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Why it took us so long to name our baby

My newborn son was a full day old and still we hadn’t decided on a name for him. His wristband, his name card, the paperwork all read “Baby Bayless.” We had narrowed the list down to four by the time my contractions started and down to two – Brecken and Asher – by the time he came back clean and bundled from the nursery. I thought I would only have to see him and then I’d know his name. I’d see it written in his eyes.

I stared into his beautiful, dark, newborn eyes and saw . . . Brecken . . . and Asher . . . and Anders and Brooks, and all the other names we had ever considered.

Here I was calling people with the news of his weight, length and head circumference, but I didn’t have a name to tell them. “Oh, we’re still deciding,” I mumbled into the phone when people inquired. It felt strange introducing friends and family to our newborn with just a list of body stats, like the start of some kind of personal ad: “Meet Baby Bayless, 21 inches, 7 lbs, 8 oz, enjoys being in utero . . .”

I begged my husband to make a decision. Demanded we decide. Pleaded. It was either Option A or Option B and I’d be happy with either. Really. We could flip a coin if it made it easier. I just wanted to know. It was getting hard to bond with . . . Baby Bayless.

My husband wanted to sleep on it.

I spent the first night in the hospital with Baby Bayless performing the awkward task of trying out names on him.

“Hey, Brecken.” Nothing. “You awake, Asher?” Did he just open his eyes?

Bestowing a name upon one’s offspring is no small undertaking. As Evidence A, I would like to submit our recent experience naming our puppy.

After the loss of our beloved twelve-year-old Lab Gus, my husband and I decided to jump into puppy-owning again. We wanted our kids to grow up with a dog. We found a wonderful black lab a few towns away and scheduled to pick him up as soon as he was old enough to be adopted.

Our name bank was pretty dry, having recently exhausted our respective lists in the search for a baby name. My husband was also pretty particular, looking for something that both sounded friendly and was monosyllabic. Somehow, on the ride home from picking up our new addition, my husband decided on Bert. Bert the dog.

Heeeere’s Bert!” my husband introduced as he dropped the wiggly, black pup into my lap. He called him Bert. I called him Bert. For at least an hour.

That is, until I couldn’t stand it anymore.

“He’s just not a Bert,” I said. “Bert just sounds so . . . so . . . ”

“Happy-go-lucky?” my husband filled in.

“Dumb,” I replied.

You’ll be happy to know that Oliver is now well adjusted and has totally forgotten the whole naming fiasco, but I didn’t want to make a naming mistake again. Especially with our son. While I was eager to choose a name for our new addition, I wanted it to be the right name.

Naming a child is a monumental task. You hold in your hands the power to determine middle school taunting, roll-call giggle fests and graduation pronunciation flops. A name must be able to carry your offspring through childhood, but still be dignified enough to work for your little future CEO. Or rock star. Or president. You have to consider various nicknames, derivatives, abbreviations and its rhyming potential with any parts or noises of the human body.

Finally, on his second day of life, we came to an agreement. His name would be Asher. I loved the name. At some point during that first night together, the name had settled for me. Now I could see it – he totally looked like an Asher. He acted like an Asher. It fit him. The only problem?

The moment I left the hospital I couldn’t remember the name to save my life.

Those first few days home I called our son everything except his actual name – Ashton, Aster, Archer, Larsen (our neighbor’s kid), even Cora (our friends’ daughter). Though this mental lapse was initially kind of amusing, it soon became problematic.

Friends came over to visit, bring dinner and hold our newest little bundle.

“Thanks so much for dinner – it looks delicious. Do you want to hold Archer before you go?”

“Oh, it’s Archer. We thought you had said Asher over the phone. Oh, Archer is such a cute name!”

“Um, oh . . . no, no . . . it IS Asher. I just, uhh . . .” Fortunately some nervous giggling and a joke about baby brain or sleepless nights seemed to smooth these gaffs over.

There were even a few times when visiting guests asked the baby’s name and I blanked out completely – taking three or four uncomfortable seconds before I could even remember his name started with the letter “A.”

“I just love the name. How are you spelling it?”

“Spelling what?”

The first few days I could blame the forgetfulness on the adrenaline of childbirth. Or residual epidural. Or sleep deprivation. But after a week, I was running out of excuses.

What mother doesn’t remember the name of her baby? This precious bundle I’d carried in my womb for the last nine months. And what mother mistakenly calls her newborn son a girl’s name?

I started wondering if we had given him the wrong name. I liked the name Asher – loved it, but then why did I keep calling him Archer? Aster? Ashton? My husband wondered aloud if this was some kind of Freudian slip and soon I’d be dreaming about creative ways to off Demi Moore.

While I was a bit embarrassed by the whole thing, in actuality, it didn’t seem like such a strange phenomenon. I mean, really. Baby Bayless and I had just met! How often are you introduced to someone – “Hi, my name is So-and-So” – and bam, it’s been barely a second and you’ve already forgotten their name? Happens all the time.

Not to mention, my husband and I had decided to forgo finding out the sex ahead of time, so we were still grasping the fact that we were the proud parents of a little “he.” My husband tried to soothe my conscience by telling me it was just like “New Girlfriend Syndrome” – you know, when you get a new girlfriend and accidentally call her the old girlfriend’s name. This provided only limited comfort.

Luckily, a combination of increased sleep and auditory repetition helped cure me of my early memory lapses. And now, many weeks later, I’m happy to report that I can recall Asher’s name with near flawlessness.

In the beginning, choosing a name seemed like a make-or-break element of bringing a child into the world. There felt like so much pressure to choose the “right” name while the imagined consequences of choosing unwisely appeared daunting. But in the end, it’s not the name that makes the person. It’s the person that brings meaning to the name.

Although my husband and I may have had subconscious ideas of what traits an “Asher” would have, in actuality, our son will write a beautiful and unique story of his own of what it means to be . . .

Asher. Right. Asher.

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