All of the above

We named the baby Raphael:

1. in honor of a beloved relative whose name also began with R

2. in honor of a beloved cat whose name sounded similar and whose nickname sounded, let’s face it, identical

3. At what would turn out to be my third to last regular weekly appointment with my midwives, Karen (one of the two midwives) listened to his heart and there was something weird about the heartbeat. We all heard it: a sort of a lull between beats every few beats, or maybe they became too close together during that lull, it was hard to tell. It hadn’t been there a week ago. I was full term; if there was something wrong, we all knew (but did not discuss) that he would have to be delivered that day and would maybe immediately have to have some kind of surgery done on his tiny heart. Karen called a pediatric cardiologist and asked if we could come in right away, and we could. I dressed in one of my two remaining garments that fit (the midwives come to your house, so I had been in pajamas) and we put on our shoes. Karen drove us the three blocks to the G train to save time. We had decided to take the G to the L because it is faster than taking a car to 14th and 7th Ave, our destination, but that wait for the G train —  a wait I have done so many countless times over the course of the last decade of my G train-adjacent life — was one of the worst moments of my life. I thought about what I had in my bag and how ridiculous it would be if this was the bag I would have with me in the hospital. I didn’t even have a book! We planned to give birth at home, so I had never thought about packing a hospital bag, it had seemed like a jinx. Keith said something to me about the baby and he used the joke name we’d been calling him, the placeholder we’d been using until we landed on something that seemed actually right. “THAT’S NOT HIS NAME,” I said and burst into tears. A name seemed so important all of a sudden, like it could tether our baby to us and to life.

The sonogram or EKG or whatever took ten hundred thousand silent years of first a technician and then the doctor pushing HARD into my navel with the wand in order to get the thing as close as possible to the baby’s chest, inside me. We stared at the screen with no idea of what we should be seeing or hearing. The doctor finally told us that the arrythmia was arterial (which is ok) as opposed to ventricular (which is not) and that he was okay with me delivering at home, even if it was still there at my next appointment with the midwives, even if it was still there in labor.

And it was: every time Martine (the other midwife) or her assistant Shana checked, while I was in labor, I could hear it, that skipped beat. But it didn’t get worse or different and his heart sounded so strong the whole time, even when I had been trying and failing to get his head out for another ten hundred thousand definitely not silent years, he was still right there, patiently waiting to be born, and then finally he was. My last scream merged with his first scream but a few seconds later we were all laughing. He looked so funny, a little conehead alien covered in goo! Was this my baby? Who was he?

A few minutes or hours later it was time for Martine to examine him so he left me for the first time ever and went a few feet away, to the end of the bed, to be weighed and measured and to have his heart listened to and Martine said the arrhythmia was gone, or at least that she couldn’t hear it. When she checked again a couple of days later, and then Shana checked a couple of days after that, it still wasn’t there. We have another appointment with the cardiologist next week and it will be horrible but the arrhythmia still won’t be there. I am totally sure.

The name Raphael, according to what I’m sure is a very reliable internet baby name website, means “God has healed.”  I remember coming across this item of information several months ago while searching for R names that weren’t terrible while looking at my phone and eating a summer roll in Hanco’s; when I read those words I remember feeling inexplicably moved. I didn’t think anything of it at the time because pregnant = “inexplicably moved”  constantly by the dumbest and most random shit. But during our five days of name deliberation after the baby was born I remembered the meaning and told Keith. I said “You’re going to hate this, but” and then I told him. Neither of us is a big God person, especially not Keith, though I am often susceptible to superstition. But to my surprise he didn’t hate it, and just like that, we finally had a name for our son. A week after he was born, we told my parents and Martine, who could then file his birth certificate.

It’s taking a minute to get used to (I have caught myself saying the joke placeholder) but I try to practice, I can practice right now because I hear him calling from the bedroom, not loudly, just making me aware that it’s been a minute since we last talked. Hi Raphael. Hi Raffi. I’m right here, your crazy mom who partly named you after a cat. I will change your diaper and feed you. I will love you with all of my heart and soul forever.

3 comments to All of the above

  • Sheila

    Geez this is really nice; teared up at the end, embarrassingly.

  • i will never have a baby, but when i was a besotted college freshman who thought about baby names even though i was pretty sure i’d never have a baby i decided that said baby would be named ariel, for plath and shakespeare and “lion of god” reasons. it was hard to not name joe’s and my first cat ariel, after that. i’m thrilled for you and keith and raphael, and RIP, striped raffles.

  • Joseph Clift

    Good luck Emily, Keith and Raphael!

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