NICU Names: Guilt, Anger, Sorrow

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Categories Anger, Emotion, Fear, Frustration, Grief, Guilt, Mommy Issues, NICU, Parenting, Prematurity, Theme WeekTags , , , , 4 Comments

Prematurity Awareness Week 2013: How Do You Do It?

World Prematurity Day November 17In the United States, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely, 1 in 10 in Canada. Worldwide, over 15 million babies are born too soon each year. While not all multiples are born prematurely, a multiple birth increases the probability of an early delivery. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, are at a higher risk for health complications in infancy, some of which can have long-term effects. Full-term infants are not all free from their own health complications, of course.

In honor of November’s Prematurity Awareness Month, led by the March of Dimes, How Do You Do It? is focusing this week’s posts on The Moms’ experiences with premature deliveries, NICU stays, health complications, special needs, and how we’ve dealt with these complex issues.


Aside from the times I truly feared for the health, happiness, and life of my babies, one particular thing stand out when I think back on how very emotional the NICU can be: my children’s names.

My husband and I had given so much thought to their names. We’d discovered they were both boys when I was 18 weeks along, and had full names picked out for them by before I was 20 weeks. We always referred to them by name from then on, never as Baby A or Baby B. We chose names that were very different but harmonized well. It was important for us that their names not reflect their status as twins: we very much wanted them to feel like they had individual worth from before they were born. (This is a personal thing, I know, and I am not disparaging how others name their multiples; I am simply stating how things were for us.) Even before they were born, we felt that they (particularly our Mr. A) fit perfectly with their names.

One other thing of note: I kept my maiden name. We discussed what to do with the boys’ surname—mine, his, hyphenate, combine, make up an entirely new one—and eventually decided to give them my husband’s last name. We both like the name, and as my husband is both adopted and an only son, we thought it might matter to their paternal grandparents.

When they were born, the boys were on record as MyLastName,MyFirstNameBBA (for Baby Boy A) and MyLastName,MyFirstName,BBB. And they kept those names. And kept and kept and kept those names. The nurses made nametags with their given names and placed them on their warmers, but everything else was MyLastName,MyFirstName,BBA/B.

namesThe names on their ankle bands. The names on my wrist bands. The names we had to give when calling to ask for updates. The names we had to state at the intercom to be admitted to the NICU. The names we had to sign in under to visit them. The names on the whiteboard. The names on the labels I stuck to each bottle of expressed breast milk. The names on the records—with a huge red NAME ALERT marked, to remind doctors and nurses that there was another patient with an extremely similar name, and so meds and procedures must be very carefully checked to ensure that they had the correct patient. The names printed out on the instructions and med dosages for Code Blues taped on their warmers. The names the doctors used at rounds.

I hated it. I cannot even begin to describe the feelings of anger, sorrow, and helplessness I felt about their NICU names. Not a single part of those names were actually my sons’ names. At heart, I felt like I was not their mother; that they had been stolen from me and renamed what the hospital thought was best. I knew my boys needed to be in the NICU, and I accepted that. But it was hard, so very hard, to not feel like their mommy. I didn’t change their first diapers or put on their first outfits (which came later). I wasn’t the one who decided what and when and how much to feed them. I couldn’t even hold them without permission (although that quickly ceased to be the case with Mr. D). And they didn’t get their real names, their true names, the names we had loved and loved them with, until they came home. Even when Mr. A was transferred from his birth hospital to the children’s hospital, he was admitted as MyLastName,MyFirstName,BBA. I raged and pleaded, but “nothing could be done”. A simple matter of hospital protocol meant that my sons had been robbed of their identity.

I realize this is not rational. I even realized it at the time, despite being overwhelmed with postpartum hormone shifts and scary diagnoses and not being able to watch my sons breathe as I fell asleep. I think I channeled most of my grief at the whole situation onto the issue of their names. But recognizing this intellectually is not at all the same as feeling it emotionally. And emotionally, I felt like their names had been stolen from me, along with all those precious newborn moments I missed, shared with strangers, or experienced in a setting that made the whole thing feel incongruous. My babies were simply not my own: they were shared with a very large staff of doctors, techs, and nurses (some of whom I never met or only briefly met) and all the love in the world could not change that. And their names reflected that. It hurt, and even now, a year and a half later, I am not “over” it. I don’t think I ever will be. I don’t see how one ever could be.

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What’s In a Name? Ideas for Naming Twins, Triplets and More

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Everyone has an opinion about how multiples should or shouldn’t be named. Whether to match or not to match. Whether matching should be limited to identical multiples, same-gender multiples, or available to all. How to choose first names, middle names, initials, nicknames. Whether to use traditional or modern spellings.

Everyone has an opinion. Everyone thinks everyone else’s opinion is wrong.

Naming one child is hard enough, but add in another baby or more, and it can feel impossible. Sadia spells out 8 ways to approach naming sets of twins, triplets, and more.The fact is that how you wish to name your children is a matter of family preference. As with all things parenting, someone will tell you you’ve made the wrong choice. Someone will snicker behind your back. As long as your kids eventually figure out which name belongs to which, it’ll be okay. Just, please, steer clear of naming twins Orangejello and Lemonjello (pronounced Uh-RON-juh-lo and Luh-MON-juh-lo). Because if you choose those, I’ll be the one snickering.

Similar-Sounding Names

My ex has twins in the family named Janet and Janice. I have a coworker named Jenn with a twin named Jan. I have distant cousins, twins named Maria and Malia. LauraC wrote about twins Alexandro and Alexandra. Their parents are celebrating the unique bond twins have. They’re representing the closeness they see in and hope for their children in that most personal of things, their names. They’re giving them a label they can carry through their lives that is a pointer back to their shared birth, no matter how far apart their lives take them.

