Guest Post: Ana on Baby Naming

15 November 2011

Ana and I went to college together and have reconnected thanks to my favorite...the internet. I was thrilled that she chose to write about baby naming because I love to obsess over (especially girl) names while Simon loves to not obsess and rapidfireshootdown my always brilliant suggestions.  Ana stays at home with her two cute little ladies and keeps a lovely little (very enjoyable!) blog that you should most certainly visit, follow and frequent. 
anddd without further ado...

Baby naming:

Hyacinth Michiana Palin

This is the name that my husband, Mike, would tell people we were going to give our first little girl.
It was a joke, one that he thought was especially funny, but always made me really uncomfortable when he would actually tell people that we were naming her that. I sat through many a blank stare before they realized we were not serious.

Baby naming is a funny thing and after I saw Grace's post about name strength, I started to think more about it. Plus a few days later my sister had her fifth little girl and that really got me thinking about it.

I did not over think baby naming when I was pregnant with Naomi, our first girl. I was just so stinking excited to be having a baby, I figured whatever we named her, it would be fine, good, great, whatever. But I do remember looking at all of the papers in the hospital after she was born and seeing her name written on everything, and realizing what a permanent, life long, no-going-back thing it was (unless she decided to change it, but let's be honest, I think that is what we're trying to avoid at least a little bit).

So then with our second, I had my ideal name picked out. I felt GREAT about it. I had no doubts in my mind at all and I even had Mike on board. Elinore, and we would call her Nora. So cute, right? Classy and beautiful, nothing could go wrong. Until one day my wanna-be theologian husband came home and told me that the Pope had written some beautiful letter on the importance of Catholics using names of great saints in the Church when naming their children. I tried really hard to ignore him, but I could not stop thinking about it. My Catholic guilt was crushing me since I did not pick the name Elinore in honor of any saint and could not actually find a saint Elinore. So we went to the drawing board again and ended up with Bernadette Martha if it was a girl (still beautiful, still classy) and Josemaria Benedict if it was a boy. I still had so many doubts even after we decided on both of the names. I was so freaked out about screwing them up, I mean her initials would be BM, his name would be JOSEMARIA. Great. I could not get people's weird reactions out of my mind and the permanent nature of the decision made me a bit nauseous, or maybe that was just from being pregnant. Either way, I would say that the last 4 months of the pregnancy were spent with me freaking out all too frequently about the choice of our second kid's name. Then the baby came, it was another girl, we named her Lucy. Then we changed it 30 minutes later to Bernadette (partially due to how doped up I was after a c-section, and partially because I was still freaking out about it).

The decision is so tough, and the fact that you AND your husband have to AGREE on the name makes it even harder! Maybe you don't have these problems, but this is how things go here for us. My sister who I mentioned above has it even hard since she and her family are Byzantine Catholic and her husband is very adamant about using very specific Eastern saint names. Here are a few examples of the choices he gave her when she was pregnant with one of their 5 daughters (this is derived from an extensive list that he made for her):

Rohama     Meaning: “Having Obtained Mercy” Ge’ez/Biblical
Saida ~ Saidah          Meaning: “Helper” Amharic   or “Happy” Muslim
Safia ~ Safiya             Meaning: “Pure & Wise” or “Lions Share” Arabic/Abyssinian
Samrawit    Meaning: “She Is Unity” or “She Who Unifies” Amharic/Ge’ez
Selam        Meaning: “Peace” Amharic/Tigrigna
Semira       Meaning: “Fulfilled” Muslim
Tinsae ~ Tensae       Meaning: “Resurrection” Amharic
Twebesta   Meaning: “Mother Of St George” Amharic/Biblical
Tsehay      Meaning: “Sun” Amharic

This is only about 1/4 of the list- we pull it out every once and while to show people and have a good laugh, and my sister thinks it's pretty funny too.They've been able to settle on names for 5 little girls so far, and the names are all beautiful and very unique, but my sister pretty much always dreads the comments made by family members and perfect strangers.

No matter how confident you are about it, if you have chosen a more unique name, people will have something to say about it.

