A pet name is important. It’s not the same as a nickname (or Ra-Ra would suffice). A nickname is public, available to everyone; a pet name is more private, intimate. Only very special people get to use a pet name. When it comes to such things, I am not a fan of unoriginality. I would never dream of calling my husband “Babe”. (Inspired by Kipling’s Just So Stories, we refer to one another as Best Beloved.)
The very first pet name I ever had for my daughter was… Zygote. That’s what she was when I first found out about her. She remained Zygote for a few months until I felt it didn’t really reflect her or the fact that on my gynae’s screen she possessed fingers and toes.
After that, we went through a period where I didn’t have a pet name for her. I considered Puggle – a baby monotreme and a nod to my Twitter handle @Anatinus, which was inspired by the platypus I saw at Taronga Zoo in Sydney – but somehow it never caught on.
Then I saw her in her incubator for the first time. I hardly dared touch her. She was so impossibly tiny. She was so… nunu. “Nunu,” I breathed in love and wonder, and she has been my Nunu ever since: the standard South African term for anything small, young and cute. Occasionally I’ll vary it by calling her Nunu Pie or The Nunu Pie or, to get really creative, the nunu-est of Nunu Pies. It’s only when she’s in a bad mood that I call her something quite different, Grumposaurus Max.
The first time my husband heard me use her pet name, he raised his eyebrows in alarm. I don’t think he approves – Nunu is perilously close to “Babe”. Still, when we are alone, Ra-Ra and I, and we share secret looks between us, she is my Nunu and I am Mom, and nothing else matters just then.