Thursday, October 28, 2010

Naming your Child with Down Syndrome

I thought of this topic the other day while reading a blog post at The Bates Motel. Totally not related to what I'm going to talk about, but the title of the post made me think of it.

Occasionally, I see discussions on Down Syndrome support sites about why they named their child the name they did. Some parents didn't know prenatally, named the baby in utero and stuck with it. Some parents did know prenatally and chose a name based on that knowledge, usually because of it's meaning. And then there is a third version where parents had a prenatal name, didn't know baby had Ds, and then decided to change it at birth when they found out. Some times that change was made out of inspiration, hopes, and dreams for the future of the baby. I'm often so proud of parents that have a prenatal diagnosis and chose to honor a loved one by naming the baby after them. I guess, because to me that shows how proud they are to continue their family tree though this child that may seem so different than all the other branches. A father that names his son with Down syndrome Junior seems to be such an amazing statement of hope and pride. It's very rare that I read of the opposite- a beloved name no longer seeming "worthy" or "fitting" of the unexpected child.

In our family, naming sons was a difficult task for us. We were not interested in doing the junior route, Doug isn't exactly a popular name anymore. Male family names we could of used were either too popular within our families or in general, or just not to our tastes. So we went the 1000 Baby Names Book route. Circling, sharing, and vetoing until we came up with possibilities we liked.

Aidan's name wasn't too hard for us to agree on. It wasn't very popular the year he was born, in fact it wasn't even in the top 50. We were surprised to see it skyrocket to the number one male baby name in just a couple of years after his birth! His middle name is Riley, chosen because we liked how they sound together and it coincidentally was also the name of the county he was born in. Doug liked that his initials spell ARM, he figured it would look cool on a Pac Man high scores screen.

Since we didn't find out Sean's sex until birth, we were less solid in his name. We were very sure on our girl name, but the boys names were wide open. I was pushing for Jared, Joel, or Sebastian. Doug didn't care for those. Somehow we both thought Sean was a good choice. It was a nice Irish name to go with Aidan. Short, didn't lend itself to mean nicknames. Easy to spell, so we wouldn't have to go around constantly spelling it for people like we do Aidan ("With an e or an a?") His middle name, Patrick, seemed like a great balance to the first name. We did toy with other options, including a nod to our family names, but in the end chose Patrick.

Since we didn't learn of his diagnosis for a few weeks, it never crossed our minds not to use it or to re-think it's meaning. As we got used to him and how his name fit him, we learned that it wasn't as easy of a name as we thought. Spelling questions always come up. We like to reply, S-e-a-n, like Sean Connery. Or P-Diddy. :P We only had it mispronounced once- a nurse at a doctor's office kept calling for "Seen? Seen? Is there a Seen here?"

As he's grown older, it definitely fits him. I love that it is short and easy to spell. He's been "reading" his name for quite awhile "S e a n. Sean, that's me!" It took Sean a long time to be able to say his name himself. Most of the time it comes out pretty clear now, but sometimes it still sounds like "On." When Aidan was a toddler, he started calling him Seanie and it's really stuck with us. We all call him Seanie. His preschool teachers asked Aidan, and us, to please call him only Sean as they didn't want him to be confused about his name. They told him he was a big boy and they want to use his big boy name. Phooey. We have tapered it down and call him Sean about 70% of the time.

Ella has only recently started calling him Sean. For some reason, for many months, she called him "Nice" or "Nicey" Doug thinks it sounds like Seanie backwards. It amused us to no end, and even Aidan started calling Sean, Nicey. I shot a little video of Ella saying it, to save as a memory of her special nickname for her big brother. Now that she's stopped calling him that, I kind of miss it.

So, if you have a child with Down syndrome, how did that affect your child's name? I'd love to read more stories!


Tiffany said...

I've always been fascinated over names, their meanings, and why they were chosen, too!

Becca said...

What an interesting post!! Hehehe--and thanks for the link!

We didn't knnow prenatally about Samantha's diagnosis. We had spoken years before about baby's names, and both agreed immediately on Samantha, so we never changed that thought.

Of course we have now saddled our child with a very long name to have to spell by Kindergarten...

SunflowerStories said...

Rebecca, I should of added that I was later glad I hadn't won the Sebastian choice for that reason! Plus, I can imagine how hard it would be for him to say (and I wouldn't want people to think he was saying bastard!)

Ruby's Mom said...

I enjoyed this post!
We named Ruby after my sweet Great Aunt who had died before Ruby's birth.We were all calling the baby Ruby before she was born.I had also thought about the name Jael.Jael was a strong,courageous woman whose story is told in the old testament of the Bible.I think Jael would have been a good choice too.We chose Ann as Ruby's middle name to honor my Mother.
When Ruby was born and we found out she had Down syndrome my Mother said my great Aunt would have been proud for our little Ruby to have her name:) Ruby will also be an easy name to spell.
That is so funny what you said in your comments about the name Sabastian!
Oh,and I loved the video of Ella saying Sean!How sweet!

Maya said...

This is very interesting!

I have often thought how fortuitous our Leo's name was. We did not have a prenatal diagnosis and fell in love with the name before our son was born. He wasn't named after any one and it never crossed my mind to change it.

Leo does have a hard time saying his name, come to think of it I don't think he can make the "L" sound right now. He calls himself "Eeeo," likewise his sister (Ellie) is "Eh-yie."

The one area that his name has been PERFECT is in handwriting. It's the ideal name in terms of length. Short and sweet. I think its brevity is what led Leo to being one of the first of his peers to learn to write his name (if I may brag a little, cough cough.) :-)

SunflowerStories said...

Cheryl- that's very sweet of your mom to say! You know I love the name Ruby, too. :)

Maya- "eeo" so sweet! That's awesome that he can write his name! Feel free to brag on that!

Sweet Pea's Mommy said...

I have a confession...and I HATE that the thought ever crossed my mind, but it did...Sweet Pea's name is a family name and we didn't know her gender or diagnosis before birth. When she was born and her daddy announced her gender, I said her name for the first time. After we got the diagnosis a couple of hours later I asked her daddy if we should change her name! It makes me so sad that I was hesitant to want to give her the family name! I think I most fear that it won't be carried on since she probably won't be having any kids of her own. I REALLY hope that my fears were wrong, but either way, it is a perfect name for her and I'm SO glad that her daddy didn't even hesitate in saying no when I asked about changing it.

That was hard to write, but the truth so there you have it. Obviously I had a hard time with the diagnosis!

SunMomFIL said...

@Becca - you shortened your name, Sam will only have a 3 letter name by 2nd grade. SPea--I DON'T CRY, but I almost did. What a heartwarming comment. Everyone with a Ds child remember the moment that we got the dianosis and the sledge hammer to the heart that it brought

Deborah said...

Sweet Pea, thank you for sharing your story! Your honesty is heart warming.

Had Sean been a girl, he would of been named Eleanor, which is after my grandmother. I often wondered how I would of felt about that. She was a woman I greatly admired, but she placed a great deal of importance on intelligence. She passed away the weekend that Aidan was born, so she never got to know my kids. I often wondered how she'd feel about have a descendent with a cognitive disability.

Ruby's Mom said...!/profile.php?id=1566007585

Posted this to my Facebook.

Brandie said...

Goldie was named after my great-grandmother. Good idea for a post!