Thursday, September 04, 2008

Why the Big Secret?

I’m not a parent. (I heard those of you who sighed in relief).

My inexperience leads me to ask many, many questions of my friends who ARE parents. These people give me a great eagle-eye perspective on life inside the family bubble. I especially love my friend Angie’s insight as a mom to five very active (and wildly creative) youngsters.

I remember once when Angie suggested we eat at Red Robin. We sat there shouting our conversation as kids screamed, yelled, and swung wildly on the vines over our tables (okay, not really, but it felt like it). On our way out of the restaurant, I remarked on the experience using words like “rambunctious,” “annoying,” “ear-drum-bursting,” and “duct tape.”

Angie just got out her keys and gave me blank stare over the top of her car. “Now imagine living with it 24/7,” she said dryly. “You get over yourself after a while and learn to enjoy the good.”

Now, it takes a true friend to tell you to get over yourself in such a way that you don’t want to lean over the car hood and smack her. Angie is that kind of friend. Lucky for her.

(In all honesty, Angie has a brown belt in karate and could drop kick me from here to Australia.)

Anyway, I’ve got a NEW question for all the parents out there.

Why do some parents keep their unborn child’s name a secret?

Recently, some friends of ours decided they weren’t going to tell anyone the name they had chosen for their unborn daughter. When I learned a friend-of-a-friend was expecting, I joyfully asked her what she was going to name her baby. “We’re not telling anyone,” she told me.

I have to say I am as human as the next person, and while secrets often do intrigue me, they also frustrate me. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t understand why people make such a big deal out of keeping it a secret.

I understand people have a right to privacy, and I wouldn’t want to violate it. But when you’ve already told people you’re having a baby, why would you choose that moment to clam up? People are happy for you, and they want to share in your joy.

Does the secrecy make you feel powerful? That’s the vibe I get from people sometimes, plus the old, “I know something you don’t know” which I have to say feels like snobbery.

I mean, we all know you’re going to name your child something, so why the big secret?

Those of you who may have some insight, feel free to shed light on this topic for me. I’m truly curious, and I'm sure there’s some part of the big picture I’m just not getting.

I should offer this disclaimer - I am half-Rehfeldt. In our BIG family, most of us live open book lives. We DO share TMI on occasion, but often just because we want to know more about you, so we can strengthen our relationship with you. What can I say? We’re relatable relatives! And proud of it. And vocal about it. Have I mentioned the TMI? And had you already guessed the vocal part?


Alice said...

Oooh, good! I'm the first to weigh in. We are the MASTERS of keeping the name a secret. And the gender (we didn't find out either). We didn't even toss out various names we were thinking of (actually we had decided immediately anyway). We were extremely James Bond over the whole thing. Here were our multiple reasons: #1) It just seemed so cool to introduce the baby by her name to people when she actually arrived in the world. #2) Some people, when you tell them their name ideas, feel the need to weigh in with their opinion. As in, "Hmm. I don't really like that name." I've heard of in-laws actually telling sons/daughters what to name their children. So we just said, "It's already named. We'll let you know when it arrives." #3) I actually love the idea of the big reveal. To me, when you know the gender and the name for months before the baby arrives, it's a little anti-climactic. However, that's just ME.

So, there you go! JMHO.

The Beard Bunch said...

I am also half-Rehfeldt, so I always felt the need to diverge every bit of information. However, I agree with Alice's ideas: people always feel free to give their opinion when it comes to a new baby. Maybe, they just haven't decided for sure and don't feel the desire to commit to a name yet.

You do crack me up though: I DO NOT think it is a power issue. Because, when it comes to being pregnant, there is just a loss of....well, pretty much everything :)

Ann-Marie said...

Yeah, but believe me, not being able get pregnant takes away a lot of a person's power, too. And it hurts when people who are able to get pregnant - when you work so hard to be happy for them - kind of say, "Nuh-huh! Us to know, you to find out."

I realize people can do whatever they want, of course. I'm just speaking from the point of someone who has lost the baby lottery and gets kicked in the gut on her way to congratulate a winner.

Ann-Marie said...

Alice - I hear you! I have a dear, dear friend who named her child something horrific. She decided on the name when she was pregnant and told me. When I first heard it, I wasn't quick enough to hide my expression, and it burst her bubble. I felt SO bad!

I know what you're saying, and I admit to being selfish here, but getting to know the name is like a cool way to be involved in someone's happiness, and being able to refer to little Johnny or Suzy in conversation.

I don't know - I guess that sounds cheesy. It just felt like my support was being handed back to me with an "I said good day!"

Anonymous said...

