Dennis is not a family name, nor is it the surname of my favorite actor. Dennis is not a character from a great work of literary fiction. In fact, Dennis is not even the name of my son. His name is Julian, and now that he’s seven years old, I rarely forget it.
But in those early days in the hospital, when we first met our newborn son, “Dennis” was the first name that sprang to my lips when I referred to him.
Because Dennis was the name of our cat.
Our feline roommate, who for the past year had dominated our attention, captured our pre-parental hearts with his cuteness, entertained us with his rascally manners, and distracted us as we slogged through month after month of not conceiving, had somehow worked his way into our brains so deeply that Dennis became synonymous with “that creature that we are consumed with caring for.”
And when Julian cried out in his hospital-issued bassinet, my husband and I both confessed, “I almost called him Dennis!” We continued to slip up and call him Dennis either in our minds or out loud for the first few weeks.
I have heard from other moms that they had a hard time attaching their new child’s name to the baby once he or she arrived. In some cases, a pet’s name is the competing name, and in some, another recently born baby in their social circle.
When I first spoke to my friend Rachael following the birth of her second daughter, I said, “Remind me, did you go with Leah or Maya?” and she confessed, “It’s Maya, but I’m not sure it was the right choice; I keep forgetting!”
Did you find it difficult to remember your baby’s name at first?