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Challenge: Choosing Baby Names

The Labor Pains of Baby Naming: One Couple's Story

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(Photo Credit: Jenna Reich)

What’s in a (baby) name? It’s the first impression you make, whether you’re meeting someone for the first time or applying for a job; your name is a big part of your identity—no wonder parents take baby naming so seriously.

I know I put a lot of time and thought into it while going through both pregnancies with my two children. Gestating a baby name can be a lot like pregnancy, a glow-y, beatific journey. Whether you’re giving birth like Beyoncé or having a sweaty, labor-intensive experience can correlate with the kind of parent you are. My husband and I belonged to the second, we’re-not-Beyoncé camp.

I labored over the “perfect” name for my first-born. I tapped into online baby name tools, like the one on Even then, my shortlist of names was probably 20 names long, and this was after I cut it down. If you knew my husband, you would understand that this was going to be a long, drawn-out battle, I was preparing to enter. Unlike other couples, who might come up with baby names together, I came up with the baby names and he would veto them, one by one. Axl: “No, it’s too Guns N’ Roses.” Leonardo: “That’s pretentious.” Kiran: “Your parents will confuse that with your sister’s name, Karen.”

Perhaps the way we approached baby naming reflects how we felt about our own names. My aunt picked out my name and ones for my siblings from a popular baby name book. I was 3 at the time, and it seemed like overnight I went from having a Chinese name to being “Julia”—or "Julie," as many people continually mistaken me for even to this day. I’m not sure how my aunt divined I should be a “Julia” or that my siblings should be Karen, James and Dennis, but I’m guessing she quickly thumbed through the book and arbitrarily picked out middle-of-the-road names that helped us all blend into the great American melting pot.

My husband, on the other hand, has a very creative mother who was determined to give her son and his brother and sisters unique names. She consulted with no baby name books. She needed only her own creativity and the iron-will of a mother hen to come up with her children’s four names. Today, my husband goes by a different name (than his given one) and shuns any name that either sounds or is spelled too unconventionally.


(Photo Credit: iStock)

Baby-naming decisions can consciously or subconsciously be shaped by our own names and how we feel about them. Luckily, my husband and I did arrive at two or three names that I loved and he didn’t hate prior to the birth of our son. We didn’t share the names with anyone, not even our families. We simply shared the birth announcement that our son Travis Kiran had arrived into the world. See, compromise.

While my baby-naming days are behind me, I can appreciate what this new crop of parents have to go through in order to come up with the “perfect” name for their baby. The age-old saying, “with great power comes great responsibility” also applies to parents, not just some superhero. However, once you arrive at THE NAME, the real reward is meeting your baby and one day seeing how they make a name for themselves with the one you've given them.

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