Namer's Remorse

Sep 25th 2008

I hear from a lot of parents in the grip of naming dilemmas.  Some of them are just starting their name searches, while others are feeling the pressure as they count down to their due dates.  And yet others -- a surprisingly large number -- are already home with an infant in their arms, but still uneasy about the names they've chosen.

"Namer's remorse" is a complication you really don't need at an already complicated time of life.  It piles on top of the sleeplessness, the endless to-do lists, and the general life upheaval that comes with expanding your family.  Sometimes, in fact, it's a product of those factors.  The high emotional pitch of the first days at home tends to amplify every parenting concern.

Name anxiety can also be a safe place to channel some of the difficult feelings of new parenthood.  It's a big leap from the imaginary baby in your mind to the real baby in your arms.  Sometimes it takes a while to really feel like the mysterious little creature you're holding is your child.  (That's ok, it'll come in time.)  Similarly, the name you chose in advance may not seem like a natural part of your child, or a good "fit."  If that's worrying you, rest assured that babies grow into their names in surprising ways.  By the time she's running around, that name is likely to fit her like a glove.

But for a small percentage of parents, namer's remorse has a more straightforward cause: they simply chose the wrong name.  Heck, it happens.  If both parents are set in unshakeable namer's remorse, dreaming of the name that should have been, what should they do?

I have the answer for you: they should change their baby's name.

That sounds obvious, but there's an unspoken taboo against it.  Most parents treat birth certificates as near-sacred objects, graven and immutable.  In part, that reflects the power names hold on our psyches.  We tend to see names as a core part of a person or thing, an identity not easily overwritten.  Yet when it comes to infants, names are anything but immutable.  Stop and think about it and you'll realize that you're constantly calling your baby Baby, Sweetie, Little Gumdrop, or even (insert your own random family nickname here).  So your baby should handle a gradual shift from Elizabeth to Annabelle easily enough.

Will you handle the change as smoothly? Well, there's the practical annoyance of arranging a legal name change, and maybe a monogrammed baby blanket to finesse.  When it comes right down to it, though, I think the biggest factor holding most parents back from changing infants' names is the same factor that holds us back from a thousand other unconventional behaviors.  It's good old fashioned embarrassment. 

Yep, you already sent out 100 birth announcements.  Yep, friends and relatives may laugh at your indecisiveness.  So what?  The embarrassment will last a couple of days, but a name lasts a lifetime.  If you're trying to whomp up your courage, you can take a lot of the sting out of the embarrassing situation by acknowedging it head-on, with some cheerful self-deprecation.  I recommend a new ritual: a formal birth re-announcement.  Below is my take on one.  Readers, can you offer alternative compositions?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Birth Announcement, Take 2

On August 12th we were blessed with a beautiful baby boy.  Before he was born, we had expected that his name would be Jayden.  Once we met him, we discovered we were mistaken.  Who knew?  He's actually:

Cooper Michael MacDowell
7 lbs, 4 oz.

Stephanie & Mike


By Nicole S. (not verified)
October 3, 2008 8:54 PM

@yummama - Don't know your locale, but rest assured, none of the names you mentioned are anywhere near trendy in the US. Not even close. Fwiw, I prefer Jasper & Beatrix. You probably already know this as you've done your own calculus as to the trend factor - celebrities have recently used the other two names you're considering: G. Paltrow/C. Martin have a son, Moses. Ethan Hawke has a daughter, Clementine. Though I don't think this necessarily means either name is going to take off just yet.

By RobynT (not verified)
October 3, 2008 9:27 PM

I definitely prefer Steven and Jeffrey to Stephen and Geoffrey! I especially dislike Geoffrey--I guess this is because I was introduced to Jeffrey/Jeffery first, Geoffrey just seems affected to me. Plus I've known a Geoffrey or two that was a little snobby and made me want to call them Jee-off.

On Zoerhenne's list, Zoe stands out to me as of a different time. Like late-90s/early 2000s.

