• Stefanie Bittner

What's in a Name?

Someone tagged me on Facebook a while back; it was a link to an article about the birth of sextuplets. I took a look and then turned to the comments to see what others were saying. The majority of the comments were not about the fact that this couple had six newborns at home or even that these weren't the couple's only children (the sextuplets have 3 older siblings). No. The majority of comments were about the NAMES the couple had given their children. Ok, yes, they were definitely unconventional and definitely uncommon, but they are the names chosen by their parents. Turns out that for a lot of people choosing a name is a very big deal.

I personally found one of the most stressful parts of all three of my pregnancies to be choosing a name for my unborn babies. Be honest; it's hard. There are soooo many things to consider- culture, religion, expectations from family, how a name may sound in multiple languages, how a name "matches" a last name, whether or not to give a middle name, spelling, wanting your child to fit in, wanting your child to be "unique", and so on and so on. And at some point a decision has to be made, and it's one that you and your child have to live with forever (or at least until your child is old enough to make their own legal name change).

With my first baby, my husband and I decided we didn't want to know the sex of our baby so we needed to choose two names we loved. We searched books, online, talked to people and made lots and lots of lists. In the end we had three names and when our son was born (a total shock as I was convinced he was going to be a girl) I took one look at him and made the final decision. I figured that since I pushed him out that was my call. Thankfully my husband agreed!

It was no easier the second time around but we had a smaller list and only one name when it came time for the birth (though we did have a second name chosen in case our daughter was actually a boy; the ultrasound technician wasn't completely convinced). Our issue with our second revolved more around the spelling and pronunciation of the name in English and in French. For our third baby we added an accent to her name to make sure it was pronounced correctly in French and tried to "match" the ethnic origins of her name with those of her siblings.

We chose to keep the names of our babies a secret until they were born but more commonly names are being shared before baby even arrives. This is not the case in all cultures and religions and wasn't common practice even in Canada until more recently. Some people find using their baby's name before the birth helps them to bond. They want to share their chosen name with family an friends so that others can feel an attachment as well. Asking for help with a name or giving the honour of naming a baby to another person is also a reason some share a name prior to birth. For others, keeping a name a secret ensures that no one will make comments about the choice. It's harder to criticize a name once it's official! Others truly can't decide or choose not to until the baby is born because they want to see what name will suit their new addition. Still others adhere to religious or cultural practices that either have the parents give or announce a name only once the baby is born or even days or weeks after the fact.

The other day a group of friends and I were having a discussion about last names and how hard it is living in Quebec where, unlike in other Canadian provinces, a married woman has to keep her maiden name. Common-law relationships are also very much the norm here. So what happens when kids come into the picture? More options and more difficult decisions! Mother's last name, father's last name, a hyphenated name or something completely new? And what happens if both parents already have their own hyphenated names (check out the Government of Quebec website for ways to deal with that!)

So good luck to all of you in the midst of choosing a baby name. It's a tough job and everyone has an opinion. There's really no right or wrong choice (unless you live in a country where names need to be from a pre-approved list or must follow certain guidelines). The great thing these days is that there are an immense number of resources for finding baby names and there are more options than ever before.

And remember, you can take your time. Yes, there's paperwork that requires a name so that birth certificates and other ID can be issued but you can make your final decision once your baby is in your arms. Or you can decide the moment you pee on a stick. It's completely your decision. Own it.

How about you? Did you have a hard time finding a name? What things did you have to take into consideration? Are you happy with your decision?

Stefanie Bittner is a birth and postpartum doula and the founder of Karis Doula. She has three children and is very happy with their names.

#pregnancy #parenting