One of the most important discussions you and your spouse will have is on the topic of naming your baby. If you're lucky, you'll find a mutually agreeable name early on. But sometimes it's not that simple.
"Name discussions often tap into deeper issues like religion, family, people's experiences from their pasts that they may not have discussed openly or even be aware of themselves," says Pamela Redmond Satran, coauthor of Cool Names for Babies. "It may take more time, patience, and care to thoroughly discuss name tastes and their implications than you anticipate."
For Julia Gersen and her husband, culture played a role in their naming difficulties. "My husband—who had never left his native Thailand until we moved to the US a couple of years ago—liked a lot of names that felt plain and unoriginal to me," says the resident of Falmouth, Maine. "We tried to come up with some good Thai-American names but struggled with the mispronunciation that would surely occur and the teasing that would ensue."
Personality and style caused trouble for Tampa resident Janelle Royal Keyes and her husband. Keyes describes herself as more social and trendy, whereas her husband is more introverted. "I was really into names that were contemporary, stylish, and original," Keyes says. "I grew up as the only Janelle in my school and wanted a name for my daughter that was unique but easy to read/pronounce. One of my husband's main concerns was a name that had significant meaning."
Often, people like names that symbolize something for them. "It's worth uncovering the reasons behind the names you and your partner like," Satran says. "Let's say he loves the name Jack (which you hate) and you finally figure out that's because he thinks Jack sounds like a popular, laid-back, masculine guy—exactly the sort of guy he wanted to be. That can help you both look for other names that might fit the bill in a way that's meaningful to him but that you also like."
Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby Name Wizard, says there's no "sensitive" way to convince your partner to accept a name he or she can't stand. "You have to respect that it's a joint decision—even if that means giving up on the name you've had your heart set on since fifth grade," she says. "Remember that a name is one of the first points of connection between you and your child. If one parent resents the name, that connection can turn into a barrier."
Maybe the disputed name was the name of an ex or of a bully from grade school. No matter the reason, it's not going to disappear.
After two weeks of being "Baby Girl," Gersen's family feared their baby would remain nameless forever. After sitting down and deciding on their top two choices, her husband agreed to go with her favorite. "But we decided to sleep on it for one more night," Gersen says. "The next morning I decided to let him have his name. I figured if he could move away from his home and family, I could let him have the name."
The Keyes used a process similar to the Electoral College voting system. After choosing 10 to 15 top names, they narrowed the list to their top five from each list. "From that list we then gave our closest family members (parents and siblings) and friends (lifelong buddies only) weighted voting options," Keyes says. "After voting ended, we tallied the top names and then paired top name combinations to determine a middle name that sounded nice with the 'elected' first name. It was arduous and extensive but we were happy in the end."
What Not to Do
"The most important thing is to keep a baby-name problem from ballooning into a relationship problem," Wattenberg says. "Pregnancy can be an emotionally fraught time, so you have to keep things on an even keel."
Keyes believes emotions played a factor in their disagreement. "I grew frustrated at points and we really had some strong, unkind discussions," she says. "I think with my pregnancy emotions, my feelings were easily hurt. I felt as though his dislike of the names I chose was a personal attack against me. I told myself that he was being difficult and overbearing. He just wanted to be a part of the process and have his opinion heard."
It's important to remember that this is just one of the many decisions you and your spouse will have to make together as parents. Be sensitive to each others feelings, really listen to each other, and come to a compromise. It's great practice for the other decisions to be made that are coming down the road!