I spent years laughing at the episode. The episode of “Friends” in which Chandler’s co-worker calls him “Toby” and has for years, because once he started it was too awkward to correct the error, so Chandler just kept allowing it…until it got complicated.
I spent years laughing at it, that is until it actually happened to me. That’s right, the owner and primary worker at the Curves where I work out regularly started calling me “Katrina.” I thought I’d corrected her but she kept at it; and though I made sure that the other employees there knew my real name in the hopes that when they left notes or talked about me, she’d catch on. But no. I remained “Katrina” for years! Finally, when she looked at the computer and announced to me that she’d spelled my name wrong, and then proceeded to spell it out loud, correctly, I finally told her that “K-a-t-e-r-i” is actually my name. Then in front of the whole group of women also exercising at that time, we practiced its pronunciation. I think she may have it down now…hopefully.
But it really got me thinking about what is in a name. Why did it bother me so much to be called something different? Why did I want so badly to be called by my name, a name that is truly me?
My name is important to me, and always has been. Growing up I was “Kati,” a name which still has a lot of family value for me. But as I got into my late teens, and especially in college, I really started identifying myself more with my full name, “Kateri” – a name with a lot of value of its own, value I wanted to be mine. I loved that my name meant something to me and called me to something more. Every time I hear or say my name, I am think of my patron St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and am reminded to be a saint, to live for something bigger than myself.
That, in a very brief nutshell, is what my name means to me. So when it came time to name our soon-to-be-born children, I really struggled. I knew how valuable the right name could be (and being called “Katrina” for years has reminded me of how frustrating the wrong name can be). I knew how important it was that the name we give our children be names that fit them and their unique selves, but also that form them and call them into something. Hopefully something beautiful.
It’s too soon to tell for sure if we did our children’s naming well, though I’d like to think that so far at least our little ones certainly fit their names (Adrian Donald the “gentle leader,” Lilly Elizabeth the “strong woman, promise of GOD,” and Layla Josephine the “dark beauty, increase of GOD”). I’d like to think we named all of our children well – all five of them.
Our first baby was the easiest to name. We had a name all picked out for her. But then came May of 2009, when we found out that our 12 week in-utero baby no longer had a heartbeat. And for a while, my heart stopped too. It is hard to describe how much it hurts, missing someone you never knew. And yet, as a mother, somehow I already did know my little one. I knew in my heart, though no ultrasounds had shown us yet, that it was a little girl. I knew in my heart that she was going to be sweet and beautiful. I knew in my heart that she would be daddy’s little girl. I knew in my heart that she would be loved. And it broke me that I never got to prove my heart right, by sharing her with the world! And so, my heart stopped. It stopped being joyful, it stopped being happy, it stopped being hopeful….until it came time to give our baby a name.
And in this first naming experience, I did not struggle. Somehow, along with all I knew in my heart about her, we both knew in our hearts what our daughter’s name was:
Esperanza is the Spanish word for “hope.” And though it was not the name we had picked out for her originally, this name fit her. And this name has made her into something so much greater than just herself. Through her name, my daughter helped me find hope again, and eventually along with it joy and happiness after that very dark period in my life. Through her name, my little angel has helped me remain hopeful in so many other areas, including future dark periods, of my life – and especially in my motherhood. Through her name, my daughter is hope and brings hope and makes me want to be hope. She is, in my heart and in how she lives on in my life, something beautiful. And so with her, I know we did her naming very well.
It’s amazing all that can be in a name – the right name at least.
October 15 is a day very near and dear to my heart. Unlike Christmas, Halloween or my husband’s birthday, this one is not a holiday I look forward to, yet one that since that difficult May of 2009 has become a day always marked on my calendar…and more permanently, on my heart. October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Honored in multiple countries, including the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and Italy, the day strives to raise awareness as well as lift up those who have suffered this loss. It is marked by an “international wave of light,” in which all are invited to light a candle in honor of the precious lives lost at 7:00pm local time – allowing the light to flow across the time zones, nation and world.
Since losing Esperanza, my husband and I have had three beautiful, healthy children; three lives bookmarked by yet another miscarriage, suffered just a few months ago. Many of my dear family and friends have also lost their babies, along with countless more acquaintances and strangers (an estimated one in four), who have lost their children to miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS or other far too early ends to their precious little ones’ lives in this world. For all you women and men out there who have lost your babies, at any stage too early, please know that my prayers are with you on this special day.
Prayers for Hope!