On Naming A Baby


I once knew a boy named Sunshine.  He was dreamy and slung back and could pull it off with yellow rays of style.

 Then there was my husband’s distant ancestor, Georgia Secession Roberts, born in 1863.  I am guessing that name didn’t work out for her too well.

I still can’t tell if a name defines a person, or if a person whips their name into personality submission, but I can’t remember meeting someone and thinking, “no, your name shouldn’t be John.  You seem more like a Jermajesty to me.”  Whatever we end up with generally either works, or it works out.  Still, the pressure of bestowing a lifetime name on a human being can sometimes feel like cataloging a species.

I’m nearing 6 months of gestational glory and I guess I feel like the boy should have a name by now.  When I first discovered this pregnancy I had no expectations or desires for either gender.  Then I had an unfortunate dream in which I learned that I was having a girl and would name her Blythe.  Thinking I had been visited by a prophetic cosmic ultrasound, I gladly relinquished my naming duties to the heavens and told everyone that Blythe Girl would be born pink.  Then we had an actual ultrasound and found the baby endowed blue.  And all I could think was, “great, now I have to think of a boy name.”

And since I have no less than 6 people texting me baby names at all hours of the day and night, I received a link to a great post about how to name your baby, which included the rule: don’t take popular opinion polls of your name choices.  Once the baby is born, everyone will have to at least pretend to like the name.  It is beautifully illustrated here:


But, you know, I have 6 people making suggestions and that ship has sailed.  So.

When it comes to it, though, I’m waiting for that particular feeling.  It is an unscientific way to name a person, but the genus is set, after all, without my input.  I get to be the caretaker, not the creator, and so I name them on a whim, which is where I feel the most sure of myself.  The names that settle comfortably are those that communicate subtlety or beauty or simplicity.  In my more fervent years I may have preferred names of strength or profundity, or maybe even zeal.  But these days of paring back and listening more, I want to feel the honest gravity of life and newness when I say my child’s name.

And more than that, we name our children as an expression of love.  Even though my husband submits all names through the “middle school locker room test,” a chosen name ends up being a gift that is less functional, but more lavished-like skipping school to go to a baseball game.  I guess I’ll know it when I hear it.  Until then, I am accepting text messages.

I can’t be Mabel ’cause
Mabel is skinny — she looks like a bean
Mabel is stingy, she’s ever so mean.
I’m not Mabel

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1972, Joseph Shaftel


  1. Don’t feel bad! We didn’t find out the gender of our son ahead of time, so I made lists of my top 10 girls’ and top 10 boys’ names even though my hubby and I had decided on …Oliver for a boy. We hadn’t really agreed on a girls’ name totally but since my husband was so convinced we were having a girl, that is all we talked about while I was in labor- 4 weeks prior to my due date. Well, we ended up with our boy…who we decided right away, looked nothing like an Oliver. Luckily I had my list and my husband and I found the perfect name for him off of it… So really, I totally recommend waiting until you meet your little guy before you really pick a name 🙂 I feel like I was more thoughtful and passionate about what his name should be after I’d met him on the outside and he has totally grown into his name (which sounds nothing like Oliver).

  2. So so funny & cute! The first of many things you are endowing on the newest member of your family. The pressure is on! PS – love Kevin’s litmus test.

  3. I have met people who don’t seem to fit their name – but that’s a weird phenomenon, right? What makes us either “fit” or “not fit” a name?!

    You’ll know when the right name comes. It was the most stressful part of my second pregnancy but then the name came 🙂 Congrats on a BOY!!

    • Thanks Elissa! Boy names are hard for us! Every time I meet someone with an unusual name, I automatically make assumptions about their parents, haha. It’s like the name really reflects the parents after all.


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