Sarah and I have had baby names picked out since before we were even married. I think she brought it up on our third date. We haven’t told anyone what they are, but they are classic, timeless Jewish names that call to mind centuries of history and heroics and pay homage to various beloved family members. Trouble is, everyone else in America suddenly started picking these names. In short, the names have become the one thing you don’t your name to be: trendy.
The good news is in five months the names we’ve chosen will most likely be so in that they’re out again, while all those MacKenzies and Jaydens and Madisons will someday be adults named MacKenzie, Jayden, and Madison. “Don’t cut your fabric to this year’s fashion,” Gene Hackman used to say in interviews. I always loved that advice. No wonder the guy has managed to remain famous for 40 years without much in the way of hair.
Our friends want to know what names we’re considering. They’ve begun guessing, and they’re getting dangerously close. I have no poker face, so I usually interrupt and offer up oblique clues like, “If we have a boy, his name will mean, approximately, ‘Held by the heel from the great well.’” Then I change the subject.
If we have second thoughts about our names, I found a web site that I thought would help. It helps you select your child’s name by choosing from various categories (carefree, independent, strong, etc.). When I tried it, first it told us that if we had a girl she should be named Chelsea. Then it changed its mind and suggested Adrienne. Both fine names, if you’re a Yorkshire Terrier. (If you’re named Chelsea or Adrienne, no offense. And by the way: woof, woof.) When it suggested Vernona, which I didn’t even know was a name, I gave up and moved on to boy names.
I tried it several times, and the name generator suddenly got stubborn, repeatedly insisting on . . . Marsellus. Marsellus? All I could think of was Ving Rhames in Pulp Fiction, the guy who said things like, “I’m gonna get medieval on your ass.” I suspect he was not Jewish. After 10 minutes of pushing Marsellus on me, the site finally gave in and said Clifford or Seth would also be OK, but I suspect that was just to get rid of me.
As for Chelsea/Adrienne/Marsellus/Clifford, its eyelids are still sealed, it’s roughly the size of a nine-inch nail, and it weighs about a pound. It kicks, punches, grabs the umbilical cord, and does other things that are illegal in most sanctioned boxing matches. And it can probably hear what’s going on outside the womb, provided that Mike Tyson hasn’t been anywhere near its ear.
Sarah has been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, occasional painless tightening of the uterus that last 45 seconds or so. Some people call it “false labor,” but it’s not nearly that dramatic. According to my research, totally natural and nothing to sweat. I’ve taken to drawing her a warm bath and tellling her about John Braxton Hicks, an English doctor in the 19th century who, when he wasn’t writing about things like cervixes and fundus, was reportedly a brilliant oarsman.
The baby is halfway cooked, which means a few things. For one, all its organs and structures are formed and, hopefully, functioning. And if that’s a girl in there, she’s got the beginnings of a uterus and vagina—and her ovaries are already carrying roughly six million eggs. And it seems like just yesterday that she was a shapeless globule with webbed fingers. Ah, they grow up so fast.