With both of our girls we got/get a lot of "oh, wow. you don't hear that a lot!" or "wow, I have never heard that before!" (Naomi and Bernadette are not that crazy, it is just that they're not named Madison or Abigale - beautiful names, just more common). What they're really saying is they don't like it. Occasionally I will get someone who genuinely loves their names and have nothing but compliments and then I actually feel good about my decisions and I want to give them a big hug. 
The fact is, I have NO idea what the child would want their name to be, or whether they will like it at all once they are older. Obviously, in the end, what people think about your child's name should be the last thing you're considering since it is your child, not theirs.
And in the end, we are inevitably going to screw up our children in some way, so it's most fitting to start with their name and just get it out of the way, right? This is why I will most likely always freak out about it.


  1. Very interesting. I love hearing unique names, especially religious ones. My boys were named after saints: Christopher James and Andrew Joseph. We just had a girl Evangeline Marie. While Evangeline isn't after a saint it does mean "good news" and "evangelist." I love hearing how people chose their children's names :)

  2. I love those names, beautiful! I am really big on the meaning of names too, it's such a teaching opportunity with children.

  3. I love this post! I too, share in the constant explanation of my daughter's name: Emmerson "Emme" Grace -- Emmerson meaning "Home Strength" and Grace, a staple in our Catholic church and an honor to Mother Mary, who is full of Grace! I am in LOVE with her name and I love explaining it to people when they relentlessly question, comment, and pry about why/how we came about the meaning. I just PRAY that she is as in love with her name as I am! Only time will tell...I love the name Naomi and Bernadette as well! We were considering the name Bernadette for a future little girl, and calling her Bernie :)

  4. Love the name Emmerson! I also love telling people our reasons for naming the girls. I actually love baby naming and I am always scheming on what our future kids names will be, I just don't know if we'll be able to have enough to use them all :)

  5. My husband is THE WORST about baby names. He likes nothing and refuses to enter serious discussions. His contributions go like this, "Ok, I have one. Teacup....for a GIRL!" Very nice. When pregnant with number 2, he refused to discuss a boy name, believing we were having another girl. When the baby arrived and we peeked under the towel, sure enough. Boy. We had no names picked out, so we called him Buddy for the first little while. He seems to be psychologically sound so far.

  6. aww, this was a cool post. names are definitely difficult. as a jessica, i hope to go a little less common with the names of my future babies. Not that i don't like my name, i actually love it. it's just hard when you are in a classroom with five other Jessicas growing up.

  7. We always agonize over baby names. They have to be saints' names, but they have to mesh with the saints' names we've already used. So what goes with a Joaquin? Sure not a Paul or a Matthew. It's the only wisdom I see in God creating us to have a 10 month gestation period- it takes us that long to come up with names.

  8. Anne, that is hilarious, he sounds just like my brother-in-law mentioned in the post, so funny!!
    Jessica is a beautiful name!! I love so many of the more "common" names, so many are just classic!

  9. Haha, I love the last line of this! I agree - picking a name can be stressful. We don't even have our first little one yet but we have had hours of discussion over names.

  10. I agree that a name really is important. I'm not Catholic so didn't have to worry about a Saint's name, but I wanted different than the same old same old and I wanted them to have meaning. My children are Naomi Marie (because I always liked the name Naomi and the Marie is from my sister's middle name Maria), Jared Michael (Jared from a romance novel I was reading at 9 months pregnant in the middle of the night because who can sleep and Michael after his Dad), and Leslie Kathryn (my father and mother's names). They are grown now and I can't imagine them being named anything else.

  11. Oh, what a dilemma! My husband and I have no clue what we'll name our upcoming little one. I like yours though!

  12. Can I just say that Naomi and Nora are my #2 and #3 for a baby girl?! PRECIOUS. And Bernadette is just as cute : )

  13. Aw, so sweet! They are fantastic names, there are so many great girl names, my list never ends :) Thanks so much!!

  14. Hey! I went to that college too! Rock on!

  15. I like to read this two years later when you have a Lucy. Also, my new baby is Elinor/Nora. (No e on the end, though, perhaps I should have considered it.)

  16. Love to read about how people pick baby names!
    PS Elinore is actually a variant of Helen, which is definitely a saint's name :)



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