You might have noticed that I refer to my first two children by their names on my blog and social media, but my third born appears to only have an initial.
It was never meant to be kept a secret. But let me explain.
When you can’t think of a baby name
Sam doesn’t really ‘do’ name discussions until after the birth, or the last few weeks of pregnancy at the earliest. (Although, I really should have learned by now, that if he hasn’t vetoed a name immediately, he will usually let me have my choice in the end.)
You know what life is like with young children – it’s hard to get a word in edgeways. And we were staying with family for three months during our house renovations. So we didn’t have the usual name debates and ideas that we would casually throw around if we were in the privacy of our own home once the children were in bed. Add to that, the fact that every conversation we did manage to have with each other concerned more pressing house-related decisions.
We were entirely focused on the house, getting in ready, making the important decisions. We just hadn’t talked names for the baby.
We knew it was a third boy, and we knew that names would be really bloody difficult this time round. I’d given my favourite ever boy’s name to our second son. And we couldn’t imagine loving any other name choice as much as we had come to love our first son’s name – which had been a bit of a wildcard choice. This time, I had a decent-sized list of nice names, names that I’ve always liked, but nothing that felt like ‘our’ name.
This time round, we had not discussed names at all until I was 36 weeks pregnant and we went out just the two of us for a meal to celebrate Sam’s birthday. Six days later, I was being induced, well before we’d had the chance to get close to finalising a name.
During our meal out for Sam’s birthday, I showed him my list of names, and he immediately honed in on one: ‘I’ve always liked this name’. I quite liked that name too, and the moment Sam mentioned it I had that feeling – “Well, maybe this is it then”.
Really, that should have been that. (Spoiler alert – it’s the one he ended up with).
We had a few other names on a shortlist, including one name that I had been fighting for since early pregnancy. I was convinced this should be his name, and if Sam had said yes, I think that would have cemented the idea in my head from early on.
Then he arrived in a hurry, and I hadn’t the headspace to collect my thoughts on his name. My choices were all a muddle, I hadn’t had time to allow a natural favourite to come to the forefront of my mind. With the other two, by this stage, I had quite firm ideas of what I wanted to call them.
Within minutes of his birth, we both agreed that he definitely wasn’t two of the names on our shortlist, but yes, he could definitely be one of the other names.
Really, that should have been that. (Spoiler alert – this was ALSO the name that he finally ended up with).
But then Sam had a wobble. He wasn’t sure how much he did like the name he had previously liked after all. The name we were close to choosing. And, surprise of all surprises, he admitted he actually quite liked the name I’d been fighting for. The name that he’d dismissed early on in the pregnancy.
This completely threw me. I’d almost entirely given up that name, and in doing so, I had formed a bit of an attachment to the other name, ever since Sam had said he’d always liked it and I’d got that feeling. I had just assumed that was going to be his name.
So, now, we had two names. Two names that I had strong feelings towards. Two names, that at different points, had both been THE ONE. And our baby was already here.
How were we meant to choose? We weren’t in a hurry to choose a name, so we thought we’d wait, give it time, and see which name won out naturally. We’d used this tactic with Arlo, and within three days we were both calling him Arlo in our heads, and so that was that. We assumed a similar thing would happen with our third baby boy.
It was a nice plan, but it wasn’t to be. The more time we spent calling him different names, the harder it became. We even added back in a few of the previous shortlisted names out of desperation. He could have easily been any of these names, they were all nice, and there wasn’t an obvious choice or a name he definitely couldn’t be.
He had such an established bump name, that it was hard for Arlo and Rory, for all of us, to move away from calling him “Baby Cookies”. His placeholder name made it almost easier to ignore the fact that he needed a real name.
It’s hard to name a newborn. It’s so much clearer once they are into the happy smiley baby phase, and your hormones have settled down.
There was so much adjustment and emotion going on in those early days. I tried to get my heart to settle on a name. I thought it would just come to me one day. But I just couldn’t get my mind to focus on it.
It seemed like such an enormous task. And after five weeks, it became evident that things weren’t going to get any clearer. We’d just have to force the issue and pick one of the names we were deliberating over.
We went through so many insignificant scenarios and considerations in an effort to tip the favour towards one of our name choices. I’m talking seriously minute details. “Imagine our three grown up boys introducing each other at a family function or a wedding – will their names be different enough that people will remember which one is which?”
We even confided our top two names to the kids, desperate for SOMEONE to declare a favourite. But alas, Arlo liked them both equally, for different reasons, and could not possibly choose (can you tell he’s related to us?), and Rory wanted Crusher.
It kept me awake at night, knowing that there was this huge decision to be made. And every day, of course, people ask you the same question again and again. On the school run, on social media… everywhere. You can’t help but feel the pressure to decide a name.
I flip-flopped between names every couple of days – I’d be almost convinced, only to start swaying towards the other name. It was like I couldn’t bear to let go of either name. When I focused in on one, I felt sad to lose the other one.
I lost sleep over it. Naming thoughts invaded my dreams, and I found it difficult to fall asleep, knowing I had this decision to finalise.
People told us to just chose both. But it doesn’t work like that, because you still have to choose a name to come first, and that is essentially the same decision as just picking the one you like best. Plus, we didn’t want to deviate from our tradition of having a family name as a middle name.
I tried to give up the decision and let Sam choose. But Sam was having an equally hard time deciding. And our deliberating was only serving to encourage each other.
It was weird when we went to register him. Sam and I both felt it. We went through the motions of filling in the forms. But after ALL this talk, after six weeks of deliberation, it didn’t feel like the confident decision I think we were both hoping it would do by that point. We felt… kind of flat. Deflated, defeated, relieved not to have to give the decision all our time and energy any more.
It was weird, then, him having an actual name. Telling people he had a name. I still thought about the other names, I still felt sad that he wasn’t those names. But I knew it wasn’t a mistake, because I knew I’d feel sad if he wasn’t the name we’d chosen.
Sam reckons I’d change his name now if I could. That’s not quite true, as I can’t think of any other name I’d truly rather he’d be. But I think there probably is some truth that if it wasn’t for the need to register a baby’s birth within six weeks, we’d most likely still be deliberating even now at five months old.
Because we had had such a hard time deciding between names, and because during his first six weeks, we had called him by a couple of different names, I decided not to announce it on social media until I could look at him and only see his name, and not the names he also could have been. I wanted to announce it confidently, and with pride. I wanted to smile and say “This is my son, and this is his name”.
And so, for five months, he has been an initial.
Obviously not in real life, but online.
I wasn’t trying to retain an air of mystery. I was just trying to get used to his name. But recently, it has felt tedious to refer to him as “Baby O” all the time. It has made me realise that he is his name now. Finally. It’s done. No looking back.
This is my son, and this is his name.
In the end, we chose the name that we had kept coming back to. It had been our first instinct when we discussed names, and it had been our first instinct when we met him.
It had been a name we had first pondered around four years ago – we watched a documentary with a young man of the same name, and I remember thinking, “Now, THAT is a cool name”.
It had been a name that been crossed off our list for baby number two, for fear of it being a little bit TOO matchy with our first born’s name back when we only had the two children.
It was a name that makes me happy when I look at it written down. Simple, strong, symmetrical.
Our lovely little Otto.