Tales from the Trenches

Congratulations!...You Are New Parents!

by brenda maas

When I hear the word “newborn” my strange-working brain flashes an image of a black-and-white Hollywood movie in which the doctor slaps the baby’s rump, it wails and the new father lights a cigar. Obviously very different than how our children arrive today (thank goodness!). However, what strikes me most about that image is the focus on the status of fatherhood—of parenthood. From the moment of that baby’s first wail, two independent people come together as one unit: parents.

When our first son was born, my husband screamed, “It’s a boy! He has red hair and my first nose!” The first statement was exciting for several reasons: We chose to be surprised by the sex of our child—and stayed with that option through three pregnancies because to me, it’s like knowing what’s in the gift before you open it. The second statement, about his nose, was especially humorous because my husband smashed—not broke, smashed— his nose while playing baseball as a teen. And, yes indeed, I later confirmed by comparing childhood photos, our firstborn does have Brett’s “first nose” among other traits.

However, what I remember most about the birth of our first son—and of consecutive children—was the life-long decision we made in naming our child. During the long-but-short nine months of pregnancy, when I wasn’t throwing up or re-arranging furniture yet again, I poured over name books; boys’ names and girls’ names, top ten names and obscure, hard-to-spell names. I consumed those books like they were bestselling novels. I made lists, in order of favorites, in order of meaning, in alphabetical order. Despite my burgeoning, out-of-control body, it was one aspect over which I had control. Or so I thought.

What do you think of “Spencer?” I asked my husband while he was shaving. “Do you like Claire for a girl?” I inquired over email. Mostly he shrugged, but gave a definitive “No!” when he opposed a certain moniker.

One in particular that I could not understand was “Delaney.” As a derivative of Adeline, we could honor his favored now-97-year-old grandmother. He kept saying no and after my persistence finally he said this about his beloved Nana, “There’s only one Adeline.” This is a profound statement from my normally laid-back husband, and, after nearly ten years of marriage, a new insight. As a couple and now as parents, we grew, stretched a bit yet again.

I also learned quickly to not share potential baby names if I didn’t want feedback—especially from relatives. Susie? That’s nice, it that was the name of Aunt Gertie’s dog. William? I hate that name—it reminds me of the kid who threw up in second grade. Oedipus? Oh, my gosh, you can’t use that name! Everyone will think he has an infatuation with his mother! Individual reactions ranged from bizarre to hurtful to ridiculous.

As parents, we make thousands of decisions over a lifetime for our children—what will we eat? What will we wear? Where will we go to preschool? Honey Cheerios or plain? On and on—it’s endless. However, selecting a name is our first, and I believe longest-lasting, parental task. It’s our training wheels decision. And those wheels are quickly shed for a long, long ride.

So, new-born parents, celebrate and honor your “New Parenthood-ness.” Cherish, despite your exhaustion, your first days with your newborn. And, have fun with your first of many, monumental parental tasks—naming your newborn. Just don’t tell my son Cameron that his name means “crooked nose.”SFM

Brenda Maas, a transplant from Wisconsin, has een writing since she covered her high school basketball team for the local paper. She and her husband, Brett, now live in Billings with their three boys.