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Baby Names: Who Gets a Say?

By Katie |

When we told my in-laws about our pregnancy, the very first thing they wanted to do was discuss baby names.

I was hesitant about it on two fronts. First, because I was only 9 weeks pregnant at the time and completely convinced we were going to jinx things, and second, because I wasn’t sure I wanted their opinions. Frankly, I wasn’t sure I wanted anyone’s opinions.

I remember when my sister-in-law was choosing names. Every time they came up with a name they liked, someone at the table came up with a way to talk them out of it. I watched my sister-in-law’s face fall every time this happened and I told my husband I didn’t want to do that.

 

It turns out that my in-laws are not the only ones who want to talk baby names. Everyone does. I know it’s fun and I know everyone means well, but so far the only girl’s name we ever agreed upon has already been vetoed by two different arms of our family. This does not please me in the least because we’re back at the drawing board for that now.

But it’s not just about ruining our names.

On Friday night I got a text message from my grandma (yes, the one who lacks a filter). She just wanted me to know that there were two girls names we should really consider, one of which was my great-grandma’s name. The other name was, well, it was something I would not name a baby. And I wasn’t really sure how to respond. Her mother’s name really is a beautiful name that I would LOVE to use, but in combination with our last name, it sounds like a zoo animal. The other name I just plain don’t like and I know my husband won’t either.

And even though my in-laws in particular are not concerned with telling us that they don’t like names, I’m just not sure how to tell family and friends that we don’t like their suggestions without being hurtful.

My grandma, the same one who sent me the text, hated my sister’s name when she was born. She disagreed with the way my parents chose to spell my nickname from day 1. And she was characteristically unquiet about it. To this day my mom can still recount stories of the things that were said about our names, and I can remember having birthday cards addressed to Kathryn instead of Katie because she refused to write it out for many years. While I know that everyone means well (and I love my grandma dearly) and everyone just wants us to come up with the perfect name for our child, I also just don’t want to feel like everyone hates the names we choose.

I’m just not sure where to find the middle ground on this one. I would kind of love to not tell anyone our baby name until after the baby has arrived and we know it fits the tiny little infant, but I also know that this will never fly with certain sectors of our families. I know that withholding this information will only create a bigger chasm that I have neither the time nor the patience to manage right now.

In your opinion, who should get a say in naming a baby and how did you handle all the dissenters?

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About Katie

katie

Katie

Katie is a former teacher, part-time PT, wife, and first-time mother to the baby with the best ears on the Internet. You can find more of her grammatically questionable writing at her blog, Overflowing Brain. Read bio and latest posts → Read Katie's latest posts →

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40 thoughts on “Baby Names: Who Gets a Say?

  1. Katy says:

    My mom actually believes that I pick baby names for the sole purpose of embarrassing her. She hated my girl name choice so much that she told me she would just call it a nickname–a nickname that I couldn’t stand. So I told her this: “if you call my child _______, then I will teach that child that your name is Grandmother. (My mother had already selected a cute, trendy grandma moniker that didn’t make her feel old). That closed the discussion right there.

    And I wouldn’t share too much with my inlaws either. My husband and I always say, “these are the possibilities,” but we refuse to accept suggestions.

  2. Lisa says:

    It sounds like this may not be an option for you but we simply kept the name to ourselves. We didn’t want to share for the very reasons you’ve mentioned. If we loved a name we did not want to see an unhappy reaction on someone’s face. Especially because we had the Hardest time picking one.
    We didn’t find out our baby’s gender beforehand and although we had a boy’s name set we were still unsure about a girl’s name in the midst of my labor.
    We also loved the idea of announcing the baby’s gender and name to our waiting room seated families. In our case, “it’s a boy! It’s a Jacob Wyatt!” was so exciting for my husband to say. Everyone was so thrilled in that moment I don’t think they would have thought of disliking the name.
    I really wish you all the luck and health in navigating these next months. In the end, you and your husband get to take home this wonderful little person.

  3. Kelly Dyer says:

    I have three kids. All of them have Japanese middle names even though we are not Japanese. All three also have somewhat unusual and not-very-popular first names. (Well, except for my first. She’s going to be one of the 18 Sophie’s in her kindergarten class!) I have gotten a lot of ribbing and some real “Why in the world are you sticking that kid with that name?!” from my family.

