All that changed within 48 hours, as I developed an infection that caused me to go septic very quickly, and caused our unborn daughter, unbeknownst to anyone, to pass into eternity. Our first indication that she was gone was when I went into labor Monday morning, March 9. Our hello was also our good-bye.
Over the next several days (after emergency surgery got me out of the woods) the question I kept hearing was, "What did you decide to name your baby?" The hospital personnel saw her, rightly so, as her own person. She needed a name. And so we chose one, after prayer and discussion. She was Naomi Faith, named for the Biblical Naomi who had endured much loss, and with a prayer that our faith would sustain us through the blow of losing our child.
And so we have. Our son was born alive and healthy, and I say or hear his name dozens of times every day. After saying good-bye so many times, it and his older sister's name are among the most beautiful sounds to my ears.
But so are the names of my children in Heaven, so much so that I consider naming them one of the most important steps in my healing. So much so that when we found ourselves unexpectedly walking the road of loss again, with two more early miscarriages this past fall, the first question each time from my sunshine daughter was, "What are we going to name the baby?"
What has been so healing about choosing a name? For us, especially with our early losses, it was one of the few things we could give our children. We will never give them clothes or toys or parties or anything else that falls under normal parenting. But this, a name, we can give, as only a parent can.
It is also a way to find closure. Not closure to our grief, but closure to this specific period of our grief. We had a private funeral and public memorial for Naomi, but not for our other babies. Without that cultural way to say good-bye, until our babies have names, I have the sense that there is unfinished business that needs to be taken care of.
On a practical level, naming our babies has also simplified things. We talk about our babies often enough that it helps to refer to them by name. "When we lost Jordan" is a lot less awkward than "around the time when the third baby died", and it is less confusing to our living children as well.
It also communicates something important to the rest of the world. It tells others that our babies were people. They were dearly loved children, much anticipated, and much prayed for. And while they no longer life with us, they do live, in eternity. We believe wholeheartedly that because of the finished work of Jesus, we will see them again, and we like having an opportunity, through our children's names, to share that hope with others.
If you are thinking about naming your baby who has died, I want to encourage you with a couple of thoughts.
Second, if you had a name in mind already, you can keep it or you can change your mind. There is a name I have in mind, should we have another living baby. I won't use it for a baby in Heaven. When we chose Naomi's name, it was one we had talked about already, but discarded for a number of reasons, none of which mattered to us after she died. I know others who have gone both ways. It is up to you. You are the parent.
Third, you don't have to know the gender. If your loss was too early to know your baby's gender (as were our last four losses), you have some choices:
- Guess and go with your gut. You have a fifty-fifty chance of being right. This is how we named Kyria and Hope.
- Choose a gender-neutral name. This is how we named Jordan, although we think of him as a boy.
- Use a nickname, like Peanut or Bee or SweetPea, that you used during your pregnancy.
- Use a name that refers to the time of year, like Autumn, or Christmas, or Noel.
- Choose a name in Hebrew or Greek that carries a biblical meaning that is special to you, or do the same in another language.
Finally, if you think this over and decide not to name your baby, that is okay. It doesn't mean you love your baby less or are grieving badly or any such thing. We all grieve, and heal, differently. Naming our babies was part of the healing for me, but it may not be for you, and that is okay. Really. This is your journey, and your child, and whether you choose a name or not does not change that.
Did you name your baby in Heaven? Why, and how?