Monday, May 01, 2006

Jean or Xavier? What’s in a name?

Two out of our three babies were induced. And for good reasons - so my mum would be there. My mum arrived on the 27th December and we waited a bit for gravity to do its bit but since nothing happened we picked 3rd January as the day. In hindsight I should have waited a week or so because poor Marc always misses his birthday party on the right day because all his friends are on school holiday and it’s too close to mine, which is Christmas Day, so we both feel short-changed by our mothers. But at the time the bump was heavy and I wanted my mum to be there. Luckily he wasn’t born a few days earlier or he would have ruined the obstrictians New Year party plans, and if he had been born on the 31st December he would been in a different class at French school, where they draw the line when the year turns. As it is he is one of the oldest in the class now.

His name was a rather tricky issue. We could not pick anything too French like Emmanuel, Fanny, Yves or Jean-Pierre, which would sound pretentious to the English. Or any name with an accent that the English would never use. It couldn't be too English either like Piers or Colin that would have reduced the French to tears of laughter. Many names are tongue-twisters like Xavier or Roman or Abigail. Some classic names change when translated, like William is Guillaume or Pierre becomes Peter, and John becomes Jean, which is a girl's name for me.... Of course the family had their own ideas, mostly based on the bet that I would give birth to a girl. Anna was popular on both sides as an international name as was Chloe but in the end we had a boy. We might have called her Matilda if it had been a girl, but it’s all speculation.

For our first-born we picked a good solid name, Marc, known in most European languages, but with a quirky French spelling. I thought he would be able to pronounce it everywhere and certainly write it easily. We had had so much discussion we didn’t dare to add on a middle name though. Life would be complicated enough without extra names we agreed. Marc was Hungarian for three weeks until I located the office where I could ‘convert’ him. After a quick trip to British Embassy where for a fee they updated my passport to include ‘child’ and he was officially British.

Marc was an easy baby; cute, slept well, ate well and enjoyed life. We soon found a routine, I worked on my writing in the morning when he slept or when he was rolling on the carpet with his toys. We would take an afternoon stroll along the Danube, stopping for a coffee in Café Gerard on the way. He would watch the world go by, I would buy some food at the market, read a newspaper or people-watch. Hungarians would stop and smile and call him ‘kichcy’ or ‘cute’. I learnt a few phrases in Hungarian to reply to curious strangers, yes, it’s a boy, yes, three months old, very easy, very nice baby, his name is Marc……

I tried a few English mother and baby groups but they were full of networking mothers. I wasn’t in the mood for competing on the latest equipment and baby trends. Marc slept in our bedroom, to the horror of most mums, and had no nursery as such (I can honestly say he didn’t need one). I borrowed most of the stuff – bassinet, baby clothes and pram - off my sister-in-law which he grew out of in a few months anyway. The only thing I bought was a pushchair. When he was three monthes old I took him to England to meet the family.....

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