I was putting Helen to bed the other night and she asked me as I tucked her in, "Mommy, why did you name me Helen?"
Very simply, I told her that I wanted her to have a beautiful name that nobody else had, and so we picked Helen.
I gave her a kiss and a hug and told her good night. She's asked me a few times since then, and I always tell her the same thing.
Actually, there was a LOT of thought and discussion that went into naming both girls. With the first pregnancy, we had decided on a boy's name fairly easily, but I didn't invest too much into thinking about that one, since I knew I was having a girl. A few weeks later, the ultrasound proved me right. Ha!
Brian and I debated for months between our fiercely-held positions on long-favored names, and I quickly discovered there was no middle ground. Brian had coached hundreds of young children in his career as a swim coach, and saw the entire gamut of names for girls and boys. As you might expect, some special kids stood out, and he really liked one name in particular for a girl: Miller.
I had a roommate in college who turned out to be impossible to live with, but I loved her name and vowed to save it for my own girl one day: Olivia.
Keep in mind, I'm a Jennie, born in the 1970's. My goal in picking a name was basically to find something nowhere near the Top 10 list of baby names, so she wouldn't grow up as one of four girls named Jennifer in every class. So imagine my utter disappointment when I learned that Olivia had skyrocketed to #6 on the list during my pregnancy.
Brian hated the name Olivia. But I hated his name choice just as much. So after several months of tug-of-war, with no one gaining any ground, we decided to abandon our choices and come up with a different name that we both loved. Brian brought home a baby name book and we made some headway marking the names we liked or didn't like. We put the names we both liked on one long list, and each night while watching TV, we'd go over the list and slowly mark off ones we weren't really excited about keeping. I stuck to classic names that were popular around my grandparents' era, which is harder than you think because of all the Bettys and Ethels. Brian really liked Emma, until I had to point out that every other kid was getting named Emma, thanks to Rachel on "Friends."
Eventually, we cautiously circled around Helen for a first name - a good classic name that was in the Top 10 about 5 decades prior to her birth, and currently hovering somewhere around #390 on the Social Security website's list of popular baby names. We had not picked a middle name, but had narrowed our long list down to several choices that might be good.
And then I went into labor, 5 weeks early.
In the delivery room, right after I got the epidural, Brian said, "You know, we might want to pick a name for this baby." After confirming that Helen would do for a first name, Margaret seemed like a good pick for a middle name, so under the quickening pace of contractions - yeah, let's do this thing. The on-call doctor walked in and asked if we had a name yet. I told her "Helen Margaret" and she beamed. It turns out Margaret was her name.
It felt like it was meant to be. Today, I can't even picture Helen as anything else. She's Helen, and I'm proud of our solid work on that one.
Alice's name was a little harder to pick. We wanted something with the same classic ring to it, but felt like we had worked so hard to hit the mark the first time that the second one wouldn't come close. We have a good friend named Alison, and Brian thought that would be a good name, but again - too close to the Top 10. But a variety of that name, Alice, hit me one day at work, and sort of grew on me after a few weeks. Years earlier I babysat a little girl named Alice, who by the age of 2 was much smarter than me, and I had a great-aunt that I never knew named Alice that was sort of legendary in the family for not taking guff from anyone. So that seemed like a great, strong name to borrow.
About a month before Alice was born, we were in the car headed to a family reunion. Brian suggested that based on past experience, labor would be forthcoming any time, so we should go ahead & pick our Top 3 names, and vote. Helen voted for Sarah, and Brian & I settled on Alice. We were running short on middle names, but we settled on Suzanne, which is the name of Brian's grandmother and seemed to flow well between Alice and Wyatt. (Helen swore she would call the baby Sarah anyway.)
So we had the name picked a month before Alice was born, but didn't tell anyone until the day she arrived. It worked just fine for Helen, and we figured it would be okay for Alice, too.
To this day, the name Alice fits her like a glove. I couldn't be happier that we picked it. But you could have watched me faint dead away when I walked into her daycare 8 weeks later, and discovered there was already another Alice in her room. We mothers finally met a few days later and turned on each other, accusingly, "WHERE DID YOU GET HER NAME??" Turns out, it was an old family name, and they just liked it. Okay, fine. I was grumpy for about a day, but really, both girls were so cute together. Three months later, Alice Senior moved to a new daycare closer to her mom's work. Alice Junior easily settled into her role as Just Alice. But I've taken to asking the name of every new baby in the nursery, just in case.
And now, we have to find a third girl's name by the end of March. Wish us luck. This one might end up "hey you."