The Story of her Name

Summer (noun): The warmest season of the year, in the northern hemisphere from June to August and in the southern hemisphere from December to February

Devi: (noun, Hinduism): The Sanskrit word for “goddess”, meaning heavenly, divine, anything of excellence

Is grief ever free of guilt? Is someone ever able to die without us feeling some semblance of regret? Second guessing and kicking ourselves, beating ourselves up about all of the things we should have done, all of the things we cannot now undo – I think those who remain are always left tinged with guilt and regret. I suppose that writing and speaking and counselling is supposed to free us of some of that. Let’s see.

Originally when I learnt that I would have to go through labour, but that I would be unable to keep my child, I had planned to not see my baby. I thought it would be too painful and leave me too traumatised. Instead, the plan was for James to see the baby and for the hospital staff to write down the baby’s sex in a sealed envelope. Then in 10 years’ time, whether James and I had gone on to have a family or not, we would then look at that piece of paper.

When Summer was born, that plan went out the window. James went to see her, he said hello and she squeaked at him! James rushed in to tell me that there were “signs of life”, I hadn’t known that was possible, so of course I wanted to see my baby.

We spent over an hour with Summer, completely smitten. She was so tiny, we just wanted to keep her bundled up and warm. We didn’t unwrap the blanket, so while she was with us, we didn’t know her sex. It was only the next morning, when staff told us that we would have to name our baby (as a live birth, he or she would have to be registered), that we decided to find out the sex. It seemed cruel to name a child “baby”, so we folded back the blanket to unwrap an additional layer of pain.

It was a girl.

James and I have never settled on a boy name, but we’ve had our baby girl name for 14 years: Summer was not it.

Summer was always on a list of middle names we liked, so that’s how she got her name. I felt so guilty about that; not giving her the girl name we’d always been set on. Although I tried to tell myself that we didn’t give her the name we had always planned, because we still had hope that we could bring a daughter home, was the truth that we didn’t want to ‘waste’ a name? That this child wasn’t the one we’d pictured? It’s really painful for me to write that.

A  few weeks later, we went to register Summer, on James’ birthday in fact. Registering our daughter’s birth and death on the day of his birthday – not what we’d ever pictured doing – but it was poignant and meaningful; another link to her daddy. The registrar printed off a form and asked “Is this correct? This is the last chance to change anything”. At the very last moment (and we are not last minute type of people) I said to James “shall we give her a middle name?” We always planned to give our children a middle name, so why not Summer? On the spot, we added my middle name: Devi. I immediately liked that she now had another permanent link to us and that the name was of Indian origin, to reflect her mixed heritage.

Since naming her Summer Devi, the guilt has faded as we’ve realised that it’s absolutely perfect. It’s such a joyful, bright, felicitous name. If we had named her Alice or Belle or Cara, we wouldn’t see or hear her name as much as we do now. And I do, I see and hear it everywhere, and it makes me remember her with happiness.

I’ve written this blog today, because it’s happened again: I’ve seen her name in a book. Since Summer passed away in March, I have read 20 books and I have seen the word “summer” in every single one. I had no idea it was such a common word, but when you think about it, there are relatively few ways to describe the time of year or temperature. Every time I see her beautiful name in a book I pause, smile and think “there you are!”

We love her name so much and are kicking ourselves that it wasn’t the top of the list in the first place. Summer has, once again, shown her mummy and daddy that she knew better.

Page from my current read, “The Other Half of Augusta Hope” by Joanna Glen

(3) Comments

  1. Rhi says:

    What a beautiful post, thank you so much for sharing this with us. I love knowing where baby names come from, why they were chosen, not that I’d really be able to explain my own choices! 😘

  2. Jasmine says:

    Reading about the meaning behind Summer’s name choice was beautiful. I haven’t been through anything as painful as you have and I won’t ever pretend to understand it all but it did make me smile to think that you get daily reminders of Summer. Adam is the same with Riley and although he doesn’t seem to notice them as much he said that it still makes him smile when he hears the name or sees it written somewhere. He says it’s Riley’s way of popping up to make sure he brightens up the day. I hope that always happens for you both. X

  3. Karen Palmer says:

    You had to face your grief all at once with no chance to slowly process all your losses – your loss of your imagined perfect child and your loss of the beautiful child you gave birth to.
    When I was pregnant with Jennifer, we knew from about 18/19 weeks that she was very unlikely to live. And as I drove to work one day, I caught myself resentfully thinking that because we still had all those weeks to wait before she was born, she was “keeping us back” from having a “proper” family. So I completely understand that instinct not to use one of the girls names you had prepared. And I love the grace that means that the name you gave her is just so perfect and beautiful and means you have tokens and reminders of Summer everywhere you look xx

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