In 2005 my life was very different than it is now. A job in advertising afforded me a very indulgent lifestyle and I spent every cent on purses, high heels, and enjoying myself. Having a child was the last thing on my radar.
In fact, from a pretty young age I thought that I didn't want kids. My image of family life was a messy, hectic and overwhelming one and I swore to never find myself in such a situation.
Instead, I planned to live somewhere like Paris, stay very thin and try to cultivate a permanent and irresistible air of mystery.
Life never goes the way we plan it. Today, I have a 10 month old, a husband and a house in Toronto. I've quit advertising, and its lifestyle, and don't have any plans for full time work. For me, falling in love made that mysterious Paris woman seem too aloof. Suddenly having a baby felt not only right, but so much more exciting than anything else I'd envisioned before.
When my son Isaac was born, he was breech. This threw a bit of a wrench into my plan for a doula-guided hypnobirth. That was to be the first of many events where he had pushed me right out of the driver's seat and into the trunk. I was no longer in control.
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The lovely Antonia has plummeted straight off the popularity charts over the past 15 years, which is good news if you’re looking for a strong classic that you won’t hear every day. A royal name that originated as a feminization of Anthony, Antonia was immortalized in literature as the title character of Willa Cather’s novel My Antonia. Antonia is a classy choice, but short forms Tonia and Toni take the name downmarket. Stick with the full form.
The golden Aurelia was a Roman name borne most famously by Julius Caesar’s mother. In more modern times, it was the name of poet Sylvia Plath’s mother. We see Aurelia rising again after a half-century slumber along with other names from ancient Rome. Sister name Aurora is already in the Top 200.
It’s hard to believe that indie darling Clementine is not in the U.S. Top 1000, but she’s been off the list since the early 1950s, a statistic we see changing one year soon thanks to her choice by several high-profile celebrity parents including Ethan Hawke and Rachel Griffiths. Popular in France and Britain, Clementine is the feminine form of the Latin Clement, which means mild or merciful and was the name of 14 popes.
Cordelia is one of the most lovely of Shakespearean names, the name of King Lear’s sympathetic daughter based on a legendary Queen of the Britons whose name was also spelled Cordellia. A name whose roots are given as both Latin and Celtic that may mean heart or daughter of the sea, Cordelia has been sliding down the U.S. charts since 1880, when it was close to Number 200, vanishing from the Top 1000 six decades ago. Cordelia is a proper-sounding long form with a range of friendly nicknames, from Cora to Delia to Lia or Cory.
To some, Harriet may be the quintessential old lady name, but we see it as cute and lively, with adorable nicknames such as Hattie and Etta. Harriet is also attached to a range of worthy heroines, from Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe to abolitionist Harriet Tubman, from the vanished heroine of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to Harriet the Spy.
India barely misses the Top 1000 -- it stands at Number 1001 -- so it may not lie outside the magic circle for long, though this lovely place-name has been heading straight downhill for the past decade. Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and designer wife Georgina Chapman have a newborn daughter India, as does Avenger star Chris Hemsworth, so that celebrity attention may nudge it upward again. The India of Gone with the Wind was Ashley Wilkes’ sister and Scarlett O’Hara’s frenemy.
Louisa may be the perfect choice for a bookish child who admires Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, and is also pleased by the connection to namesake characters in both Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. Louisa and sister name Louise have for centuries traded places as style favorites, with Louise claiming far more recent popularity: It was in the Top 100 for the entire first half of the 20th century. But both are off the Top 1000 now and it’s Louisa that has more fans: 194 girls received the name in 2011, versus 123 for Louise. Lou and Lulu are its stylish nicknames.
Lucinda, which feels almost like a midcentury smoosh between Lucy and Linda, has more historic heft as a name than you might guess: It was invented as an elaboration of Lucia in 1605 by Cervantes for the great classic novel Don Quixote. How cool and impressive a pedigree is that? Popular in the 19th century and again in the middle of the last century, Lucinda has dropped from sight except among cognoscenti who know it’s a well-seasoned long form with a healthy roster of fashionable short forms, from Lu to Lucy to Lucia to Cinda to Cia.
Mabel still sounds like the name of a saucy silent screen star, ala Mabel Normand, but she’s definitely ready for her comeback along with style cousins Matilda and Sadie. Mabel is originally a short form of Amabel, an older name than Annabel. Mab was a fairy queen in a Shelley poem.
