My second baby was due on St.Valentine’s Day. I flirted with the idea of giving him or her Valentine as a middle name. It was silly really, but it seemed a special day to be born and V was quite a nice initial.
But all this was just chat. Bravado and filibuster to prevent speculation about the really scary stuff: when the baby would be born and if it would be too early. My first baby had been born at 28 weeks, and so there was big anxiety about this second baby. In the hospital this meant careful monitoring, lots of tests and reassurance, taking things one week, even one day at a time and trials of progesterone. In terms of friends and family, it meant we didn’t tell anyone when the baby was due. I just said vague things like “spring”. I was stressed enough myself without other people counting weeks and discussing possibilities and statistics. We knew he was a baby boy, but we kept that secret too: our families were quite knowledgeable about prematurity now, they would know that a premature boy’s chances were less good than a premature baby girl’s.
We had secret targets. Getting further than last time. That was good; it felt certain the baby would live. Getting to 30 weeks was a big milestone and I began to think the baby might be born at Christmas. I could call him Christmas, I daydreamed, Kit for short.
Christmas was just over 32 weeks, and I was still pregnant. In ante-natal clinic on Christmas Eve with the hard core of high risk patients, his little heart beat was loud and regular and I realised he was not going to be Kit.
Naming babies is a huge responsibility, I think. The name must go with the surname. It must not be shorten-able to anything ugly or horrid. The initials mustn’t spell anything. It must be a name for a grown-up as well as for a baby. When our first son was born very early, we didn’t have a name. We had called him Buster because he kicked so much but when he lay shaking with every breath the ventilator took for him, Buster seemed like a sick joke. And I in the darkest moments, I feared he would die without a name, with only a hospital number round his tiny ankle.
Valentine might be unusual, but it was a name about love and we loved this baby.
But he isn’t called Valentine, because we didn’t get that far. We managed, maybe thanks to the progesterone, another week after Christmas. On Hogmanay I was struck with terrible pain and terror, called an ambulance, broke up the appletizer party in A&E and had the first baby of the New Year.
I was alone when I first staggered along to see him in intensive care. Who do you get to babysit at three minutes notice just before the bells? I sat beside his little cot. He looked enormous (he was only 5lbs, but our first son was 2lbs). The nurse asked me if I had a name for him. We did. He wasn’t Valentine. We didn’t call him Hogmanay, obviously. Or even Happy New Year. We called him Cormack. But we did write Happy New Cormack on his christening cake.