When I was pregnant with Henry, my first son, I knew that if someone said the wrong thing about his name, I’d be devastated and I would forever doubt my skills as a parent before he was even born.
If I couldn’t even pick a name, what was I doing having a kid?! So, when it came to the name of our baby, my husband and I decided to take a vow of silence. We didn’t tell anyone his name until he was born. And, based on our positive experience with silence, we took the same approach while I was pregnant with our second son, Eli.
Are you on the fence about whether to share the name you’ve chosen? Here are a few reasons to consider keeping quiet until after the baby arrives.
When it comes to names, people often have no boundaries and openly share their likes or dislikes. Responses include everything from, “That’s a beautiful choice!” to “Are you kidding?” or “No way!” My neighbor Sharilyn and her husband, Josh, were excited to tell her mother-in-law that they planned to name their soon-to-be daughter after her great-grandmother, Virginia. Her mother-in-law’s response?
“Oh, I’ve always hated my mother’s name.”
For the next four months, Grandma continued to suggest other names for Virginia. Mom and Dad stuck with it. Today they are the proud parents of a happy, healthy 7-year-old named … Virginia.
In addition to declarations of dislikes, another fear for me was that if we shared our sons’ names, we would hear too many unsolicited associations with their names: the friend whose Uncle Henry is in jail. The Eli my co-worker knew who dropped out of high school. I feared my baby boys would be stuck with preconceived notions of who they were before they were even born. My fears are not unfounded.
“Before I realized how rude I’d sound, I told a friend her baby name reminded me of an ad for an exotic dancer or escort,” says Kellie, who hasn’t had kids yet.
I knew I didn’t want this type of comment following me or my babies into the delivery room.
Other friends of ours found themselves in the middle of a family conflict when they announced the name they had chosen for their baby. One of their cousins, also expecting a baby, had chosen the same name. Although our friends’ son was born first, they decided to alleviate family tension by choosing a different name. They still admit some frustration over how their original plans for their child’s name were thwarted.
Sometimes parents choose a name for their baby but when the baby arrives, they realize he’s not a Sam. Or, she’s not a Sally. “We really wanted to meet our kids before we decided which name fit them best,” says Dawn, the mother of a 3-year-old girl and a 3-week-old baby boy.
“In both cases, we were leaning towards one name in particular, but wanted to be sure before we actually named them.”
If you wait to share the name, not only will you be able to confirm the name is a good fit, you’ll also avoid any issues with monogrammed or personalized gifts you might receive before the baby is born.
Element of surprise
In today’s world of 3D ultrasounds, genetic tests and scheduled C-sections, parents might feel that there aren’t many surprises left in having a baby. Sharing the name after Baby arrives is one way to keep some surprise.
“We told people we were pregnant quite early and also revealed the gender when we found out, so keeping the name secret gave us some time to bond with our kids on our own,” says Dawn.
If you decide to keep quiet about your baby’s name, just be prepared. Your silence may infuriate friends and family members. Grandparents have been known to try to interrogate older siblings, eavesdrop on private conversations and search for hidden lists of names just to find out Baby’s name before the arrival. Regardless of your decision to share or not share the name, trust your instincts. Choosing your baby’s name is one of the first steps on your journey as a parent — embrace it and know that you’re capable of this task and many more to come. J
Liz Sheffield is a freelance writer and the mother of two young boys.