Evidence that there are all kinds of ways to choose baby names
One remarkable fact about my mother, who took her own life at thirty-one after years of alcoholism, and was in most respects disorganised and chaotic, is that she named all four of her offspring before birth. We all had a name ready-made, whether a boy or girl.
It's one of the few positive memories I have of her parenting. But you have to suck the juice out of some situations.
So efficient! That's the birth-name equivalent of having everything in labelled Tupperware, arranged on your kitchen shelves in size order. I can assure you, my mother's kitchen did not look like this. So, she wasn't consistent, but the name idea counts in her favour.
Here's how it worked.
I am Frances. If a boy, I would have been Francis.
My brother was named Leslie. He would have been Lesley.
My sister was Christine. She would have been Christopher.
My younger sister was Michaela. She would have been Michael.
Have you ever heard of anyone else doing this? Usually, you hear people say, 'Oh, we've decided on Peter if it's a boy and Louise if a girl.' Not Peter/Petra or Louise/Louis.
My brother Leslie was adopted by another couple as a baby and they changed his name to Kevin. This broke the pattern somewhat. I'm sure they never said, 'If we'd adopted a girl, we'd have called her Kevina.'
People constantly spell my name wrong, thinking it 'Francis'. 'Tell them,' my mum used to say to me, 'that it's 'i' for an 'im and 'e' for an 'er.'
This is also in her favour. Moments of wise advice like this weren't abundant.
It's difficult, the name-choosing (and if your baby is born with its head floating above its neck like the one in that picture, I'd imagine it's hard to concentrate on the process).
My husband and I called our oldest child Sarah because we were by the canal one day leaning on a wall when I was heavily pregnant. We heard a mother affectionately calling after her child. 'Sarah, come over here. Sarah!'
'I like Sarah,' I said. 'If we have a girl, let's call her Sarah.'
And that was that.
Our son, Christopher, who would have been called something else had my sister Christine been born a boy, soon got his name shortened to Chris, mainly by his infant school teacher, Mrs Jefferies. 'You have given your child a very long name,' she said, disapprovingly. 'When he writes it on his pieces of work it takes him ages and he's late for breaktime.'
Infant school teachers - quite scary when they want to be. I nearly put my hands on my head and said my five times table.
So, Chris, he became, and has been since unless he's naughty, and even at 34, he has his moments that make it necessary.
When we had our third child, whom we called Anna, and she arrived at the same school, with the same teacher, Mrs Jefferies stopped me one afternoon as I picked Anna up from school. 'I am so grateful to you,' she said, patting me as though I were the class rabbit. 'After all that trouble with Christopher, you gave your daughter a name which is a palindrome, and it doesn't matter which way round she writes it, she gets it correct.'
I wanted to say to her, 'That's why, as she emerged from the uterus, and I gave the last agonising push, I told my husband, "Let's lower Mrs Jefferies' blood pressure and give the baby a palindromic name".'
The truth was, Anna's older sister Sarah chose 'Anna' because she there was a girl at school called Anna and she liked the name.
Also, I was all for calling the new baby girl Mary but no one else in the household liked this idea. She has it as a middle name as a compromise and she's never liked it although my Catholic father-in-law did and called her Anna Maria. He had hopes for her as a nun, I think.
Both Sarah and Christopher had ideas for the new baby's name, in fact. Sarah's was more socially acceptable.
Christopher, who was four when the new baby was born, said, 'Can we call her Nougat?' He pronounced it 'nugget', not the posh French way. It was one of his favourite sweets and we often brought nougat home after holidays. You know, the pink and white type that comes in a bar and, when you bite into it, stretches on for miles until you run out of arm.
A lady at our church heard him say this about calling the baby Nougat. 'Oh, how sweet!' she gushed. 'What a lovely idea, calling your little baby sister after a piece of gold. Something precious and valuable!' She beamed.
We didn't like to tell her the truth. 'Ah yes, he's a love,' I said.
If you have children, how did you choose their names? Can anyone claim to have used a) my mother's method or b) named their child after confectionery?