NAME REGRET & MATERNITY
I want to point out that I love the name Charlie, and Charles Everett is a strong beautiful name, but i still have anxiety when looking back on our baby naming experience.
I hate the title of this post. It sounds terrible, but it is something some women really struggle with and it should be addressed. I was one of those women. Name regret is something that can be avoided. This is a two part series. The first part tells my story & the second part is an interview with name advice from Abby Sandel of Nameberry and Appellation Mountain.
My husband prefers traditional and I prefer modern names with roots. That’s where the baby naming stress started. I finally found a family name I loved but my husband was not on board. At 6 months pregnant we had two long lists (girl/boy names) of many many options, however none stood out more than the others and there were many we just could not agree on. I finally got my husband on board to use the family name if we had a boy, but we still kept the long list of options open.
A week before I went into labor, I started second guessing my favorite name, the one that I had fought for. Would it suit him? Would he get made fun of? Is it the right name? I also felt like I couldn’t ask other people their opinions because I didn’t want them to say they hated it. At that moment I made my biggest mistake, I turned to someone I always turn to when in doubt, my mother. Usually, she is the perfect person for advice but she has a very traditional style. I wanted her to tell me she loved the name, I just needed some reassurence.
I told her the name, and…….
“WHAT?! That is a terrible name!?.”
I started to panic. There was so much about to change in my life and I needed support in that moment. It’s not her fault, she is allowed to have an opinion. I started seriously looking into other names and we ended up bringing a list to the hospital, four names for girls, four names for boys, even though my favorite was still a front runner. We figured we would see the baby and know what the name should be. If only it were that easy…
Fast forward and we are presented with a beautiful baby boy, and the first question was, what is his name? In that moment, all of that anxiety that had been tucked away for the last week came back. I just had the craziest experience in my life (delivering a baby) and now I have to pick a lifelong name? Oh, and by the way, you are on the clock and only have 48 hours. I always pictured my baby to have dark hair and he came out a redhead. Would my very Irish name be too Irish for a red head? Does he actually look like the name I loved for him? What if everyone hates it? As a first time mom, I didn’t realize how much my baby would change. I was trying to fit a name to this little infant and I was feeling very overwhelmed. My husband decided we should sleep on, it so we did. I woke up and didn’t feel any closer to a final decision, so we started asking nurses and doctors, even the guy who delivered my breakfast. We had a white board in our room with a tally. No! I’m not joking. We narrowed it down to two names, our original and one name we didn’t even go to the hospital with. Much of my uncertainty came from that conversation the previous week. We ended up going with the new name and everything seemed great. Fast forward 2 days later and I woke up with anxiety that we had picked the wrong name.
Then I started thinking, is this a form of PPD? Is this normal? I want to love his name! Why don’t I? Has this happened to anyone else? I didn’t know where to turn so I reached out to the founders of Nameberry and….they responded to my email. (I just looked back at my email and I truly sounded like a crazy person) Yet, I knew I couldn’t fix this, but I needed to know how to make it right for baby #2. They told me this very same thing, that happened to me, happens to many people.
I love the name Charlie. I can’t imagine our baby as any other name, I just wish it was a less stressful experience.
Here are some tips I learned from my experience to help others that are having trouble picking a name.
MRS. NIPPLE BABY NAMING TIPS
– Go with your gut
– If you know someone has a completely different style than you, it might be better not to share the name with them
-I personally think you should wait to share the name until after your baby is born
-Start having the baby name conversation early so you can test it out with your partner
– Pick a first name then pick a middle name. Don’t compare first and middle names when choosing. You really don’t use middle names.
INTERVIEW WITH ABBY SANDEL
Now that I’m pregnant with baby #2, I reached out to Abby Sandel, the name guru. That also happens to be the senior editor and resident name sage of Nameberry and founder of the name blog, Appellation Mountain. I wanted to get the right tips and advice from a name specialist. She also offers professional advice to couples who are struggling with naming their baby. FUN FACTS: Her kids names are, Alex and Clio. Alexander Arthur (He has resisted all attempts by Abby to use a more creative nickname.) He just turned 13. (HOW?!) and Clio – Claire Caroline Wren. (She’s cool with all the crazy nicknames, and then some.) She’s 9. And name-obsessed! Abby’s top pick for a 2018 baby for herself would be Leif Christopher Clark for a boy (my children think this name is bananas) and Rosemary “Romy” or Theodora “Thora” – or maybe Marguerite, for a girl.
My Interview with Abby:
1) Where should you start when trying to find the perfect name?
Many couples have an idea about favorite names and jump right in to the process. That can work out beautifully … or it can result in deadlock, when it turns out that their preferences are miles apart.
For any couple who is stuck or just not sure where to begin, I’d recommend starting with your own names. Have you always liked having a family name? Does it bother you if your name is too unusual/too common? Tough to spell or pronounce? You might be new to naming a child, but you’re not new to having a name. Draw on that life experience to reflect on the kind of name you’d like your child to have.
Then consider qualities that you want in a child’s name. These aren’t rules – and families I work with often don’t follow the guidelines they identify. But it’s a good place to start. Talking about qualities is neutral; arguing about whether or not to honor your beloved grandmother is not.
