Parenting

How to choose the perfect baby name

The release of the top 100 baby names of 2012 reminds Tracy of how she wrestled with this decision. Twice.

When Avery was born I still wasn't sure if that was the name I wanted to go with.

When I was pregnant, I was a baby-name junkie. Both times. I started thinking about baby names before the little plus sign even showed up on the pregnancy test, and I debated our choices even after receiving the monogrammed blankets my aunt so thoughtfully created.
 
Sean would humour me when I asked him, for the zillionth time, what he thought of this name or that combo for the full nine months. He was frustratingly decisive. I would mull endlessly; he would declare yes or no before the full name escaped my lips. But worse than that, he would flip on me out of the blue, casually putting a name back on the table that I had finally, painfully, crossed off my list. 
 
I felt the monumental weight of this decision on my shoulders. I was saddling this child with something that would forever label and identify her in the world. It would create an impression of who she was. It would be the first word she learned to print and the name we cheered from the stands. It would be a word I would say a billion times — softly, sweetly, shrilly, angrily, proudly. And while names may seem like such a silly thing to worry about, really, what’s more important? (Besides health and happiness, of course.)
 
My six-year-old’s name is Anna. This has long been one of my favourite names. I love the classic simplicity of it. I love its strength. I picture Anna travelling the world and people saying her name with different accents and it always sounding so beautiful. When I was pregnant with her, I kept thinking, if I only have one daughter in my life, what is the perfect name to bestow on her? For me, this was it. No one I mentioned this name to was very jazzed about it. I think people see it as a little plain. Luckily, Sean liked it and other people’s opinions didn’t matter a great deal in this decision. Sean’s first choice was Julia, which I also love, but a friend named her daughter that a few months before I had Anna, so I vetoed it. I fought for Ava for a while, but it was getting super popular at that time. We thought about Julianna, but it just felt… long. Sean also loved Rachel, and we actually went into the delivery room with both names as contenders, but really, I was just humouring him.
 
I spent several weeks after Anna was born uncertain if I’d made the right choice (a trend that would continue with just about everything I did as a new mom!). Maybe I was just crazy in my postpartum haze, but I would spend a day here and there calling her Julia or Rachel or something, just to see if a different name felt more “right.” But it never did. I’ll never forget receiving an envelope in the mail, addressed to her, with her birth certificate inside. Seeing her name printed out so officially was what I needed to realize it was perfect.
 
My four-year-old’s name is Avery. Mostly because I couldn’t get over my love of the name Ava, but it was still extremely popular, and Avery less so. I love the way it looks and sounds, especially with Sean’s last name, which I found a little tricky to complement. (For the record, my official favourite girl’s name is Kate, but it just didn’t work with Sean’s surname.) The other contender for our second child was Alexandra. (I swear we weren’t intentionally going for the alliteration, we just seem to like A names!) I love both of these names and couldn’t figure out the better choice. Both were even on popularity lists. I wanted my daughter to have a strong name and I worried that Avery was more beautiful than strong. I loved that Alexandra was a strong, classic name, like Anna’s. We planned to shorten it to Alex. Most people I knew loved Avery, except for one of my closest friends who said she hated it. “Avery is one of those snobby rich girls in high school!” she said, quite bluntly. I flipped back and forth. In the end, Sean was in the Alexandra camp and I was in the Avery camp and we decided we’d just choose when we met her. Funny — after our daughter was born, it was Sean who declared that her name should be Avery. I remember asking him several times in the hospital if he was sure (because, of course, I wasn’t) and my very decisive husband was. I never really understood that whole “you’ll know when you see the baby” method of choosing a name, but I felt that this time. I wasn’t immediately sure that Avery was right, but I was certain that Alexandra wasn’t. It felt too big for this wee little thing and Alex definitely didn’t feel like “her.” I did wonder about Julia again a little bit (I’m not sure if Sean even knows this!) but after I heard two-year-old Anna talking about her sister “Av-wee” I fell in love.
 
There are so many ways to choose a name for your baby. Many people use family names — we decided not to. You have to find something that sounds good with the child’s last name, which I found challenging. Popularity might matter to you (Interesting — Anna was in the teens on the popularity lists and I’ve never met another; Avery and Alexandra were in the mid-twenties and I’ve come across many of each). You also have to deal with all those choices and combinations and opinions (oh, the endless opinions) and spellings.
 
But in the end, the only thing that really matters is if you truly love this name and think your child will walk through life wearing it with pride. A good piece of advice: Ask yourself if you’d like to go through life with this name. It seems obvious, but it’s a good way to shift your perspective.
 
And just think: This is one of the last things about your child you’ll ever be able to control. Enjoy it!
 
What process did you go through when choosing your children’s names?