Zachary Chialuka Onyieke Woolnough-Osuagwu
I was about four months pregnant when Zachary became Zachary. I had been feeling him move for a while now. Just little flutters at first, around nine weeks and then slowly they became clearer movements. I was laying awake in the early hours of the morning, having finished a night shift at work and was not able to sleep. So I started to talk to my little bubba in my head. He could hear me of course because we were connected. He hadn’t moved in a few hours and I was getting worried. So I started to try out some names to calm my racing mind. I started with some girls names and asked bubba if that’s what he was called. Nothing, not even a twitch. Then I started on some boys names. The second I thought Zachary in my mind he moved. A new movement that I had never felt before. I said it again and he moved again. Zachary was a name that wasn’t even on my ‘list.’ I liked it, but had forgotten all about it. “So your name is Zachary is it?” I asked in a whisper, rubbing my belly. “Yes”, he kicked back as if to tell me I was right. This was before I even knew he was a boy. I kept my girls name in my head just in case as well. But now I was pretty sure who I was carrying.
The next day I looked up the name Zachary to discover that it means ‘The Lord has remembered’. We did not know about his heart condition at this point. His name was our little secret. I was just hoping that when I asked his Dad if he liked it, that he would. I would have some convincing to do if he didn’t. But I think deep down I knew he would like it as well, because well, that was his name. He told me. Not the other way around.
Later I started looking through my lists of Nigerian Igbo names. I had started this list just a few months after dating Emmanuel, but I wouldn’t admit that for a while. I scrolled through and one jumped out at me. Chialuka. I loved what I thought it would sound like and the meaning was perfect. “The Lord has done great things.” It went perfectly with Zachary. I typed out the two names next to each other in a note on my phone. Writing the meanings underneath. I would store this away until Zach was ready to let everybody know his name. It wasn’t up to me. I would know when He was ready.
I had already spoken to Emmanuel about wanting to have both our surnames for our children. Firstly, so that when we go through passport patrol in the airport, both of us can take them through. As we are not married, they can stop you and assume the child isn’t yours (hello patriarchy). Secondly, why shouldn’t my children have my name? And thirdly because this is 2020 people and I am giving my name to my child.
So Zachary Chialuka Woolnough-Osuagwu had named himself. Onyeike would come later. The name given to him by his grandfather, Chief Osuagwu himself.
After our twenty week scan, when we first found out that Zach had a heart issue, we told our families. My sister-in-law suggested that if we knew his name perhaps we could share it so that our families could pray for him by name. It has a power to it. I loved her suggestion and I felt we were ready to share it. It goes against what most people do, but I felt like pushing fate that day. I just cried for an entire hour during the journey home from the hospital. Then threw up by the side of the car just as I was about to get out. I thought being sick from shock only happened in films and TV shows. I think I deserved to share his name and push the gods in my favour if I could.
So I sat with my partner on our red sofa in our cosy living room in our new flat. Our home. I said to him that I liked his sister’s idea of sharing the name and I think I know what his name is. My partner gave me a look to continue and so I explained everything. In true Emmanuel style he said “yeah I like those names. That’s his name”. Simple. We said it over a few times to ourselves. Saying it out loud made it really real. We then messaged in our family WhatsApp groups and told them all.
I messaged my family group with:
“I know you are all in bed but we have decided to tell everyone our lil boys name. So, if you are the praying type and feel so inclined you can do so. Apparently, a name is helpful for that.”
Emmanuel followed with his names and their meanings.
Emmanuel sent a similar message into his family’s WhatsApp group with some apologies to his parents about not consulting them about Igbo names (the done thing in Igbo culture would have been to consult Emmanuel’s parents about name examples and their meanings) and some thoughts about not being religious but believing in the power of positive thought.
Myself and Emmanuel are spiritual in our own way but we don’t have a formal religion to speak of but we loved the idea of all of our families and friends being able to know Zach and think of him before he was here. It felt right to do that. So, we messaged all of our family and friends. Told our work colleagues and with every thought and every time we spoke his name it gave us all a little more strength.
Now I come to Onyeike last as it is the most unique of all of Zach’s names. It means “the strong and determined one” in Igbo. It was given to him by his grandfather. My partner’s dad, Nna. He took his time to think of it and only came up with the name after visiting him in hospital when he was born, hearing about everything Zach had gone through and seeing how strong of a character he was, even at such an early point in his life. Somehow the name just fits him perfectly. For some people it would have just become a family name, but we have chosen to give it to him as one of his official legal names. He will have the longest name of any child in 2020, but he deserves to be named five times after his start in the world. We also love the idea that when he is older, he can choose which part he likes to go by. He will always be Onyieke in the Osuagwu household. He will be Zach to us and perhaps Zachy to his young friends. Maybe when he needs a cool ‘stage name’ or football name he can be ‘luka’ or ‘chia.’ And then when he has his first boy or girlfriend, they can call him some cute combination of all his names. I love names and I would never have been able to choose just one.
I will have to have some equally powerful names for my next children ready. If it’s a girl I am all set. But a boy would throw up some challenges. Any suggestions?