Two babies! There are two babies! I have two babies? My morphine-addled brain was having trouble processing this information after giving birth to my twin girls. My husband, James, and I gazed in amazement at these two tiny beings we had created.
“So what are we going to name them?” James asked me. “We can’t keep calling them B1 and B2 forever.” These were the nicknames we had used during my pregnancy: short for Baby 1 and Baby 2. (For those who are not familiar with Australian television, I am referring to the characters in a popular children’s television programme called Bananas in Pyjamas.) Visions of two giant bananas wearing blue and white striped pyjamas kept drifting by. I shook my head and tried to concentrate on the most daunting task a parent must undertake – choosing names.
“OK, but are we ready to make such an important decision?” I responded. “I mean there is so much to consider - the initials can’t spell out a rude word, the first name has to sound right with our last name, we must check that there isn’t some horrible celebrity with the same name and we don’t want to use a name belonging to someone we detest. I just want something normal, that’s easy to spell. No children of mine will be branded with names of pieces of fruit or geographical locations. And don’t even get me started on nicknames or rhyming names for the twins. What if they hate our choice? If we make a mistake they have to live with it for the rest of their lives?”
“Calm down, darling. We have the list,” James said in the soothing voice he reserved for my more hysterical outbursts since discovering we were having twins.
“You mean the mandatory, keep-it-in-my-wallet-for-nine-months list? The list I poured over every day of my pregnancy and changed several times a day. The list I pulled out every night to get your opinion on my latest choices? Yes,” I replied sarcastically, “I had completely forgotten it. Besides, I thought you didn’t like any of them.”
“Not true. I worked on it last night and I narrowed it down to a mere eight names,” the new father of twins said, producing a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket. “Four boys’ names, four girls’ names. I guess we can discard the boys’ names now.”
I had not wanted to know their sex before they were born. I like surprises. We had all bases covered if we had boy twins, girl twins or boy/girl twins, including a middle name of course. The next problem was which names to give which baby.
In the end it was easy. The smaller baby was given the shorter name. And so Amy Elizabeth and Sophie Katherine were named. The next task was to remember which baby was which. It would be several days after I returned home from hospital before I was brave enough to cut off their wristbands.
The girls are now nine-years-old. I asked them recently if they liked their names. They answered a resounding “no.” I don’t know too many people who really love their names. So in the end, you can’t really win but I couldn’t imagine them being called anything else.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem