In a box somewhere in my garage a baby name book gathers dust, and stuffed within its pages is a sheet of paper I can't bear to part with. Written lovingly on the lines of the paper are the names I first began to consider six years ago, when I was pregnant for the first time. Among them is the name that has always been, Eden; names that are long ruled out, such as Miranda, Violet, or Carolina (for the state where Ben's mom resides); the name we thought we were going to use for Gabriel, before his diagnosis, Jameson; the family-inspired name I finally, internally, agreed to relinquish to my brother, Leo; and the name that never fit with the last name Cude, but which made perfect sense with the last name Lopez - Joaquin.
And so, the story goes. I lost that first baby. Gabriel, once Jameson Michael Cude, was diagnosed with the fatal defect that would claim his life, and he became Gabriel, our Hero of God. Nearly three years passed and my prayers were answered in the form of a baby girl we named Eden, our paradise, followed 17 months later by Delilah. But before she was Eden, in the privacy of our home, she was EJoaq. We had narrowed our selection down to Eden for a girl, and Joaquin for a boy, but of course we wouldn't know until the day she was born which name we would be using. I kept our names private, rarely sharing our choices lest someone else be inspired. Both were unique enough to make up for the very common last name, but not so unique that they were strange.When we learned we had another baby on the way, we had only to choose a girl's name - Joaquin was already set. And again, would not be used.
Names are important to me, and I have put significant thought into the names of each of my children. Joaquin, the Spanish version of the Hebrew Joachim, means "One who is established by God." Saint Joachim was Mary's father, Christ's grandfather. It was to be paired with the middle name Joseph, representing the two greatest male influences in the young Christ's life. There were other connections too - My girls were born at San Joaquin Community Hospital, we live in the San Joaquin Valley, and the San Joaquin Valley is a type of Eden, the place where a great deal of the nation's produce is grown. I anticipated obvious queries - "After Joaquin Phoenix?" - and weighed the particular negative connections - I was well into pregnancy when Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman escaped from a Mexican prison. Still, this name that I had stored away since the first signs of new life within me was what I wanted for my next son.
I've gotten much better at receiving news of impending birth since the girls came along, and I've even become a better sport when learning a boy is one the way. When family remembers recently announced they were expecting a baby boy, I rolled with the news with surprising ease. Maybe, just maybe, I was moving on. Less than 24 hours went by before I learned that while I have come a long way, I still have a long way to go, when the family announced that this new baby boy is Joaquin.
After a double take, the tears welled uncontrollably, spilling onto my clothes as I drove to meet my mom for lunch. I couldn't stop them even enough to hide my mother, and when she asked what was wrong, more fell as I sobbed to her about my silly problem. The tears don't come easily these days, not since the Prozac, but there I was, crying like an idiot - over what?
I guess that's what's been most difficult. The typical response seems to be, "You don't have a right to that name." I know that. "You can choose a different name." I know that too. "You can still use the name Joaquin." Yes. I know. I know, I know, I know. I know this is irrational, and selfish, and petty. But it's honest, and the typical responses just seem to be a bit insensitive. Or maybe I'm just too sensitive.
What were the chances that a name chosen for its relative uniqueness, still ranked in the 200s in terms of popularity for boy's names in the United States, would be chosen by someone in our own family? And how can I use that name now, too, knowing that it would no longer be unique in our family? How do I go to a baby shower, to birthday parties - especially if I never have another boy, but even if I do - and bring another Joaquin a baseball, glove, and bat? What if there are no more boys in store for me? After two losses, I've had to come to terms with the fact that life doesn't go as we want or plan. I am satisfied with my life as it stands - I have to be, and I have every reason to be, because it's an amazing life. .
What's in a name? The question is famous, and rhetorical, meant only to demonstrate that our names are not our essence. If a little boy is in the cards for us some day, he will be so much more than a name. Still, a part of me will always grieve the little boy that might have been, the little boy who was, and now, the little boy Joaquin who will never be mine.