Baby Naming: Strategies, Bargaining, and What to Do When You Don’t Agree

Baby Naming: Strategies, Bargaining, and What to Do When You Don't AgreeNaming a baby is kind of a big deal.

In grade school, I remember paging through the ancient baby name book my mom had purchased when she was pregnant with my sister, and writing lists of my favorite names. Since this was in the early 90s, I’m sure my list was populated with Jennifer and Michelle and the like. But still, obviously something I’d been thinking about for ages.

When I was pregnant with my first son, then, the idea of naming a baby seemed almost insurmountable.  So, I thought. What do I do when things get hard? I make a spreadsheet.

In my first trimester, my husband and I made a shared Google Sheet with one column for boy names, one column for girl names. This was our outlet to write EVERYTHING down — even the ridiculous ones that we would probably never be brave enough to use (I still am a bit sad that I never had a Seamus).

By the time the anatomy scan came around, we had full lists of 20-30 names for each sex. We had agreed not to argue, or discuss anything seriously until we knew for sure if our child was a he or a she. When we found out we were having a boy, we happily ignored the girl column. Half our choices were eliminated, and suddenly everything was brought into focus!

It was then that we agreed on The Rules.

  1.  Baby name cannot start with the same letter as our last name.
  2.  Baby name cannot end with -n, so as to avoid a rhyme-y sound with our last name.
  3.  Baby name cannot also be a colonial or medieval occupation.
  4.  Baby name has to fit equally well in the sentences, “Can BabyName come out and play?” and “Introducing Supreme Court Justice BabyName.”

1 and 2 were jointly created rules. Number 3 was all my husband, and I can’t really explain his aversion to occupation names (surprisingly common when naming a boy: Hunter, Cooper, Mason, Chandler all qualify), but it was not my hill to die on.

So then, we went back to the list. Because visuals help, we each picked a top 10. I bolded mine on the list, he italicized. It made it really easy to see the overlap. There were five names on that list.

And then the negotiations began.

I, for one, felt like I should be able to pull 51% of the naming vote. After all, I was the one puking, peeing, and waddling my way through pregnancy, right? My husband, unfortunately, did not feel the same way.

And then I came to the realization that I liked all of our top contenders. And I couldn’t bring myself to fight for one over another, just on principle.

My husband, meanwhile, had picked a name: Charles, a.k.a. Charlie. He’d taken the proactive strategy of choosing and using one name, over and over: “how’s Charlie doing today?” as he patted my belly, or “what does Charlie want for dinner tonight?”

And I liked it. So I picked the battle that DID mean a lot to me: the middle name. I wanted a family name,  and I felt pretty non-negotiable about that. My grandfather had been very special to me and had passed, and I wanted to honor him. So, I told him: the first name is yours, if I get the middle name. He agreed, and that was that: he would be Charles Thomas.

Then, a few years later, pregnant again. Same procedure, same negotiations, simple and painless: and we had Patrick Doyle, this time with a middle name after my husband’s grandfather.

So. Give a little, but not on your non-negotiables. Organize a list and use visual cues to see where you overlap. Test the name out by saying it out loud and using it. Decide whether you want nicknames or a nickname-proof name. Don’t tell anyone until the baby is born unless you want to hear about every person with that name who has ever been hated by someone you know.

If all else fails, I’ve got a wonderful list you can borrow.

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