Tuesday, September 29, 2015


I had seen Rhonda briefly six years ago when she first started her ophthalmology practice. She was anxious, unsure of whether she could handle either the patients or the necessary business responsibilities. She described herself as being an anxious person most of her life, but refused to focus much on her past, saying that she wanted to address present day concerns. Soon she found reasons not to come – she had to see a patient, go to a net-working luncheon, attend a meeting. Eventually she dropped out. I was surprised to hear from her again.

“Thanks for seeing me,” she says smiling. “A lot’s happened since I saw you. My practice is going very well, I got married and a little over six weeks ago I had a baby.”

“Congratulations. You’re right. A lot has happened.”

“My husband, Andy - he’s a physician too, an internist - he said I needed to come. He said it wasn’t normal that I haven’t named the baby yet.”

Inadvertently my eyes widen, my eyebrows raise.

“You don’t think it’s normal either,” she says, reading my surprised expression.

“I don’t know about normal, but I can see that it could be a problem. What do you call … Boy or girl?”

“Girl. You know, cutie pie, sweetie, lovey, baby.”

“And what’s your sense of why you haven’t named her?”

“I don’t want to make a mistake. I wouldn’t, for example, want to call her some sweet girlie name, only to have her be a tomboy. Or vice versa.”

“And how would you be able to know?”

“That’s the problem. I can’t. But I figure if I wait just a little longer, I’ll have more of an idea, more of a sense of her personality.”

“Does your husband get a vote?” 

“He’s wanted to name her either Amanda or Kim right from the beginning. But I don’t know, they just don’t seem to fit.”

“How do you feel about your name, Rhonda?”

“I hate it!”

Aha, I think. Perhaps we’re getting someplace. “Because …?”

“My mother gave me the name. It was her mother’s. My father put the name Alexandra on my birth certificate but she crossed it out and put Rhonda. Alexandra is so much more … more regal sounding. I hate Rhonda. In fact, I go by Rho. Not regal sounding either, but not so clunky.”

“Did you know your grandmother, Rhonda, I mean Rho?”

“She was a witch. She lived with us. My mother waited on her hand and foot. In fact, I’d say Mom often neglected me and my sister because she was so busy catering to my Grandma.”

“Sounds like you feel pretty angry at both of them.”

“I guess that’s true.”

“And how do you feel about your baby?”

“My baby?! I love her, of course. Are you saying I don’t love my baby because I haven’t named her?”

“I’m not saying that, Rho …”

“Oh God! I hope I love my baby. What made you ask that?” Rhonda says interrupting me, giving me no chance to answer her question. “I wasn’t sure I wanted a baby right now, what with my practice and all. But my husband said it was time, that we weren’t getting any younger. Do you really think I don’t love my baby? I couldn’t bear that. It’s like I’d be passing it down the line, the indifference I experienced.”

“Rho, there’s a lot going on here, which doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby. You can love your baby and still have ambivalent feelings about being a mother. You can love your baby and be scared of repeating the experiences of your past in the present. It sounds like you’re aware of all that and that certainly puts way ahead of lots of people.”

Rhonda looks down at her clenched hands. “I can see how not naming my baby could make her feel unimportant. I don’t want to do that,” she says crying.

“I’m sure you don’t, Rho.”

“I’m going to tell Andy he can name her whatever he wants.”

That’s not being any more involved, I think to myself. “What do you want to name her, Rho?”

“I don’t know. I know from what we just said that there’s more to it, but when you ask me the question point blank, I go back to where we stated, I don’t want to make a mistake.”

“Sounds like naming your baby is so intertwined with your mother and grandmother, that it’s become impossible to separate them out.”

“I don’t know what to do. I feel I have to do something and I’m stuck. Do you have another session this week?”

“For sure.”

“Thanks. I guess I’ll go home and discuss it with Andy.”

“Sounds like a plan.” 

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