Posted by: thiscait | September 7, 2005

The Name Game

Here at AddProb we are not keen on naming offspring in utero. For one thing, what if little Hepzebah Marie pops out and you take one look at her and she’s CLEARLY Millicent Bathsheba? You’ve got to make all those phone calls, return all that monogrammed stuff, and retrain your tongue. Two, we also are not likely to find out the gender of any child we carry (though the final vote has not been tallied on this issue, in part because the legislature has not determined what to do about tie votes). And if you don’t know the gender it’s a little trickier to pre-name. Finally, and most importantly, it totally freaks us out on a superstitious level. Naming a baby, and using that name, before the baby is born seems like a HUGE invitation for trouble. We know that lots of people feel differently, and that’s fine for them and their babies. We just choose differently for ourselves.

However, many of you have asked why we refer to our future child as Harpo. No, we don’t know it’s a boy. We’re not obsessed with Oprah* or the Marx brothers. We don’t plan on actually naming our child Harpo, and if we did we wouldn’t be referring to him/her by name yet. But we’ve got to call him/her something. The reason is simply this:

Ummm…It sounds good with embryo. Harpo the Embryo. Dunno, worked for us.

*Jen was like, “Huh?” She didn’t know “Harpo” is “Oprah” spelled backwards! Nor did she know anything about her production company. See what happens when you don’t watch TV and you don’t have cable?



  1. According to Jewish Tradition / Superstition, you are not to utter the name of your child until it is 8 days old, and you have had a naming ceeremony – it helps to keep away the evil eye.

    We FIRMLY believe in this theory, and will gladly go beat up any folks hwo give you poopies about it!


    Smooshy kiss!

    *saw a postcard for a new children’s show called SWIMMY – thought of you…

  2. I think having a cute nickname for the embryo is very important. You can’t keep calling it “the embryo” — it just sounds WEIRD. And you have to start talking about it, at least to each other, before it even hits the embryo stage.

    We knew, after the first ultrasound, that what I had growing in there was a Lil Smudge, a nickname we’ve found either makes people laugh or horrifies them.

    My only concern is that Lil Smudge, much like Lil Bow Wow, may have outgrown the name…I don’t think it’ll look like a Smudge at the Level 2 ultrasound next week.

  3. Imsh’Allah, Harpo will soon outgrow hisher nickname and we’ll let you in on the next name at the appropriate time….

  4. We’re not big on the name in-utero thing either. Even though we’ve pretty much settled on a couple of names, we can’t reveal them anyway since we’re not telling anyone what the sexes are of our twins. And the one time I tried to call them by their names in my husband’s presence, it kind of freaked me out. So we still go with what the dr. has always called them: Twin A and Twin B. Some people find this unthinkably clinical, but it’s provided us with hours o’ fun. For example, I often tell my husband that Twin A is kicking the crap out of Twin B, or that Twin B is having a fit because he/she likes tacos but we can’t have them because Twin A gets too gassy. You know, that sort of thing.

  5. I like the twin a/twin b thing 🙂 Then again, I have a twisted sense of humor and when my mother refused to call one of my sister’s cats by her name and called her kitty I renamed myself & my siblings: girl 1, girl 2, and boy so as to demonstrate my point about calling the cat FLIP and not “kitty” 🙂

  6. We have, for years, referred to our someday-child-to-be as “Bob.” This sounds so dumb I cringe to admit it, and it is a truth few people know about us. We regularly speak of, “When Bob is a toddler… blah blah” and “When Bob tells us she hates us for the first time, we’ll… blah blah.”

    We generally use the female pronoun with this, I just realized.

    We certainly do not intend to name our child Bob, Robert or Roberta. But somehow that popped up years ago and is the name that stuck, even though we have no such superstitions and have chosen our names with such extreme struggle that they ARE the names, and woe to those who protest.

    (As Julie, the twin mom above, once told us, someday her child may ask, for example, “Why did you name me Mary? I hate my name.” And she will say, “Shut. Up.” It’s hard to write it the way she delivers that line, brilliantly. You’ll just have to trust me on its extreme humor.)

    But when we have hoped/wished that it was a forming embryo, we have referred to it mostly as “Vampire Cell Clump,” thanks to Wes’ disgust with the part of the process where it splits open capillaries to feast on the pooled blood.

  7. I think it’s nice to have an embryo name, though I don’t think I would do any early baby-naming either. There are people walking around with crazy names that are CLEARLY wrong for them, but I bet their parents thought they just had something to prove and wouldn’t budge after the birth. At any rate, I like Harpo. But, my favorite in-utero name was a friend who called hers, “Sprout.” =)

  8. I am definitely superstitious about naming babies in utero and I think Harpo is a delightful name for an embryo! We referred to ours as “zabel”, although I’m not exactly sure why. I also think that holding out on learning or telling the gender is a good idea. I remember reading your entry about your friend’s “pink” shower right before our overwhelmingly pink shower. My teacher friends gave us a yellow and green shower, though, so it might just depend on who plans the shower.

