Thursday, April 12, 2012

What's in a name?

While I was growing up, my immediate family all had the same last name.  Granted that there were just the four of us (me, my brother, Mom and Dad) but I remember loving it when we received gifts that said our family's last name.  In elementary school I had a project where I was supposed to design my own version of our family crest and I was glad we all shared the same name, because the kids with two names struggled.

I didn't realize, truly, how much that meant to me until we got married and were suddenly faced with a dilemma.  Who changes their name?  Should we both change our name to something new entirely?  Or should we just hyphenate?

In the time leading up to the wedding, we got this question approximately eight hundred million thousand times:

"What are you going to do about your last names?"

Which is a totally fair question.  After much debating, finagling, and rehashing the subject we just gave up and said, "Screw it.  Let's just each keep our own name."  We got married, kept our own names, and life went on without much excitement about the names.

About a year and a half passed us by without my giving the name debate much thought.  But then I began having a crazy desire to make babies and started thinking about the fact that no baby of ours would be biologically related to both of us - so whose name will our babies have?  Will we burden them with a hyphenated name?  What are we going to do?  And I began to be filled with dread over our family not sharing the same name.*  I stressed about it, and the more I read and researched the legal rights a non-biological lesbian mom would have over her kids, the more I worried.  There are no rights to be had, by the way, if you aren't genetically linked.  It became all the more important that we all share the same name, to at least lead people to perceive us more as a family.

T already had her bachelor's degree by the time we were married.  I didn't then and I don't now have any degrees.  I never really had done anything that it was important to me to keep using my family's last name; and always anticipated changing my last name anyway, so why shouldn't I just become a McGill?  Something in the thought resonated with me and once I had it in my head, it wouldn't leave.  I wondered if I'd actually be able to get away with changing my name through Social Security Administration due to my marriage of a year and a half before - of course, the snag comes because it's a gay marriage, not recognized by the state of Arizona.  I figured that there was really only the one way to find out, so I headed to the SSA office.  I waited in line twenty minutes, I presented the clerk with my marriage license and my name-change form and it took him about five minutes to change my name in the computer.  He gave me a receipt of name-change and told me to expect a new Social Security card in the mail.  We still don't know if it went through because T has somewhat of an androgynous name, or if the guy just didn't care or if he thought it should be easy... and we will likely never know.  But I am thankful for him.

I left the office in a daze... could it really have been that easy?  It was official - I was a McGill and our family really was going to share the same name.

Fast forward a couple years.  Before we were licensed as foster parents, I got a somewhat random text from my mom one day.  It was something to the effect of, "If you guys ever have a daughter, you should name her Everleigh!"  She'd seen the name somewhere, some celebrity named their daughter Everley or Everlee or whatever.  Naturally, my mom and I are very attached to the -eigh ending of names because that's how my name ends!  My childhood was filled with sayings like, "Bee Happeigh".  My pet cockatiel was named "Birdeigh" (after naming the bird Ginger, only to discover the bird was male and thus he gained a new moniker).

At first, I wasn't sold on Everleigh.  I thought it might be too weird.  I mentioned it in passing to T, who didn't seem sold either.

Interestingly, over time, the name really attached itself into our hearts.  It had special meaning to us because my mom suggested it first, and the -eigh ending.  At some point, we thought it would be just perfect to use the nickname Evie for Everleigh.  We really fell in love with the name/nickname after that.

When we first started planning to try to conceive a baby, we began poring over our already well-loved Baby Name Book.  We went through a lot more girls' names, and tons of boys' names.  We spent some time wondering about what a good middle name for Everleigh would be.  We thought it would be best if we chose a single-syllabled name to go with a longer, more complicated first name.  Jane came up pretty quickly; and it's also T's grandmother's middle name!  Double score.  The icing on the cake is that the baby's initials would be E.J.M., which are T's dad's same initials.

Over the next year, we considered other names.  We lengthened and shortened the list.  But always, we came back to Everleigh Jane.

Then just last week, we learned that T is growing a baby girl in there.  A daughter.

Our very own Everleigh Jane.  She's really coming!**

*I want our family to share a name - I don't want anybody to feel that my desires in any way place judgement on the way they choose to name their own families!  To each their own.

**The name is not set in stone; we absolutely reserve the right to change the name once we meet her if we think she's somebody different!

This is a wooden sign T's father made when he was in middle school, I believe.  His family had it up at their house for awhile, and then it got passed back to him as he got older and had his own family.  Recently, it was passed on to us in celebration of our family name.  By the time I got my hands on it, it was in rough shape.  I cleaned it up and painted it, and now it's just waiting to be hung up in our home!  Isn't it great?  I love it.


  1. I absolutely know what you mean about the name. I decided to take my wife's name (via deed poll) so that our little family will have the one name. Interestingly, her name is a Mc name also, which is why we refer to baby as Baby Mac :) LOVE the sign, it's so sweet :)

  2. I changed mine for similar reasons--we went over it and over it, but it just made the most sense for our family. I LOVE Everleigh. It would have been high on our list but there's some sordid local history around here connected to the name that gives me pause. So pretty, though!

  3. Another voice for changing to non-bio mom's name - there's no question that I'll be the one carrying the baby, and V has a prettier last name. :p And I LOVE Evie as a nickname - we've tossed it around, too.

  4. We opted for a hyphenated name. Neither of us were willing to take on the other's last name. A straight couple we know hyphenated their names about 40 years ago, and claim to never have problems. Now, 5 plus years later, it can still be a pain for me. I get called Mrs. NameAfterHyphen all the time.
    In California, both moms' names go on the birth certificate, so our daughter is pretty clearly both of ours.