A more outré choice than some of the other classic girls’ names here, Marcella is rooted in the ancient Roman family name Marcellus or Marcus, which relates to Mars, the god of war. Don Quixote’s Marcela, pictured here, was the most beautiful woman in the world. And the classic Marcella is shaking out her marcel waves and is ready for a new modern life.
Margo and Margot, sound-alike short forms of Margaret which means “pearl,” both lie outside the Top 1000 but are being revived by hip parents who love the o ending and the name’s traditional-modern crossover feel. Two classic movie characters bore the name: Bette Davis’ iconic Margo Channing in All About Eve and Grace Kelly’s Margot in Dial M for Murder.
This medieval variation of Mary, made famous by Robin Hood’s Maid Marian and The Music Man’s Marian the Librarian, has received a huge modern dose of sex appeal by French actress Marion Cotillard. Both the Marion and Marian spellings lie outside the Top 1000. Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick named one of their small twin daughters Marion.
Mercy is a Puritan virtue name that fell out of the US Top 1000 way back in 1889 and has only reemerged recently thanks to its choice by Madonna for her young adopted daughter. While Mercy feels more religious than secular sisters Hope and Charity, a Dickens character named Mercy was nicknamed Merry, which definitely gives in a different feel.
This Biblical girls’ name is another classic with two perfectly proper spellings -- Susanna and Susannah -- both outside the Top 1000. Susannah was the New Testament heroine of the story of Daniel and the Elders. It derives from the Hebrew Shoshana, which means lily and which is receiving some new attention of its own thanks to the Zosia Mamet character on Girls. The most stylish name today in the Susan family, a fashionable short form would be Sanna, not Susie or Sue.
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My sweet, chubby, sparkly-eyed little boy captivated me from the first moment he looked at me with his hypnotic little gaze. He is adorable, charming and usually the life of the party. He is also wilful and what the books call "a persistent personality." This basically means that he won't do what you want unless he wants to and common parenting tactics are mostly futile.
None of this would be that big of a deal if he and I were always on the same page; however, we've had some different ideas. I'd take him in the stroller, he'd scream in protest. The car, which for most babies is relaxing, was a torture chamber for him. Naps were met with complete resistance, despite his obvious exhaustion.
Rather than fight him on everything at once, I took a triage approach and made naps the priority. The car and stroller were parked -- literally and figuratively. Staying home all the time was isolating, but I was exhausted most of the time anyway because Isaac wasn't sleeping through the night at all. Any chance of sleeping during the day was minimal -- Isaac's napping was very, very hard won and if he did nap it was too short for me to fall asleep and get any kind of rest. Despite his resistance, he really did need the naps so I spent almost all of my waking time trying to help him to fall asleep. Sitting outside the baby's room day after day, 'shushing' him to sleep with no success, I often felt so helpless; I feared I would fall apart.
The problem was, I realized, I didn't have the option of falling apart. I was a mother and I had to keep it together. As I saw it, I had no choice, I had to carry on -- even if carrying on looked exactly like my life looked at that very moment, in that hallway, for the foreseeable future. Who the hell else was going to help this tired baby learn to sleep? Not the two sleep consultants that had been and gone. Not the 'all knowing authors' of the dozen sleep books I'd read. Nope, it was just me and my persistent little baby working it out.
And we have worked it out. Issac sleeps through the night and he also naps twice a day at predictable times. If I didn't know how persistent I was, I'd say it was a miracle.
Sitting in that hallway, on that day and many others, I wished so badly to be free from what I was beginning to call "the naps wars." I wanted to make decisions about how my day would unfold. I felt so guilty for thinking such thoughts and I certainly didn't want to share them with anyone.
As time goes on, I'm discovering that I can miss my freedom so much it takes my breath away, but I can still love my son madly in the same moment. This realization was huge for me. I didn't have to succumb wholly to one side or the other. I could feel, and possibly even speak of negative feelings without questioning if that made me a bad mom or a bad person. By allowing the negative to temper the positive and vice versa, I started to feel my experience as a mother more authentically, without as much guilt or so many caveats.
Today people marvel at what a 'good boy' my son is. It's great to hear, but it also makes me happy to know he doesn't have to be good for me to love being his mom. I know that those darker thoughts and feelings have nothing to do with being a 'good mom' or with loving my child.
Motherhood has been an amazing journey and a very challenging one. I've made it over some hills and I plan to make it over many more. In heels no less.
By Lisa Cunningham
Originally published on The Purple Fig
The Purple Fig is a community where women share personal and relatable stories; no ego, no shame. We're about life, love and all of the stuff that makes us yearn, squirm, and giggle. These stories make up the authentic and intriguing journey of a woman.
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