Adventures in Baby-Naming

When I found out I was pregnant with our first child, one of the first things I started thinking of was names. I looked at clothes and I thought of names. To me, naming a baby is the first big parenting decision you have to make. It’s kind of a huge responsibility, right?

We always knew what we wanted to call our first son, but I wasn’t really sure about a middle name. I had no idea what I wanted to name a girl. I agonized over what we would name a girl.

For a boy or a girl, I just really wanted to avoid the top ten most popular names in the United States. I didn’t want a “weird” name, but I didn’t want the most common name in the kindergarten class. I had daily chats on the phone with my mom as we went through our family trees and thought of different name combinations for a potential little girl. And then we arranged different first and middle names around the boy name we’d chosen.

Of course, after all of the choices and time spent on deciding on a girl name, I found out I was pregnant with a little boy. We knew that we wanted to call him Hudson, but we decided to keep the name choice a secret. My dad’s name is Hudson and his mom’s maiden name was Hudson. I wanted to use a family name and I wanted to use a name that I loved.

We decided on John Matthew Hudson Carroll for his official name. I like four names for a boy. “John” was the name of a cousin I loved dearly, and “Matthew” is Todd’s first name. So we had our boy’s name all set. But then we had to keep it a secret.

We chose not to share the name because it was nice to have something for just us. It was also something we decided because I knew that as long as no one knew his name they wouldn’t criticize it. People have a tendency to say some really thoughtless things to expecting parents about their baby names of choice.

We figured that if no one knew the name, they couldn’t say anything negative. After the baby was born, would someone really tell you they hated your baby’s name after they’d met your baby and held your baby? It’s a lot harder to criticize a name when the sweet baby is sleeping on your shoulder, right?

For the most part, we never heard anything negative about Hudson’s name. But it didn’t really matter. We love his name and that’s all that matters.

When I found out I was pregnant again, I was all set to use our girl name. And then we found out we were having another boy. But I’d already named a boy and didn’t have another favorite boy name.

I knew I wanted a one-syllable name with four or five letters. I have no idea why. So I had a very short list of names that I loved that fit that criteria. And only one of those names started with an “H.” I had already put the letter “H” on so many little outfits, pillows, blankets, and cups that it made sense to use another “H” name.

But the trouble was that Todd was shooting down all of my baby name ideas, but like most men, he didn’t have any suggestions either. So… we were back to my list. And I wanted another “H” baby.

So we decided on Hayes. I was so excited about his little name. It took a longer time for Todd to get used to Hayes’s name. Because Hudson’s name was such an easy, quick decision, it was much harder for us to decide on a name for our second boy. We both just couldn’t agree.

Hayes’s middle name is Claxton, which is Todd’s mom’s maiden name. We love being able to use family names as much as possible.

We didn’t keep Hayes’s name a secret for long, and it was actually really nice when we let his name out of the bag.

I still have my girl name ready to go in case we ever have another baby. I love thinking about possible future baby names. And we have another boy “H” name just in case. You just never know when you might need it! (But not any time soon, I promise.)

How about you? Did you keep your baby names a secret? Did you have specific criteria when choosing a name? Do you have any baby names on “reserve” for future babies?

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  1. anonymous says

    i do! i have a mental list going. i don’t dare write the list on paper or even speak the names out loud for fear that they will become popular. i grew up with a pretty name that no one else had. it was not an unusual name or one that was created, but just an old name that no one else had…at the time. i also had the distinction of being named after my mother. i loved it. i only knew boys that were named after their father and it made me feel very special. then about 8 years ago, i started to hear my name being chosen for newborns. then it got popular. then it got REALLY popular. now i can’t walk through the aisles of target without hearing my name being screamed at some 6 year old. it irritates me (mature, i know.). it makes me sad that i no longer feel like i can name a daughter after myself and her grandmother. sigh.

    but alas, i’m getting ahead of myself. i gotta get pregnant first. double sigh. maybe this will be the month 🙂

    • says

      Hey lady! I know it will happen one of these days and that sweet baby will have the perfect name! I totally understand about your name becoming popular. It was also my grandmother’s name. 🙂

  2. says

    We kept ours a secret for like a month. I cannot keep a secret to save my life! We found out we were having a girl in November and decided to wait until Christmas with our families to spill the bean that it was a girl. We didn’t really talk about names before finding out the sex. I didn’t want to have any unnecessary arguments and we pretty much knew if it was a girl, she’d be Emmeline.

    After finding out it was a girl, we tried to figure out the middle name and I ultimately decided upon Leila (Lee-la) Rob’s grandmother who lived with his family for quite some time. He was very excited about the name. I had Emmy’s name printed on a onesie with a pink bunny (she was due at Easter) and we gave it to our parent’s for Christmas that year. It was very exciting!

