Baby Elle_0002cremevintage

“I hate American simplicity. I glory in the piling up of complications of every sort. If I could pronounce the name James in any different or more elaborate way I should be in favor of doing it.” — Henry James

Choosing a name for a baby is a really big deal to me. Part of this is my bent toward ideation, and my endless capacity for brainstorming and new options. For me, coming up with a name requires the full creative process, including research, lists, revisions, more research, more lists, and lots and lots of processing (out loud, of course).

“Babe, what do you think of then name Scout? Soooooo cute, huh. We could call her Scouty.”

“It’s a dog’s name.”

“No it’s not. It’s the little girl from To Kill a Mockingbird. So perfect, right?”

“It’s a dog’s name.”

“Don’t you kind of wish we named Lane and Luke, Scout and Sailor?”

“No. Those are dog’s names.”


We had some version of that conversation about a thousand times.

“What do you think of Darby?”

“What do you think of Liberty and call her Libby?”

“What do you think of Lula, my grandmother’s name?”

“What do you think of Henna . . . you know, because she will have been born in the Middle East?” (To this specific suggestions, he said, “I guarantee you will regret naming one of our children Henna.”)

BTW, all of the above I STILL love. I would consider having many more children if only to use some of the above names.

But, Steve is just generally uncooperative (which is to say he doesn’t agree with me . . . EVER) when it comes to names, and this goes from being inconvenient to incredibly anxiety provoking because each time we have had to name a baby, I had ultimately convinced myself that I was going to have to agree to a name I hated just to get the paperwork done.

In addition to Steve not liking hardly any of my names, he also likes to WAIT UNTIL THE BABY IS BORN to name them, if you can imagine. “I need to see them before I can decide,” he always says. UGGHHH. Totally unacceptable. If it were up to me, I’d have the initials painted on the wall the day after we found out the sex of the baby.

So we do this dance for months. I engage in elaborate brainstorming. He vetoes. I get more and more anxious. He gets more and more “that’s-a-dog’s-name”-ish. Awesome.

As we approached the birth of baby #3, we had a list, but neither of us was set on any of the names on the list. In my heart, I just didn’t feel like we had IT yet. I had relinquished names I really loved, and I didn’t want to end up with a name that I just felt “would work.” I loved all the names on our list, but I didn’t feel that deep sense of being settled on any of them.

On our list, going into delivery, were the following names:




Lyse (pronounced like “lease”)

Then, on Monday, February 20, the day before baby #3 was born, we were walking around the atrium of the hospital in the downstairs lobby. As you know from my last post, we did a lot of walking that day.

Steve wanted to go through our names while we walked. And we had the same conversation we had had countless times before. Pros and cons for each of the names on our list.

Then, the following flew out of my mouth: “What about Elle?”

Last summer, when we were en route to Bahrain, we stopped off in FL to visit my family. I wasn’t even 12 weeks pregnant at that point, but my sister and I started talking names. She suggested Elle (pronounced “L”) for these reasons:

  1. Elle works with Luke and Lane but it also distinct. It wasn’t another “L” name and yet it was. Clever.
  2. Elle is French for “she.” Steve speaks French, so that was a fun little twist.
  3. Elle is simple, unique, and classic. Things I like in a name, especially a girls’ name (sorry Henry James). Works well with Tankersley, which is already complicated enough.

So I put it on my “list” and when we got to Bahrain I could have sworn I ran it by Steve and he vetoed it because somewhere along the way it disappeared and I forgot about it. And then, there in the atrium, it came back to me.

By some MIRACLE OF GOD, Steve perked up at the mention of Elle. And, though we didn’t decide right then and there—because of course he has to SEE the baby first, ugghhhh—I knew in my heart we had the name.


AND HE LOVED IT. (I could just tell.)

It was the Zen naming moment I had been hoping for, when the stars would align and we would be in agreement and we would both feel as though we had each WON.

The day after she was born, Steve wheeled her isolette to the end of my bed and we stared at her and we went back through the list. But it was clear, Elle was her name.

Her middle name—Nickless—we did actually decide on before her birth. Nickless is my mother-in-law’s maiden name, the last name of Steve’s beloved grandfather, Arthur Nickless, who passed away last fall. If you remember, I wrote about not being able to travel back to the States for his funeral because I was pregnant with this baby girl.

Lane’s middle name is Watkins, which is my mother’s maiden name, and the last name of my beloved grandfather, William Eddy Watkins. I loved the idea of both of our girls carrying the strong heritage of their grandmothers, also honoring the amazing fathers who raised these remarkable grandmothers.

Both my mom and my mother-in-law were from families of all girls, and so I like to think of my girls as name-bearers, carrying Watkins and Nickless on.

Elle Nickless Tankersley . . .  funny how you can circle the globe searching for something (like the RIGHT name), and there—at the very last minute—it comes to you, right where you are. And all the striving and hustling and struggling stop. Because the right answer you were so hoping for has just appeared. In it’s own sweet time.

Still, someday we will have to get two dogs, so I can name them Scout and Sailor. SO CUTE, right?

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