"Best not name that bub until after your pain meds have worn off," said not one midwife or nurse in the hours after each of my babies was born. As a result my daughters have names that, taken together, add up to a nice muffin recipe, but nothing you'd expect to see in a birth notice.
It wasn't meant to be this way. My children were supposed to have strong, elegant first names, coupled with middle names that paid tribute to upstanding family members.
It wasn’t meant to be this way. My children were supposed to have strong, elegant first names.Credit:Getty Images
Beatrix Wilhelmina, for example – after grandpa Wilhelm, who drove ambulances in the French Resistance. Or Clementine Lydia – after my great grandmother Lydia, who fled the Russian Revolution with not one earthly possession and whose name was hastily shelved as an accompaniment to Clementine after my friend Rachel pointed out that I was naming a baby, not an STI. Chlym-idia. Oh. Clementine Evgenia, then!
I gave birth to Clementine in 2008, when the painkillers routinely given after a C-section made one feel pleasantly woozy rather than euphorically brain-damaged. I was clear-headed enough to remember that I wanted to name her Clementine, yet muddled enough to completely forget about the Russian side of my family.
I called her Clementine Louella, a name that brings to mind southern belles and citrus orchards rather than the House of Romanov. Nevertheless, I harbour no serious misgivings about her name. It's not one you hear every day, but it's also not a name that's riding a unicycle, wearing a vulva-shaped sequin suit and shouting: "LOOK AT ME, I'M A NUTTER!"
No. That honour belongs to my second daughter's name.
By 2013, post-op pain relief had evolved. If I compare having C-sections to going to a nightclub – because they are very similar – the first time round was a blue-light disco at a scout hall. The second time round was a sex party in a cave.
"Best not name that bundle while under the influence of these newer, stronger painkillers," said not a single nurse or midwife, and so I named my new baby under the influence of the newer, stronger pain killers, which you should never do.
And this is why: very strong painkillers shut down all the staid, law-abiding parts of your brain, and rev up the parts responsible for making you pierce your nose with a nappy pin in year 9. Ask any three-year-old what names they think would work for a goldfish and you'll have a pretty good idea of how the brain of a heavily medicated new mother works.
You are in no position to be making decisions about snacks, much less decisions that will affect another human for the rest of their life – another human who may one day aspire to be a federal minister.
Why did the midwives – in every other way shining repositories of wisdom and support – never think to tell me that the do-not-operate-heavy-machinery rule that applies to very strong painkillers also applies to the heavy machinery of your brain?
My partner was the one person who recognised the combination of painkillers and postnatal hormones made me perilously poised to make a hot mess of our new baby's name.
As he left the hospital on the first night of our daughter's life, he paused and gave me a quick once over. "You look like Marianne Faithfull," he said. "Don't name the baby tonight. Wait until tomorrow." But it was too late: by then I was already floating somewhere above the roof of the building, blowing kisses to passing cars and marvelling at the austere beauty of the 10-lane highway below.
Three hours later, I announced the birth of Beatrix Kitty Plum on Facebook, the modern equivalent of engraving her name on a silver spoon and monogramming her towels. Why name your baby after a fiercely brave family member who risked it all to save her family when you could name her after stone fruits and baby cats?
Don't get me wrong: I love fruity names, and, more specifically, fruit names. I am part of the 0.1 per cent of the population who exclaimed, "Oh, lovely name!" when Gwyneth Paltrow called her daughter Apple, and I think Paula Yates and Bob Geldof wove moniker magic with Peaches Honeyblossom, Fifi Trixiebelle, and Little Pixie.
But Beatrix Kitty Plum was a bridge too far for someone who is not a pop star or a telly presenter but a middl-eaged Melburnian with bad penmanship who, after six years, has never managed to squeeze "Beatrix Kitty Plum" into the space provided on a form. One novelty middle name: eccentric.
Two novelty middle names: bonkers. Sequinned vulva suit on a unicycle.
I'm now 40 and living in an apartment that can't accommodate all our winter parkas, much less another human. There will be no more opportunities to bestow a baby with the names of beloved family members. I'll have to settle for two children whose names pay tribute to nothing but their mother's severely impaired cognitive function at the time of their births.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale June 16.
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