Friday, July 22, 2016

Sarah Lamar: Naming Our Sister Baby

Sarah Lamar. Our Sallie Girl.
I can't believe she was alive in the world for five hours before she had a name. Once it was settled I couldn't imagine her as anything else. Of course, our plan  is to go back and forth between Sallie and Sarah Lamar until she tells us she has a preference, just like we did with Annie (even though I know it's not quite as seamless). I know some people probably think her double name is weird and they can call her Sallie (or Daisy, Avacado, or Sister ) exclusively and I won't mind one bit but I love her real name with all my heart. I think it's a little quirky and Southern style while being genuinely pretty and classic. It's also incredibly special because she's the fourth in successive generations of Sarahs (me, Minnie, and my grandmother who was truly one of my best friends) and the fourth in successive generations of Lamars (Peyton, his daddy, and his grandfather). Clearly, Minnie and my father in law are some of the most special people we know but Bump and PopPop were some of the very biggest influences in our young lives and we carry so much we learned from them into our lives now so it feels so perfect to honor them in this way. I cannot wait to tell her about their strong legacies of hard work, tenacity, faith, spunk, overwhelming love for their spouses and children, humor, and integrity. As far as Sallie, I knew I HAD to pick a name with a cute diminutive and when I realized not only the "ie" but the double consonant (linguistic nerd, sorry!) matched Annie's name it seemed beyond perfect. I love that it's "cutesy" but also a little old-fashioned.

And it fits her SO well.

Names have such strong connotations. Several of my teacher friends had such a hard time with them because of knowing a million kids with every name. And Minnie originally told me she thought of a graveyard when she heard Graves's name. Where did I get my lack of a filter, you ask.

I have a baby names book and one of my favorite features is that it tells who/what image the name brings to mind for most people. See: Lamar. Peyton's grandfather's name was Clarence Lamar. For me, Clarence brings to mind Clarence from The E Street Band and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. A strong, intelligent, handsome black man. Pssst...a secret. If we ever adopted transracially and ended up with an infant boy, I'm pretty sure he'd be our Clarence .

A friend of mine told me the other day that every time I mention our girl she thinks of Sally Brown, Charlie's sister. I never realized it, but this too, is how I picture a Sallie. Our Sallie will likely be a bit darker featured but I associate it with a happy little sunshine person and always the color yellow. I really wanted something that was cute, but classic- not something that felt trendy. It's funny because several people have mentioned how Sallie seems like an old-fashioned name, which I love, but hadn't realized the extent of. I think Sallie/Sally is less common that I realized. I must have known a disproportionate amount of Sallys growing up!

I've been thinking back a lot over our first few days with Sarah Lamar and one of the most special moments was finally, decisively, settling on her name. The more I think about it the more I realize that there are things about her birth and first few hours of life that I wish were different but I told Peyton that, as long as it took us to pick her name, there are not a lot of things I've ever felt so sure about in my life. I know that sounds downright stupid in a way. I mean, it's not an issue of eternal significance. But I second guess myself most of the time, replay every situation, and analyze things to death. But I haven't with this. Not once. And that feels like a gift. To be able to just rest in something and enjoy it.

Much like her very babyhood. As I've said, she is such a gift and for the most part, I've been able to just soak it all up.

It gives me such pleasure just to say her little name and think on it and the person who will carry it for years and years. These days, I think Sarah Lamar is just such a pretty name and I just love hearing myself- and other people- say it ( which is terribly funny because P and I both hated his middle name- Lamar- for as long as I can remember). And, as Carrie says, she is a Sallie "through and through".

Some things are harder to let go than others and if I never get to name another baby, I think I'll be okay because I enjoyed the process so fully and so completely this time and I'm so satisfied with the result.

As far as that process, we talked about her name for months and months and I thought about it a lot more than we talked about it. It was a huge thing on my mind and I actually really enjoyed not having it nailed down. We knew we were going to keep it a secret anyway and it was fun that for a long time, it was sort of like it was a secret from myself. With Annie, we had her named before we even got married and then when I got pregnant with Graves, it was more of a process, but we settled on his name pretty early after finding out he was a boy. I really, really loved just thinking about and talking about this baby's name so much. I loved that she was "Sister Baby" to the world and to us.