Having a strange name myself, I have always been drawn to unique or at least meaningful names. I agree that the secret comes from not wanting other people's opinions usually. However, I haven't kept a secret with any of the kids and it is fun to refer to the baby by name. That can be a bit uncomfortable in the event the gender turns out to be other than what was predicted though huh?

Alice said...

I definitely see your point, Ann-Marie (as someone who lost the baby lottery for 8 years running!) I know you know it wasn't personal though. Because if the people decided to keep the name a secret and say, they weren't even telling their mom, they certainly could not tell anyone else!

I feel your annoyance though. One time I asked an expectant couple, "Do you know what you're having?" and the father said (smugly) "A BABY." Yeah, uh, DUH. I'm sure he was one of those same people who, when you say, "Oh, you got a haircut!" says, "Noooo...I got them all cut!" Uh-noying.

Alice said...

Oh, one more thing (as I escalate your comment thread into the stratosphere!) Turns out my mother-in-law actually did NOT like the name we picked out, but then after she got used to it, she did. She said something like, "I NEVER would have picked the name 'Lucy.' But now that I know her, I can't imagine her as anybody else!" She had actually wanted us to make some sort of weird girl combo of our names, like Daria Alison or something.

Charity said...

Comment from a non-parent--- They don't tell because they don't want anyone to steal their idea!! True Story. It is the same reason single girls don't tell people what songs will be sung at their wedding or neat ideas for wedding favors. I know sad but true.

Robin Hayes said...

Hmmm...I'm one of those that didn't find out the sex of any of my babies. I think I sparingly shared the names - I'm sorry, my memory stinks so badly that I can't remember. I will keep this post in mind - your point came across loud and clear. However - I definitely agree with Alice - it's hard when everyone you talk to has an opinion about names. Just because they hated the person that was named the name you picked's not like you didn't go round and round with that when you were picking the name in the first place.

MommaHarms said...

Ok, you don't know me, I'm a friend of Melody Geiseman and several Sturgills. I found yoru blog and like reading it. You might know Tim my husband, but anyways, we didn't tell either of our girls' names because I was teaching junior high and I knew that if I told, some studnet woudl say "that's a dumb name." and I would get a terrible complex. once the kid is named it's much harder for someone to say, "That's a dumb name" or "my great - uncle had that name and he was an axe murderer" or something like that.

Captainswife said...

WOW!!! No idea this was such a hot topic. I will give my two cents because I actually DID keep the name a secret. First of all, a lot of people do not find out the sex of the baby and so that is a big surprise for everyone on the day the baby arrives. If a person finds out the sex, the only other surprise can be the name. Surprises ARE fun. But the reason David and I did it was simply because the very first people we told (my in-laws) made the comment, "oh you have plenty of time to change your mind." The worst thing about this was they begged and begged to know! And when I told them, that was the response I got. SO!! To keep it a secret before the baby is born and then let them know the name after you have named the baby, really makes it so no one can say to you, "you can still change THAT name." I do not believe that, for the most part, people are trying not to let you share in their joy. You can still share in it! Give the baby a unique name to call it while the name is yet unknown. David and I called our little Evelyn "raspberry". Our first baby, the one we lost, we called "cletus the fetus". Yes, we are dorks, well...I am mostly, but it is a fun way to connect with the little one.

JenEbix said...

Interesting point you make here. I have to say that I we have done both - Patience was a secret (except to her birthmother) and Samuel Corban was introduced to the world as soon as we heard about him!!
With Patience I would have to say that our reasoning was much like those who have commented before me. We simply didn't want to hear what other's opinions of the name "Patience" was before we named her -- and that mainly from the families!! I knew from experience (youngest with MANY nieces and nephews) that if indulged before birth opinions were fair game, but if named after birth everyone would hold their opinion. And once the name is associated with this sweet baby - usually no one will tell you what they truly think unless they love it!! I think for us too, it was the simple fact that it was all that we held of her before her birth. But our families embraced our name silence and made up names of their own for her - which at times are still her nick-names!! The Bixby's referred to her as "Sally Jane", and my Dad lovingly called her Penelope!!

My question is more -- why did we than tell the world Corban's name??? I think maybe because the Samuel part of it was so normal, and we really liked telling the definition behind both of his names!!

I do however understand your feelings of "shame on you for asking" -- and think that most of that comes from how couples respond to being asked the name. I find myself not asking much because I fear the "how dare your ask" tone in their response. And the fact of the matter is that barrenness is hard -- and other's don't always think about what they say and to whom they say it- and so the response is often felt as being kicked in the gut!! THAT I understand!!!

psturg said...

