“What about Susan Joan?” he suggested.
My face crumpled. “I don’t love either of those names.”
“Susan means graceful lily,” he said. “Joan means God is gracious.”
The names have further significance. Both of them are aunts that have played vital roles in my husband’s life, people who continuously shower others with bursting love and creativity. They brighten everything around them.
Still, to me, the name sounded harsh. Susan Joan. Not like the beautiful names that sat on my own list: Lillian, Caroline, Elise, Jane. Lily was once a joke, but it had slipped to the top of my list. Lily is a beautiful, fragrant flower symbolizing innocence, purity, and beauty. Consider the lilies of the field, I thought, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. The image of the lily, along with its aroma, can change the atmosphere of an entire room by just sitting in it. Naming this girl Lilian would give her a more adult option later in life.
Female names have always been difficult for my husband and me. Our first daughter, who is currently three years old, is named Grace, and that was the first female name that my husband and I had ever agreed on. He just doesn’t like girl names, but Grace was an important word for us after giving life to our first two children: two rambunctious boys.
Before we knew this child’s gender, my oldest son told us that she would definitely be a girl. “That would make us balanced,” he said. I chuckled because this boy always chooses symmetry. Still, he was right, and when we went for our anatomy scan the technician told us that, though a baby’s measurements usually waver and the due date is an average, all of this daughter’s measurements pointed to the same date. “This is one symmetrical little girl,” the technician said.
Susan Joan. With only a few weeks of pregnancy left, I joked that we could nickname her “Aunt.” For years, she and many others would probably think we were saying “ant” and referring to the insect that crawls quickly on the floor searching for sugar. We laughed together. My husband said he didn’t love the name Susan Joan either.
The option lingered.
Lilian still rang truest in my mind. Even Lilian Joan, a name I thought beautiful and wonderful and worthy of our little baby, honoring the aunt named Joan that plays such a role in my husband’s family. We’d call her Lily for short, and the rhyme of her full name, “Lily Dutilly,” would bring joy to our world.
Now, we are days away from her projected due date and she sits upside down in my belly, nameless, and the name Susan is beginning to grow on me. I don’t believe that everyone must name their child according to the meaning it holds, but for my family, this is an important part of the process.
What if her name were Susan? Susan Joan Dutilly. Susan means graceful lily, I thought. It fits well next to our first daughter—Grace and Susan—and still the symbol of the lily would remain present in her name. Innocence, purity, beauty. Consider the lilies of the field… they toil not, neither do they spin.
In this famous line, lilies are portrayed as balanced flowers. They toil not, neither do they spin. Lilies are graceful beings who stand in the field, beautiful and balanced, bright and open. It’s a graceful image for a family, for a mother who wakes and cooks and cleans and tries to finish her coffee before it goes cold.
I try to see my children, to hug them often and give them what they need most. Yet I am often torn between allowing space for all of us to be individuals and for removing the space by making close snuggles. Perhaps this motherhood thing is all about finding a balance, knowing that it may never be created but is simply found somewhere within these chaotic days. That in the end, the moments matter but they also don’t. While sometimes I am tipped too far on the discipline side and other days I am lax, in the end a mother balances out and can let go of the moments she thinks she’s failed.
Now, I think, Can I learn to paint a lily? I want to paint lilies all over this girl’s room. I want her to know that this is who we believe her to be. Though she will surely surprise us, as our daughter Grace has, with tantrums and disobedience, and pure human ugliness, can she know that she is first and always a daughter who brought balance to her family? Though she will be a baby and then a toddler, she will not toil in her growing. Though she will grow to be a woman, perhaps a wife and a mother herself, and though life may take its toll as it does on all humans, right now the crossroad lies in her name because her name is her first entrance. My motherly hope is simply this, that the daughter of innocence whom she is right now would remain steadfast as she goes forth: Susan.