You could be all over the map with this sort of thing:

  • Oliver and Olivia
  • Bernard and Bernadette
  • Jude and Julie
  • Anne and Anna
  • Emma and Emily
  • Carl and Charles
  • Caleb and Kaylyn
  • Stephen and Stephanie
  • Ayesha and Aliya

That last pair were our initial picks for our daughters’ names, a nod to my Bangladeshi heritage. They were too hard for Americans to pronounce and remember so we went with English names that would be hard for my family to remember. You can’t please everyone.

In American culture, it’s unusual for siblings to have similar-sounding names, so it stands out when people do. In other cultures, it’s a norm. In Bangladesh, where I’m from, different aged siblings regularly have coordinated names. My dear friend Shahirah has a lovely sister named Samirah. Their brothers are Mahbub and Mahfuz. I actually have a cousin named Nadia, although I’m pretty sure the coordination there was unintentional.

People in Bangladesh were frequently confused by my sister Farah’s name in comparison to mine. They really wanted us to be Sadia and Faria or Farah and Sara.

Rhyming Names

I’ve heard a lot of rhyming names in my time. I see this a lot with multiples of different genders.

  • Haley and Bailey
  • Casey, Stacey, Tracy and Macy
  • Jason and Mason
  • Kristen and Tristan

Some parents choose coordinated spelling. Others purposefully choose different letters for the rhyming parts, such as Mya and Leah.

A variation on this is to give the kids unmatched primary names with matching nicknames. They’ll be able to choose whether to match or not as they get older. Examples include:

  • Elliana and Isabella: Ella and Bella
  • Jaden, Clayton and Grayson: Jay, Clay and Gray
  • Mary and Carolyn: Mary and Carrie (works with some regional accents only)
  • Grace and Anastasia: Gracie and Stacey

Both Wiley and I have ended up in this boat without planning to. Despite our best efforts give our twin girls distinct first names, they’ve ended up with matching nicknames. Her Aletheia and Ariadne have become Allie and Ari. My Melody and Jessica are frequently Melly and Jessie.

Themed Names

Photo Credit: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton
Photo Credit: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton

In this type of name grouping, siblings’ names have similar meanings.

  • Flowers: Rose, Lily, Daisy, Violet, Poppy
  • Jewels: Sapphire, Emerald, Ruby
  • Other precious substances: Coral, Amber, Pearl, Jade
  • Music: Melody, Harmony, Aria, Lyric
  • Royalty: Earl, Duke
  • Biblical: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
  • Seasons: Summer, Autumn
  • Months: May, June, perhaps even Julie

I believe that my step-great-grandmother was part of such a set of sisters: Rupa (Silver), Shona (Gold), Mukta (Pearl).

Another variation on this is to pick groups of names that have the same meaning, but from different languages:

  • Paz and Shanti (meaning “peace”)
  • Leticia, Farah, and Joy (meaning “joy” or “happiness”)
  • Amnon and Fidel (meaning “faithful”)
  • Amy, Cara and Priya (meaning “beloved”)
  • Dieter and Gunnar (meaning “warrior”)

Shared Initials

One cute option for coordination that isn’t overwhelming is to have siblings with shared initials. My grandmother’s brothers were all M.R. Khan. Rachelle over at The Wilkinson Quints + 2 picked K names for all the girls and R names for all the boys.

Alphabetical Names

Some of The Moms have elected to give their multiples name that reflect their placement in the womb. Baby A becomes Aaron, Alex or Alicia, while Baby B is Bronwyn, Bethany or Brian.

Family Names

Multiples make it easy to acknowledge several members of your family. Perhaps your boy/boy twins can each be named after one grandfather.

Purposefully Different Names

This is the camp into which I fall. Once Aliya and Ayesha proved to be flops, we decided to actively pursue names that would emphasize our daughters’ individuality. I don’t usually use my girls’ names here on HDYDI. I don’t want their friends to Google them and come across embarrassing anecdotes. You only need to click over to Double the Fun to learn their names, so I’m going to go ahead and share.

Their names are Jessica and Melody. Jessica is named after her grandfather Jesus (Hey Zeus!), who goes by Jesse. Melody is a nod to our family’s music geekiness. We figured that they’d be labeled as a set plenty and we didn’t need to add to that pain. By happenstance, I find my tongue tripping over the names and producing “Jemelody.” It makes me smile every time. “Gemelli” is Italian for “twins.” And twins they would be, regardless of what we’d named them.

What was your method for naming your kids?

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Introducing Your Twins

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I’m always puzzled as to how to introduce my twins. I already consciously say “These are my twins…” because I try to head off that ever annoying question “are they twins?” but I’m always torn with which order to introduce them. Growing up my parents always introduced us in age order, oldest to youngest, and that made sense to me. Yes, I know one of my children was technically born first but only by a minute. Should that minute make such a difference? Then we could get into the gender issue but I’m not sure I’m clear on that. Should it be ladies first or like when you meet a couple it is usually the guy first?

Most of the time I end up saying “David and Elizabeth” because I like the way it flows better. Just when I think I’m comfortable with that order, then I have to sign a greeting card and I run into the same issue. I try to be random in the order I list them hoping that it works out to half the time naming Elizabeth first and the other half naming David first. I’m not sure I have even come close to making it 50/50.

Which order do you introduce your twins or sign their names on greeting cards? How did you decide that was going to be the order?

Meredith is a mother of b/g twins, age 17 months old.

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