When you're pregnant, everyone you meet wants to engage in the exciting "you're having a baby!" banter. With my first pregnancy, I was surprised how often social events would turn into a fortune telling session, as though my bump was a crystal ball and friends were attempting to predict my baby's future. "She'll have your long legs," they'd say to me. "Or my long nose," I'd joke back.
On every single occasion, the talk would turn to the most heated topic in the parenting world: the baby's name. Admitting that my husband and I hadn't selected one yet would open up a barrage of suggestions that would hit like labelled bullets. "Edna", "Myrtle", "Gertrude" would shoot out from those clearly wary of name theft - without realising these uncool monikers would soon become achingly hip.
If we managed to break through the storm of names, my husband and I would bravely mention the unusual ones we were considering, knowing this could expose us to a strange mix of polite smiles, confused looks and laughter. We'd liked the name Sakara but when a concerned friend asked, "You're going to call her 'suck-harder'?'" it was promptly dropped. I tentatively mentioned that I liked the name Dusty for a girl. "Like Slim?" joked a drunken mate. "Um, no, I was thinking Springfield. But A Pub With No Beer sounds like a good place to be right now," I muttered. But the most common response was usually, "Oh no, I know a [insert name here] and she is such a [insert insult here]."
After one exhausting night of battling the mixed reactions, my husband and I decided never to reveal the quirky names we were considering. But this raised a new problem. We knew that replying, "We don't want to talk about it" just sounded rude and, more worryingly, it may have given the impression that we were not overjoyed by the imminent arrival of our first born. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
The solution to our dilemma came when scanning a baby name book for the gazillionth time that day. Reading down from Corinne, Cornelia, Cosette... we stumbled across the name Cuthburga. (Warning: If your name is Cuthburga, please stop reading now or prepare to be seriously offended). We turned to each other with wide eyes and agreed it was the ugliest name we'd ever heard. It sounded like an American with a lisp describing a bun filled with swear words. So we instantly decided if anyone asked us what we were planning to name our baby, we would respond with the quick conversation killer, "Cuthburga".
We looked up the history of the name and discovered a Saint Cuthburga who had ditched her filthy rich husband to start a religious order to help the poor alongside her sister, Saint Quenburga (another brilliant fake name option). The inspirational story of Saint Cuthburga was going to be the linchpin in making our choice of name seem believable.
But first we had to practice saying it to each other. I couldn't get further than "Cu-" without choking with laughter. Even my husband, an accomplished actor of many years, found it impossible to keep as a straight face while uttering the undisputed winner of the Worst Baby Name Ever Award.
But with practice, we managed to use the Cuthberga line on unsuspecting victims without even cracking a smile. On the inside, however, we chuckled watching their polite but all too revealing reactions. When they'd dare to ask, "Are you serious?", we'd proudly respond, "Of course, why wouldn't we be?" This was almost always followed by an uncomfortable silence, then a quick change of topic.
Sure, it was an extreme measure to avoid those sometimes awkward baby name conversations but it worked. While our close family and friends twigged pretty quickly that we weren't serious, the tactic had success by greatly reducing the number of unsolicited opinions from other people regarding our future daughter's name. Why was this important? Why did it matter if an acquaintance at a party or a colleague at work laughed at the names we liked? Because it's hard to shake those mocking words from your head once you've heard them. While you may convince yourself that you'll completely ignore the feedback, it still can taint your decision making. There's absolutely zero chance I'll ever have a little Dusty Sakara running around the house because I dared to share those names at party BC (Before Cuthburga).
In the end we picked a name that we'd kept a secret right up until our daughter's arrival into the world - a task made much easier by the fact we only agreed on it days before she was born. Who knows what people may have said about her name if we'd revealed our choice before she had arrived? I guess I never will, because this is the funny thing I've noticed: all those baby name opinions that get offered up so freely when you're pregnant are tactfully kept inside once the baby is here. But more so, when everyone got to meet our squishy bundle of joy, her name was dutifully admired then talk quickly turned to her other attributes like her incredibly long legs... and tiny nose.