Of all of the things to plan ahead for when you're expecting a baby, choosing the baby's name is one of the most important. The name that you choose for your child will have a profound effect on his or her life, possible even influencing your child's popularity and how your child feels about his or her self.
When I was pregnant with my oldest son, my husband and I perused through a baby name book and each wrote down three names we liked. Luckily, we both agreed on one name -- Jason. At the time, the show "Growing Pains" was popular and the father on that show was named Jason. I thought it was a rugged, manly name. Unfortunately, and this came back to haunt me later, the horror movie series "Friday the Thirteenth" was also popular at the time and the killer in that movie was named-- you guessed it-- Jason. When I named my son Jason, I did not think the name was not particularly popular-- in fact, I thought it was rather unique. I didn't know any other Jason's, anyway. But by the time my son started school a few years later, there were no fewer than three other Jason's in his class. Jason was indeed a hot name after all. This is not to say that I regret naming my son Jason-- the name suits him and that's really what matters most.
Growing up I always loved the name Tara for a girl. I thought, wouldn't that be a pretty name for my own little girl some day. Years later I changed my mind and I decided that Allison would be my future daughter's name. Allison was so pretty and feminine. Well, when I finally did have a daughter I didn't name her Tara or Allison because my husband didn't like either name. Which goes to prove another point-- don't get your heart too set on a name unless you're sure your spouse will love it too. Oh, I'm sure after my husband saw me go through labor he would have let me name our daughter anything I wanted when it was all said and done, but I didn't want it to play out like that. I wanted to choose a name that we both loved and we did.
My sister in law and my brother had their own baby name dilemma. My sister in law always dreamed of having a little boy named Michael. This was years before she met my brother whose name, incidentally, is Michael. So when they had their first baby (a boy) what did they name him? Well, it wasn't Michael!
My brother insisted he didn't want a Mike Jr. under any circumstances. Two years later boy number two was born and what did they name him? Steven. My sister in law was still pushing for the name Michael but my brother wouldn't give in. When she got pregnant again a year later, my brother softened.
"Okay, if it's a boy we can name him Michael," he reluctantly agreed. Well, the baby was a girl. Three more girls followed after that, all born with the agreement that if they were boys they could be named Michael. So now my sister in law has six kids and no Michael's, but the kids all have great names anyway.
Agreeing on a name can be extremely difficult. It's such a huge decision and everyone has their own opinion. If you're still pregnant and are already set on a name, try keeping it to yourself. Why? Because everybody and their mother (and your mother) will give you their two cents on what they think of the name. Ellie? Oh, that's pretty but it rhymes with "smelly". Ethan? Oh, I know a little boy named Ethan and he's a real brat. You'll hear people's opinions over and over again if you divulge the name ahead of time. Once your baby is born and you've given him or her a name, what are people going to say? Will they say "Oh you named your child Brendan? I hate that name." No, through clenched teeth they will tell you how lovely the name is and that will be the end of it.
Celebrities can get away with a lot more than us regular folk. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband Chris Martin named their baby girl Apple. I personally think the name is adorable, but I wonder if I named my daughter Apple how much teasing she would have to endure when she gets older. Ditto for ex-"Friends" alum Courtney Cox Arquette-- she and hubby David named their bundle of joy Coco. As in Chanel, I guess. It's cute, but risky. And only the rich and famous Julia Roberts could get away with naming her twins Hazel and Phinneus. But that's the beauty of naming your baby-- it's your baby so you can name him or her whatever you like.
When choosing a name for your baby, here are some things to keep in mind.
-- Classic names. Traditional names like Anna, Olivia and Mary never go out of style. Boy's names like John or Matthew have been popular for decades. If you like traditional or biblical names there are many timeless names to choose from.
-- Family names. If you're from a close knit family, you may want to choose a first or middle name after a family member like a favorite aunt or your grandmother or grandfather. Names carried down from generation to generation are a lovely way to honor your family members.
-- Popular names. Take a gander at the top 10 baby names and you can be certain that those names will be the most popular names of your baby's future schoolmates. If you have a common last name like Jones or Miller, you may want to avoid names that are too popular. Hot names right now include Jacob and Michael for boys and Emily and Ashley for girls. To view a complete list of the most current popular baby names, check out the Social Security Administration's website, which compliles an annual list based on social security data. You can also search their site for the top names for each year back as far as the year 1900-- check it out to see where your name ranks for the year you were born.
-- Unisex names. There's nothing wrong with naming your daughter Ryan, but beware that the little boy across the street may have the same name. Ditto for names like Jordan, Riley and Taylor. But hey-- there's nothing wrong with sharing the same name as your future spouse. In fact, heiress and sometime actress Paris Hilton is currently dating a nice young lad whose name is-- Paris (what are the chances?).
-- Choosing a name based on meaning. If you really want to put thought into your baby's name, consider looking up the meanings of all of your favorite names. The name Hazel that I mentioned earlier means "commander". If you want your little lady to be strong and independent, maybe that name is for you after all.
-- Unusual spellings. Try to avoid cutesy spellings. There's a local newswoman in our city named Gennaphyr and all I think of as she reads the news is "Don't her parents know how to spell the name Jennifer?" I always feel sorry for guys named Geoff because I'm always tempted to call then Jee-- off. Maybe it's just me, but funky spellings like that are distracting to say the least, and your kid won't ever be able to find personalized items with the correct spelling of their name (you know, like preprinted notepads, stickers and Christmas ornaments with their name on it). Do your baby-- and yourself-- a favor and stick to the traditional spellings.
-- Consider the monogram. Don't name you baby Frieda Ann Thomas if you think the monogram (FAT) will be a problem. As she gets older, she may be self conscious about such a monogram.
-- Beware of nicknames. If you want your son to be named Timothy and not Timmy, you may not have a choice. Once your child starts school, the other kids and teachers may inadvertently shorten his name. This happened to me with my son Jason. He was always Jason until he started school-- then teachers started to call him Jay. He hated Jay and constantly corrected people who called him that. Now he only goes by Jason. If you give your child a long name like Elizabeth or Victoria, people will shorten it. Even shorter names, like Mary, often get shortened to Mare. Just keep all of the possible nicknames in mind when you choose a name for your child. Like it or not, people may shorten your child's name.
-- A word on middle names. Choosing a middle name is just as important as choosing a first name. Make sure the names flow well together with your last name. For example, Isabella Julianna Guggenheimer would be quite a mouthful-- it just has too many syllables. On the other hand, John James Jones is too short and choppy. Better choices would be Isabella Marie Guggenheimer or John Phillip Jones.