Naming number two

When it came to naming Sierra, the choice was easy. I had an affinity for the name for a while, thanks to a song by the same name by one of my favorite bands, Cursive. I thought “Sierra” was beautiful. Original enough to be creative, but not so out-there to be weird. I mentioned it as a name to Kerrie, and she agreed, without any doubt. We knew that “Sierra” would be our girl’s name.

Sure, it’s not as original as I had thought – it was in the to 100 for baby names in the mid 2000’s, though it’s been dropping in recent years – and there’s always that damned GMC behemoth, but all in all I still think it’s perfect. I can’t imagine her being called anything else but Sierra.

Nothing else would fit.

Thankfully, we had a girl.

I say thankfully because, well, we never really managed to nail down a suitable boy name. They were all just “okay.” We had several chosen, ready to anoint upon birth, not knowing what the final answer would be until seeing Baby Boy Vilhauer for the first time. And, again, thankfully, we didn’t need to make that decision.

Which brings us to today.

For us, it seems as though girl names are infinitely easier to choose. We’ve already got a girl name picked out – a beautiful name that harmonizes with Sierra and sounds nearly classical with Vilhauer. First and middle name. Chosen. Done and done.

But for a boy? Nothing.

I think of this because we have an appointment today for an ultrasound. The ultrasound where we can discover the gender of the baby. The ultrasound where we could, if so moved, determine what our future will hold – a couple of beaming girls or a pair better suited for mixed doubles.

We’re not quite sure if we want to find out. Why spoil the surprise, right?

One reason is the name. What if it’s a boy? What if this perfect girl name is trashed in the name of an extra Y chromosome? And, what then?

Boy names are by nature more difficult. Clever names seem too cutesy, and the typical seem so generic. I wasn’t a typical boy growing up – as in, I wasn’t tied to cars and sports and the other things boys are expected to discover and latch onto – so I’m not sure what a name is supposed to represent. I was named after my father’s dog, after all. True story.

It’s been mentioned hundreds of times before, of course – a name is more than a word. It’s an identity that sticks with a child for his or her entire life, from birth until adulthood, along for the ride, written and mispronounced and branded onto every item that he or she encounters throughout every single stage of growing up.

And I think that makes the decision so important. I wonder what goes though the minds of those that use child names as some kind of personal fantasy, as some kind of joke or reaffirmation of ideals. I wonder why a Miami Dolphins fan would name their kid “Phin,” or why someone who was enamored with marijuana would name their little girl “Sweet Leaf.”

We hope that Sierra finds the beauty in her name as she grows up. We hope she understands every aspect of the word – the naturalness and creativity, and the historical aspect of her middle name: Dawn, a female version of my grandfather’s name, Don.

And we hope that, no matter what happens, Baby #2 finds joy in his or her name. Because it’s important. We realize that.

That’s what makes the decision so difficult.

This was lovingly handwritten on January 27th, 2009