Whenever Peyton seemed like he was over the name conversation for a bit, I'd turn to Carrie and gosh, she was patient with me about it. I wonder how many discussions we had on it over those months? She was truly a pivotal player. Haha. When I finally did start getting pretty anxious she told me "Make a list and scratch out any of them that EITHER of you don't like"-- seems pretty common sense but I clearly needed some advising on this process. We ended up doing that one night at the dinner table with Annie and Graves.

I remember one of the last conversations I had with Carrie about the name after Peyton and I had narrowed it down to our top three. I was texting her from the OB and we had been talking about it for half an hour probably and I was fretting about if it was too weird and she texted: I think most people will be surprised and it might have to grow on them. Although maybe not, because that's such a Southern thing- to take a man's name that nobody really likes and use it for a girl as part of a double name. And then everyone loves that name. Haha.

I screenshot it because a) best friend honesty b) analysis on point c) it was just hysterical to me for some reason.

I really think that was the point that I knew in my heart it was Sarah Lamar. And I think that was the point she knew, too. Which is, in retrospect, really special to me. She wasn't at the birth (and as I've said, I'm beyond okay with that!) but I'm sort of glad she did really play a big part in the endless conversations about this baby's name.

My dad was texting me at the same time about some different options and when I told him about Sarah Lamar he said "It's just so pretty". I could hear him saying it and it almost brought tears to my eyes. He has this sweet, sensitive side that I never knew until I saw him with his grandchildren and it stirs up so much in my heart and I could just hear him saying that in this soft voice. And then Carrie's text really solidified it, too. As much as I was worried about everyone thinking the name was nuts, I hadn't even thought of it as falling in line with a long tradition of Southern people who have named their daughters using last names and maiden names and men's names and all kinds of things to form a unique double name and the idea really appealed to me. My dad also mentioned that Annie, Bud, and Sallie sounded so cute together and that was one of my hang ups with another name I really liked. I feel like Ann Peyton, Graves Jackson, and Sarah Lamar sound really pretty together and them being a cohesive unit was important to me. Those two conversations didn't make my decision, but they did help me feel very affirmed in going with something that felt a little risky at first.

So...the list. First of all, years ago after Graves was born I really thought that if we had another girl it would be Francis Ruth or Sarah Ellis and we'd go back and forth between the double name and Francie or Sallie, respectively. [Sarah, Ruth, and Francis are all family names and for those that know me well, Ellis might as well be and Francie is the main character in my favorite book.] Well, I have a friend that very recently had a Sarah Ellis and I have a best friend that has a Francie. Back when the Howies were in the adoption process, Carrie talked to me about using the name and I told her to go right ahead. At that point, Peyton and I really thought we were likely done with biological children ourselves and I had very little hope I'd ever get to name another baby. Plus, we knew if it did happen it would be a good ways down the road and we might have a boy. And Carrie assured me that if I wanted to keep the name on the table, she wouldn't care one bit. As time went on, I ended up deciding I was really glad we did take it off the table because the Francis in my family is not someone we were particularly close to and thus far, with Annie and Graves's names we had used only names of people who were incredibly special to us.

Anyway, at one point, after we found out the baby was a girl, I made a huge master list. These were all our name combinations that I liked:

The other name that Peyton and I loved was Vaida. It was my grandmother's mother's name. But I couldn't figure out a middle name I like and I certainly couldn't figure out how to twist it into a double name. And besides that, not only did I not know her personally, my mom didn't seem particularly fond of this woman and actually Bump, whos momma she was, really hadn't seemed to have much for her (she told Minnie that she told the maid about her first kiss instead of her own mother).

We also added a few (Lucy, Daisy, and Ava) that weren't family names but in the end I just couldn't go there.

About a month before the baby was born, my mom had suggested the name Lamar Mayfield and call her Ellie (like "L-ie", but spelled Ellie). I thought that was a bit of a stretch and kind of strange. Frankly, I was surprised Minnie had come up with something so quirky and unusual. But I guess I shouldn't be (see: Sarah Denley).

I talked that one over with Carrie, even though Peyton had nothing for it. Carrie pointed out that a) Peyton and I both always hated the name Lamar and b) Lamar just seems a little weird for a first name for a little girl. I reminded her of Denley and Whitten and she said she thought it was different since those were mine and Cookie's middle names, even if I did go by Denley at some points in my life.

