There’s been no shortage of talk about twins in the newspapers lately. “Twiblings” borne of three women and one man who pooled their genetic resources. Twin speech patterns examined. The bizarrely cruel ways people reacted to novelist Samantha Hunt’s twin pregnancy…the list goes on. I am transfixed. I am pregnant with twins, due in just a few days.
Gratefully, I haven’t had the negative experience Hunt describes (no one has told me it was my fault for having twins, as if having twins was something negative) and presumably, I’m several months away from considering speech patterns. Perhaps I should be thinking about the psychological nuances of twin-ship—but I hadn’t been until now. Instead, I’ve been obsessed with the challenge of naming our twins.
Maybe my husband and I have chosen to focus on naming because it’s an aspect of this situation we can actually control. As friends and family asked questions about how we’ll manage in our cramped apartment, whether I might breastfeed, if I will have a c-section and how we’ll navigate the religious aspects of our children’s births (a double bris? A double baby naming? One of each?), we remained undeterred in our task. Each night we climbed into bed and debated names. I was partial to Modern Hebrew names. Jon wrinkled his nose at such designations. He wanted to be sure our babies had names that Americans could easily pronounce, that wouldn’t sound “too Jewy” and for some reason, seemed vaguely presidential.
There were more serious considerations, too. Jon’s father passed away one year ago, and we wanted our first-born named for him. As we envisioned Baby A named for Jon’s exceptionally gentle, kind and big-hearted father, we decided that child would be the organized, responsible and driven baby. Baby B, second in position to be delivered, took on the persona of the laid back baby, and always had its bottom in the air for the ultrasound pictures. We declared at 27 weeks that this would be our “artsy” kid.
Then we started to worry. Will our “artsy” kid feel undervalued if its sibling is treated to a name of such significance? Will our second-born feel less special, when he or she asks about the origins of its less-weighty name?
And what if we have twins of different genders, and one is honored with a bris on the eighth day of his life, replete with bagels, lox and gifts? Would a simultaneous baby naming for his sister be enough to make her feel equally valued, years later, when she looks at the photos?
And forget our kids, what would their names say about us? My parents burgeoning connection to Judaism can be traced by examining the progression of names they bestowed upon their children. My oldest sister’s name, Corinne Michele, bears no Jewish relevance. Sounds more like a 1960’s French film star. My middle sister’s first name is Lisa, a popular American name in the early 70’s, but her biblical middle name, Miriam, reveals my folks’ growing connection to the tribe. When they chose Adina for me, a traditional Hebrew name, they were knee-deep in Jewish Day School and trips to Israel. Our names were a window onto who my parents were and are. Subsequently, they’ve defined us, too. Would the names we chose for our twins belie some sort of preference or indicate a lifestyle choice? Whose name would we utter first when we spoke of the two? Did we like one name better than we liked the other? What would that imply?
The task of naming our twins became a gateway into considering the serious (read: more important) stuff: how do we help our children differentiate and feel independent and special and not just part of a set? How will we love them equally?
We’ve determined this much so far: we’ll start by referring to them by their names, not just as “the twins.” And while we realize that trying to plan anything right now is a futile effort, ideally we’d like to develop traditions that will help them feel independent of the other, like one-on-one outings, non-matching outfits and encouragement of their differences. If baby B really is the artsy kid, we can support that impulse. And we should probably relax a bit about the “loving them equally” thing. My guess is that any parent of more than one child worries about this challenge. I’m assuming many find that it comes naturally and might even be based on their children’s differences.
As for names, we’ve decided that both babies should share in the honor of being named after their grandfather. While one will be named after him directly, the other will bear a name that reflects the qualities of this man, joyous and proud.
As I sit typing, I feel both babies jostling about for space inside my womb. Baby A sticks what appears to be a shoulder out the right side of my belly and a moment later, B does a somersault. I remove my hands from the keyboard and place them on either side of my (unbelievably) expanded middle. I hope they can both feel me pat them gently, and acknowledge their presence. Each hand offers them attention—independent but equal. They are both already fiercely loved.