At different stages of my life, I had chosen specific names for my future children. In my teens, I decided my daughter would be called Catherine – the fault of Emily Brontë. (Wuthering Heights is still one of my favourite novels.) In my early twenties, I wanted an Elizabeth – this time thanks to Jane Austen and Pride & Prejudice.
I remember when my mom gave birth to my youngest brother. I was seven, and determined to have a say in choosing his name – I felt it was the least I was owed since, once again, I had been denied a sister and was told my parents wouldn’t be having any more kids because four was enough. I have a clear memory of sitting at the foot of my Oupa’s Lazy-Boy, writing a list of names for my dad to take the hospital when he visited my mom and new brother. It was a long list – and the name they finally picked was not one of my suggestions.
Angie, who has wanted to be a mom practically since she was born, has already picked and discarded about a dozen name choices for her future children. (All of them Disney-inspired, I’m afraid.) Earlier this year she came to me, very seriously, and said that she’d decided to wait until she gets married to choose her children’s name because she wants her husband to help her decide. She’ll be turning six next week. She’s got quite a while to wait.
I didn’t appreciate just how difficult choosing a baby’s name was until we were expecting Angie. We decided to avoid any family names, thereby cutting out that complication. We also had specific requirements – it had to be French, it had to have a biblical meaning – that were supposed to make things easier.
When Angie was born, we went into the hospital with a shortlist of various combinations. She was a few hours old by the time we finally agreed on a name. Angelique for ‘angelic’ and Isabelle meaning ‘consecrated to God’.
I think we managed to decide on Emmy’s name before she was born – but literally just before. We went into the hospital with another shortlist, and picked her name before I went into the operating theatre. Or perhaps it could have been just after I came out of recovery. Blame the anaesthetic for my fuzzy memory. Emmanuelle means ‘God with us’ and is one of the names of Jesus. Her second name, Celeste, means ‘heavenly’.
It turns out finding girls’ names we liked was much easier than finding boys’ names. We had the same requirements, but I didn’t want a double-barrelled name or one that sounded too Afrikaans. The first problem we found was that the names we really liked in terms of how they sounded had random meanings like “son of so-and-so” or “from-this-area”.
My shortlist of names was really short. Short enough that I sent it to Jacques via Whatsapp, and he replied nixing all of them. But, unlike with the girls, we managed to agree on a name a few months ago. (And I really hope we don’t change our minds on seeing the baby because this is a scheduled post and it could get awkward.)
We decided on Raphael Jacques as our son’s name. (This is the first time I’m typing his name and seeing it on the page gives me a little thrill.) My husband’s initials are JR and we liked the idea of reversing them for our son. Raphael means “God the healer” and Jacques is the French form of Jacob, who God renamed Israel.
We didn’t tell anyone what we’d chosen, not even the girls – because I’m sure this is the kind of secret they wouldn’t have been able to keep. I’ve been whispering the name to myself the last few weeks, trying out the sound of it. I’ve been addressing my son by his name when I’m alone and feeling him kick. I’ve been trying out abbreviations to see which one sounds the best – and I think I like Rafe.
One of the reasons it’s so important to us to give our children names with Godly meanings is that we want them to grow into the meanings of their names. We keep telling the girls what their names mean; that angels are God’s messengers to people, that being consecrated to God means being set apart from the world, that God is not a faraway God but right with us all the time, and that heaven is our true home and we are only on earth temporarily. Now, Raphael reminds us that God is a healing God and that we are his children.
How did you choose your children’s names?