If someone has the audacity to say that your name choice is poor, I think that justifies you telling them that their name is stupid. "You don't like the name 'ragu' for my little girls name, well your dumb!"

In all seriousness . . . actually I may struggle being serious with this one . . . I tend to agree with you. I think it is a bit of snobbery. It seems to subtly communicate that you are just not important enough to know such secretive information.

On the other hand, I can understand the idea of not wanting everyone's opinions about your name choice. On the other hand you may need to be challenged on your name choice.

To conclude . . . I don' recall what we did with our four little prodigies. It just came to me . . . we found about Aunt Kathy the same day that we found out we were expecting Molly, so we named her after Aunt Kathy and we did tell everyone at the funeral. As to the other kids, I don't recall.

Juliet said...

"What's in a name?" Shhhh I can't tell you!!!

Cindy Swanson said...

Ann-Marie, I'm always a little disappointed when people don't divulge the baby's name, because I am such a NAME freak! Names are a passion of mine. I love cool-sounding names (or names I think are cool-sounding, anyway.) And I'm a little nosey.

However, as several have already said, that's often a little factoid that people want to hug to themselves until the baby makes his/her debut.

This reminds me of something funny. When I was about to have Elizabeth, I didn't know if she was going to be a boy or a girl. My father-in-law came up to pray with me before my planned C-section. When he asked me what I would name the baby if it turned out to be a girl, I said, "Elizabeth."

He observed, "So you'll call her Betty, of course."

I had to laugh...but in his day, Elizabeths were always called Betty.

That story is neither here nor there...I just threw it in for free. :)

By the way, Ann-Marie, I want to thank you for your encouraging comments on my blog! My readership has been down lately because, frankly, I've been really busy and haven't kept it up as well. Your comments, and your mom's, really help keep me going!

CANDICE said...

I"m sure it's either most people don't want to hear what other people think about there name choices or they don't want someone to take there names before they can name there babies. Me on the other hand told everyone about 50 names for a boy or girl. I must be a true Rehfeldt because I told the whole world with no problem. I'm sure some didn't like it but mostly I got "How do you say that" or "How do you spell that" and "where did you here that name from" It's ok. I didn't care if anyone liked it. I did. My sister's didn't Like the name Brielle. I still named her that cause I loved it. That's all that mattered.

a joyful nusiance said...

I wasn't the kind of person to not tell the sex or the names. But that isn't to say that if I ever have a baby again that I still will share that information.
When I first read your question the 1st thing that came to my mind was this. But 1st let me preface this by saying that I have a hard time writing what I think so bear with me.
Okay, obviously to make a baby you have to have sex which we all know is a very private thing between 2 people. It's not something people blab about and share with everyone on the street corner. But when you get pregnant it's like you are shouting to the world....guess what we did!! And you kinda feel like there is an invasion of privacy b/c now people KNOW what happened. And now these days most people find out the sex of the baby b/c it IS way easier knowing. And so you share the sex to make it easier for people to buy gifts so that isn't a secret either. So I wonder if not sharing the name is maybe 1 way to keep that little secret or magic of that night with just the couple. It makes it just a little more special to the couple.

Heidi said...

I just had to share this one. I got this baby shower invitation from an old high school friend who happens to live in Hammond. Well, she lives in Hammond, so guess where she goes to church? yep, you guessed it.
OUr church growing up was very extreme fundamental, most of you are familiar with what I mean.
She is naming her baby Dallas (after our late pastor) Jack (I am assuming after Jack Hyles) and then their last name.
I say, poor child, and hope she never finds this blog.

Ann-Marie said...

Julie - wait, wait, you have to have sex to have a baby? Well, now it all makes sense! :-) Excuse me, I have to log off now. (hee!)

a joyful nusiance said...

I can give you lots of pointers also.....if you know what I mean ;)

Heidi said...

you are too funny.

Sun-Kissed Savages said...

Opinions. Too many people have their opinions and can't keep their mouth shut. And when you're pregnant, it seems like everyone else knows best.
"Oh, you're actually having an epidural?" ..." You know you shouldn't be riding a bike when you're pregnant" ...."You shouldn't pick your daughter up when you're this far along! ... on and on and on....

We didn't tell our names, after the first time, because of all the stupid comments!! When we announced that we would name our first child Isabelle, someone actually had the audacity to say "Just because there is an Annabelle in your family doesn't mean you can't use that name!" We even got comments on our spelling.

With the boys it was even worse. My in-laws INSISTED the we name the baby boy after my husband. We refused. But we wouldn't reveal the name, because we knew they would rip it to shreds. For us the secret was our only way to protect ourselves.

We did start telling people in the last trimester, though, with a very definite "his name IS Oliver."