Yesterday I heard a story on the radio about choosing baby names, and current trends in naming. This is a topic of some interest to me at the moment, as my children are about to welcome their fourth new cousin in under 10 months. While I am very decidedly not part of it, there’s been a baby boom in my family as of late. While I have absolutely zero input into the decision, I find it somewhat fascinating how parents go about it. Everyone’s approach is different. Everyone takes a different amount of time to settle on a final choice.
My husband and I settled on baby names very early in my two pregnancies. While I was still in my first trimester, I compiled a list of my top choices for both boys and girls. Then, together, we chose first names from those lists. My children’s middle names were chosen for family members. Hannah’s middle name, for instance, is Lauren, for her grandmothers Laura and Laurie. Jacob’s middle name is Theodore for his grandfather and great grandfather. Once we’d chosen, we stuck with the names. I got lucky in this regard, because when I was pregnant with Hannah I started to sour on our boy name, and when I was pregnant with Jacob I started to sour on our girl name, but this ended up not being an issue either time.
I know other people who wait to meet their new baby before they settle on a name. Here in British Columbia you have 30 days to register the birth, and I’ve known parents who’ve gone right down to the wire in naming their little ones. In fact, I’ve even known people who’ve gone over, and had to pay fines. I know others who, once they see their baby, decide their chosen name just doesn’t fit and start the search all over again. There’s a lot of responsibility in choosing a name, and you want to make sure you have the right one for your new arrival. I can understand that. This is the label your child will carry for life, after all.
As is probably obvious based on the fact that our children are named Hannah and Jacob, Jon and I weren’t searching for particularly unique names or spellings. Vancouver is a very multi-cultural city, and I thought that the simpler my name choices, the easier it would be for everyone to pronounce my kids’ names. My own parents, by contrast, wanted unique names. In the 70s when I was born, Amber was still a pretty unusual name. Now it carries certain, er, connotations. My middle name is Dawn, and if you combine the two, you have Amber Dawn. As you can see, I don’t need to do a quiz find my stripper name, I already have it. (Although, for the record, I actually do like my name quite a lot.)
There are some countries where the parents’ name choice isn’t the final word. In an effort to avoid possible trauma, governments have implemented laws around what you may name your baby. For instance, in Germany the baby’s gender must be obvious from the choice of first name, and in Denmark parents must choose from a list of 7000 approved names, some of which are for boys and others for girls, or go through an approval process. And in Iceland a teenage girl is fighting with the government to get her name back.
The real truth about naming your baby is that whatever you choose, you’re probably going to choose wrong. Either it will be too common or too unusual, too hard to spell or too boring, too hard to pronounce or too long or too short. There will be too many weird nicknames, or not enough personalized products with the name printed on it. There are so many ways to mess up, but a choice must be made. In the end, we all just need to shut out the outside ideas and opinions, and do our best. And maybe choose a really good middle name or two, so our kids will have options.
What approach did you take to naming your babies? Did you choose names early on, or at the last minute? I’d love to hear!