  9. I completely understand. Susan called Lauren “flipper” in-utero.

  10. I will not remark upon the bizzarry of NOT WATCHING TV, and you expect to raise a child??

    Be that as it may, I thought Oprah’s company was called Harpo bcs isn’t that the name of her stepson in The Colour Purple? Silly me.

    [Jen, I could use your, er, expertise over at my blog. Seriously. It’s boob-related, if it makes you feel more at ease. Since you have so much of it right now, that is.]

  11. you know, we did make the mistake of naming our baby in utero. Even before we found out it was a girl we called her Olivia. I used to joke that it had better be a girl because Olivia was a hard name for a boy to live with. Then we found out how popular Olivia is, and when we went places where small children gathered it seemed that we were surrounded by snot-nosed Olivias and their overwhelmed, incompetent parents (if you’re reading this and you have a child named Olivia, I’m sure it wasn’t you we saw) so we realized that there was NO WAY we could actually name our child that. But everyone kept referring to our girl fetus as Olivia, and even after she was born we slipped up a couple of times. I will never name a child in utero again. Silly nicknames for us all the way around next time.

  12. No wait, Oprah was Sophia? Who was married to Harpo. Right?

    Not that anyone here cares but I am friendly that way.
    (jen, TNX dahling!)

  13. When i got pg last summer, we called the embryo “Sprout” which seemed appropriate. Friends of ours who were pg at the same time called theirs “The Bun”. He’s been born now and they still sometimes call him “The Bun”. We were going to call our next Embryo “Doyle” for very obscure reasons. (I don’t have the heart to call another one “Sprout”) Another friend called hers “Schmoo” (and sometimes still does, though he’s now a 9 mo old baby).

    Anyway…i think it makes perfect sense to give your Embryo a name that will not be the name of the baby (or, as in the cases of my strange friends, may become a weird nickname for the baby). I would never tell anyone what i wanted to name the baby (even if i did pick names out ahead of time). I agree, it really sort of depends on what the baby looks like!

    I just hope Harpo continues to grow and be healthy!!

  14. i like Harpo! A woman in my office who is pregnant calls her embryo the ‘peanut’, which i thought was pretty cute too.
    BTW-would you mind if i added a link to YOUR site on MINE?

  15. We have dicussed the whole finding out and naming thing for our future, not yet conceived, baby. We decided to not find out because it will be about the only surprise left in the entire insemination process. I say pick a few names and sit on them. One will seem perfect eventually!

  16. We actually plan to choose names in advance but not USE them. It just feels too squidgy.

    And Katie, I agree with you about the “only surprise left”. Cait generally does too, but feels slightly more inclined towards finding out the gender after our miscarriage. I don’t fully get it but I respect her opinion, so we haven’t come to a final answer on this one.

  17. OK. I totally understand that this makes sense to all who think it, but I still don’t get it completely….

    Finding out the sex of the baby will be a surprise whenever it is you find it out, whether that’s while in utero or, well, ex utero. (And, sometimes, twice the surprise when they are wrong about the in utero part!)

    Is the waiting to find out more appealing because you are going to be all tired and emotional when it’s pulled out, or is there more to it then that?

    It’s an honest question – not meant as snarky at all.

  18. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH! I just typed a whole explanation and then stupid Blogger ate it.

    I’ll try again….

    Maybe “mystery” would be a better word than “surprise”. I feel like we have totally de-mystified pregnancy and childbirth with modern medicine and technology. It used to be about wonder and awe, but now it’s about knowing.

    It’s a funny thing for a knowledge-hound like me to be opposed to knowing something, but for this I still want the wonder, the sense that this is larger than I am and I am not privileged to know until it is the appropriate time.

    There is a second reason that I don’t divulge as much. It is about having a slight preference for one sex over the other. (Having had one miscarriage, I am loath to admit even to myself that this is true, but it still is, microscopically. Fundamentally, I just want a baby, but a teeny bit of me wants one kind of baby more than the other.)

    The theory is, if I find out that it has the slightly-less-preferred parts, I will be upset and maybe this will interfere with my connection with the kid in utero. Whereas I believe if Cait says, “It’s a _______” and they put it into our arms I will be hopelessly happy and in love and not give a flying fuck about genitalia.

