Sunday, April 9, 2017

More Than Just A Name: Rafaela Juliette

I recently came across an article about the work of illustrator Emma Block and a collaboration she did with diamond company Vashi about ways to describe love from around the world. Entitled "More Than Just A Word," each offered a nuanced perspective on a few of the hundreds of different ways to express affection outside of the English language, from the way a hug can feel warm and safe, to the tingles induced by running your fingers through a lover's hair. You can read them all and see her fabulous drawings here.
Two months ago I welcomed my first child, a daughter named Rafaela, into the world. The article got my thinking about how we agonized over what we would call her while she was growing in my belly. Or at least, I did. Josh spent most of his time vetoing crazy ideas I came up with at 3am (many of which I still consider awesome, and plan to campaign hard for when the time comes for baby number two). Naming a baby makes you realize how many people you really don't like ("Georgia? That was the name of that piano teacher I had in third grade and hated!") and how fashions change with time. I always loved the name Harper, for example, because of Harper Lee, my favorite author. Practically unheard of previously,  Harper is now the 9th most popular name for a girl in America. Go figure.

38 Weeks Pregnant (Image Courtesy of Rachel Gray Photography/Max Grey Studio)
We remained tight-lipped as family and friends asked us if we'd picked a name throughout my pregnancy, mostly because we hadn't. We'd try one on for a size for a few weeks, using it often in reference to my belly, until we'd decide it wasn't "quite right." I consolidated list after list until we narrowed it down to 5 or so, carefully penciled on a clean page of the journal I kept during my pregnancy, and tucked into my hospital bag.

My Promptly Journals pregnancy/baby book and a Louison Fine Pave Diamond necklace with Rafaela's Initials.
If you are like me and subscribe to the idea that children are sentient beings, you can understand how much pressure we felt to make the right choice. I imagined all the qualities I wanted my daughter to have - strength, kindness, individuality, to name a few - and wondered whether the names I liked did justice to the idea of her that had taken shape in my mind, and, more importantly, whether they were elastic enough to fit her no matter who she ended up becoming. I wanted the name we chose to be beautiful but meaningful, unusual but not so out there she'd be teased miserably on the playground. I'll admit that more than a few hormonal meltdowns were had as my due date approached and we still hadn't decided for sure ("She doesn't even have a NAME!" I'd sob to a perplexed Josh). Our procrastination over what word to choose to call her - no big deal, it would only follow her FOREVER - persisted following a tough delivery. She remained "Baby Girl Seidman" for the first day or two as we recovered and got to know her a little better.

"Baby Girl Seidman" on 1/25/17, her first day earthside.
Rafaela has origins in Portuguese, Italian, Hebrew and German, and it means "Healed by God." She is named to honor both of our families. Rafaela, for her paternal great-great-grandmother Rachel, affectionately known as "Ray," following the Jewish tradition of choosing a name that begins with the same letter. Her middle name, Juliette, for my grandmother, Juliette, who passed away a little over a year ago.  
Two Weeks Old (Image Courtesy of Rachel Gray Photography/Max Grey Studio)
I struggled a lot with wanting to call her Juliette as a first name. It is such a beautiful name, and so special to our family, there was no question we would use it somehow in tribute. We loved how it sounded with our last name, and I wished every day of my pregnancy (and still do) that I could have had the opportunity to tell my grandmother I was pregnant, and introduce her to my daughter before she died. But I am named for my father's mother, who passed away at a young age, and as much as I love my name, I always felt the weight of that growing up. We ultimately settled on using it as her middle name, figuring she could have something special all to herself as a first name, and have the option of using either once she was old enough to choose.

My sister Laura introducing her daughter Ida Rose, also her firstborn child, to the original Juliette.
For now she is known as Rafa, "Baby Ray," "Little Juliette" and, to her Dad and me, "Toots." Fun Fact: We love that we named her something that translates into several languages, because so many people we introduce her to - whether they be Latin or Italian - excitedly repeat her name with all sorts of rolling "r"s and amazing emphasis, depending on their accent. Unfortunately we didn't take into account that almost no one with a heavy New York accent (like 3/4 of our respective families, for example) can pronounce it properly in English - Rah-Fi-Ella, not "Raffy-yella." Proving, once again, that you win some and you lose some in the game of parenthood.
Two Weeks Post Partum (Image Courtesy of Rachel Gray Photography/Max Grey Studio)

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