Before she was born, I knew our daughter would be Dorothy. From the very first time that her name graced my lips, I knew it would be the name that I wanted to speak forever.
In high school, I used to doodle my name with the surname of my celebrity crush so I could look at it while I daydreamed. With Dorothy’s name, I was no different.
I wrote it everywhere.
Perfecting it’s loopy cursive ‘D’ and imagining all the places I would get to write it — permission slips, gift tags, on the inside of a backpack for the first day of school.
I never imagined how it would look on a death certificate.
Yet, there I was, two days after her stillbirth dictating to the hospital social worker so she could ensure it was spelled correctly. After she left the room, I had a terrible thought:
Did I just “waste” the perfect name on a baby who died?
Immediately, I felt sick with the guilt of such an awful thought, but I was just so angry.
I felt cheated.
I had once envisioned seeing Dorothy’s name on birthday cards and school certificates. No one chooses their child’s name and imagines what it will look like on a headstone.
There were moments in those first weeks of grief where I wondered if it was possible to change her name.
At the time I was thinking that it would allow me to save Dorothy for any future children we might have.
Now, when I look back at that time, I know my thoughts were laced with denial over what had happened. I think that I imagined if we called her something different, then it might not hurt so much that she was gone.
Reclaiming the name would mean reclaiming Dorothy.
But, here’s the truth: changing her name would never bring Dorothy back.
It took some time for me to accept this truth because it meant accepting that my daughter was dead. I learned acceptance, but I could not shake the desire to speak her name.
To write it down.
To share it with the world.
Dorothy may have left this place, but her name was left behind and I could be the one to give it life.
Related: We Speak Their Names
So, that’s what I have done and that’s what I will continue to do.
I will write it down so that I can see it.
I will speak it out loud and I will encourage others to do the same so that I can hear it.
Her name is her legacy and it lives on even though she does not.
I love Dorothy. From the very first time that her name graced my lips, I knew it would be the name that I wanted to speak forever.
My child has died, but her name lives on.
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash
Rachel Whalen is a mother, wife, and Kindergarten teacher from Barre, Vermont. Her life’s work is to keep the memory of her daughter, Dorothy, alive through words both spoken and written. Rachel shares her family’s journey through loss and all that has come after on her blog: An Unexpected Family Outing.