    As I’ve said, Cait now has some interest in finding out the sex, so we’ve not closed the negotiations on this one. We’ve got some time to go, and hurdles to cross (like, oh, you know, a living fetus) before we get to that part, so we’re not stressing about it. (Imagine, me NOT stressing about something!)

    But even if we find out, we won’t be telling ANYONE else! 🙂

  19. That’s really interesting. I have the opposite theory based on the same issue. I also have a slight, ridiculous preference for one sex over the other, but I feel that knowing while it’s in utero will help insure that I am prepared mentally if it’s the other one, so that I don’t have any mental blocks in the way of the bonding once it arrives.

    But the biggest thing for me, as the wife of an FTM – having gone through what we’ve gone through together, the sex is such a small, strange thing, really. Whatever preference I might have (totally and completely emotionally based on having lost my mother and wanting to recreate something I lost/never had), I know that the sex could always wind up… different (even though it probably won’t statistically). I guess that for me, that part probably never could be quite so wonder-filled. And so somehow I don’t want the pronouncement to be at all momentous. Does that make any sense at all? Hopefully the whole life-springing-forth-from-my-body bit will be enough : )

    If/when we get that far (oh, how ahead of myself I can get…).

    We would definitely tell our friends (the ones who we feel comfortable chastising if they say dumb things about one sex or the other) and close family (the ones we can remind/order not to buy all pink or blue or cars or dolls, etc), but probably not acquaintance kinds of people, just to avoid gifts/comments that are slanted one way or the other.

    Isn’t it crazy how many wildly different thoughts and feelings can surround such details for different people?? Don’t you love the blogosphere?

  20. My sister called hers “the lump”, and also refused to be told its gender (both times).

  21. I think we originally had a preference for a girl, although we didn’t realize it until we saw the penis on the ultrasound screen of our son. So, we had a brief moment of surprise, but I tell you that within minutes we were utterly adoringly excited about having a boy. I still totally respect your reasoning for wanting not to know and agree that having babies is kind of clogged with too much information these days. That’s why I declined the amnio, though it was strongly advised.

  22. I wanted to know what we were having becuse I very guiltily did have a preference and I wanted to be prepared in case the baby’s sex was different from my expectation. But I realize that I am a very small, shallow person A very good friend of mine is an FTM and he was giving me some flack over it. Anyway, the downside to knowing is that we can’t keep a secret, so though we didn’t want anyone else to know (yes, even though we were referring to the fetus as Olivia, I know, we’re totally inconsistent, but we wanted to keep people on their toes…) becuase we didn’t want to be inundated with gendered items and clothing, it slipped out, so now we are drowning in pink and frills — as soon as we take one pastel, pink frilly item back and exchange it for bold colors and non-frilled items we get 2 more from well-meaning family members.

    So, I really hope that if you do end up finding out what the sex is, that you and Cait are much better at keeping secrets than Kristin and I are.

  23. Bri (and Trista) thanks for the input about sex and gender not necessarily being fixed or all that important, really. I hadn’t thought about it in that way, obviously, and it does give quite a different twist to the debate.

  24. I just wanted to say I absolutely loved reading these responses – so many of the things I think and feel (I have very mixed feelings about sex & gender) are expressed so well. It’s amazing to read so many differing opinions in one place and with SO MUCH respect for author/reader. Makes me have more faith in humankind!!! 🙂

  25. De-lurking here…HARPO IS OPRAH SPELLED BACKWARDS! I have a Master’s degree in the English language–HOW did I not see that? I’ll be happy about it all night. I’m having my third boy any day now, and I think it’s BETTER to find out the gender if you have a preference. We kind of wanted a girl this time because we’re not having any more, but as soon as we saw him on the screen and they said it was a boy I (who had claimed I would jump off the roof if it was another boy) was delighted. I think that’s better than wanting a girl the whole time and THEN finding out…drumroll, bleeding, etc….it’s a boy.

  26. Oprah was supposed to be name Orpah, which is a name in the bible (I don’t know where). But there was a misspelling or typo on her birth certificate. Oprah is better anyway, at least its Harpo backwards!

    And if you are going to name an embryo something besides what you are going to name him/her legally, you may as well have fun with it!

    I personally like “Chernobyl”.

  27. I think definitively naming a child in utero is odd. A woman I used to work with named her baby as soon as she found out its sex. I find it disturbing to refer to an unborn fetus by the name it will have when it is born, I’m not completely sure why. I think that it’s because names form so much of who people are, and you don’t know anything until he/she is born so how can you name it? I don’t know.

    If the stars align and the curse is lifted, I plan on calling my unborn child Chereth Cutestory. I stole it from Arrested Development and just thinking of it makes me laugh. Of course that is really important.

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