The Name Game

“Name her Rachael, after your Great Grandmother!”

“Don’t forget about your Aunt Lilly, she would love you to use that name!”

She closed her eyes. For 6 days straight, her relatives have been piping in incessantly with names they thought were appropriate for her daughter. Give me a break, she thought, she’s not even born yet!

Taking a deep breath, she opened her eyes and stared in front of her. Gathered around the bed were her parents, Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents. Somebody must have snuck past the nurses station to get in here, she thought. There’s no way this many people were allowed to be in one room.

“Listen, Paul and I don’t know what we’re going to name her yet. I appreciate all of your suggestions, but I won’t know the right name until I meet my daughter, okay?” She lied.

She hoped that her extended family would blame her irritability from being in the hospital for 4 days. Her unborn child gave her quite a scare just before, causing her to think she was ready to deliver. Paul rushed her to the hospital, just to have a false labor. However, her doctor had felt that it was appropriate for her to stay so she could conduct some tests first. Since then, it has been family in, family out, repeat.

“Honey, we’re all just anxious, just like you”, her mother said, smiling down at her. Moving closer to her ear, she whispered “If you want me to get them all out of here, just make a fist in your hand”.

Kierstin immediately made a fist.

“I think she needs some rest. Greg, didn’t you want to go check out that new Bass Pro Shop around the corner?”

Kierstin knew she could always rely on her mother.

As her extended family slowly exited the room, she heard her Aunt murmur “She really should name her Bethany. Or Laura. Both very dignified names”.

Finally, the door was closed.

“Thank God they are gone”. Kierstin exhaled.

“Oh come on, they just want to be part of the experience. Your Aunt Joan never had children of her own, so you can’t blame her”. Kierstin’s mother always found a way to qualify people’s actions. “But I am on your side, you know. I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but I haven’t suggested one name yet”.

Kierstin actually hadn’t noticed this. “Wow, you’re right. Thanks… for that”.

“Hey, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a list of names I wouldn’t love you to use. Obviously I would love it if you used Joan, after my mother, but Katharine is also lovely”

“Mom, please” Kierstin said, but she couldn’t help but smile.

Her mother smiled back. “When is Paul getting back?”

“He only had to run into the office for a half hour, he should be here any minute”. Kierstin couldn’t wait for him to get back. He was the only part of her life, other than her mother, that was keeping her sane. He had been there for every moment of her pregnancy, from the late night ice cream runs to the complaints of swollen ankles. He had been sleeping in the visitors chair since she had gotten to the hospital. I got it good, she said to herself.

For a couple moments, there was silence between them. Kierstin looked at her mother and noticed how exhausted she looked. Paul would be back soon, and she knew she needed to tell her mother on her own. If Paul was around, she wouldn’t be able to go through with it.

“Mom, Paul and I have already thought about a couple names, you know”.

Her mother grabbed her hand. “Well, of course you have. This is ultimately your decision”.

Another moment of silence.

“Well?” Kierstin asked. “Don’t you want to know?”

“Honey, I’m trying really hard to not influence your decision in this. You know that” she said, smiling.

Kierstin smiled back. I hope you’re ready for this.

“I want you to know…” she started. She took a deep breath. She was unsure how she was going to react to this, but she knew she needed to tell her mother, her best friend. “We want to name her Julianne”.

Her mother’s smile faded.

“… Julianne?” She passed. And then, “Huh.”

Kierstin’s heart began to beat faster.

“Yes, Julianne. Doesn’t it make sense to name my daughter that?”

Her mother stood up and walked toward the window. Her eyes gazed out over the parking lot, noticing Paul getting out of his truck and walking toward the hospital entrance.

“Honey, I…”. She stopped. Her eyes started to glaze over, tears building up in the corners.

“I know it’s tough” Kierstin said. :We all went through it. But something about this just feels so right. Paul and I talked about it months ago and we both agreed that it was the perfect name for our daughter. It’s like a tribute to her”.

“I don’t think that it is a good idea, Kierstin” she said sternly. “Your father would be unhappy as well”.

“Are you kidding me?” Kierstin asked. “Why would he be unhappy about me naming her that, after my sister? He loved her just as much as he loves me”

“Kierstin, It’s. Not. A. Good. Idea.” her mother said, enunciating each word carefully. Her eyebrows were pushed together, her face looking disgusted.

There was a soft knock on her door, and a voice asked “And how are my two favorite women doing?”

Paul stepped into the room, but immediately looked confused. “Uh, should I leave?”

“No”, Kierstin started. “I just told her the name we decided for the baby”.

Paul stopped in his tracks. “Ah… yeah. And I’m guessing that didn’t go over well”.

“No, no it didn’t” Kierstin’s mother said. “I don’t think that is an appropriate name for your baby. How dare you even think of using that name? Did you not think about how that would make me feel? How that would make your father feel?”

“Mom, Julianne died 10 years ago. I wanted to honor her somehow. This is the perfect way”. Kierstin didn’t understand. Why was her mother upset about this?

“I am telling you right now, this will ruin your family” her mother said. “This is the worst choice you have made in a long time”.

Kierstin pushed her hands into the bed, easing herself higher sitting up. “Mom, calm down. I can’t believe you don’t want me to name my daughter after my own sister”.

“You don’t understand” her mother replied. “There is a reason why nobody in the family has been has used the name Julianne since. This is just something you just don’t do”. She turned away from the bed and gathered her purse from the chair that Paul usually slept in. “I really want you to reconsider this. I, uh, need to get some air”.

And at that, her mother quickly walked out of the room.

Kierstin couldn’t believe what had just happened. She had never anticipated her mother reacting with disgust at the decision of naming her own daughter Julianne.

Paul had been standing in the same spot since he entered the room. His eyes were staring at the floor. Slowly, he looked up.

“What should we do?” he asked.

Kierstin took a deep breath. “I’m not sure”, she replied.

When they named their daughter, they never imagined the consequences.

——————————

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