode of West Wing called 'Galileo Five'.

  39. Lilybett11:53 AM

    I love thinking about baby names but sometimes I think it might just be easier to live in one of those countries, like Sweden or Denmark, where there's a set list of names you can choose from and the names have to reflect the gender of the child.

    Check out some of these other baby-naming laws: http://www.menta

    P.S. hahaha 'Bongstat' as word verification! My new favourite word.

  40. trust a boy to be difficult and put his foot in the way of a good photo. and he's not even a teenager yet!

    i'd avoid Edward. as lovely as it is this whole Twilight thing will mean we're awash with them soon.

    i also like Sullivan (Sully) and Jasper (although i think the latter is popular now)

    How about Frey? (he was norse goddess frejya's twin brother)

  41. Lilybett4:05 PM

    If you're still in love with Sacha as a name, you could try Alexander and use Sacha, which is still quite common for boys in some countries. My brother is an Alexander and has been Alex and Xarnie and now is known as Sanders. Many other possible versions, though: Al, Alexi, Sandy, Lex, Xan, etc.