Today in Writing 220, Kelli shared her e-portfolio with that class. Immediately the title “Kelli not Kelly” jumped out at me. It was original and fun and said something about her as a person. When I commented on this, Kelli jumped right into talking about how people spell her name with a y, even after she specifically tells them that she spells it with an i. As soon as Kelli mentioned this, lots of other people in the class started to chime in. Apparently Kelli’s saga is one that many members of our class are familiar with. The whole conversation got me thinking about names. While the story behind my frustration with my name isn’t the same as Kelli’s, I can definitely relate to her struggle.
I was born two months premature. Seven months into her pregnancy, my mom got sick, and after a plethora of tests and a long period of deliberation, the doctor’s decided it was time for a c-section. However, babies aren’t meant to be delivered so early. The doctors had given my parents a long list of medical conditions that they should be prepared to face once I was born, and my parents were ready for the worst. But, incredibly, aside from some very underdeveloped lungs, which are expected of any preemie, I was relatively healthy. My parents are eternally grateful to the entire staff that helped deliver their baby.
The doctors and nurses who had been following my mom’s case for weeks had grown very attached to the baby inside her. So when I was born, they asked my parents what they were going to name me, and my mom said Matilda. That’s where the sappy, cute, baby story ends. The nurses told my mother that she couldn’t name a baby girl that. My mom, understanding both that these people had essentially saved her (and my) life, and that in the weeks ahead they would provide me with 24/7 care in the NICU, she asked them what they wanted to name the baby. And they said Emily. So that was the name my parents gave me: Emily Matilda David.
But once I reached four pounds, and had lungs capable of functioning on their own, I was allowed to leave the NICU. My mom took me home, and never called me Emily again.
While that might seem like a long story, it’s the one that I have to tell every time someone asks why I don’t go by Emily. People always want to know why I chose to go by Matilda, but the truth is, I never really had a choice. I’ve been Matilda for as long as I can remember. When people hear that my parents have always called me Matilda, they inevitably want to know why my parents named me Emily to begin with. It must be a family name, they guess. And that’s where the story comes in.
I used to resent my parents for this decision. I actually cannot remember one time when either of my parents have used the name Emily. In fact, they both dislike it when I use it. Maybe they don’t like to think all that time spent in the hospital. But then why name me Emily in the first place? It causes a headache when I go into the doctor’s office and they’re searching for my records, when I send emails from my umich account, or when I show up to the first day of class. I’ve thought about getting my name legally changed plenty of times.
However, over the years, I come to appreciate both of my names. Matilda is name that my parents gave me, and, despite the fact it’s a little old fashioned, I like that I have a name that you don’t hear every day. And even though I only use Emily when I’m filling out official paperwork, visiting the dentist, or ordering a drink at Starbucks (because it’s much easier to spell), the name reminds be to be grateful for the life that I have, and the people who have given so much to me.
What frustrates you most about your name? How did your parents come up with your name? What would you have been named if you were the opposite sex (If I were I boy I’d be named Woody)?