So discuss up front: do you want to use family names? Do you want to follow specific naming traditions, like choosing saints’ names if you’re Catholic? Honor a specific background, whether it’s Irish or Pakistani? How do you feel about nicknames? Does the name need to work in more than one language? Are there names that you love – even if you can’t use them – that can help define the kind of name you’d like your child to have?
If you’re naming a second child, you might want to avoid repeating first initials. Or if you honored one side of the family with your firstborn’s middle name, it might feel really important to choose a middle from the other side this time around.
2) What things should someone think about when naming a baby?
We name strangers. It’s impossible to know who our children will grow up to be, so building in some flexibility in a name is a good thing. If you’re choosing a really unusual first name, consider a more traditional or mainstream middle. (Azalea Eleanor is likely a better choice than Azalea Finch.)
We focus on how our peers perceive names – but our children will grow up with their generation. Names like Ellis and Thea will be ordinary for kids born today. That means that you can safely ignore much of what your friends (and random strangers on message boards) say about names. This is doubly true for our parents and grandparents. Much as we love them, we probably don’t share the same taste in names. The names of the mid-1960s were Julie, Tammy, and Michelle; Scott, Jeffrey, and Brian. So a normal name to our parents is not likely to be a favorite for us today, and that’s fine.
Know that you can’t control nicknames indefinitely. Sure, you can insist that Henry is Henry. But if he comes home freshman year answering to Hank, that’s his choice. If you love a name, but dislike the default nickname, it might be a problem. Telling everyone that your son is William, not Will? That’s a recipe for frustration.
Meaning matters – but not necessarily in the etymological sense. The best insulation against name regret is having a story about why the name appealed to you. It doesn’t have to be a made-for-TV tale of going into labor right after hiking in some scenic park and deciding to name the baby for the trail. But knowing why you chose the name is powerful.
3) What if a couples style in baby names is drastically different?
This happens ALL the time.
First, know that compromise isn’t a bad thing. There’s a good chance that you’ll come to love your child’s name as your child grows. Many parents say things like, “Oh I wasn’t sure about naming our son after Grandpa Marvin, but now the name suits him perfectly.”
Accept that you may have to give up your favorite names. Yes, even if you’ve been keeping a list since you were twelve.
Look for places where you do overlap. Maybe you like your names long and vintage, while your partner prefers short and modern. Maybe you can find a short, but vintage name, like Vera or Ada? Or a name that sounds modern, like Arlo, but has lots of history, too.
I’ve heard it called “narrowing up” – instead of looking for reasons to reject the names on your list, look for positive reasons to embrace them. It elevates the conversation, and helps you identify why a name appeals so strongly.
4) When choosing names for siblings, should they all flow?
I think the most important part when naming siblings isn’t flow, but balance.
Unless you’re the Von Trapps or the Jacksons, most of your life is led independently, and many friends and colleagues won’t know your sibling’s names – or if you have siblings.
But children – at least some of the time – may notice if their names are very different. If your firstborn will be named for a family member, what makes your second child’s name special? If one child has a really unusual name, and the other a very popular one, is there a story that you can tell both kids when they ask?
Flow is a helpful concept in this sense: when you say your children’s names together, does it sound right to you? Because you will say your kids’ names together, dozens of hundreds of times. And if you trip over the names, that’s a signal that you need to rethink. Maybe the names share too many sounds, or maybe one is much longer than the others. Those are the kind of differences you may be able to live with – but you should make a deliberate decision rather than discover it after you’ve brought home your newborn!
5) If you could give one piece of advice around naming a baby what would it be?
Use the name you love.
Yes, even if it’s very popular, or rather obscure. Even if it breaks the rules you read online, or even if others tell you it’s just awful. When you and your partner find The Name, you’ll know. Don’t let yourself be talked out of it.
6) What is your advice around choosing between two names you love?
That’s so hard! If time allows, I’d try testing them both: writing them out by hand, plugging them into those design-your-own sites online to see how they look embroidered on a backpack, and calling your baby by that name for a few days. The coffee shop test can work, too – in any situation when someone asks for your name, give your favorites – and see if one feels better.
The issue here is that often one parent prefers Logan, while the other has her heart set on Landon. There’s no substantial difference, just a slight preference. When that happens, sometimes reading about the names can reveal a fact that sways you in one direction or the other. A meaning might resonate with you both, or a famous figure by the name.
Lastly, there’s something to be said for giving in to the person who cares more. We didn’t do this when naming our son – I clamped down on my instinct to over-analyze it, and we went with the first name we agreed on. (I spent the first few weeks suggesting that we change his middle name.) With our daughter, I thought and re-thought the decision. My husband knew it was super important to me, and realized that we were talking about adding a second middle name – trivial to him, critical to me, and so there was no reason not to do it my way.
7) Should the opinions of others matter?
In one sense, yes. If you’re choosing an unusual name, it’s worth checking whether others can pronounce it. Or whether they’ll pronounce it in a way that sounds all wrong to your ears. So a little bit of road-testing is good – but that doesn’t need to be with your friends and family. You can give your favorite name to a barista at a coffee shop and see how that works.
But generally, no. Everybody has opinions about baby names. But those who are changing the diapers and waking up at 3 am, they’re the ones who get to choose.
If you are interested in a name consultation session with Abby you can reach her through email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Please email for rates.
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