It started as soon as people knew Lucy was pregnant. Her Mum was the first.
“Is it a boy or a girl?” her Mum wanted to know.
Lucy was a computer programmer. Her mother was convinced Lucy had no idea about the things that really mattered.
Lucy didn’t know whether it was a boy or a girl. She didn’t want to know. It was too soon to know anyway.
“You need to know” her mother said, “How can I start making things if I don’t know whether to do pink or blue? Of course it might as well be blue. There hasn’t been a girl in Chris’s family for five generations. It’s bound to be a boy.”
Chris was Lucy’s partner. They had been married nearly two years now. Everyone, well Lucy’s mother and Chris’s mother and a couple of Lucy’s friends, had kept asking when they were going to “start a family”. Lucy’s mother had even gone so far as to get some information on IVF in the belief that perhaps they were “having problems”. Any fault would be on Chris’s side of course. Lucy had not spoken to her mother for a week after hearing that except to say they would start when they were “good and ready”.
As for colours, well Lucy thought she did not care particularly about colours either, at least not at this moment. Babies wore all sorts of colours now. The baby would not know. Still she told her mother,
“Well make everything blue. It won’t matter that way.”
“You can’t put a girl in blue!”
“Well if she has red hair like me then it would be a better choice than pink,” Lucy said crossly. Her hair was an unfortunate shade of red. Despite that her mother had insisted on “pink for a girl”. It had clashed horribly with Lucy’s hair.
“Don’t be so ungracious. And you had better start thinking about names,” her mother said sidestepping the issue of pink or blue.
“There’s plenty of time for thinking about names,” Lucy said. She sighed inwardly. There would be no end to this until the baby was born. That was, according to the doctor, another thirty-four weeks away.
“You should start thinking about it now…and don’t forget you will need to include your father’s name and Chris’s father’s name.”
There had been a terrible row when Lucy’s sister had failed to call her son “Mark Albert Solomon Stafford” or even “Mark Solomon Albert Stafford”. This time it was supposed to include Albert because of Lucy’s father.
Chris’s father was called Edmund but everyone called him “Piper” instead. Lucy did not care for Albert or Edmund and Chris’s father had actually said,
“Don’t call the poor little beggar Edmund.”
“He’s only saying that, “Lucy’s mother said, “Because he really does want you to do it.”
Lucy ignored that. Edmund had been “Piper” from the day he was born.
“And then you have Gramps and Pop to consider too.”
They were Lucy’s grandfathers, both still alive. Gramps was Ezekiel and Pop was Edgar. Lucy did not care for those names either. Anyway the old men were known as Pat and Ed to their friends. Lucy thought it said something about what they thought of their names.
“And Christopher’s grandfather is still alive isn’t he? Do you know his name?”
“Balthazar,” Lucy told her. She had no idea what his name was but it might stop her mother’s ridiculous suggestions.
“Mmm - different. Perhaps it wouldn’t be quite the thing. But, you must start thinking about it Lucinda.”
Other people said she should start thinking about names too. Her friend Josie gave her a fat book of 75,000 Baby Names with the words,
“You won’t need all of those but they might give you some ideas.”
Lucy felt sure she would not need all of them. She might not need any of them.
“Of course it is no use thinking about names until you know,” her friend Sandra told her.
“Know what?” Lucy asked – and then wished she had not.
“The sex of Bump of course – boy or girl. You really do need to know you know. After all is he going to Chris’s old school or yours?”
“We both went to the same school,” Lucy reminded her, “You went there too – remember?”
“Yes, but that’s not the point. You need to start thinking about names now. If you don’t you’ll end up calling him Albert just to please your Mum.”
“And you want to start thinking about giving Bump something a bit different, you know – not ordinary,” Josie added, “That’s what the book is for.”
Josie’s girls were called Clarissa and Tatiana. Her son was called Sylvester. Lucy did not care for those either.
Chris was, as she knew he would be, sympathetic.
“No, we don’t have to think about names yet.”
He got a piece of paper and his favourite magnetic pen. He clipped the paper to the fridge under the pen and said,
“If you do have ideas then put them there. I’ll put mine there as well. We won’t discuss names until Bump is born. I have an idea for sorting the issue anyway. I’ll work on it and tell you later.”
The months went on. Lucy’s mother worried. She had long conversations on the phone with Chris’s mother. They both agreed that the young couple was being completely irresponsible. Names were very important and they were not even thinking about them. That piece of paper on the fridge was still blank. Lucy’s mother tried adding some names to the paper herself but Lucy and Chris just changed the old piece of paper for a fresh blank piece.