    My husband and I chose the names together. We chose them because we like the flow of the names and the meanings behind them. That’s all that matters to us. When others question, we simply smile and tell them that we wanted to choose names we loved for the children we loved. We’ve actually gotten a lot of compliments on the names from other people!

  4. rachel says:

    i think what you could do, what me and my husband are doing, is dont tell anyone the name you pick about untill after the baby is already born then they really have nothing to say. at the end of the day they already had their turn to choose names, this is your baby so choose the name you and your man agree on.

  5. Karianna says:

    We didn’t reveal names until birth. We told people that since they knew the gender (which we announced for both our kids immediately after the ultrasound) the “surprise” would be the name. It was a fun way of going around the very dilemma you describe without being defensive about it.

  6. Suzanne says:

    I guess I’m lucky, being the 7th of 8 kids. By the time I had my two, no one on my side cared what we named them. (though thanks to an actor who uses his middle name prominently, everyone wanted to pair my abusive ex-husbands name with the absolutely-no-budging-on-the-first-name my husband picked. thank you, NPH!) Hell, with my younger son, we had six boy names, no girl names and were thankful we ended up with a boy.

    However, my younger sister decided to find out what she was having with her 2nd (the first one in our family), because there would be some remodeling in the house if she had a girl. She picked the name Liam, and the battle royal came out. Everyone was quite vocal that it was a horrible name.

    She called me, asking what I thought of the name, because I was 300 miles away from the family drama that was driving her to tears. I told her it doesn’t matter what I think, because a year from now, I won’t be able to imagine any other name for her son.

    And you know what? That child is definitely a Liam to me, I can’t picture him with any other name.

    The point is, your families are going to weigh in, but they either got to name their own children or will (hopefully) someday get to do so. It’s your turn. If you want to have some fun, tell them some outrageous names, like Orville Redenbacker or Fifi Trixiebelle or Dweezil.

    Keep giving them outrageous names, and then when you name your baby something YOU like, they’ll be relaxed that you gave your child something normal.

  7. Voice of Reason says:

    Wow, two arms of your family have already vetoed names? I’m not sure you should be handing over this power, especially as you clearly don’t feel comfortable doing so (given that you’ve written this blog post). I think you might be being too nice. Please make sure you end up with a name that you and your husband both LOVE; doing that may involve ignoring the input of others.
    /
    With my own children, when name discussions came up, I politely participated, treating them as though we were discussing someone else’s baby. No one had any genuine say in the naming of our children except my husband and me. Two people’s opinions are plenty. (Plus, I honestly didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought! They got to name their babies and we got to name ours. Period.)
    /
    Good luck!

  8. mommabird2345 says:

    I think it is entirely up to you and your husband. My husband and I decided on our children’s names. Although, with our youngest, my MIL wanted our daughter’s middle name to be her Mother’s name since she was going to be our last baby (and none of this was brought up until I was in the hospital holding my newborn). Well, I didn’t like the name with the first name we had picked out. So I compromised, and gave our daughter two middle names, the one I picked out first and then my husband’s grandma’s name. It made everyone happy and I figured she would only use the one middle name (my choice) when it came to initials & filling out paperwork.

    If people don’t like your name choices, they will just have to get over it. I agree with Suzanne, tell them a really weird name. When my mom was pregnant with me, she told everyone that my name was going to be Marmaduke, whether I was a girl or boy. :)

  9. Lindsay says:

    Naming a baby isn’t a group decision. It should be a choice between you and your husband. Plain and simple. No one else’s opinion really matters.

  10. Voice of Reason says:

    Oh yes, Suzanne and Mommabird are totally right about the fake names. When I was pregnant, I referred to my bumps as Wolfgang or Prunella. I loved watching people’s faces!

  11. Jenna says:

    That sounds so stressful! Shut it down, don’t tell people your names, enjoy the process with your husband. P.S. My mom hated my daughters name when she was born but it grew on her and just a few weeks ago she told me she couldn’t imagine her having any other name.