Aybee: Yes, Baby-Sitter's Club Logan was definitely my first Logan!!

yummama: What do you think of Miles? I also agree with the positive feedback on Beatrix and Clementine. There's also Beatrice--a little more of a classic feel maybe?

By Cathy (not verified)
October 3, 2008 11:16 PM

yummama - I would chose Clementine over Beatrix and Beatrix over Ursula. For a boy, I prefer Jasper to Moses.

Zoerhenne - I agree. Names between revival and current are the freshest to my ear. There are so many wonderful, underused classics out there that I guess most people find boring. But, like the little Jennifer born recently, they're actually much more original for births of this generation.

Re: Jeremy, I like it, and definitely prefer it to Jeremiah (Jeremiah was a bullfrog...). I know a young teenage boy named Jeremy - sweet kid. His middle name is Dwight, which is his mother's maiden name. I think that Jeremy Dwight (2-syllable last name) works very well together. I know a lot of people don't like the name because of the "germy" or "germ" nickname potential, though.

By bill (not verified)
October 4, 2008 4:31 AM

ok here goes
kids with eye-twisting names

M3rcaddiez (pron Mercedes)

By Cathy (not verified)
October 4, 2008 11:10 AM

Bill - my husband met a K'la one time = Kayla.

By Melanie (not verified)
October 4, 2008 10:19 PM

I forgot the Katelyn, Katherine, Katie trend, definitely see a lot of those. Also have seen several Elizabeths as well, but of all different ages. There is a set of sisters here that are Elizabeth and Emma and I keep mixing them up as my husband's nieces are Emma and Elizabeth. I guess the charm of a timeless name is that even though there may be a lot of others with the name, it shouldn't feel any older or worn out ten or twenty years from now then it does now. I think my tastes do tend towards trendy (I like most all of the "saturated" names listed) but my husbands desire to use family names has kept us to timeless names so far. I guess that is why I keep finding myself reconsidering Mary as a girl name as is seems almost fresh to me now that there are so many other frilly kind of names out there. My husband isn't quite sold yet.

By yummama (not verified)
October 4, 2008 10:54 PM

Thanks to everyone who threw a couple of comments my way. I am STILL waiting for my little one to make his/her arrival, but have definitely rethought the Ursula issue and decided that it will ultimately end in remorse. I think we'll just wait to see if she (if it's a girl) looks like a Clementine or Beatrix to us. Thanks for the reassurance that neither will become the next Ava--my greatest fear!
A friend called tonight to ask if we'd had the baby yet and suggested a boy names that I had actually put on my list many months ago and forgotten about--Ansel. I really, really like it! I think we will go with either Jasper or Ansel and save the other name for the next. I think they make a good sib set if we have two boys in the future. I do think that Jasper goes more easily with both Beatrix and Clementine, though--so that is more food for thought. Hopefully I won't have to think about it much longer, though!

Aybee-I love that Fletcher is on your list of suggestions for me. We were so pumped about that name until we found out that someone close to my family is named that (goes by their middle name) out it went.

By Katie Murphy (not verified)
October 5, 2008 4:32 PM

My sister was Elizabeth for a few days when my parents renamed her Nora. She is definitely a Nora and not an Elizabeth. they had to redo the birth certificate. They gave her a different middle name to. What's funny is 32 years later, nobody remembers what the first middle name was!!

By Lea_Havoc (not verified)
October 5, 2008 11:57 PM

Riot Delilah is actually my daughter , and i do not appreciate all of you talking bad about her name.
You can use whatever generic, run of the mill names you want to ,we wanted our daughter to stand out. We gave her a choice , if she does not like her first name she has a perfectly normal middle name she can go by.

By guest (not verified)
October 6, 2008 10:01 AM

What enticed you to name your daughter after a word that means a noisy, violent public disorder? There are a ton of names that are no where near generic that have better meanings. Will you please tell us why you choose this name so maybe we can understand your choice better?

By Amanda (not verified)
October 6, 2008 1:47 PM

I knew a girl growing up whose parents changed her name shortly after birth. She was originally named Mary Elizabeth, but it was changed to Jacqueline Quinn.

