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Putting a name on things is tricky.
I remember when we named our cat. She had come to us through such a random set of circumstances. At the time we were living at Annamarie's parents house, along with her brother, an electrician. He was working out at a quarry somewhere over the other side of town, and one day at work he discovered a little black kitten hiding out under his van. The next door neighbours had a little black kitten, so he "naturally assumed" it had stowed away and come across town with him. He and his workmates coaxed it into the vehicle, and he brought the cat home - at which point the neighbours' kitten ran out onto the driveway . . .
Having successfully executed the theft of Quarry Cat, my brother-in-law did the next natural thing for a guy in his early twenties - he ignored the problem. It wasn't until several days later, when Annamarie spotted it hiding in the long grass out front, that we realised it existed. She squeezed the story out of her brother, and we temped the cat inside with a can of tuna. She had no identifying tags, and she didn't seem to want to leave, so we kept her.
After a couple of days, we figured we should probably call her something. We tossed around a few suggestions but our favourite was Malarkey. Don't ask me why, don't ask me what it meant - but I really liked it. Which didn't matter, because of course I'm not in charge. Annamarie's Mum thought Malarkey was a "dumb name for a cat" and "what does that mean anyway"? She took to calling it "Larkey" in protest, and over time that slowly morphed into "Lucky". I held the line on Malarkey for a while, but eventually I had to admit defeat.
The odd thing is that now when we're asked about the cat's name, Annamarie tells this story about how she was "lucky to find us" and everyone marvels at our ironic wit, calling a black cat "Lucky". Of course I don't correct her, because this is a much smoother cocktail story than getting overruled by your Mother-in-Law (note - I actually get on really well with my mother-in-law, in spite of this incident, and I assume she likes me, or at least she hasn't kicked me out of the family yet).
So, my point is, naming things is a strange business. Once you put a label on something, it changes the thing, both in your mind and in the minds of everyone else around you. So when we lost our baby at 16 weeks, we weren't sure if giving her a name was the right thing to do. What's more, when we lost her, we didn't know she was a "her", and we had no guarantee that the post-mortem tests would give us a conclusive answer on that front. In the end, we did find out she was a she - but more on that another time.
We had pretty much decided on what we would name a baby girl if we were ever to have one. But should we use that? What if we had another child in future (although that was not on our radar at all at the time)? Besides, it didn't feel quite right to name a baby we'd never even had the chance to meet.
During our previous pregnancy with Sam, we had referred to him as "L.J." before we decided on a final name. We had done something similar with this pregnancy, referring to the baby as "our little Troublemaker", based on the amount of hassle she was causing for Annamarie and her health. Yes, we know - we are dark humour geniuses. This felt like the most natural name to us, but you can't mourn a "Troublemaker" - and that dark humour would have run its course pretty quick.
At the same time, it didn't feel right to leave our baby without any sort of name. She had existed, she was a part of our story, she'd had a massive impact on our lives. Sam needed something to call her. We needed some way to talk about her.
In the end we landed on " Baby T.J.", for no reason other than it felt right to us. We shared it with Sam, and it's a name he's continued to use to talk about the experience. We shared it with our family, we shared it with the funeral director who helped us with her remembrance service. It felt weird to name her at first, but now it feels completely natural, like another part of the journey, and like a true part of our family.
I was convinced that Troublemaker was a boy. CON-VINCED. And when we lost her, I felt we needed an identity - not an "it" and I needed to stop referring to the baby as "him". It felt, I don't know, more real to give the baby an identity - someone to mourn. But at the same time, I felt like waiting 6 weeks to find out the gender & then reveal a proper name felt a bit ridiculous, overkill. So when Nick suggested continuing to call it Troublemaker, I immediately said yes.
In all honesty, had we known at the time she was a girl her name would have been Ella Patricia. Patricia after Nick's amazing Aunt, a woman who is incredibly special to both of us (and incidentally performed the ceremony to marry us). We knew from before we conceived Sam that a girl would be named such. Ella Fitzgerald and Aunty Pat - a formidable combination in a name. Sam, however, was a much harder kid to name. There wasn't a lot of agreement on his name - much debate until the end, but of course, as is often the case, the person carrying & delivering the baby gets the power of veto. And he really is a true little Sam - Sammy J, Sam the Man. His name is perfect. And likewise, T.J's name is perfect.
Sam likes to tell people, in a matter-of-fact tone, that Mum "grew two babies - me and Baby T.J, but she died, hey Mum?". Sam and T.J. Maybe better than Sam and Ella? (Salmonella!! Ha, maybe things do happen for a reason after all)
We were encouraged by the professionals we met with after our loss to give the baby a name. Not pushed - everyone was very clear that we should do what we felt was right - but I certainly got the impression it was considered the "healthy" thing to do. By this stage we'd already made the decision to give our baby girl a name, so it didn't have too much influence on us - but it's always interesting to see the "experts" opinions shining through, even when they're trying to suppress them.
Because I'm a big fat nerd, I've tried to do a bit of reading on the topic, whether there are benefits one way or the other to naming a lost one. If this is a choice you're struggling with, I've got news - there is no news. There's a lot of interesting stuff out there about how various cultures choose names for their babies. This article offers a first person perspective from a number of interesting places - Argentina, India, Poland - but I couldn't find any formal studies or anything to indicate whether putting a name on your grief made things easier or harder. Which I suppose is to be expected - as with all grief, there are no ready made answers.
I think in the end this just one of those choices that's very personal, and wrapped up in a whole lot of other stuff that's part of your own journey. For us, having been through such a massive ordeal with Annamarie's health, it didn't feel right that this thing, this little troublemaker, wouldn't be called something. For others, that might be different. It doesn't diminish your grief or make you love them less just because you don't want to give them a name. I have a friend who waited 3 months to name one of her (living) kids - it was so long that they got a letter from the government giving them a hurry up. Do you think she loved that child any less in those 3 months? I very much doubt it.
Just do what feels right. It's a cliche, but the more I learn about life, the more I find that cliches exist for a reason. They've only hung around so long because there's a kernel of truth in there somewhere. So do what feels right, and (I think this is the hard bit) don't let others' opinions or "you should"s make you feel any less justified in doing so. The grief, the love, the heartache belongs to you. Call it what you want.
We are a family of 3. This blog is the story of how we almost became 4, why we didn’t, and what we are doing to recover from that experience.