  12. Mary B. says:

    I have learned to keep my trap shut when it comes to names, because too many of my favourites have been cruelly shot down by my family members. My mother was an Early Childhood Educator and worked in both home and group daycare for thirty years, so there are more than a few names that leave her with bad associations. I can relate to this, since I’m a teacher, but it became increasingly frustrated to hear “you can’t use that, you don’t want to use that, you’ll regret that”. My older sister is also obsessed with rejecting anything ‘too feminine’. Now we just refer to my bump as Cygnet or whatever food combination I happen to be craving. Other relatives, including my in-laws, have kept thankfully quiet on the subject. I sometimes feel like I am from the song “Pregnant Women Are Smug”, but it sure beats being yelled at or crying in front of my family.

  13. Meredith says:

    I am expecting and my husband and I have established a rule with both our families — the people that created the baby are the only people with a say over decisions about her. This includes our birth plan, naming choices, feeding decisions, etc. We repeat the rule every time we see them. They don’t particularly like this, but it’s the only way we could stay sane. We aren’t sharing any name ideas or final decisions with anyone until she arrives and at that point, we hope their input will be about how awesome she is and not about all the other names we should have used.

  14. Amanda says:

    we a had a little bit of a problem with that for our first. So then with our second we considered waiting until the baby got here to tell everyone, but neither of us could wait to share the news. So instead of telling everyone we “think” we know what name we want, or we like a certain name, we just said “We picked the baby’s name and its Liam Edward.” And that took all of the discussion out of it because we made our response so definite. It didn’t even leave the floor open for discussion. We could tell which people were hesitant on saying they liked it or not but we didn’t care. Its what we wanted and what we fell in love with!

  15. snakecharmer says:

    The only people who should get to have a say in naming a baby are the parents. Well meaning friends and relatives may offer suggestions but we draw the line at actually discussing names that are being considered. Everyone has a bad association with one name or another and you simply cannot please everyone, so since you guys are the ones who will have to deal with sleepless nights/poo explosions/meltdowns/emergency room visits as you raise your child, you should please yourselves first. I found out with my first not to divulge names to my in-laws since they always had very strong opinions and were particularly uncaring and callous of any of my preferences due to my cultural background.

  16. Mariah says:

    I told the people who insisted on knowing (and for whom it would have caused problems had I not shared), that we had it narrowed down to four names. I told them those names, then said we were going to decide after we met our daughter. It didn’t stop people from commenting, but no one said a thing once she was actually named, even though we went with the name that most people did not like (it helps that it’s my husband’s mother’s name. She died when he was 6, so you can be sure no one says a thing about the name once they know that).

  17. Maria says:

    For all three kids my husband and I refused to discuss names with anyone. We told people that we welcomed suggestions, but that we wouldn’t actually discuss what names we were considering. The first time, both of our moms had a hard time with this. We were expecting a girl and my MIL expressed concern that we were going to give her an ugly name. “You’re not going to give her an ugly name are you? I’m worried you are not going to pick something pretty.” We told her that we would pick a name that we (my husband and I) thought was pretty. With baby #3, a boy, she was not crazy about the first name we gave him, but liked his middle name. However, immediately after telling her his name, she suggested we spell his middle name differently (we declined) and said that she was just going to call him by his middle name. My husband pointed out that everyone else would be calling him by his first name, and so far my MIL has also called him by his first name. For all three babies, I never regretted keeping the name a secret. My husband and I picked names that we both love, and everyone else either loved our choices, or just eventually got used to them. And although our moms were upset that we wouldn’t share the names ahead of time, they got over it. They have beautiful grandchildren to love now after all. Imagine how frustrated they were when we also didn’t find out the gender ahead of time with babies 2 and 3! :)

  18. Caitlin says:

    My whole family hated my son’s name: Atticus, because they had no idea where it came from or the meaning behind it. Well, I told them to shove it. It drove me crazy though…

  19. Megan says:

    With my son we didn’t check with anyone about his name. We just announced what it would be as soon as we had decided because one of my husband’s relatives was due with a boy a week after I was. We picked a first name that we just plain liked, and he has my MIL’s maiden name for his middle name(which we both now regret because his mother is *%#$@#% *itch). With our daughter we checked with my mother because we were wanting to use my dad’s middle name as her middle name(female spelling of Frances) and he had only been dead for 2 years. I also checked with my dad’s siblings because her first name is my paternal grandmother’s first name. I’m not sure that we would have changed our minds on either names, but I felt it was good to warn them in case they would be really upset about it.

