Evan and I decided to name our twins Rio and Dray a few months before they were born. I called my friend Duana Taha, who happens to be a baby name expert and author or The Name Therapist. She loved the names, she encouraged and supported us to feel good about the decision and stick with it. Three days later, we changed our minds.
Sure, we loved the name Rio, Evan’s family is from South America and calling our son ‘River’ in spanish felt like a beautiful way to honor his roots. But we could NOT decide on his brother’s name. Was ‘Dray’ too weird? Too Hipster? Too Hip Hop? Would everyone call him Dr.? Make jokes about Beats? Spell it wrong? Pronounce it weird? We kept second guessing it. We figured that on the day he was born, we would look at him and just KNOW.
But on the day he was born, I was high on drugs, Evan was low on sleep and our unnamed baby was a 4lb shrivelled up raisin, lying with his eyes glued shut in an incubator in the NICU. It was not exactly what I had imagined. In my mind, a fully formed human would emerge from my loins, look me in the eyes and immediately his destined name would be revealed to me, almost in a cloud of smoke, from the heavens.
That didn’t happen. Instead, Evan and I changed the name on his little incubator every single day, just to see what felt right . ‘HELLO MY NAME IS: Dray’ then ‘HELLO MY NAME IS: Dre’ then ‘HELLO MY NAME IS: Diego.’ Every morning the nurses would come in and say, “What’s his name going to be TODAY!?”
Meanwhile, Rio’s name tag stayed consistent. As did the other babies we shared a room with. There was Brooklyn and Miles and Liam and Vian and… HOW WAS EVERYONE ELSE SO SURE OF WHAT TO NAME THEIR BABY!?! I would think desperately, as I wheeled myself into the NICU. How is everyone making this MASSIVE decision that could literally alter the course of their baby’s life??? How are they just writing it on a nametag and committing to it??
On day 5, the hospital staff told us we’d have to file our documents by noon or else we’d miss the window to get a birth certificate. I called Duana frantically from my hospital bed, with my adult diaper on and my catheter in, trying to form words through sobs; “WE STILL DON’T HAVE A NAME.” I said breathlessly, “WE HAVE THREE HOURS TO NAME. (sob) THIS (heave) BABY (SOB). “What happened to Dray?” She asked calmly, confidently. I explained to her, rationally of course, that I didn’t think he’d get into college, or get a good job or EVER be president with a name like Dray. “We think we should give him a more sophisticated name, we like… Diego!?” Duana liked Diego too, and assured me that we could always continue to call him Dray if it felt right. And so, as the clock struck noon, we named him Diego.
It is a beautiful name, a strong name, a handsome name, a presidential name… but even with Diego on paper, on birth certificates, on bracelets, on that incubator… it still didn’t feel like his name. His name is Dray. We knew that when he was in my womb and we certainly know that now, 3.5 years later. He is a Dray, or if you ask him, a ‘D-WAY.’ That’s what we call him, it’s what his teachers call him, it’s what his friends call him, it’s even what his Spanish-speaking grandpa now calls him. Sure- Diego is there, on paper, waiting for him, like a superpower, if he should ever choose to use it… but Rio’s brother’s name is Dray. And I feel great about it.
If you’ve ever wondered what to name your baby, what NOT to name your baby, what your child’s name says about you, or about your child… Duana Taha has an answer- she joined me on New Mom, Who Dis? LIVE to talk celebrity names, trending names, sibling names, cultural names… and answer all of YOUR burning baby-name questions. It’s a conversation that changed the way I will think about naming my next baby and I hope you enjoy it.
(Oh yeah, I have to NAME ANOTHER BABY. Hopefully I’ll do it before the catheter goes in.)