When it comes to this pregnancy, there are some things I’m completely sure about. Not to say that I’m inflexible about changing my mind in the heat of the moment, but for now, I know that I want a natural childbirth, to labor at home for as long as possible before going to the hospital, and to make all the mandatory baby purchases in my ninth month so as not to jinx the pregnancy. On the other hand, I have no freaking clue what to name our baby.
It’s kind of nerve-wracking having to come up with a name that will pass the resume screen test, that will make the child feel good about themselves, and that won’t irritate me after yelling it out repeatedly. There is so much pressure, from others and from myself, to come up with the perfect baby name! I do know, however, that I won’t be turning to strangers for advice.
I always imagined that my babies would have Hindu names just like I do, something that can make them feel more connected to their culture despite being enmeshed in a very western lifestyle. So the first thing I did was order a book of Hindu names off of Amazon. It didn’t take me long to get through the 500-page book, because so many of them were so easily rejectable.
All the book got me was closer to what NOT to name my baby. Like Aryan for a boy – I actually really like this name but living in the U.S. that name is just not going to fly. I don’t want to raise a skinhead. Then there are the Hindu names I can’t help but giggle at like Haha, the son of a God, or Kaka, a crow or Adam’s apple.
The one name from that collection I kind of dig is Bodhi because I like the connection to the Bodhi tree that Buddha sat under to achieve enlightenment, but I definitely got schooled because I always thought it was a boy’s name and it’s actually a girl’s name! It sounds really strange for a girl, and also since I live in the San Francisco Bay Area my Bodhi would have to compete with all the other Bodhis running around Berkeley with their hippie parents.
After the book failed to lead me to even one name I could add to my list, I turned to online databases. The problem is, there are so many that I can’t even get halfway through the B’s on any site without closing my browser in boredom. There’s no way I can get through the alphabet, so I pick random letters to search – I’m drawn to A, D, N and S. But now I’m overwhelmed not by the number of names but by the number of syllables. Clearly, Indian parents back in the day never did the Yell Test for some of these. I try one for kicks and scream Sitalaprasada in a very mom voice across the house. Fail.
I come up with a brilliant plan to search Facebook next. At first I’m just looking at my own friend’s list, but I think it would be weird to name my baby after a friend. So then I pick some key social butterflies who I know have lots of Indian friends. One friend has 1000 people on her friends list! I go through them and bingo – there are a couple to add to the list. I click on randoms on her list and look through their lists. This becomes a rabbit hole of Indian baby names but at least for the most part they are modern and not more than three syllables. I end up adding ten names to my list after an hour.
You must be wondering where my husband is in all of this. He’s a little slower about searching for names so he’s only added one name to the list that he came up with on his own. He did veto a few of mine (fair enough, I’ll do the same to him), and he also told me he really loves my name the most. I’m not so into naming children after myself but I’m open. Maybe a middle name?
Then my husband reminds me of a tradition in his culture whereby the child’s middle name is taken from the father’s first name. So my husband’s middle name is his father’s and my sister-in-law’s middle name is also her father’s. I like the idea of honoring and feeling connected to family members. And I’d like to think that I’m open and gender bending but a boy’s name for a girl’s middle name? Just, no! It makes me sad that the mother in his culture doesn’t get to pass along anything, not her first or last name, even to her daughter. It’s like she disappears.
I’m still in my fifth month of pregnancy, so maybe it’s too early to stress about finding the perfect name. Instead I can just focus on a nickname. The last time I was pregnant we nicknamed the baby Bean because it looked like a kidney bean during the ultrasound. After I had a miscarriage, I’ve been a lot more superstitious this time around so my “safe” nickname for our little one is Fetus. It started out because I didn’t want to get my hopes up, and I was so used to calling it that I couldn’t switch over to Peanut or Munchkin after the first trimester.
Halfway through my pregnancy I’m finally allowing myself to believe that Fetus will stick around and be my beautiful new child. My husband keeps telling me I’ll have to stop calling it Fetus after it’s born because it obviously won’t be a fetus anymore. But it’s a proper name now! I’ll only drop it if I can come up with the perfect name, so I better get back to my search.
(Image: getty images)