Naming Our Prince

The press and paparazzi were on pins and needles: When would the royal baby be born? How long would the labor take? Would all go well? And, of courprince georgese, the all important question: What would his name be?

George, it turns out. My money was on Edward, but Prince George it is—long live the king!

Naming rituals are important to commoners as well, and every family has its own approach. We always consulted the Catholic calendar to see if a due date coincided with a favorite saint’s feast. Whatever names were proximate to the due date—male or female—were fair game.

Well, maybe not every name.

We always ended up with a “probably not” list in addition to the favored “A” list. For example, when we found out we were pregnant with our sixth child, we determined that he’d be born in mid-October sometime. “How about Hedwig, honey?” I asked my wife after glancing at the calendar. “She’s on the 16th. Or Ignatius, on the 17th?” I knew Nancy’s naming limits—long ago she had made it clear that no son of hers would be named Bruno (or daughter for that matter). I was crushed. What dad wouldn’t want a son named Bruno? But I acquiesced, and Nancy retained the name veto in perpetuity.

Back to our sixth: Teresa, perhaps, if the birthday was the 15th? Or Luke if it was the 18th? What about the 19th—one of the North American Martyrs, maybe John or Isaac? We waited and pondered: Who would this child be?

There was nothing unusual about the pregnancy itself, and everything was in order when Nancy approached (and then rolled by [also not unusual]) the due date. Nesting was complete, supplies were at hand, and the bed double-layered and prepared. (No swimming pool, however. I was stubborn and skeptical, so Nancy didn’t get her water labor until Katharine, our seventh. But that’s another story.)

Labor commenced the night of October 16, and Lynn arrived at the ready shortly after I called her, although it seemed like forever—another “not unusual.” Time flies and stands still during a birth. It’s as if everything slows w-a-a-y down, but it all speeds up, too. Weird.

Anyway, labor progressed as normally as the pregnancy had. (Note: I realize I’m taking a liberty [as a man] in using the words “normally” and “progress” in reference to childbirth—or even talking about childbirth at all—and I acknowledge that Nancy should be telling this part of the story, for she did all the work [and marvelously, heroically so, as always], but this will have to do for now.) At some point in the wee hours of October 17, Nancy made that final push, and our baby was born—a boy! Alleluia!cececenick

He pinked up right away, and let us know he was breathing by letting out a squeak or two—no bellow or wail if I remember correctly. As Nancy cuddled with him and assisted him to latch on for the first time, the three of us settled down to get acquainted. Lynn was nearby attending to Apgar scores and the placenta. At some point, we woke up Ben, our oldest, to come meet his new brother and cut the umbilical cord.

Yet, something wasn’t quite right.

For one thing, Lynn was a bit hesitant—not her typical modus operandi during a birth, I assure you. And our baby had certain physical features that were out of whack somehow: Ears too low, for instance, and almond-shaped eyes.

Lynn finished tidying up and took leave to go chart. I broke the silence in our bedroom: “Is he alright?” Nancy answered, “I don’t know,” and then, after a brief pause, “It looks like he has Down’s.” I followed Lynn downstairs to ask her.

Do you know Lynn? Let me tell you about Lynn. She was our midwife for our last five births—prenatal care, labor and delivery, and postpartum care—so we got to know her pretty well. I can tell you without any reservation that Lynn is an extraordinary person—not just a great nurse, but truly an extraordinary person, with a soul full of tenderness and love. Those qualities were particularly important that night in October.

Extensive experience and training enabled Lynn to see immediately that our newborn son had Down syndrome—something the Apgars only reinforced. But she said nothing; she did nothing different. She went about her work as professionally and unobtrusively as she’d done throughout our previous three births with her.

And when I showed up in the kitchen with my question? She didn’t mince words—I greatly appreciated that. “He has Down’s, Rick,” she said. Simple as that—although I think her eyes were welling up a bit. Mine were, too, I’m pretty sure. In any case, I hightailed it back up to Nancy to fill her in, and we both wept over our boy.

They weren’t tears of disappointment though, or tears of anger or regret. And Lynn knew that. She knew that we welcomed our baby son no matter what—without question, absolutely, and no exceptions. This wasn’t a messed up order from Land’s End or Amazon, for God’s sake, so no thoughts of “returns” or customer complaints. He was our child, after all; and not just a child, but the very child we’d been waiting for and praying for. God had bestowed on us as an inestimable gift, and we were grateful and delighted.

Nevertheless, Down’s did present some challenges, even that first day outside the womb. There was the possibility of serious heart defects to begin with, and we had to get him a hearing test as I recall. Plus, a definitive diagnosis required a blood test, and that was important to get done right away as well. After a generous interval to allow us to process everything, Lynn gave us the lowdown on what we needed to accomplish ASAP—like an echocardiogram to rule out life-threatening heart problems.

Back up for a moment and consider this line: After a generous interval to allow us to process…. Our new gift from God wasn’t whisked away by strangers to get tested and poked and prodded; no awkward silences or downcast eyes in response to parents’ questions and pleas, “Where is our baby? Is he OK?”

No. A generous interval to get to know our new son in all his glorious particularity—just like any new baby. Home birth—and, in particular, home birth with Lynn—made it possible for a hard situation to be truly humanized. The Down syndrome was a surprise, for sure, and we knew we had a steep learning curve ahead of us. Moreover, we knew our boy (and we with him) would be facing difficulties and battles our other kids never faced. But…so what? He was our boy, and he was fiercely loved from the very beginning. Lynn knew that and incorporated it into her care.

1091154_221445288005265_569329236_oOh, and the name? As noted above, October 17 is the feast of St. Ignatius—not an option.

Instead, we chose Nicholas Matthias. Nicholas, for the patron saint of children, i.e., Santa Claus! And Matthias? Ben (the umbilical-cord-cutter) had lobbied for that name because of his favorite Redwall character, but that wasn’t the clincher. Instead, we chose it in honor of St. Matthias the Apostle, the one that took Judas’ place after the Resurrection—the one they chose by casting lots. The Eleven had narrowed it down to Matthias and another guy named Barsabbas, and Matthias lucked out.

In fact, it’s because of that selection method that some cultures consider St. Matthias’ feast the luckiest day of the year—the best day to gamble or buy lottery tickets.

I don’t know about that, but it’s certainly true that Fortune smiled on us that night in October. The Creator, the King of the universe, entrusted us with another beautiful child—indeed, a prince! Like every baby, this baby was the latest edition of God’s own image of Himself, the image of the King in our midst.

Nothing could alter that. Nothing. Deo gratias!

Leave a comment


  1. cathy s.

     /  August 27, 2013

    Rick, I love your writing. I knew the story of Nick’s arrival through Nancy, but I loved hearing it from your perspective.


  2. Erik Williams

     /  January 6, 2014

    Rick- I read this piece earlier today and was excited the rest of the day to read it aloud to Patti. After our family Rosary tonight, we settled into our bed after tucking in our girls I finally was able to read it to her with all the emotion it drew from me. It really is such a pleasure to read you and share these glimpses into your life and your vocation. Thank you and please pray for us as yet another new edition of our mighty King develops in Patti’s womb!!! BTW- Nick is one of my hero’s and it’s always a pleasure to be in his company. A Prince indeed!!
    ¡Viva Christo Rey!


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