  20. Ingrid says:

    Just had this issue come up today. We just found out we are having a girl. Now we have 2 boy names and 2 girl name already picked out that we both like and agreed on. We told my mom what the name would be and she didn’t like it. She started giving suggestions and I just flat out told her it wasn’t up for discussion. Probably a little more harshly than I intended but I wanted to nip that in the bud. She is currently not speaking to me, but I really don’t care. This is our child and my husband and I selected these names carefully after much consideration. I’m sorry her feelings were hurt but I would rather have a few moments of upset than a life time of regret.

  21. Lacey says:

    At this point in my pregnancy, the ones who get ultimate say are the parents! Our baby boy’s name has changed many times because of other peoples input!! So now my husband and I have decided on a name and only a few people (who won’t try to change our mind’s) what it is!! It’s hard for me to keep a secret! I know my mom told me that my grandmother hated my name and was praying for a boy haha!

  22. Alexis P. says:

    You are having the baby not them…..so therefore its your decision!! Pick the name you and your hubby love!!

  23. Catronia says:

    Personally I did not and do not care whether or not my family liked or approved of our name choices for our children. It is between my husband and I to decided on a name we like. It’s our kids, our choice. Why would you agree to let other people “talk you out of” a name you two love? Do you also let them tell you what jobs to have and where you live? It is a deeply personal decision, naming a child. Do not let anyone hold sway over you like this.

  24. Pam says:

    It’s your and your husband’s choice. Family and friends can make suggestions but in my opinion, they have 0 say. I never left it open when I announced our kids’ names, and I never got an ounce of negative feedback. I told them the name and didn’t ask their opinion. Be confident and final when you announce it, so obviously you’ll want to wait until you’re sure. :) Good luck.

  25. Becky says:

    You and your husband. Period. End of discussion.

  26. Teri says:

    My fiance and I chose the name Roxanne for our daughter, she’s not yet born though, and my sister hated it so much she looked up similar names to try and change my mind, she said, “it’s so 80′s!!” We stuck with our name choice and she’s grown to be ok with it, knowing she has no say, and when she said she’d call her peanut I told her she wouldn’t be seeing her if she did. We’re still debating on the middle name though, at least no one had tried to “help” name her. She’s our baby, so we’re naming her, and strangers all seem to understand that, along with MOST of our family, but I can hear in some people’s voices their slightly disapproving “oh”s when we tell them the name we’ve picked out.

  27. Francesca says:

    I just got a 6 page front and back letter from my mother demanding that we change our sons middle name. It is a family name that comes from my dads side. They have been long divorced and she hates him. This is after she demanded that we change our daughter’s name because we spelled it differently than she would have liked. She has since given up that fight and now is focusing on our son. He is 8 weeks old. I have not responded to her. I feel like if I do I will freak out on her.

  28. Colleen says:

    “Pick” something that is universally despised and only change when the baby is born (same initials in case people get monograms). Then everyone will be relieved! You’ll hear a bunch of garbage about it, but nobody will be dissing the name you chose.

  29. Stori says:

    One of my sisters told a co-worker her baby name and he stole it for his daughter that was born a couple of months before her daughter, so now she won’t tell anyone except family what her baby names are. I had a college classmate name his daughter after me and then deny it, like there are hundreds of girls named Storianne. I say keep it private and who cares what anyone thinks, it is your child. No one in my family understood why I have more than one middle name for my daughter, but each one has a meaning to me. I agree with most of the ladies above who gave their opinion. Plus, you can always find a reason why you don’t like a name, someone who you didn’t like that had the same name or multiple other reasons. So choose what you like best whatever it is, as long as it has meaning NOTHING is too extreme!

  30. Courtney says:

    This is your baby…we decided before we found out the names.. Now that said my
    Son has an add. Bc he is the 4th but still it was our decision

  31. Carol says:

    What do you do if its your husband arguing what the name should be using both families against you threating he will have babies name changed if its not something something the third

  32. Shilo says:

    I had my daughter’s name picked out for many year’s so no one had a say. Even if the family didn’t like the name and I’m sure more then a few didn’t I could care less.

  33. Karen says:

    When our son was born, the name we had chosen for him didn’t suit him at all.We came out, we snuggled up with him, and I looked at my husband and said, “Um, that’s not his name.” To which he replied, “I know. Now what?”

