Kirsty and David chose a humanist naming ceremony, packed with personal touches, to celebrate the birth of their daughter, Jessica. Their road to parenthood wasn’t easy, especially as David’s beloved mum, Janet, died just as the couple were starting their first cycle of IVF. This meant that, for Kirsty and David, getting together with friends and family to welcome Jessica into the world was especially important.
‘Jessica sees her granny’s picture everyday and we talk about her a lot,’ says Kirsty. ‘We started IVF the week after she passed away, and the timing meant that David couldn’t be with me and that I couldn’t go to her funeral.’
‘My mum knew we were trying for a baby,’ adds David. ‘She always said we’d miss out if we didn’t have children. Then, when I was clearing her house after she died, I found a box of MacDonald’s toys. She used to eat Happy Meals because she preferred the smaller portions and she’d been saving up the toys that came with the meals, presumably for a future grandchild. That’s when we had the idea – this was one way to make her part of the naming ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, we’d give away the toys to all the children who were there.’
This was just one of the many ways in which Janet’s influence was felt in the ceremony.
Choosing the guide parents
Kirsty and David chose four people close to them to be ‘guide parents’ for Jessica. Guide parents (sometimes called mentors, or champions, or sparents, or oddparents!) make promises during a naming ceremony to always be in the child’s life to offer love and support.
‘One set of Jessica’s guide parents have three kids themselves and have given us so much advice. Like us, they are not religious,’ says David. ‘I’d describe myself as an atheist who has mellowed into a humanist. I don’t think you need to believe in God to live your life with kindness to others. But my mum was a Christian. So we chose another set of guide parents who could fulfil the role that my mum would have had.’
‘If Jessica asks about Christianity, then they can answer, but we feel they won’t impose,’ explains Kirsty. ‘They’d discuss it with us first. Jessica would be introduced to religion in the right way. We want her to understand everyone, all other religions.’
Talking openly about our journey
Kirsty and David live in Essex and found their celebrant by searching for a local celebrant on the Humanist Ceremonies website. Julia helped them shape their ceremony by crafting a personal script based on conversations with the couple. It included a section celebrating the important role played by Jessica’s grandparents.
‘A personalised ceremony allowed us to communicate with everyone about our plans going forward,’ says David. ‘Once you have a child, people ask, “Are you having another one?”
‘Julia asked us if we wanted to say anything about this in the ceremony. We took the chance to tell people that we were now complete as a family. It was us putting down a marker, which would be useful for later conversations.’
‘It’s only when you have fertility issues yourselves that you realise how loaded some of these questions are,’ continues Kirsty. ‘And how many other loaded questions they are, like asking someone single if they would like to get married. You think these are innocent questions, but they can intrude into someone’s personal life.’
However, talking honestly, on their own terms, about their experience of IVF is important to both Kirsty and David.
‘I don’t mind being open, if that can help someone,’ says Kirsty. ‘I’m not afraid to talk about it. For me, it was important that the naming day gave us the chance to talk about the IVF. There are so many issues around fertility and women’s health, so this should be something that we talk about.’
Celebrating life together
The whole ceremony was a celebration of life – the new life that came into the world with Jessica, the life of David’s mum, Janet, and the joy of being able to join together with friends and family after months of lockdown restrictions.
Kirsty says: ‘For me, humanism is about celebrating life – what’s around you and in front of you now. The more I’ve read up on humanism, the more I’ve thought, ‘yes, that speaks to how I feel’. All we can do is enjoy now, enjoy every day.’
‘You don’t know how long this life will be, so make the most of it,’ agrees David. ‘I believe in science and reason, as well as being kind to others. A humanist ceremony gave us a sense of having connection with people and with a community, not because we have to, or because a book says that we should, but because it’s the right thing for us.’
‘Our celebrant helped make it so personal to us, our lives and our story,’ says Kirsty. ‘The naming ceremony brought everything together about what it took to have Jessica. I’m glad that people could appreciate that if they hadn’t realised it before. We were celebrating finally becoming parents, in front of everyone!’
Thank you to Kirsty and David for sharing their story with us and also to Su Clark for the wonderful images.
The celebrant featured in this story is Julia Bolden. Julia is an accredited Humanist Ceremonies celebrant based in Cambridge.
Find out more about Julia on her page.
Read more about humanist naming ceremonies
If you’re thinking about having a naming ceremony to welcome a child or young person to your family, find a celebrant here.