Irreverent Mama

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Twenty-two years ago. I was in the final trimester with our first child. We didn't know the sex, so we had to choose contingency names. The boy was easy. Adam. We were agreed on that. Simple, basic, masculine, virtually impossible to shorten to something stupid and/or cutesy. But the girl?

I wanted Zoe. He wanted Jennifer. Now, there's nothing wrong with "Jennifer". I didn't mind it. It's a perfectly nice name, and in fact, I rather liked the way "Jenny" felt in my mouth.

"Jenny, lovie, come here! Mummy wants you!" Jenny would have long, shoulder-length brown hair and bangs, an open face and a big smile. She would run to me through a field of daisies with the sun bouncing off her silken locks. (This was my first child, recall.) I could deal with Jennifer just fine -- except that his sister, who was due to give birth any second, had told us that was one of the names they were considering. She had told us this months prior, well before our nameless bump was conceived.

But he was determined. Our child would be Jennifer. His sister, he was sure, wouldn't mind. His sister, I was sure, would be pissed -- and I would completely agree with her! Big brothers can be so oblivious. Besides, these babies would be cousins who'd see a lot of each other. It was just silly. Two girls, the same name, born within weeks of each other. But I couldn't get him to see it my way reason, and ours was not the kind of relationship where I had anything like the last word. If he didn't change his mind, our baby would be Jennifer.

And I would be pissed, and his sister would be pissed. (Why didn't I just ask her? I'd been instructed by The Husband not to, and at that point, though I chafed, I was still young and In Love and attempting to live by some pretty farcical -- but very sincerely held -- notions of what constituted husband-wife relations. So I didn't. I look back at the woman I was then with no little mortification, I tell you that.)

Oh, well. Maybe we'd have a boy. Maybe they'd have a boy!

They had a girl. Jennifer.

And then, I was in labour. It was not easy, it was not gruelling. It was sixteen hours of textbook first-baby labour, at the end of which, they held my baby out to sweating and euphoric me.

"It's a girl!" crowed the doctor.
"What will you name her?" asked the midwife.

And, as they handed this wet, warm, wonderful baby, this whole other HUMAN BEING I had just expelled from my weary, disheveled, aching and blissful body, I gazed into her slate-gray eyes, then glowed at the room.

"Zoe! Her name is Zoe!"

That was that. Zoe she is.

And you all know I'm no longer married to her father ...

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