I never realized how signifiant names were until I started having kids of my own. “You mean we have to pick the name he’ll be called forever?” “We have to decide now on what word will come out of our mouths a hundred times a day?”
We wanted unique, but not weird. Meaningful, but how? Based on a family name? A Biblical name? An Irish name? A place we love? A book we love? A definition we love? Does it go with our last name and our other kid(s) names? What social connotations does it have? Does it have good nicknames? And what if we both don’t agree? Sheesh.
Sure, plenty of people just like a name and go with it, simple as that. But the name choosing process at our house is a long one. We include friends and family in the conversation and even though input is sometimes hard to manage, we like it. Toward the end of my first pregnancy, I was still working at Forest Home and the white board near my office became a baby name brainstorming board. This was an ongoing summer-long list that included LOTS of good and ridiculous suggestions (none of which we chose, but still helpful to our process.)
Regardless of how you get there, it’s a big responsibility to name a person. The name we are given marks our place in the world, so to speak. It identifies us and becomes part of us. It’s the embroidery on our baby blanket, the letters above our bed and the first word we learn to write. It is legal and official and is forever connected to who we are and what we do.
My husband and I had just begun seriously talking about names for our baby boy when he died in my womb at 16 weeks. We had just seen him on ultrasound 4 days prior (and learned that he was a boy) and were happy to see his strong heartbeat. Something went wrong in those few days and we don’t know what. We loved him already and saying goodbye to him was incredibly difficult. Today is the day we marked on our calendars and shared with friends and family that we were expecting his arrival.
Not having carried him these past 6 months, it seems unbelievable that he would be fully formed and ready for the world now. Since we never held him in our arms, there are times that he hardly seems real. Some days I feel like he’s missing and other days I forget that he was ever part of our family. Since he is not kicking my ribs and we aren’t preparing a space for him, the days go on sometimes as though he never was. I hate that.
But he is real and we want to help mark his place in the world. We need a language to talk about him to remind us that he is part of our family story and that his little life has big significance. He needs a name.
Choosing a name for a child that we won’t get to raise has been hard. Name popularity charts and potential nicknames weren’t part of the discussion. Asking for input from others didn’t seem natural. Instead the focus has been on finding a name with meaning. One that will remind us of what God was doing in our hearts during this season.
This pregnancy was almost all hard. 98 out of 112 days I spent curled up at home, too sick to function. And then as soon as the nausea began to lift, he was gone. But as is always the case, it has been important to reach beyond the hard and look for the golden threads. Somehow woven into those painful days was evidence that God was sustaining us, teaching us, deepening us and lavishing His love on us. He has been doing what He always does- bringing beauty from ashes. Like this field I drive by almost every day that was burned last year in a wildfire; the charred places are still there but new life is fighting to rise up.
The theme of our season has been that God is worthy of our praise. Even when we don’t understand, He is still good. Even when we can’t manage, He is still strong. Even when we are broken inside, His love is still whole.
We named our son Judah because it means I will praise the Lord. Judah may have had a very short life, but he will be a life-long reminder that our God is faithful, true and worthy to be praised.