A few weeks before she was born, we narrowed it down a good bit. Our top contenders were Vaida and Liza May. I can't remember exactly how it happened (I so wish I could!) but we were discussing Lamar Mayfield again and Peyton suggested Sarah Lamar. He had often said he wanted to use Sarah and deep down I did too but I never found anything I felt like it was unique enough with. I love Ann Peyton's name but I really prefer Annie because her double name is not quite unusual enough for me these days. Not that Annie is just unheard of, but I just think it's more...original? Even though it's clearly more common than Ann Peyton. I guess because separately Ann and Peyton are pretty common and also I ended up knowing an Anna Peyton and knowing of another Ann Peyton and I don't know, good grief that was a tangent. Also, I wasn't one hundred percent sure I thought Sallie was the cutest of the nicknames we were considering.

So, basically we had it down to those three. I talked to Minnie, Mickey, Cookie, Carrie, and Ellis about it. Literally all of them "voted" for Sarah Lamar.

But...I told myself I would not be swayed by public opinion =)

Backing up, when we decided to go back to the drawing board (before I was even pregnant) I was thinking about family names and a name combination that had never occurred to me before came to mind. I thought if we had a girl we could name her Elizabeth Mayfield (after Peyton's sister and my grandmother whose maiden name was Mayfield) and call her Liza May. I was absolutely obsessed with it for awhile. LLOVED Liza and I LOVED May and I loved them so, so much together. Peyton never fully got on board but he wasn't opposed. When we did find out the baby was a girl, I was pretty sure that was her name. I fell more and more in love with it throughout the pregnancy but I also felt a lot of peace about leaving our options open.

I'm not going to lie, it was hard for me to let it go. I thought about it for days leading up to the birth. I just couldn't really decide, even though I knew Peyton's preference was Sarah Lamar, I also knew he'd probably defer to me on this if I pressed him.

I didn't tell Peyton, but I really came to peace with Sarah Lamar a few days before she was born. It was the last thing I desperately wanted to have mentally settled before I went into labor. I gave myself the option to revisit other names in the delivery room and Peyton and I purposefully left it open ended, but I felt confident in it.

Fear of regret is a big motivation for me, I've realized. When we were picking Sarah Lamar's name, it's finally what helped me decide. Truthfully, even in those last days, I was more "drawn" to Liza May, the name I'd been in love with for much of the pregnancy, but I knew in my heart I would have regrets about not naming her Sarah Lamar, regrets I wouldn't have about not using Liza May. That's what really helped me finally decide. I forced myself to look at it ten days, ten months, and ten years down the road and tried to take a long view. I knew I might grieve Liza May at two weeks out and at a year I might still question my decision but when I thought about being a decade out, I realized I would probably be much more content with Sarah Lamar.

Mostly, I think I prefer it because it's so significant. Not that Elizabeth Mayfield wouldn't have been special, but Sarah Lamar is just so meaningful because it honors two people who were incredibly influential in mine and Peyton's formative years. Secondly, it feels more traditional and not as cutesy. And while Liza May is debatabley cuter than Sallie (I mean, I don't think it is but I think it's debatable), Elizabeth Mayfield is not as pretty to me as Sarah Lamar. And Carrie also mentioned that if I went with Liza May and she decided she wanted something more formal, she'd likely go with Elizabeth and asked me how I felt about that. I think Elizabeth is a pretty name and I adore my sister in law but I really wanted this baby to have a functional double name that wasn't a nickname and ain't nobody gonna go by "Elizabeth Mayfield". The other struggle I had with it, as I mentioned above, is that I felt like it didn't really fit with the other two children's names and for (probably ridiculous) reasons that was important to me.

So back to where we were. We went to the hospital. We had a baby. It was a bit chaotic and out of control. We were tired. Five hours later she didn't have a name. P posted something on Facebook and I immediately had him jerk it down. I was a little peeved and I did not want anything out there until she had a name (at that point, only Carrie and our families knew she had arrived). So I was like "IT IS TIME. WE NEED TO NAME THIS BABY".  Peyton said "Let's go with Sarah Lamar". I asked about the other big contender and he shook his head and that was it. I felt very relieved. It was one of the most special moments, just the three of us there in that room, and it was so different from the naming of our other two.

This post was so SO analytical but that's so me and I'm glad I wrote it all out so I'll remember all those thoughts and feelings and can tell her about what a sweet gift it was to get to name one more baby years from now when she's thirty and naming her own little babykins.

This probably sounds weird and vain and I think it's a combination of things- how incredibly important names are to me and how long we waited to find the perfect name for our daughter (or how long we waited for it to find us)- but not a day has gone by that I haven't thought at least once about how much I love her name and how unbelievably perfect it is for our precious girl who was Sister Baby for so long.

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