    The name we ended up choosing for him suits him perfectly. His name is Ryan. He looks like a Ryan. He acts like a Ryan. He’s just RYAN.

    So, my point is – you may have the perfect name picked out, meet your baby, and have the name not fit. No opinion from anyone will change the fact that your baby – is YOUR BABY. It’s not your in-laws’ baby – they had theirs already – it’s not your Mom’s or Grandma’s baby – they had theirs, too. Your baby. You pick. What they think doesn’t matter. And if they give you crap, tell them they can explain to your baby when he/she is old enough why they hate their grandchild’s name. Doubt they’ll take you up on that.

  34. Daisy Chain says:

    Oh my goodness, I wouldn’t even bother discussing it with family, much less giving them voting or veto rights!! You are much more generous than I am! I wouldn’t worry about any complaints if you keep the name to yourselves until after the birth, people like that will always find something to complain about. May as well let them complain about that!!

  35. Lana says:

    With our baby we have just found out we are expecting a girl we have told our families the sex and told them our options of the names we like, everyone likes them except my dad who is unbelievably picky(thinks he is too young to be a grandad so is being difficult) we have chosen out of the names and are ready to go but have not told anyone we probably will not change unless something 10x better comes along. We said we are open to suggestions but they keep coming up with names we would veto. Just take it with a pinch of salt I know it’s irritating but they just want to help with just one of the stressful aspects of having a child. Hope this helps :)

  36. Samantha says:

    I’ll never understand why people get so passionate about names. Its not THEIR name. And its not their childs name. So in my opinion everyone can shut their mouths. My husband and I just found out the sex of our baby and picked a name that night (after I had compiled a list of both girl and boy names over the past few months and we just weeded through those). Surprisingly no one has been anti our “we’re not telling you the name until after she is born” line but I can tell it annoys our parents. But at the end of the day, the name is something personal to mom, dad and the person who gets the name. Its not fun to add a negative feeling to something that should only be joyous and happy. I would just put your foot down and say after all the comments, suggestions, etc we’ve decided to keep the name a surprise. I think people will be less inclined to give their 2 cents (maybe they’ll give just a penny) when there is an actual baby in front of them already named. What will they say (besides Grandma) oh what a cute baby but a terrible name? You deserve to have some privacy and something that is just your own during this time so let that be it.

  37. hayley stevens says:

    You and dad! In other words the egg and sperm donor or the womb holder!! I believe its come to the point where we have to keep our chosen names secret in order to avoid comments like that! But guess what – they will love your child no matter what… whether you name him Henry or hilda or her George or gretta! They may not like the spelling or the meaning or even the first letter or the name! I don’t want my child to be have a name that 15 children I know have or to have a name like London or Beckham…. I want it to be unique and fit my child…. the minute I saw them we chose the name that we found fitting and now almost 3yrs and 1yr later we made the best decision…. we got looks for both and I’m sure people wondered but as our children’s personalities develop we see just how right we were. You will know your child best – you will write, say, yell, REPEAT your child’s name more than anyone so why shouldn’t you have the first and final decision and if anyone thinks differently then they have other issues to work on! Best of luck name choosing!!!

  38. Canuckmom says:

    My list of people who get to name the baby:
    Whoever pays for diapers, food, clothes for baby
    Whoever gets up 5 times a night with baby
    Whoever is responsible for baby’s future
    Whoever made baby
    Therefore, my husband and I

    If anyone else tries to name my baby, they need to do a few of the things on my list.

  39. ashley says:

    I would of been quite annoyed if people tried this with me. I had constant “thats not a name for a child“ we chose before we tried for her which felt so right my partner and i said at the same time followed by a high five, we chose temperance who is now 9months old and very very smart, too smart. My mum didnt like it at all trying to get me to use our first babies name…who didnt make it to 3m preg… but it made me sad. Any names people said i was too bedridden to notice thank gosh. I had a blog for peoples input but no one was actually interested in anything i had to say about my pregnancy.

  40. ashley says:

    Oh we did get alot of jokes on how we should choose chandler just cause our last name is bing, it was constant. In the end id just say “hah hah, no“. Use the nickname tempy for our daughter suits her well.

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