With our first three babies, we shared our child’s name within hours of the birth. Deciding was never easy, however—it took months to settle on boy and girl options each time. I drove my husband crazy by repeating the top contenders out loud, graduation-style, or envisioning how they’d look on a resumé, and he made an annoying sport of coming up with the worst nicknames for my suggestions.
When our fourth child was born a month early, we hadn’t picked a name yet. Our adorable little girl was nameless for almost a week, during which time we resorted to calling her “Baby.” We wanted something easy to spell and pronounce, like the names of our other three kids, but because she would be our last child, I wondered if we should take a chance and use a name that was more unusual. Desperate, we asked family, friends and hospital nurses to weigh in.
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Crowdsourcing a name is a creative but potentially perilous solution. Roxanne Deneau, a mom in Burlington, Ont., now wishes she hadn’t listened to others’ opinions when naming her son last year. Despite researching meanings and popularity, she and her husband still couldn’t agree, so they polled friends on Facebook. Tyler won the popular vote, so that’s what they went with. “I felt cornered by what other people wanted. I just gave in,” says Deneau. “I wish I had fought harder for the name I truly wanted—Zachary.”
Sarah Courtis, of St. Catharines, Ont., wanted her daughter’s name to be unique, and to reflect her husband’s Muslim culture. Her favourite was Nahla, but her husband wasn’t sure. The negotiations went on for 10 days after delivery. While it’s not uncommon for Muslim families to wait seven days to name a new child, Courtis’s side of the family was getting impatient. Finally, they agreed on Nahla, with two family names—Shirin and Isabel—as middle names.
“Making a final decision after you’ve met your baby is a good idea,” says Pamela Redmond Satran, co-author of several baby-naming books and co-founder of the website Nameberry.com. “It’s an opportunity to get to know the little person who has to live with that name.”
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Dawn Armstrong and Mike Heslop of Squamish, BC, changed their minds at least six times when naming their second child. Initially, they both liked the name Korbi, but because they knew someone else with the name, they started leaning toward Hank instead. Just before their son was born, Armstrong confessed that she didn’t truly love the name Hank, and they settled on Sam, even monogramming a Christmas stocking for his December due date. After the baby arrived, however, he didn’t look like a Sam. So they named him Jack, and this is what they called him for the 30-day period prior to registering his birth (this varies by province). Meanwhile, their three-year-old son insisted on calling his little brother Sam, like his Christmas stocking. But the night before the registration form was due, they still felt unsure, and entered the name Mathew—another option from their original list.
Believe it or not, this wasn’t the end of the saga. “While we were waiting for his birth certificate to arrive, I kept calling him ‘little guy.’ Mathew just wasn’t it. And my husband was calling him Hank,” says Armstrong. A few weeks later, her dad suggested the name Kirby, which was close to their first choice, Korbi. It was the name they’d been looking for all along. Now 15 months old, Kirby has a new birth certificate with his final name.
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“If parents truly have name regret, they should make the change sooner rather than later,” says Redmond Satran. “It won’t harm the child, and it will make the parents happier.”
We trusted our instincts and named our fourth baby Leah—traditional and simple. It suited her at one week, and it still does today, four years later.
A version of this article appeared in our May 2014 issue with the headline “Name changer,” p. 48.