    If we decide to have anymore children, I have no clue what their names would be, but I definitely have some I like. We will ultimately stick with family names, I would think. We just have too many great names in our families not to use them!

  3. says

    We kept our names a secret just to avoid people’s ignorant comments. I liked it better that way! With Brayden, I was hesitant because my husband’s name is Brandon and they are VERY close, but it’s working out! 🙂 And with our daughter, Kenley, only my sister and two friends knew because they remembered from when I was pregnant with Brayden that it was my go to girl name. People have asked me if I made it up! 🙂

  4. says

    Even before I got pregnant, we had a boy name. Jack is my husband’s grandfather’s name. Grandpa Jack taught J how to golf and cook breakfast. They were extremely close until his passing. As far as a middle name, I liked the idea of J and Jack sharing a middle name, thus William. It also gave them the same initials, which I loved!

    Whenever I share the name, I find myself immediately stating it is a family name. Perhaps to ward off any negative comments? Probably–it’s a defense mechanism. Sad that I even have to think about that!

    As far as girls names, there were a few we liked. We never did settle on one since we are having a little boy. However, I like Adrianna the most as it is a derivative of my dad’s name.

  5. says

    I told everyone our names. Each require about a ten minute explanation of their family orgin, so i think people were sorry that they asked!

  6. says

    I knew I wanted to use Hudson when we found out we were having a boy. Hudson is my dad’s eldest brothers’ middle name and I’ve always loved it. The middle name was harder, I just couldn’t narrow it down! One evening while at my inlaws I saw an old diploma with the middle name Matthews on it, perfect, I found out it was my FILs’ favorite aunt. I didn’t tell anyone his full name until he was born.

    Hudson Matthews Lindsey is his full name and I just love it! Of course after he was born people came out of the woodwork to tell me all the people they knew who had named their chid Hudson. It wouldn’t have changed my mind at all though.

    I have a girl name picked out and another boy one for when we have #2!

  7. says

    Names are SO HARD. Andrew wanted to choose our boy name, and gave me the task of the girl name. Of course–he didn’t start thinking about it until ohhhh LAST WEEK, but I had my list. He shot down my top two favorites, but we decided on two names for either a boy or a girl. Like you, we are keeping them a secret and I think it’s fun!!

  8. says

    We had NO idea what names we wanted for our baby when we found out we were pregnant. My husband is Venezuelan/Portuguese and we wanted to make sure the name we chose wouldn’t be “weird” to his side of the family. But, also I didn’t want a “weird” name on my side either! We looked for ages! Then the only name we could agree on was SEBASTIAN. It is spelled the same in English, Spanish and Portuguese. It was a win for us all! We like that it is different without being weird. We also think it sounds smart. We don’t have any other names on reserve for the next baby. We’ll have to do this all again.

  9. says

    we kept our son’s name a secret until everyone met him in the hospital, because both our mothers are teachers. and seriously teachers can tell you stories that will turn you off from a name so fast! but we picked an old fashioned name that no one had even heard of before. coming from a matthew and a jennifer born in the early 80s? a rare name was really important to us. that’s one of the reasons that i still haven’t divulged his name on my blog for now, i would like to keep it rare lest people read it, like it and use it. firefly’s name was in the 800s on the social security names list for the last 5 years and we know no one else that knows anyone with his name and that makes me happy.

    we’re completely screwed if we ever have a girl though. all of our favorite girl names have JUMPED to within the top 100 names in the last couple years and that means they get crossed off our list.

  10. Melissa says

    We don’t have kids yet (but hopefully soon!) and we’ve had our top boy and girl names picked out since before we got engaged. I know, we’re weird! Sometimes I worry that I have these names picked out and when the baby finally arrives s/he won’t fit the name. I love our girl name because it’s my grandmother’s name and a combo of our moms’ names.

    I’m not thrilled with our boy name, but neither of us is willing to budge, so if we have a boy, he’s going to be stuck with a long, weird name! Unfortunately, I agreed that if a name could survive over 150 years in his family, I won’t be the one to kill it. Our compromise is that I can add a fourth name to it, and we’ll use the name I chose. I keep telling my husband that our kid is going to sound like a law firm (seriously, all 4 names are last names!).

  11. Megan says

    I love your boys names! Very unique, yet very distinguished. They will carry them into adulthood well. It makes me think of a doctor or lawyer, actually 🙂

  12. says

    Hudson is our first born as well. His middle name is William (my grandfather’s name) and our almost one-year old daughter is names Lola Kate (and we call her Lola Kate) after my mother in-law, Lola. We too love using family names and if we ever add a caboose, we have family names lined up: Mabry (for a girl even though it was my husband’s grandfather’s name) and Preston. Great post!

