Brian, Brandon and I never told anyone her name before she was born. People tried to bribe me – (no joke) – to give up the name. Extra glasses of wine was one tactic used (not a bad one, I might add). But none of that worked; the three of us were firm in our secrecy. Our lips were sealed until January 27th. And if people didn’t like it, well, we knew that most people would have the good sense not to say anything after she was born and the name was announced. But I think most people did like it.
I can’t remember who came up with Elise in the first place – I know it was one of the boys. And the more I heard it, the more I fell in love. So pretty. It sounded like music with our last name. And there’s a beautiful song, A Letter to Elise, by the Cure, that I listened to probably a million times in a few short months. The birthmother loved the name, too. She was the only other person we told, because we knew this was going to be her birthchild, and, while she wanted us to choose the name, we wanted her to love it. And she did. She absolutely loved it and gave the name her full blessing.
The middle name, Jeannine, was a combination of my grandmother’s name (Jean), and Brian’s mom’s name (Juanita – “NiNi”). Both strong matriarchs, both so loved.
Elise Jeannine was the perfect name, for our perfect girl – a beautiful name we chose for the daughter we thought was ours. But it isn’t her name anymore. We don’t know what name the birthmother gave her before she left the hospital. We don’t know what’s written on the birth certificate. I hope it’s something strong and beautiful. I’m sure we’ll find out someday. And I’m sure I’ll cry when I hear it. Whatever her name is, she’ll always be Elise Jeannine to us.
Her name is the perfect name. Perfect and beautiful. Perfect in how her name rolls gently off the lips when spoken and how perfectly sweet sounding the song of her name was to hear.
When we found out our baby was going to be a girl, we had quite a few names ready. We didn’t realize how difficult it would be trying to choose the perfect name. Obviously we knew there would be the typical disagreements: “That sounds too old-fashioned” or “That sounds like a harsh chemical compound” or “I’m not naming her after the stinky kid at school” or “You can’t have a first name that ends with the same vowel that starts the last name.” I didn’t realize there were so many rules for finding the perfect name for your child. Collectively, we each had some decent combinations of names but nothing quite clicked for some time. I had a couple names that I always wanted to name a daughter, had I been given the opportunity. Both were from songs that I loved. And surely I was going to lobby for one.
One of my favorite bands of all time is The Cure. I fell in love with their song A Letter to Elise a long time ago. I made myself believe that someday an Elise would be in my life who was the beauty of this song. It’s a beautiful song. A love song. But also a song about heartbreak. It seemed odd to want to link her name to a song about heartbreak. But for some reason, it was always in the back of my mind, I knew I would experience heartbreak involving this angel. I assumed it would be years down the line when she ran off to get married to some dumb guy, replacing me as the man in her life. Still, it was perfect. Diane didn’t fall in love with it right away, and it wasn’t until my son, Brandon, randomly suggested the name one day, that it finally got Diane’s attention. Jeannine came a lot easier and is a great tribute to both sides of each of our families.
Of course, along with the song choice, I also researched the meaning of her name. It has both Greek and Hebrew origins and means: Consecrated to God. Until now, the meaning didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Yes, we prayed for the love of this child to be brought to our lives. Yes, we were being blessed with a daughter. And yes, this must be why it’s the perfect name. As it turns out, there is deeper, more perfect meaning to her name now. Consecrated to God. Consecrated: Dedicated to a higher purpose. It is easy to see her “purpose” as being our baby girl. It’s hard to see through the tears and the heartbreak and see the higher purpose of this angel. We helped keep a birth mother and her other daughter from being homeless over the past few months. We assured that this mother made it to her prenatal checkups as scheduled and helped keep this baby healthy through birth. We were the first people to hold her and physically give her love when she came into this world, when others didn’t want to. And we were the first people to experience pain and grief for her after having to let her go. Perhaps the higher purpose was to make the birth parents realize the same thing we already knew: How precious and beautiful she is. How valuable she is to want to fight for her. How much she deserves the best anyone can offer her. How absolutely perfect she is.
In the end, her name is not what matters, although she will always be Elise Jeannine to me. What matters is her deeper purpose. She made us feel a lifetime of love in less than a couple days. And our purpose, looking forward, is to always be the ones, near or far, to be thinking of her, loving her, wishing her the best always, and putting positive thoughts into the universe for her, even if she never knows.