The Name Game

One of the trickiest things about having a baby is deciding what to call her.


It's 2:09 a.m. and my husband's driving too slow, considering that I'm swearing—at him, at the pickup in front of us, at the road. My contractions are two minutes apart. The hospital is 10 miles away and one thought is pounding through my brain: "This child had better not be a boy." If it's a boy, he'll need a name, which means my husband and I will have to agree on one—and that's as likely as me getting to the delivery room in time for drugs.

Thirty-seven weeks ago, after we confirmed the pregnancy test, I announced the only boy's name I wanted: Jude. My husband Thad announced the only name he didn't want: Jude.

It wasn't like this with our first baby. A boy would be Luke; a girl would be Sophia or Blair. And she was a girl, named Blair after my husband's grandfather, which left us with backups for the next time around. But, over the past two years, Luke and Sophia started creeping up Social Security's list of popular baby names. We panicked. We didn't want half the playground turning when we yelled, "Luke, wait your turn!" or "Sophia, stop spitting!" So the hunt began.

"It isn't my job to find the name, and your job to rule on it," I growled, five months pregnant, after Thad nixed the name I spotted in the credits of the movie we just watched. Already, he'd vetoed every name I circled in The Greatest Baby Name Book Ever and in the program for the national tour of Wicked.

I asked my pregnant friends for advice, but they had their own issues. One was looking for a name that was both Persian and Ukrainian. Another wouldn't tell me the one she'd chosen, as if I might steal it. They were serious, and they were right. Naming a human being shouldn't be random. How would we tell one child, "You were named after the family patriarch," and the other, "You were named after the key grip in Lord of the Rings"? We narrowed our search—family names only.

"Miles?" Thad suggested.

"Not a family name," I said.

Since Thad seemed to be struggling with this concept, I pulled out the family tree his mother sent and opened my baby book to the page where my mother had logged every relative back to the Old World. Charles. Stanley. Vladislav.

"Andrew!" Thad shouted, pointing to my great-grandfather's middle name.

"It's the eighth most popular name in the country."


"That's what they call all those Andrews."

"For a girl, maybe?" We looked at each other. Thad grabbed a pen and wrote the name in Blair's coloring book. Drew! A girl would be Drew! Suddenly, our child had a 50 percent chance.

"Jude!" I proclaimed this morning at breakfast, as if it just came to me, as if I'd forgotten Thad would rather name the baby Mustard. Jude fit all the criteria—it was uncommon, it honored my mom, it already had a song written about it.


"You can't just say, 'no,'" I said. Except, he could.

Now, 15 hours later, I'm in stirrups, drugless and baby-nameless, assuming these earthquakes that are threatening to split my body in half grant me name-giving privileges. I almost mention this to Thad, but there isn't time. Just one more quake, then the doctor says the words that save our marriage.

"It's a girl."