My Birth Day and Who I Am

Dee Richards
3 min readFeb 3, 2024
Me holding a yellow dandelion in Lemon Grove, where I grew up. I was probably about 10 months old.

My mom often told me a story about the day I was born, February 1st. The story was that she had been in labor for over 24 hours (I think) and she was eager to get it moving (she’s an impatient person). Worse yet, it was 10 pm and Groundhog Day was looming. As I heard it, she was very determined that I NOT be born on Groundhog Day — I must admit that I’m thankful for that! I would definitely not want to be stuck in an infinite loop of my birthday forever. So, according to her, by sheer force of will, I was born at 10:25 pm on February 1st.

The story continues that as soon as she saw me, she cried out: “Dorothy!” That’s my birth name, but my chosen name is Dee. The doctor says: “Well, I guess you’re going to move to Kansas now!” My mom, having just experienced childbirth with an epidural is rather confused by this assumption. Understandably, I’d say. It seems a little crass to make a joke over a woman in her most vulnerable position, in an altered state of consciousness. But he did (surprising no one now because hey, it was the 80's). My mom just says: “No.” But my dad, the class act that he is, jumps in with what I’m sure he believed to be the quip of his life: “No, but we’re going to buy her a dog.”

Here it is that my mom is so completely out of it, trying to hold a new baby me, worried because I had jaundice, probably in pain still, and two men are making jokes about the fucking Wizard of Oz. Could it not have waited? Turns out, it couldn’t. The next morning, in my bassinet, I was gifted a stuffed bear (because, again, the 80’s) from my godfather. My mom, proving herself to be “hip” to their jokes, named the bear “Toto.” I didn’t name it Toto because I was a baby. But, isn’t that just a perfect image? Men making jokes over a woman who had just had a baby, then her having to prove that she’s cool by joining in when she’s lucid? All the while, I have no say in the matter of myself, or my own name and its implications, as a person born female.

I did not choose to be named Dorothy. It was the name of my mom’s aunt, and was a point of great contention in her family. My maternal grandmother, Edith, was the inspiration for my mom’s absolute failure as a mother. Rude, unkind, and absolutely one of the most unpleasant people I’ve ever met (I’d only met her in my teen years maybe twice before she died). Edith begrudged my mother and, by extension, me for my name. How dare my mom name me after her sister and not her? I don’t really know my mom’s reasons. She told me some of them, but this is where I mention that my mom is a compulsive liar and, quite probably, has narcissistic personality disorder. So, I was Dorothy and my grandmother hated me for it for the 20-something years she was alive in my lifetime.

It has been about six years (give or take) since I took the name of Dee. It was a name that my friends called me in my 20s, a shortened version of what my dad called me as a kid, and it is adapted from the rune “dagaz,” or daybreak. In the runic, it cannot be inverted. Therefore, its meaning never changes. It is always the rune of change, of awakening and I like the unchanging/change dichotomy. Groundhog Day goes by the Celtic name of Imbolc to some. As a time of change, Imbolc heralds the change of winter to spring; a break from the darkness. My chosen name was a gift to myself for breaking from my mother, for remembering who I am without her, and for choosing who I will be. It came at great cost in many ways, as change always does. However, no one can take it from me or decide it for me. No man is laughing over my birth into this name. It is not for them. It is my name, my story, and it belongs to no one else.

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Dee Richards

Dee is a neurodiverse writer from San Diego, with 3 awards in CNF & 9 short-form pubs. Subjects: feminism, identity theory, surrealism, horror, media analysis.