I had three wonderful girls names picked out. The only thing missing were daughters to give them to.


Goodbye Girls' (Names)

“It’s a girl!” the doctor cried after the gazillionth push.

My arms reached out to welcome my firstborn, a skinny chicken of a child, who immediately soaked my chest with her inaugural pee. The nurse turned my daughter onto her back to face me, and the arc of urine shot upwards.

“Oops, no. It’s a boy.”

I felt as if I had been hit by a truck. A very large truck. There were so many layers of shock, unidentifiable from each other. The fact that this baby came in July when the actual due date was end of August; my preeclamptic body swollen and unrecognizable; the exhaustion, the pain.

And, yes, the penis.

Ever since I was a girl, I have heard about the difference between sons and daughters. A son will walk down the aisle and away from you, I was told, but a daughter will be yours forever.

Yet as I kissed my dumpling boy for the first time, none of that entered into my mind. Circumcision care, preteen shaving instruction, the challenge of raising a male feminist. Those were the doubts pinging me left and right. Did I miss the daughter I had held for five seconds? Mourn the lack of a girl child? Worry that my nest would be emptier in some way 20 years from now? No, not at all.

I would be lying, however, if I said I didn’t miss Maya, the name we had so carefully chosen. Exotic, yet normal enough. Honoring not only my maternal great-grandfather, but Ms. Angelou. Who wouldn’t want their kid to be as strong and wise and confident as that phenomenal woman? For weeks, I introduced my baby boy to the world by saying “… and if he were a girl, he would have been Maya.”

Four years later, upon the birth of our second son, we silently whispered our goodbyes to Phoebe, the girl name we had picked that time around. Again, it wasn’t the little Mary Jane socks or tea parties that had me wistful. It was that radiant name, like a fine wine, pairing perfectly with pigtails and the corner office both.

And then came Sabine. As baby number three implanted in my uterus, that name burrowed its way into my heart. It would be Sabine who would complete our family’s trilogy. Until the gooey wand crawling across my abdomen showed otherwise.

Leading up to that sonogram, I had prepared myself for the possibility of never raising a girl. Bracing myself for some sadness, some loss. But the moment the sonographer pointed to that fuzzy, foreign genital and said, “Don’t worry, there’s a special place for you in heaven,” my husband and I burst out laughing. Statistics being what they are, we weren’t all that surprised we’d have yet another boy. What shocked me was that I was elated.

Yet … Sabine.

Girls’ names are easy. They can be pretty without being precious. Unique, yet free of schoolyard taunting. Each pregnancy, it was the girl’s name we agreed upon first, my husband and I falling head over heels in love with Maya, Phoebe, Sabine; all the while struggling with what we could possibly call the boys. And each birth, it was the girl’s name we woefully set free. The name. Only the name.

And what of the boys? The real live children we actually lost our hearts to?

Jacob Avram. Asher Myles. Zane Remer. Beautiful names filled with meaning. Meaning, I’ve discovered, that means nothing as my three sons, every day and on their own, define for themselves who they are and who they will be.

October, 2009