By Amanda (not verified)
October 6, 2008 2:37 PM

I also thought of another celebrity who kept a birth certificate misspelling - Jhonny Peralta, the shortstop for the Cleveland Indians baseball team.

And to the mother of Riot Delilah - I don't think anyone is meaning to be rude, but you had to know that a name like Riot was going to cause a very negative reaction from most people. It would be naive to think otherwise. As the pervious poster said, maybe if you could give some sort of explanation for the choice, that could help us understand better.

By Kristi (not verified)
October 6, 2008 4:12 PM

New Baby Announcement:
Sorennah Caroline was born Saturday, Oct. 4.

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who gave their input on our name choices and the spelling suggestions. We feel the name will fit her well.

By Tess (not verified)
October 6, 2008 4:13 PM

@Lea_Havoc, I don't believe you're actually the mother, but for the sake of argument, I'll play along. Get real. You did not give her a meaningful "choice" at all. You failed in your fiduciary capacity by saddling the poor baby with an irresponsible name. Clearly, you're now insecure enough to have googled it and found this site. It's a sad moniker that won't make her stand out in a good way, but definitely makes you stand out as someone with unbelievably bad judgment. I feel sorry for the poor kid.

By guest (not verified)
October 6, 2008 5:42 PM

Well said, Tess.

Actually, she may be the real mother. I did a google search for "Riot Delilah" and Lea "6-Guns" Havoc's myspace showed up as a result. She is 21 from "Dall-ass", TX which matches the poster who said Riot Delilah is from TX. I wanted to click on the link but myspace is blocked at work.

By Lea_havoc (not verified)
October 6, 2008 10:55 PM

yes i am actually her mother.
believe it or not the word Riot has more than one meaning. I picked the name because it is very different and in my opinion is a strong name ,It is not just something chaotic and lawful it also means a brilliant display and a brilliant display she is, if you looked into her eyes that would be one of the first things you may say , therefore she is Riot!
As for being insecure i assure you, you are wrong there, i feel very confident in her name, the reason i googled it was only out of boredom.

By Lea_havoc (not verified)
October 6, 2008 11:02 PM

sorry i meant unlawful

By Laurel (not verified)
October 7, 2008 12:47 AM

Amy3, I definitely remember Bunny from the Babycenter poll! She opted to call herself Lily -- a pretty sane choice for a little kid. Wasn't it some kind of tradition in Bunny's mother's family for the kids to pick their own name?

By guest (not verified)
October 7, 2008 9:39 AM

Lea_havoc - thank you for replying to why you picked the name Riot. Now maybe we can have a better understanding of your choice.

By Sonja (not verified)
October 7, 2008 4:59 PM

I love my daughter's name (Elliana, Elli is the name we call her), but so many people (doctors, nurses, etc.) don't read it right and call her Elaina. I guess I gave people too much credit thinking they could read and sound out her name. We've also had people give us the "you named her what??" look, which makes me want to slap them. So, there are definitely times when I think we should have named her something more traditional (like our 2nd & 3rd choices: Catherine and Jenna). As much as I sometimes regret it, she is absolutely an Elliana ("God has answered") because she was an answer to our prayers.

By Daniela (not verified)
October 8, 2008 1:19 PM

I can totally relate to the notion of namer's remorse. My oldest daughter, born in 1998, is named Sophia. She will forever have her last initial appended to her name, since there are so many Sophias. In retrospect, I wish we had chosen a less popular name.
I did not give her a middle name, but am now thinking of adding one for individuality's sake. Sophia Liana? Sophia Irina? I'm not sure which one sounds best.
By the way, my youngest is Natalia, and I think she may one day want to use the nickname Lia (like the previous thread on L names, I love the sound of them.) Right now, she goes by the nicknames of Nattie or Tal or Tali. (She, too, has no middle name. We almost named her Jordana, so perhaps she would become Natalia Jordana, though it is a bit of a mouthful!)