  13. says

    We’ve kept both names a secret. Mostly because it adds a surprise to the delivery. We already knew the sex with both, so why not add a little mystery for after the delivery. Also, we didn’t want any opinions about the names we chose. Not that they are “out there” names (Rylie and Andrew), but I didn’t want to hear “oh I know so-and-so named that and I don’t like them, etc, etc.

  14. says

    Right before we got married (which is 10 years ago!) we had a discussion about what we would name our kids if we ever had any. We went through a list of boys names we liked and all and then during a party once, we both agreed that we loved the name Andrew for a little boy.

    When we went through the adoption process, we went through a ton of girl names but we couldn’t settle on one. I wanted Shelby- he didn’t like it, yadda yadda. Then I got pregnant and we really had to think about it and we finally settled on Paige to be our girls name and Andrew for our boys name. His middle name is Franklin after my dad (since my dad doesn’t have any sons) and if we would have had a girl, her middle name would have been Jennel (after my MIL who passed away in 2009 from cancer).

    Of course, I couldn’t keep it a secret and everyone has known for years that ANdrew was our favorite boy’s name and fortunately didn’t use it for their kids! LOL I often have a lot of people ask me if we named him after Drew Brees, and actually, his name is the male version of my name, so we just tell people it is a variation of a family name. 🙂

    I like classic names that aren’t super common, but are traditional and aren’t super hard to spell or pronounce. 🙂

  15. says

    I’m the world’s worst secret keeper so my son’s name was not a secret. His name is Andrew Patrick. It was important to have at least part of his name be a family name (my husband’s name is Patrick) and name meanings are important to me. Andrew means “warrior” which is very fitting and Patrick means noble. Our daughter who we are adopting will be Allison Gayle. Allison also means noble and Gayle (my middle name) means father’s joy which I love.

  16. says

    I think my mom would disown me if I even thought about using a name that wasn’t in my family tree or my husband’s. And as funny as she is about it, I think I agree with her. I like the idea of a name having that kind of meaning to it. I’m named after my grandfather, and I love that I can tell people that because I loved him and looked up to him so much. Not sure if I could keep a name a secret though, and we have even talked about not finding out the sex of the baby so that could be another fun thing! I’d love to be able to look at my baby boy or girl and say “she looks like a ___” and name them!

  17. says

    We’ve had a list of names for several years – even though we don’t plan to start a family for a few more years. I don’t think we will choose which name we will use for each baby until they are born, and we plan to pick a name from our list that fits the baby when we see him/her. So, we will be keeping the name a secret since we won’t even know for sure! 🙂

  18. says

    We kept Quinn’s name a secret for the exact reasons you mentioned. People can be so critical! I love the idea of using family names but I’m not a big fan of any of the names in our families haha.

  19. says

    We knew we wanted our son to have a name that meant something and that we wanted to use family names. We were debating between James Robert and Robert James….yes they are traditional. We decided on Robert James, but didn’t decide for sure until after he was born. Some people got attached to the James Robert and didn’t mind saying so, even AFTER he was born. Robert is his daddy’s middle name and James is his uncle’s middle name (who was deployed in Afghanistan when Robbie was born). And yes, we call him Robbie for short. I love his name and it fits him perfectly. If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t tell anyone the names, I hated hearing people’s unsolicited opinions….they didn’t make any difference to us anyway!

  20. says

    I always thought I’d name my son Jake or Jack and a girl Lily or Hannah. Jake doesn’t work well with my last name, and Jack got way too common. Landon came from a soccer player (Landon Donovan) and Jeff mentioned he liked it one day while he was watching soccer on TV. I said it was a potential boy name is we ever had a son. For girl names now my husband works for a Hannah, so that’s out and Lily is way too common. We’re screwed if we have a girl lol, but we have another boy name all ready to go!

  21. says

    We are due in 3 days with our first, and we did not keep his name a secret. In hindsight, I might keep the second one a secret. Not because we care of the thoughtless things people say (can it get any more thoughtless than the checkout girl at the grocery telling me “you are HUGE!” this morning?!), but for fear of someone taking the name and using it as their own. It never in a million years occurred to us that someone might “steal” a name from someone, but it can, and did, happen. We were shocked when someone we knew used our name, and so very hurt, but have since gotten over it. We still named our child Merrick Morris, and we love it. Merrick is after a dear friend of my husband’s that passed away right after they graduated college, and Morris is the maiden name of my husband’s grandmother and his father’s name. Baby naming is a sticky subject, for sure. 🙂

    • says

      Oh my goodness. With such a great, unusual name like that it’s just blatantly obvious that someone “stole” it. How sad! But just remember that it is still YOUR baby and your baby’s name. When your sweet one gets here you won’t even think a thing about another baby having the name. But I know how hard that can be.

