The Royal baby version three was born, and we knew his gender pretty quickly (boy, which makes me slightly jealous as I always wanted two boys). Next, came the wait for his name.
While I envy Kate her new baby, that gorgeous Jenny Packham dress and the fact she now has two boys, I don’t envy the task she suffered. Naming a baby is tough, and I – sadly- am one of the mothers who got it completely and utterly wrong.
I think back to the day I realized we had made a catastrophic mistake when naming our daughter. I was already irritated as it was August, warm and humid, and my GP’s air-conditioning was on the fritz once again. Everyone in the surgery was hot and bothered, partly due to the weather, partly due to the forty-minute delay on appointments, but mostly because my baby daughter- who needed her MMR jabs- had decided to have an absolute meltdown and scream horrifically. I’d tried the usual settling techniques without success, and then, an hour after our scheduled appointment time, I began to mentally compose a letter of complaint to the NHS while desperately bouncing my baby on my knee.
Another ten minutes passed by before I could no longer bear it. Slinging my red-faced, unhappy child on my hip, I stalked up to the receptionist to ask just how much longer I would have to wait for the nurse.
The receptionist gave a world-weary sigh. ‘What’s your daughter’s name?’
She shook her head. ‘We don’t have an appointment for a Binky today.’
I adjusted Binks on my hip. ‘I have my appointment card,’ I replied. ‘It’s definitely today. At two.’
She looked at the computer. ‘No. We had an appointment for an Eleanor at two. But she didn’t show.’
A slow trickle of realisation hit me. I felt slightly sick.
‘Actually,’ I swallowed, ‘This is Eleanor. We just… we call her Binky.’
The receptionist sighed again. ‘We called her name for fifteen minutes.’
‘Yes, but I’ve never called her by her real name. It’s always been Binky.’
She shrugged. ‘Would you like to reschedule?’
That night, when the children were in bed, my husband came home from work to find me frantically pulling out our baby name books. He gave me a brief, panicked look.
‘Don’t be ridiculous, I’m not pregnant,’ I reassured him. ‘It’s Binks… we’ve made a terrible, terrible error.’
It isn’t easy to admit when you’ve made a mistake, let alone a mistake which will impact on your child for the rest of their lives. After pregnancy and childbirth, the first real test of parenting is coming up with a name for your child that they can be proud of. A name that suits them and you. A name that you can hear yourself shouting across the playground. Quite frankly, it’s a terrifying exam and one which, in Binky’s case, my husband and I failed miserably.
When we were looking for names for our children my husband and I had a checklist we wanted to tick. We wanted old, classic names (as a Sharon, I am well aware of the pitfalls of naming a child fashionably). We wanted names with meaning. And we wanted names that you could put the word ‘Doctor’ in front of without flinching (my husband is a doctor and has high hopes for our children).
So that night, when my husband raised his eyebrow at me, he immediately understood when I exclaimed: ‘No one is going to trust a Dr. Binky, are they?!’
We didn’t mean to name our child Binky, I swear it. Part of the problem stemmed from my pregnancy, where at an early scan a radiographer confidently predicted we would be having a second boy. A boy was no problem name wise. We’d already agreed upon Nathaniel, a Nat to go with our first child Ben, and were happy with that choice. But when a later scan revealed that Nat was in fact going to be a girl, we were stumped.
We went through list after list of baby names, working through the top 500 names for girls in the U.K. When we couldn’t agree on one, we decided to each list our top ten choices and exchange lists. If any of our choices were the same, we decided, that would be her name.
Well, we didn’t get a single match. My husband’s choices ranged from Carol to Jennifer to Christine (evidently he thought we were having a baby in the 1970’s), while mine consisted of names harvested from my favourite novels. We argued and bargained until eventually, at a stalemate, just gave up talking about it. We decided that we would wait till she was born. Once we saw her, we said, we would know her name, as though she was going to slip out of me complete with a label.
My son, then three, had by this point taken to calling my bump ‘Binky’. He was in a ‘Jake and The Neverland Pirates’ phase, and Captain Hook’s favourite teddy was called Binky. In the absence of his parent’s ability to adequately name his baby sister, he took the job on himself. And it stuck.
Soon, our families and friends were referring to our upcoming baby as Binky. At my baby shower in a lovely London hotel, the name Binky was spelled out in pink balloons. I swear I saw about six waiters roll their eyes.
When she was born, with a shock of dark hair, after a labour of little less than two hours, I was still in that endorphin heavy haze when the subject of her name was broached again. I promised my husband I would think about it.
That night, having sent my husband home to sleep, I laid my daughter in front of me and looked at her. When my husband returned the next morning, I handed her to him.
‘I think she’s a Sarah,’ I told him.
‘I like Sarah. But we still have a few weeks yet, and you’re tired,’ he replied.
You might ask why, when I was so confident of her name, that she ended up an Eleanor? It is a good question, and one we still ask ourselves daily.
I love the name Eleanor, I really do. I love how it fits in with her London birthplace, a tribute to the Eleanor crosses. I love how it was the moniker of Eleanor Roosevelt and Eleanor of Aquitaine, both strong, feisty females. I think it is a beautiful name.
So we named our daughter Eleanor around four weeks after her birth. You know, I really hate how quickly the government force us to name our children. In some cultures, it is expected to wait almost three years until a name is decided upon, so that the name can match the personality of the child. In other cultures, names aren’t settled upon until adulthood, when a person has not just been given a name, but also earned it.
But in the U.K, we are given just a sparse few weeks in which to get to know our child and name them. My husband and I settled upon Eleanor because it was, in the end, the only name we could agree upon without arguing. And our parents, desperate to tell their friends a name that wasn’t ‘Binky’, were putting just a touch of pressure upon us to find a ‘more suitable’ name.
I really feel for the Duchess of Cambridge. It’s hard enough to name a child without adding familial pressure to the mix. She not only has to find a name she likes, but also one that her husband likes, that appeals to British royal heritage without offending anyone. As well as the fact that some names are considered ‘unlucky’ due to the earlier royals who carried them (like Richard, which after the Lionheart, was carried by two Kings with less than savoury stories). Also, keep in mind that the press are literally at her doorstep waiting for the name to be released. The Duchess of Cambridge is under pressure, with no room for error. Her son’s name she cannot get wrong.
Not like I did. My baby is named Eleanor, but Eleanor she is not. When we look at her, we just don’t see an Eleanor. It doesn’t suit her. Besides, at this point the damage had been done. We’d called her Binky for so long that the name stuck, and it’s still stuck to this day.
By the time we’d realised our error in naming our child, we couldn’t undo it. I’d already applied for her birth certificate, had her British passport and her Australian citizenship. You technically have a year after the birth of your child to change the name if you desire, but in Binky’s case, the amount of bureaucracy and expense of changing her Australian citizenship would have been astronomical.
So legally she remains Eleanor, while at home she is always Binky, or Binks. Out and about we use Sarah, so that people don’t mistake me for the ultimate Made in Chelsea fan.
We’ve decided that when she is older, she can choose what she wants to be called. Either Binky, or Sarah, or Eleanor, or even a name of her own choosing if she desires.
And in the meantime, I’m just thankful that the new Prince wasn’t a Binky too).
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