Preggotoga: What's In a Name?

There are so many things to do when getting ready for a new baby. Getting all the onesies and baby gear, stockpiling diapers and wipes, putting the crib together and decorating the nursery, it's a lot of work. Sometimes though the hardest part comes in picking the name you are going to bestow on your new little bundle of joy. It's an amazing responsibility as a parent, you have the sole power to name this child, to give him or her their personal moniker that they will present themselves to the world with every day (unless they completely hate it and legally change it when they're older). You pick this name before you even know the child or their personality, sometimes even before you know what they look like, and base it on any number of different things. A name can be a family name, a favorite from a favorite childhood story, a favorite movie, or a favorite friend. It can be something to remind you of a beloved memory, or something that represents a brilliant and beautiful future. Some people have their baby names picked out long before they even consider having children. I had a friend growing up who had Brooke and Chad chosen as her children's names when we were seven. Every time we played dolls hers were named Brooke and Chad and you couldn't even THINK about using Brooke or Chad as names for your own dolls, those were HER names of her as of yet unborn future children, they were sacred names only for her. And you know what? She is the proud mother of a beautiful baby girl named Brooke, Chad is still in the works presumably. All of us are not so lucky as my friend though and we don't already have names picked out for our children, so when the time comes it can be somewhat stressful to make sure you are making the right choice when picking a name. Growing up a Jennifer in the 80's and 90's I definitely didn't get the feeling that my name was even the tiniest bit unique. There were about twenty Jennifers in my elementary school alone, maybe more. By high school I became known to some teachers as "Sister Witte" partially because there were so many other Jennifers and partially because I had two older brothers that already went through school ahead of me. And going by "Jenny" didn't set me that much farther apart from the Jenn/Jennifer army. By the time I reached college my name and last name became fused together as one long name due to people asking "Which Jenny?", to which people would respond "JennyWitte". JennyWitte became the casual name for me, so much so that people stopped questioning why I was always addressed using my first and last name.

Now that it has come to the time for naming my little boy on the way in January I'm going through the gauntlet of baby naming. You start with a list and sit down with your partner for the veto process. Any ex-girlfriends or ex-boyfriends names get crossed off immediately, as do any crushes or anyone even remotely romantically linked with either one of you. The same goes for anyone you've ever disliked with that name. I don't know how many times I've already rolled my eyes and responded with an "Ugh I knew a (fill in the offending name here) when I was in high school/college/old job/etc., I HATED him!". Even characters in movies I didn't like have been vetoed. Names of past childhood pets also were on the chopping block, along with names that possessed even a passing memory of anything even the teeniest tiniest bit negative. Oh there was a checkout clerk once that had that name on their name tag? Vetoed. Your neighbor who gave out bad candy at Halloween was named that? Vetoed. The veto list becomes a long and almost entirely exclusive one.

Then, you pick a name or two. Tentatively you try them out. You pair it with the last name, sounding it out with trepidation. It sounds okay, so you add it to the maybe list and carry it around in your head sounding it out repeatedly. Trying to imagine what it would sound like when addressing your actual future child. You sound it out in a loving way, then a disciplining way, then in a joking way, over and over to see if it feels right. And maybe it does feel right. You actually LIKE the name! Success! Then you're on facebook and you find out that someone you went to high school with that just had a baby picked the same name and you're back to the drawing board. Or even worse, a celebrity picks the same name. Some people might appreciate this kind of validation, others might find it abhorrent. I know I had mixed feelings when a not so favorite actress of mine picked Lev's middle name as her child's first name. It implied that I somehow shared the taste of this person I didn't like (her actual personality of course a mystery to me). Or what if the name you pick turns out to be the name of some trainwreck celebrity that is now splashed across the tabloids passed out in nightclubs and photographed in less than flattering predicaments? You carefully choose a name that represents beauty and virtue and all that is light and graceful in the world and now the first thing that comes to peoples' minds when they hear the name are some not safe for work photos of some d-list celebrity who doesn't know how to put underwear on before exiting a limo.

Or maybe the name gets chosen to represent a natural disaster, or some other negative news story that gets heavy rotation? All of your careful consideration now gets thrown to hell because the name you chose is now the name of a hurricane devastating the Gulf Coast! The naming minefields are unpredictable and numerous. You can find the perfect name only to find out its meaning and origin mean something horrible or less than desirable like "little bald one" or "ill fated" or "bearer of death". You try to put the otherwise meaningless name origins out of your head, but who wants a name that means "ugly head"?

Even if you get past these hidden name traps you can still run into problems, like the name hijacker. You go through the whole naming process and find the perfect one for your baby and you are so excited to share it with the world. Then, before you know it, someone close to you picks the same name after you've already given it to your child, thus bringing down the originality or specialness of the name for you. This doesn't bother some people, but I know it would bother me. But what can you do? You certainly can't force the other person to change their child's name and you don't have any rights to the name ownership. The only solace you can take is that you picked the name first and be satisfied with that, all the while silently cursing the person for not coming up with their OWN NAME. This can also turn into a similar situation when you pick a name that you think is unique only to find out you've accidentally picked the most popular baby name of the year. Again, this doesn't bother a lot of people, and if you're one of those people I envy you, but some people get annoyed when they find out there are three other little girls with the same name in their daughter's preschool class.

One of the final gauntlets to pass is the family and friends gauntlet. You and your partner have come up with the perfect name that you both love and it has already been mentally embroidered on the baby blanket and you can see it printed on the birth certificate already and quite possibly have monogrammed stationery picked out. So you decide to share it with some select family and close friends. Their reaction? Not so great. This can really take the wind out of your sails. Here you are thinking they're going to love the name as much as you do and instead you get confused looks and maybe even a somewhat rude "Where did you think of that name?" type question. My advice? Forget them. They'll warm up to the name once it's attached to a cute and cuddly little baby and all judgment will fall to the wayside. Besides, this is YOUR baby, and you are the only one responsible for giving this little child their name, whether they grow up to thank you for it or resenting it. And just in case you're worried you aren't going to make the right choice or have already made a choice you're not sure about, check out this link of horrible baby names and take solace that you didn't choose Leper Priest for your beautiful baby.