  22. says

    Oh my gosh I told everyone our names! especially after we knew it was a girl. We were just too excited and couldn’t keep it a secret. I also loved hearing other people refer to her as Margot rather than baby potter or baby girl.

  23. says

    Naming a baby IS hard! They’ll be stuck with it for life, so there is a bit of pressure. I’m a teacher, so like you, I didn’t want the most popular names around. I also didn’t want anything weird or hard to spell. We also adore family names. We went back and forth on a few. One day my husband suggested Julia. It’s his great grandmother’s name. I instantly loved it. It’s a classic, but you don’t hear it too much. My maiden name is Rose, so I knew that would be the middle name of my girl some day. So there you have it. Julia Rose. Timeless, classic, easy to spell, perfect for our girl. 🙂

  24. Sarah says

    Ah I love this post! I think about baby names all the time, and when I hear a new name I like – I mentally jot it down!

    My little girl is Avery, but I had so many others to choose from.

    I love names that arent common as well, and I love family names.

    My maiden name is Pressley, so if we have another girl I would love to be able to do Anne Pressley.

    I also love using my dad’s name which is Charles, and doing Anna Charles, but calling her “Charlie.”

    As you can boy names. And no babies in our near future – so I have a while to dwell on it 😉

  25. Olivia says

    We kept the names of our babies a secret, too for the same reasons. One of my favorite stories of all time is my son (who was the most important person to keep the name from because I knew he would be the one that would leak it because anyone can convince a 3 year old to do something) begging me to tell me his sister’s name. He told me, “Mommy, it’s not a secret anymore.” It still was sort of. (Good thing he couldn’t read because her name was on a huge canvas in her nursery.)

  26. says

    I love this post.

    I have names picked out, my ex-husband didn’t like any of them. Most of them were family names, so that kind of sucked. Fortunately, we never had children, so it never mattered. Of course, now he’s expecting with his girlfriend, and I am terrified they’re going to use one of my names. I know it doesn’t make sense, since he never liked them, but, that would just be the cherry on top of everything else that has happened this year. She’s due later this month, so, I guess I’ll know soon enough.

    There was one name I have for a little girl (they’re having a boy, so I still feel like this is mine), and because my husband vetoed it, I worked it into my novel. My MC gives her daughter that name. And what’s crazy is in the scene where I describe the nursery, I talk about a very specific color on the wall. When I walked into Lowe’s a few months ago to look at paint, one color stuck out of me because it was the color I imagined when I wrote that scene and recognized it. When I picked up the chip, I was shocked to see the name of the paint color was the name of the baby.

    It was a sign that I’m on the right path. Maybe in more ways than one.

  27. Tara says

    We didn’t know either time whether we were having a boy or girl. Two girls later, we never got to use the boy name, and don’t plan on having any more children. Told my husband if we get another dog in the future, it can be a boy and we’ll name him Easton.
    Girl #1-Marlee Michelle (husband’s mom: Mary, my mom’s middle name: Lee. Put them together for Marlee. Michelle is my middle name.)
    Girl #2-Laken Nicole (had a dream that woke me from my sleep and the name Laken was in my head. Don’t remember the dream, just the name. Husband is Nick so we went with Nicole for middle name.)

  28. says

    Oh naming is so hard! I feel such pressure 🙂 We love our babies’ names though, they are all family names, with memorable explanations, or names we ended up loving that fit right in with other family member name meanings. We love names that are a little different too, not obscure, but not super common either. 🙂 And now we have to pick another girl name! Decisions!!

  29. says

    I love unusual names and knew from the time I was 15 I’d name my son Eisenhower and call him Ike. I told everyone that so 10 years later when I was pregnant I was amazed that so much of my family was against the name. I wish I’d kept it a secret. 🙂 My father and brother are both Jonathan tho so I compromised and named him Jonathan Eisenhower and we call him Ike and I still love it today. Funny tho, he’s 3.5 now and a few weeks ago I was getting on to him and called him by his whole name, he looked up at me with a funny face and said, “Jonathan Eisenhower?! What a silly name!” I about died.

    And with the “suddenly hearing the name everywhere!!” while
    I was pregnant with Ike I walked through our office and heard the weather man talking about “Hurricane Ike”! I was not happy. I even threatened to call the NWS and give them a hormonal momma ear full!

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