By RobNC (not verified)
October 27, 2008 12:54 AM

This is in response to the comments about naming a baby if something goes wrong.

December 2007 I lost a baby girl. I named her as I had already planned - Sophia Rose. But after talking it over with my DH, we added Angel to it. I'm glad I can refer to her by name instead of just - "the baby girl I lost". She has her entry in my bible, just as my other children.

I guess to sum it up, in my experience, it helped me through my grieving (and 10 months later, I still have my moments) to be able to call Rose by her name.

October 28, 2008 7:13 AM

I got a tip from my Mom about naming my first child, it's a bit odd, but it's working! She suggested holding a baby doll all swaddled up and call him by the name I'm thinking for my son. If it doesn't roll right out or if I don't like the sound of it then we know to move on to another option.

Right now we're stuck with two names!! Chaysten and Emerson. My family isn't one for common names (Kaiden, Koen and Aria) which makes me lean more towards Chaysten but then people say how it sounds like chaffin and well, that doesn't please me! :-)

By Anon (not verified)
October 29, 2008 2:38 PM

I think the reluctance to change a name is somewhat cultural. I had a friend in college from India. She was very sick as a baby and her parents renamed her with a "lighter," less serious name in order to lift the weight from her tiny shoulders!

By Melly (not verified)
November 9, 2008 7:14 AM

As far as the whole pets with people names ..... what about people with pet names??? I have 3 wonderful doggies (kiah) of course as soon as I named her I found many other dogs also with this name, however I have also met several children with this name (it is an hawaiian name) I don't know about you guys but Kiah seems like a dog name to me .... Anyways Puppy 2 came along and sure enough we went all dog here with Nikketa but turned into a people name with the shortning of Nikki..... but the one that really gets me is our dog SASHA .... Now the others you can argue with but really Sasha?? Totally a dog name am I right??? But I have met 4 women with this name.... so I guess to conclude here, I guess it doesn't really matter, people have animal names (buffy?) and animals have people names (cooper) ..... I guess it doesn't matter as long as you love it!

As far as the naming your child before it is born thing ... I guess I understand it, however it was the very first thing my husband and I wanted to talk about when we found out. Yes bad things do happen ... and for us they did.... but we still gave her a name at 12 weeks (Eleanor Louis)and because of that I was able to heal from our loss, being able to say when I was pregnant with "ellie" has given me the clousure I have needed. It also make the future brighter, because of her name. Even though she never took a breath she was still someone to me, not just a pregnancy, not just the baby ... she was precious ellie.... I feel that it will make my next pregnancy (god willing) special because she was the first and my next will be it's own person as well and not just the baby. Giving them names (even if you don't keep them) gives them a meaning to me. It also doesn't let anyone compare your situations.... cause people try not to compare others ... but a lot of times they do compare pregnancy and I don't want anyone to compare my next pregnancy to my last one.

By Melly (not verified)
November 9, 2008 7:24 AM

ohhh by the way ... we just assumed it was a girl ... we didn't know at the time of naming (obviously) .... just wanted to clear that up!

By Guest (not verified)
November 14, 2008 11:55 AM

I am feeling a lot of namer's remorse at the moment from naming our third daughter Julianne. I keep thinking I should have gone with my middle name Nicole because Julianne is not common, and people seem to avoid saying her name because it's long and cumbersome. I don't like the shortened "Julie" because it does not fit her (whatever that means). I pretty much avoided thinking about names during my pregnancy because I knew the baby was a third girl - I certainly don't regret three girls now. In fact, she's a delight and I'm enjoying her so much more than I expected. I'm just insecure about the name because I didn't really allow myself to explore all the possibilities before I delivered. Any thoughts?

By Darlene (not verified)
December 7, 2008 1:36 AM

I'm experiencing namer's remorse at the moment. We had a very hard time settling on a name for our girl and felt pressured by the hospital staff to quickly decide on a name for the birth certificate. We landed on Ella Avery Morris-Weide, but I have second thoughts and now feel that she is more of an Iris or Maya or even Zinnia or Myella (I call her my-ella all the time) By the way, her brother's name is Eli which sounds so similar to Ella. She's only 2 1/2 months old, so I think we have a small window of opportunity to change it. If anyone is still reading these posts, do you think Ella is too similar to Eli or sweet? Your thoughts on the other names.. Thanks!

