Malina, Malinka, Malinia.

Linka, Linia, Malunia.

I loved her name. The way it formed in my cheeks, tongue and teeth. The feel of it, the longs and shorts of the syllables. All the teasing, loving, ridiculous nicknames my other language allows.

Mala. My little one. Malinka, slodko. My sweet.

It took awhile before we landed on the right name. One that would work in both of my languages, that family and friends alike could pronounce. One that could be both tough and pretty, grown-up and childish, suiting whoever she decided to be.

Malinka, Malinia, Malina.

I’d lie in bed in the mornings, taking my time before rising and readying for work. I’d wait to feel her move, stretch and squirm, marveling at the life inside of me, the inchoate personality. My child. I savoured every move, wanting these moments together to be long and lazy. And I practiced her name – kind of guiltily since we didn’t even know if she really was a girl yet – but I tried out the combination of consonants and vowels, exercising my mouth, getting accustomed to sounding out the name of my daughter. Imagining myself a mother. Wondering who she was, waiting. Stomping feet and laughter and tangles and tear-stained cheeks and opened presents and all kinds of firsts and slammed doors and raised voices and painfully tight, neverending hugs. All, somehow, in the sounds of her name.

Moja Malinia. Malinka moja. My darling. My dear one.

In the aftermath of her birth, shocked and horrified beyond comprehension that she was gone before we even got to really meet her, we were asked for her name.  One well-meaning attendant took our awkward silence as cue to rally us to proper parental love She deserves a name! You have to give her a name! And in those moments of numb confusion, grasping at a way to talk privately to each other about what to do, we asked whether we should find another name. But decided, no, Malina she was. Who she had always been. Giving her another name would be cheating. Lying.

I’m just not sure I feel this way now. I wonder if we did the right thing. If we really had to do that, to give that name away forever, locking it away with someone who will never be. Whether it would feel any easier if we saved it for another who might live. Whether we would ever be able to use it again.

Probably not. It’s done.

But I wonder this as I search for another name for another possible girl. Sounding out syllables, shaping vowels and consonants with tired cheeks and grief-weary lips. I worry what it means when I can’t find another name I love as much, that fits as well, that my mouth and throat can form and feel with the intimacy and emotion of someone who’s supposed to be a mother. I have ideas, in fact one main likely contender, but they still seem awkward, at times unimaginable in comparison. They’re not the same.

I do have my moments with this one, the laziness of those lingering mornings in bed now injected with anxiety, the needle-sharp pricks asking how it will all turn out this time. I do call this one by a name now. I practice its different forms and versions, but this time silently. The sounds reverberate in a space only I can hear, secret and safe.

Though maybe this one hears me anyway, can sense the sounds her mother is silent uttering. The name waiting for her in the dark under warm, yellow-orange porchlights.

I hope it’s recognized, by both of us. I hope this one answers the call and finds her way here, home.

——–. ———. ——.  My heart. My love.

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