The Tough Task of Baby Naming

Does her name work because it's perfect for her, or because we have started to associate certain personality characteristics with it?
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Years ago, I thought it was difficult to name a cat. She'll live with that name forever! It needs to be perfect! I thought. A cat. A cat. (Seriously). So, when I found out I was having another girl this past September, I never presumed it would be easy to name her. What I didn't expect was how (nearly) impossible it would be.

We picked our first daughter's name, Gemma, the day after my eighteen-week appointment. We had just discovered the sex of our baby. Perusing online lists, we stumbled upon it and were drawn to it from that very first moment. Although we considered other options over the next twenty-two weeks, nothing ever seemed "right." While other names seemed perfectly adequate, we didn't love them.

Gemma was born on March 14, 2009, at 6 o'clock in the morning. We eagerly revealed our beautiful new baby and her name to our family. Like idealistic first-time parents, we had kept everything secret until that last moment. (Related: Boy, did we have a lot to learn. About everything).

Gemma's tough and spunky. She can be stubborn, and has been known to argue about everything from clothing choices to which personality I should assume in a game of barbies. At 3 and three quarters, she has her own opinions, thoughts and concept of how the world should revolve. She's bossy, but sensitive; she still needs her mommy after a fall or to soothe hurt feelings. She runs with the boys but is the quintessential princess. She's vibrant and full of life, perhaps the loudest singer at her pre-school's holiday show this past December. I love her name. It fits -- but why? Does her name work because it's perfect for her, or because we have started to associate certain personality characteristics with it?

Does the name own her, or does she own the name?

Still, having Gemma and knowing Gemma made thinking about naming our impending arrival all the more difficult. I knew what a child -- a baby -- can become. I have a 4-year-old who is unlike any one else in the world. She alternately amazes me, yet makes me want to yank my hair out. And I love her for it. But here I was, pregnant, walking around at 25, 30, 35, even 38 weeks gestation, not knowing a single thing about my fetus (aside from sex), who she was or what she would become. Obviously, this was the case during my first pregnancy, but I suppose ignorance is bliss; we didn't know any better. Making things more complicated, we needed to find a name we love as much as Gemma's. I was fully convinced we'd walk into the hospital with no options or ideas and be faced with an nameless baby. That the staff member in charge of birth certificates would nag me incessantly to the point of making a rash decision. That we'd be forced to pick something we weren't quite satisfied with.

Then, a week before my scheduled cesarean, my husband sat on the couch to watch a movie (I'll keep the title secret). I joined him, briefly, not intending to watch the entire film, but was quickly engaged. I loved the name of the young protagonist, and thought it might work. They call it serendipity; good luck, and the product of being in the right place at the right time. I often catch myself wondering what she'd be called if I hadn't joined Jerry that evening.

Cleo was born on January 10, 2013, at 8:11 in the morning. She's almost two months old, and we're finally getting used to introducing our second daughter as something other than "the baby."

Cleo. Cleo.

Will she fit it? What will this name do for her?

Or perhaps it's more appropriate to ask what she'll do for it.