By Guest (not verified)
January 20, 2009 11:26 PM


I really like Ella, and Ella and Eli sounds good. Also, they are individuals, and will spend most of their life that way!

I am experiencing naming remorse as well. Ironically, the social security card came today! The name is Dylan Philip. We had a different name that a family member used a few weeks before, so I never felt sure enough.

I am jewish, and feel like maybe i should have picked a more jewish sounding name, though we are both not too religious, and our names are not either.

Any thoughts. I probably will not change it. My husband really likes it, and it seems overwhelming at this point. Other thoughts?

By Guest (not verified)
January 27, 2009 3:39 AM

To the mom of Dylan Philip. One suggestion is to have a baby naming at a synagogue and decide on a jewish name that YOU really like. This can be your special nickname for your son.

By LindseyNotLindsay (not verified)
January 28, 2009 7:36 PM

Renamers, don't underestimate the value of LEGALLY changing your baby's name. A friend's aunt was given the name Sally at birth by her grandmother. Her mother hated it and called her Elizabeth, but never changed the birth certificate. When Elizabeth got married, the priest insisted she use her legal name in the vows. So Elizabeth, who has never been called Sally beyond the first day of her life, had to repeat "I, Sally, take this man..." She was furious with her mother and grandmother.

By baby names list (not verified)
February 10, 2009 2:32 AM

Being busy on counting the days left before the child will come out..many of the moms are also excited to have their baby names..and what will be the final name for the child.

By Julia (not verified)
February 27, 2009 9:15 PM

Ugh. I'm in namer's remorse land. Baby is 7 weeks old and we've already had two names. Problem is that we changed names at the last moment to my dad's name: Robert. Robert just sounds too stodgy and 50's era. We're willing to call him by his middle name, which is currently Bishop, but now I'm second guessing Bishop too. Robert is too "normal" and Bishop is too "weird" to go with our other son Graham....

I'm considering Nash or Silas to replace Bishop. (Bishop has meaning, but changing it would not upset the family like changing Robert would).

Of course, we already sent out the birth announcements. Go figure, we got our act together on that one....


April 3, 2009 12:01 PM

My husband was planned to be John Robert before he was born. Those are the names of both of his grandfathers. When my mother-in-law met him she decided he was Benjamin, a name his parents had never discussed. I'm so glad she chose Benjamin, because it SO fits him. Strong, but gentle, traditional, but modern. I call him Ben of course. We are not parents yet, and not pregnant, but starting to plan. Maybe I'll wait to meet my baby before I name him/her. I want to see what my baby looks like. My husband is almost full-blooded Irish, with sandy brown hair, and reddish facial hair. Me and my siblings all had curly blond hair. So me and my husband could have anything from blonds, redheads, or brunettes! He has blue eyes, I have hazel, but we both have many relatives with brown eyes. So I'd like to meet my child first, I think.

April 3, 2009 12:02 PM

I like that you decided to call the baby what fit her. I can imagine a little raven-haired child called Juliet. I know many people who go by their middle name.

By Guest (not verified)
May 1, 2009 3:06 PM

Hi All,

I've been reading and occasionally posting here for a few months, and I'm always impressed with the ideas you ladies come up with. So, I was hoping you could help me to avoid namers-remorse!

My little girl is due in less than a month and she still doesn't have a name. Her middle name will be "Jean" (after her great-grandmother), but for her first name I'm looking for a classic, grown-up name (I've always hated my cutesy name). I like Elizabeth and C/Katherine, but both are too common these days. I'm thinking of Margaret -- Margaret Jean; but my husband's not convinced (and I'm not sure I am either!). What do you gals think?


