Monday, January 19, 2009

Blaise Ursula

Today was a calm day for Blaise. No real changes to any of her feeding amounts or schedules, no new medications, and a lot of nap-time while being held by Mom and Dad. Since there's not a lot to report on the medical/surgical front, I thought I'd take a second to write about her name.

I actually overheard her day nurse briefing the night crew on Blaise's condition, and at the first mention of her name, the new nurse interrupted right away:


"Blaise. Blaise Conwell."

"How do you spell that?"


"Oh. Hunh."

Most of the reactions we've heard have been really positive (though those are only the ones that we've heard). Our friends in France seemed very pleased that we chose a scholarly French name, and the priest that baptized Blaise was also all excited to tell me about St. Blaise and St. Ursula. The question everybody has asked us is where the name(s) come from, and we honestly feel a little bad that we don't have a great story. Still, there is a lot of neat stuff about her name we can tell you, some of which helped us decide that it was a great name for our kid.

OK, the first thing is going to sound a little dumb, but I'm just going to fess up: I thought it would be cool for her to have doubled B's for initials. I've got 'em, my Dad's got 'em, and they've worked out great. When I was a little kid I thought it was really cool that I had an alliterative name, and since I didn't have any desire to actually pass my own first name on in any form this seemed like a neat way to keep an ad hoc tradition going. Besides, lots of great superhero names have doubled initials: Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Reed catch my drift.

So why Blaise? Why not any other girl's name that starts with B? Honestly, we just saw it on a list and liked it. It sounded strong and interesting, and both of us liked the idea that it was a unique name by virtue of being old rather than new. (I actually told some of my friends that the girl's name we picked was old-fashioned, and when they started guessing things like "Beatrice," I couldn't resist telling them that I meant "like Middle-Ages-old.")

The name has a few neat things associated with it that we knew we liked. St. Blaise has one of the more interesting rituals in the Catholic church associated with him, in which a blessing to ward off throat disease (one of the things Blaise is patron of) is accompanied by crossing lit candles at the neck of the petitioner. He's also the patron saint of infants, animals, and (according to some sources) scientists...three things that more or less sum up our household. Besides St. Blaise, Blaise Pascal was an important mathematician and Christian scholar famed for his attempts to reconcile science and religion and fleshing out a great deal of probability theory. If you're curious, looking up "Pascal's triangle" and "Pascal's wager" will give you a good sense of both aspects of his life and how he tried to reconcile them. Finally, it turns out that "Blaise" is actually derived from the same root as "Balas." In a sense, this means that we've effectively named our daughter something approximating "Shrimp Scampi" but I figure it's alright.

So what about "Ursula?" This one is unfortunately just us being a little cutesy. We fell into the habit early on of referring to the baby as "The Cub," and so a middle name that means "Little She-Bear" seemed appropriate. I know, I know...we're reverse-anthropomorphizing bears Disney-style. But you know what? Bears are awesome. They're top of the food-chain in most ecosystems they inhabit, are better swimmers and tree-climbers than most animals who develop only one such skill, and can walk bipedally whenever they feel like it. Seriously...beat that. We also just thought it was a pretty name.

So that's pretty much it. Like I said, not so much of a great story or anything, but we feel like we've given her a name that's got a lot to recommend it. It's a name with history and strength, and seems to suit her very well. I think some of our family and friends have been a bit surprised that we did pick something unconventional, but I also think that when you meet her it doesn't take long to see that she really is "Blaise."


Erin said...

I think my early life experiences may also have influenced our choice of names. Can you spend 15 years in Catholic schools without developing a penchant for sixth century saints' names?

Gran said...

I'm just thankful that the saint name you chose has at least one vowel in it. There are some really obscure ones out there.
Also - in the realm of your Catholic school experiences - I was told by Fr. Joe that the school children at St. Peter's will offer a petition (prayer) at the all school mass on the feast of St. Blaise (Feb. 3)for our little Blaise.
An important detail about the throat blessing...the candles are NOT lit. The Catholic Church has enough problems without setting children's hair on fire...

Jarasa said...

Love the back story on the name, and loving the image her name evokes
(I'm imagining here a painting by one of the old Masters of "St Blaise Calming the She-Bear"...)

billycord3 said...

Erin and Ben,
Just learned about Blaise’s heroic efforts and your inexhaustible love for a baby that is asking so much from the both of you. Once I started to read your blog entries, I couldn’t stop. Not only did your excellent writing skills surface, but your love and affection for your baby was visible in every entry. As you mentioned several times, plans don’t always work out as you want, however, I know the two of you are going to be better parents for having gone through what you are experiencing now.

Thanks for sharing your story with us and know that the three of you are in our thoughts and prayers.

Seth said...

She has a wonderful name.

Of course, I trust that her first and last names being consonantcies of each other is a complete coincidence?

Now, how does that fit into the metapuzzle, is what I'm wondering.

Patricia and Jeff said...

Hi Ben,Erin and Blaise,
We have been following your blog and find it entertaining. We are pleased that you are sharing Blaise's progress with us. We are confident that Blaise has a bright future ahead of her,even with a Steelers fan for a father! Ben, you are 100% correct about the double initials. Many great people,real or fictitious,have double initials. Ronald Reagan and Michelle Malkin come to mind almost immediately. Sorry,the conservative in me just had to get that jab in.