Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Name and a Blessing

A Name

Names were things that resonated with me from the time I was a little girl. I loved "Amanda" and "Katie" (my imaginary friends were always Amandas or Katies). Once there was a dark-haired Fallon who moved into my congregation and I was fascinated by her exotic and beautiful name.

I don't know what deep-seeded gene makes little girls come up with their own baby names list when they are 8, but something about names seems inherently important, and beautiful names stick with you. 

During my time in Cambridge, I started to think that it might be worthwhile to choose meaningful names for children - not merely beautiful names. I was reading Helaman 5:6-7 in which Helaman tells his children Nephi and Lehi that they were named after their forbears. He says:
"This I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how it is said [...] that they were good. Therefore, my sons, I would that ye should do that which is good, that it may be said of you [...] even as it has been said [...] of them." 
Naming a child after someone she could emulate was a new and powerful idea for me. For the first time, I wanted to give my own children names with meaning. 

For safety reasons I don't want to publish my daughters' middle names on this blog, which is too bad for this post because I love my girls' middle names and Madelyn's especially is particularly meaningful. It was stressful for me to choose Madelyn's name; I realized that this name would, in some ways, define her her entire life. I spent a lot of time thinking about the little person inside of me and wondering who she was and who she would become. I felt like the decision was important enough to pray over. The name "Madelyn" had never been on any of my names lists, but when we started discussing it, it felt right. I guess you could say that I gained a testimony of letting the Spirit guide the naming process.

That experience prepared me for the naming of new little Anna. Again, "Anna" was never on any names list; I don't think I'd ever thought of it much. But when I heard I would be having a Christmas baby, I started thinking about the men and women of the Christmas story. My mind came to Anna the Prophetess in the temple, and I couldn't get her out of my mind. I was touched that she immediately recognized the baby in the temple as the Savior of the world, and that she witnessed of His identity to everyone she saw. How powerful it would be to be named after someone like that! What example of faith to guide your life!

Initially, I worried over it. This name was stuck so firmly in my mind, but we didn't even know yet if we were having a girl. For some reason, I felt strongly that this would be my only chance to have an Anna - even if I had another girl, she wouldn't be born at Christmas, and the timing seemed important.

When we found out our Christmas baby would in fact be a little girl, I understood why I had felt so strongly about her name. Anna she would be.

A Blessing

The first (though non-salvific) ordinance for a baby born to LDS parents takes place when she receives a name and a blessing, usually in front of the congregation during Sunday worship services. I think this is such a beautiful tradition - priesthood-holder loved ones gather around the baby in a circle while the father (or other priesthood holder if the father is not) holds the baby and pronounces her full name, and then gives a blessing as inspired by the Spirit. It is a sacred thing as all priesthood blessings are, but perhaps because it involves someone so small and precious - a beautiful little spirit who has come to this big, wide world for the first time - I find the baby blessing particularly touching.

David blessed Anna on Sunday. Anna was wearing the dress my great-great grandmother made for my great-grandfather's blessing (you know, back in the 1800s when little boys wore dresses). We spent last week looking for the dress because sometime between Anna's blessing and the blessing of her sister, two years earlier, the dress had been put away in a keepsake box and its location forgotten. Ultimately, the dress is the least important thing about a baby blessing, but I was so hoping that Anna could be blessed in the same dress I was blessed in, the same dress Madelyn was blessed in. It is a gorgeous dress, but more than that, it is a symbol of the heritage of faith that Anna has been born into. I think it is so meaningful that generations ago, Anna's grandfathers were bringing their children before the Lord to be blessed. Just as I want her to remember the Prophetess Anna's legacy, I want Anna to remember the legacy of her own grandmothers and grandfathers and to look to their examples. For me, the dress represents that legacy.



I loved watching my husband take his baby girl in his arms and open his heart to hear the words the Lord would speak to her. I am grateful for his opportunity to have that intimate moment with his daughter. So often those intimate moments are mine alone, moments he can't share in the same way.

I can't number the moments throughout my pregnancy when I would feel Anna's flutters inside of me and I would pause and turn my thoughts towards the little person who would shortly join our family. Now those moments happen not when she kicks, but when she nurses, snuggled up next to me, so trusting, confident that I will be there to provide her needs. I admit that sometimes (many times!) I sit in an exhausted stupor during nighttime feedings, but sometimes I am awake enough to appreciate how tender those moments are: just me and my sweet daughter in a warm, quietly lit room while the world sleeps. In such tender moments both before and after birth, my mind projects forward, wondering about who this little person is and who she will become, feeling keenly my hopes for her future. These are moments David can never have in the same way. He can feel kicks with his hand and he can rock Anna late at night, but there is a oneness that comes only through the physical intimacy of bearing and nursing a baby that he will never experience. I feel a sense of loss for him because those things are so profound for me.

I am grateful, therefore, that Dave can hold her close and bless her. As her father, his is the unique opportunity of opening his mind and expanding his vision, to see and feel who Anna is and who she will become in his own profound, intimate way. It is a beautiful thing to be able to witness as her mother.


The Minnesota Preators said...

Beautifully expressed Amy!

Jamie said...

Such a lovely post! Congratulations! She is so beautiful.

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