We named our baby Mabel Cleary. I have played around with baby names for years. I think it’s an occupational hazard. I witness so many people choose the lifelong names of their children and some are beautiful and some make me cringe. Some do both at the same time. The really popular names these days are really quite beautiful but hearing them over and over again make me cringe a bit. And so I’ve always wanted a name for out baby that’s not too popular. In my 16 person midwifery class there were 4 Jessicas and 2 Meg(h)ans., which demonstrated how popular names of a generation can cause some difficulty. We had to come up with nicknames for each of the Jessicas just so we could differentiate who we were talking about.
I’ve also had many patients tell me their children’s names before they were born. I’ve gotten good at having a pleasant response even when the name is quite jarring. I’ve had patients tell me stories about how when they announced their baby’s name prenatally, they got some negative reactions. I didn’t want that for my baby. I did not want to feel pressure or judgment about a name that I painstakingly chose, so we kept our baby names a secret.
We had a girl’s names at the time of my positive pregnancy test. It wasn’t Mabel. I looked up the meaning of the chosen name when I became pregnant and found that it meant unfortunate. I told Chris and we debated whether it was fair to call a baby a name we really liked but had such an unfortunate meaning. When we found out our baby would have Down Syndrome, we totally scrapped the name- it didn’t seem fair. So we played around with a few more. We had a few boys names we really liked- including one that meant lucky. But when we discovered I had low fluid and our baby’s prognosis was poor, we didn’t feel right about that name either.
One good thing that came out of the oligohydramnios diagnosis was it lit a fire under our feet to settle on some names. We chose Caleb Odom for a boy. Caleb meant loyal or faithful and Odom is a family name on Chris’s side. I liked the meaning of Caleb because I was hoping my baby would be loyal and stick around through the pregnancy. I was faithful to the idea that my baby might survive. Caleb sounded right with our last name. The name was on my list before we even found out about the Down Syndrome and when that was discovered, I could just picture our son with Down Syndrome named Caleb. Though we really love the name Caleb, I won’t likely use it for a future baby. Caleb was this baby’s name. I liked Mabel because I like old fashioned sounding names. And when I learned that Mabel means lovable, I thought it fit perfectly. Cleary is a family name on my side. I like names that have meaning or significance.
One week before Mabel was born, I was reading “An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination,” by Elizabeth McCracken. I’ve written about this book before because it really resonated with me. It’s a memoir of a woman who has a stillbirth with her first and then goes on to have another baby. I was reading this while I was pregnant, but I don’t recommend the book to those who are expecting. It’s about stillbirth, which no woman should have to think about in pregnancy. But my midwife had given it to me because she would listen to me talk about my fears and feelings and heard me echoing many things this book described. I am very glad she did- I identified with the uncertainty the author felt in her second pregnancy, when there were no longer “whens” but many more “ifs.” I also could relate to the grief she felt after the loss of her first. I hadn’t lost my baby yet, but I was already grieving the potential loss. I found the book so helpful because it validated so many of my feelings (and still does). And then six days before I had Mabel, I was reading the book as I was in bed during the only night Chris didn’t stay with me in the hospital. The author hadn’t learned the gender of her second baby and was playing around with names. She didn’t come up with a boy’s name, but she and her husband decided on a girl’s name- Mabel. I had to put the book down. We had already chosen the name Mabel and it just felt so intense. I had already felt so connected to the book, I couldn’t believe she had chosen our name too. The author goes on to have a boy- so I wasn’t sure if that meant we were to have a boy like her or if it meant we were to have a girl because of the shared names. The next day I was watching Downton Abbey and a small character named Mabel was mentioned. I never really believed in “signs” before, but looking back, the universe was trying to tell me something.
That is the story of how Mabel became Mabel. She was loved from the start and has truly lived up to her name, as my lovable daughter.