It was a dreadful worry; especially as both mother and mother-in-law were sure Lucy must have miscalculated the dates. She was rather big already. Bump was bound to be a boy. No girl would be that big. They only needed to think about male names. Surely the young couple would be willing to listen to advice?
Lucy’s mother did her best. She bought two more baby name books. One claimed to have 1,000,000 names in it. There were names like “Bob”,”Trev” and “Em” in it. Lucy thought they were not names at all, just diminutives of things like Robert or Trevor or Emily or perhaps Emma – or even Emlyn. The other claimed to be “Names for the Twenty-First Century Baby.” It contained things like Elvis (Lucy thought of him as very last century) and Homer (Lucy did not care for the Simpsons). You could forget Aretha, Britney, Kermit and Uma too.
Chris’s mother, much more adept at using a computer, provided a list of “potentially useful” internet sites. Chris actually used them – but not in a way his mother expected or even knew about. He was working on something else.
“All you can find Mum,” he told her cheerfully, “We can use all the help we can get.”
Puzzled but pleased his mother spent hours working at the list for him. The result was that their regular “third Sunday in the month get together” lunch consisted of frozen pizza instead of the usual roast. Lucy’s mother did not speak to Chris’s mother for a week after that – but Chris’s mother was too busy to notice.
Chris was busy too. He was a lecturer in “Computer Programming for Core Value Social Network Systems” at King James College in Oxford. He was never sure what “core value” was supposed to mean but he had done his thesis on an alternative to Facebook. His new “Person-able” site was going to be launched in a matter of weeks. Interest was intense. Despite that Chris seemed distracted.
Lucy understood. He had done the work on Person-able. He was ready to move on to the next thing. Well, he had moved on to the next thing. He told her about it while they were painting the nursery in a rather nice shade of lavender blue. (The blue was because they both liked the colour and not because everyone was saying Bump would be a boy.)
“It will take people from guess work to an informed choice. It should save a lot of arguments.”
“It’s brilliant,” Lucy said meaning it and, at his request, made more suggestions. Chris added them to his mini-computer. He did this while he was up the ladder painting the ceiling cream. It meant he had to remove some paint from the computer’s screen but the ideas were too important to risk forgetting them.
By then Lucy was feeling very uncomfortable. Bump felt like a footballer, a whole team of footballers. No, she did not know the sex. She did not want to know the sex. She did not want to know anything except to be reassured that “everything is going very well”. It was, she told family and friends, all she needed to know.
Chris was barely sleeping by then. There was a definite time limit on this new project and the project was a huge one.
The team doing the launch of Person-able were puzzled. Chris did not seem interested in the millions it was bound to generate or the intense media buzz surrounding it.
“Come on man, concentrate. It’s way bigger than Facebook! It’s your baby,” his media advisers told him.
“No,” he told them, “Bump is.”
“We haven’t got time to waste!” the team leader told him, “Person-able is due to hit the screens in just over two weeks.”
“It’s not a problem. I promise you.”
Chris went back to his computer programmes. The team leader sighed and found, somewhat to his surprise, that most of the problems he was worrying about had sorted themselves out.
Lucy went into labour right on schedule. It was perfectly timed. The launch party for Person-able had ended an hour before.
“Just the way a good computer programmer should behave,” Chris said as he rushed her at high speed to the Radcliffe Maternity Unit at two in the morning. They got there just in time. (It was only then they noticed a police car had been following them.)
Lucy’s mother and Chris’s mother arrived almost at the same moment later in the morning. (Their husbands had gone to work.) Chris was nowhere to be seen. The woman at reception could tell them nothing. They paced the waiting area. What was taking so long? What was wrong? They drank cardboard flavoured tea and paced some more. Surely Chris would come to tell them what was going on very soon now?
At two in the afternoon Lucy’s mother demanded to know what was going on in a very loud voice. They had, she told the new and very young girl at reception, been very patient. If there was something wrong they had the right to know. Would the girl at least inquire?
More easily intimidated than the previous receptionist she finally tapped some keys and then gave them some directions. They hurried down the corridor united as never before by their concern for their status as grandmothers.
The room at the end was in semi-darkness apart from the light beaming from Chris’s laptop screen. Lucy and Chris were watching the screen anxiously.
“Absolutely perfect!” Lucy said. They high-fived and laughed, “Quick, write them on the cards now.”
“Just what do you think you are doing?” the two grandmothers asked together.
“Oh hello Mum,” he said, “We wanted to be sure it worked before we told you.”
“Hello Mum,” Lucy said, “Chris is just going to write their names on their cribs. We used his new Luchris Baby Name Program to find the right names.”
Lucy looked at the three white cots lined up against the other wall and smiled.