By Guest (not verified)
May 15, 2009 6:21 PM

I've got namer's remorse. Our baby girl came 3 weeks early. We had talked about names but hadn't decided on anything/couldn't agree on anything. We talked about Emma Grace as a possibility after she was born, but the next thing I knew, everyone was calling her by that name, a sign with "Emma" was put up in her room, and I felt like I had to commit - stupid! My husband loves the name and I think that I gave in to it partly because I knew it would make him happy. The problem...Although it's a very pretty sounding name, Emma is soooooooo popular right now (number 1 on the lists for 2008). The one thing I didn't want was for her to have a popular name. My husband also has a young cousin named Emma, so when we get togther with family, it drives me nuts to have people talking about an Emma that isn't my Emma. I blame myself for not having decided on names earlier in my pregnancy. People kept saying that when I saw her I would know. I also blame myself for not standing up for myself...I knew when I was filling out the paperwork for her birth certificate, etc... that the name didn't sit well with me :( . I want to call her by her middle name, but my husband refuses. I hate this and I don't know how to fix it :( .

By club penguin (not verified)
June 10, 2009 3:18 AM

I know a family who changed tehir daughters name from Danielle to Tessa Danielle because her grandparents hated the name Danielle. Tessa does who better with her brothers names though, they are called Jamie and Tristen.

February 24, 2010 6:07 PM

I was happy to see your in depth coverage on the topic of baby remorse, simply because I am sadly suffering from this. One of the suggestions made for those who cannot learn to like their child’s name was to change it. However, one aspect of name remorse that has not been covered is what if the partner is dead against changing the name, which is where my story comes in.

I am a mom of two boys ages 9 and 6. Last year, to our shock, we found out that we were pregnant with baby #3, a daughter. Because I was not planning to have any more kids, and even if I was, never did I think that I would have a daughter, I never gave baby girl names much thought.

When we found out that it was indeed a girl I threw out a name that my husband really liked, and I guess I did as well (at that time). It fit many of our criteria which were: started with a letter that’s towards the end of the alphabet (our first child’s name begins with the letter “A”-Alec and middle child’s name with letter “M”-Maxim, so ‘V” was appropriate for our last child) and it is a common Russian name. So the name stuck throughout the pregnancy. However I was never confident with the name throughout the pregnancy but did not give too much though to other names.

Now my DD is 4 months old. She is the BEST thing that ever happened to me. But I do not like her name. I do not enjoy saying it. In fact I get anxious and sad when I say the name. People tell me I am crazy because it’s a beautiful name. It is, but I do not like it. I especially hate all its American nicknames. My feeling towards the name is not improving. I am scared that I will never “bond” with the name. I find myself resenting my husband for not agreeing to change it to a name that we would BOTH enjoy. I am not enjoying my life as much as I should because I blame myself for not doing proper research in order to appropriately name my daughter. I blame myself even more for giving my daughter a name which is associated with a nick name that I absolutely abhor. I am not myself and am at a loss as to what to do.

My question is will time make this whole situation better.

Here name is Viktoria. We call her Vika (NO other nicknames-do not like them).

By Melinda (not verified)
June 20, 2010 6:30 PM

Sometimes it's not so much remorse as regret at being stuck with a family name you really don't care for. My husband's family tradition dictated that my son be named (first name only, thank goodness) after his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. So my solution was to give him my father's name as a middle name and create a nickname from the abbreviations: Chas. E., or Chase. It worked out well. Chase fits him perfectly for now and he has the option to change it later on, if he wishes.

By ShannonM (not verified)
July 19, 2011 7:54 PM

I am having namer's remorse. My husband and I chose a name for our daughter months before she got here. Then we made the mistake of telling our families and they hated it! My family bullied me into changing it at the last minute and the registrar at the hospital was rushing us to chose something. Now she is a month old and I am having serious issues with how to handle this. I don't know if I should go ahead and change the name back or find a way to live with the new name.

By ShannonM (not verified)
July 19, 2011 8:00 PM

Has time helped? Did you change the name?

By ShannonM (not verified)
July 19, 2011 8:01 PM


Has time helped? Did you change the name?

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