I made stockings for Eric and I a few years ago. For the past two Christmases I have debated about whether I wanted to make stockings for Danny and Lentil. We have ornaments for each of them, but I never ended up adding stockings to the fireplace. This year, I finally decided that I wanted to do it. I bought fabric after Thanksgiving but have not had time yet to get started on them. So this year, the fireplace looks a little empty to me. It is missing tiny stockings with the names of the babies that are missing from our arms and our home.
When I envisioned having a family someday, I never thought about how difficult it would be to name children. It is a lot of pressure to pick a name for a tiny human that will be a central part of their identity throughout their life.
A few weeks ago, Eric and I decided that we could start talking about names for this baby after we got to 30 weeks. So here we are, thinking seriously about starting the name conversation again.
In our first pregnancy, Eric and I had started talking about names less than two weeks before we found out we had lost Lentil. I have really fond memories of a dinner at a restaurant spent looking through lists of baby names and compiling potential names to narrow later. It was a time when it hit both of us that we were becoming parents. It felt really nice to be celebrating pregnancy in that way, but we have never revisited that list of potential names.
I come from a nickname loving family, and I married a man who loves nicknames just as much. So when I was 5 weeks pregnant in our first pregnancy and the baby was the size of a Lentil, Eric started calling the baby “Lentil.” It started as somewhat of a joke but became a very loving pregnancy nickname. After we found out we lost this baby, we decided that we would still refer to him as Lentil.
It felt like the only right thing to call this baby that we missed, as this was how we talked about him when he was still here.
When I became pregnant with our second baby, Eric and I were both scared to get attached. We were hesitant to come up with a nickname. This time, when we lost the baby, we still had no pregnancy nickname. After I delivered him, we knew we would have to give him a name. In the first couple of days and weeks we called him the baby or Baby Boy.
If naming a living baby is difficult, naming a baby who has already passed may be even harder.
Something akin to a pregnancy nickname didn’t seem to fit this 1 pound, 3 ounce baby we had held. But a “real” first name didn’t seem right either. He wouldn’t ever develop into a child or an adult with this name. It was hard to envision our dead baby having the kind of name that we would have named a living baby.
Throughout the pregnancy, we found a lot of comfort in “Danny’s Song,” by Loggins and Messina. The chorus contains the lines: “In the morning when I rise, bring a tear of joy to my eyes, and tell me everything is gonna be alright.” These lines were so comforting to me during our pregnancy with Danny. They encompassed my tears of fear and joy.
Singing these lyrics, I felt as though I was asking my baby to tell me that they were going to be alright and that everything was going to be right in our world again.
In the few weeks after losing our second baby, “Danny” felt like the only name that was appropriate for him. This was his song. Even now, I play that song when I miss him, and when I hear it, I feel reassurance from him that everything will be alright. In some ways, it is because of him that things will be alright. He got us the answers we needed that allowed us to be where we are at with this baby right now. So, we named him Danny because it was the only name that felt fitting for him.
In our current pregnancy, it felt important to come up with a pregnancy nickname earlier on. I didn’t want to potentially lose this baby and have no name for them, as had happened with Danny.
When I was around 9 weeks pregnant, a friend and I were talking about how many weeks of my life I had been pregnant. In a loving, joking way, she commented that I have the gestation of an elephant. I laughed, paused for a second, and then decided to google, finding out that she was right. The information that I read said that elephant gestation is 18-22 months. If I deliver this baby at 40 weeks and things go how we hope, I will have been pregnant for 82 weeks (or about 20 months) of my life before I have a healthy baby.
I do have the gestation of an elephant!
I love this little fact about my pregnancy journey. It could be easy to find this depressing, but there are moments where you have to find the humor and irony in the awful experiences you have had. Sometimes it is what helps you get through. Eric and I decided that this elephant concept would be a good source of a nickname for this baby. And so, for the past 20 weeks, we have been calling this baby “El”. It feels so nice for this baby to have an identity.
Pretty soon we are going to need to start talking about some real names for El that they can use for their life outside of my body, but until they are born, this baby will be incredibly lovingly called El.
Given the nature of nicknames in my family, I wouldn’t be surprised if El continues to be a nickname for this little one, even if they have an entirely different name. When I take pictures of our fireplace one year from now, I am hoping there will be 3 more stockings – small ones for Danny and Lentil and a larger one for El to match Eric’s and mine.