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I'm In Mourning For a Name

I have just had my fourth child -- another boy. Although I already have a girl. there was another girl's name we were looking forward to using. I am disappointed and quite sad that we won't be able to use this name. I imagine this must happen when people have all the same gender as well. Have you come across this before? Do you have any ways to cope with it? - Name-Mourning Mom

Dear Mom, my heart goes out to you -- and I've been there too. In fact, most parents who throw themselves eagerly into baby naming ultimately find themselves mourning names loved and lost. 

As you suggest, the most common "lost" name scenario is having to leave the opposite-sex name behind. Parents can also feel a sense of loss when a longtime favorite name is taken off the board. (Perhaps your spouse vetoed it, or a friend or relative got to it first.) And the longer the name stayed in your dreams, the harder it is to part with.

So yours is a common experience...yet one we seldom hear described. I think the reason is that it feels a little unseemly to complain about. After all, we know that we're the lucky ones, blessed with healthy new babies. It can also feel a little disloyal to a new son to say "but I had dreamed of a little Clementine!"

I think the key word to focus on is "dreamed." Every name is a dream of a child, and it's hard to accept that it will never become reality. So it's ok to mourn.

I can tell you from experience that the sting does fade with time. As your son grows into an irreplaceable part of your reality, the fantasy baby will recede into the background. You'll always feel an attachment to the name, but it won't hurt the same way.

Some parents, in fact, turn into cheerleaders for their lost names. They'll eagerly recommend the name to expectant parents, and feel an instant affection for any child who bears it. But other parents have the opposite emotion, feeling territorial about the name and wishing they could keep it out of the grasp of anyone else. It's a personal choice, and you'll know soon which way you lean.

Aside from cheerleading, the best treatments I've found for name loss are simply time, and gazing into the sweet face of the baby you have. Readers, perhaps you can share techniques that worked for you? Or just share with us the story of a name you loved and lost. Maybe a little group catharsis will help all of us get through our baby name mourning.


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

October 10, 2011 10:35 AM
By Abbe (not verified)

Madeleine. It was at the top of our list of baby girl names through our first four pregnancies, all boys. By the time we finally had a girl it seemed like we were surrounded by Madeleines and Madalyns and various Maddies, so we reluctantly let it go. I never became a cheerleader for it because by that time, like half the world had already chosen it.

October 10, 2011 5:00 PM
By <3 sgc <3 (not verified)

Although we only have one child so far, it seems Murphy's law struck us as well, before she was born. We could only come up with boy names that we loved! We struggled and struggled and finally came up with a girl name we loved, but yes, we had to leave behind those boy names in the vault for later. But you know, I don't know if we will use them later, or if our tastes will change. When I was 12 I loved one baby name in particular, and now I can't stand it! So I guess I'm saying as time marches on, the names I love morph and change. I agree with Name Lady, in that it's just a dream of a name. The child is the reality. Good luck and God bless!

October 10, 2011 10:15 PM
By Andie (not verified)

I have mourned the loss of many names, mostly because there are so many wonderful, beautiful choices out there now that choosing one you have to leave dozens behind!

My own personal story: after I had my daughter, I fell in love with the name Rose...and my husband was very vocal about his dislike of it. It sucks to not be able to use a name you grew such an attachment to. You can just see yourself as -name's- mommy, and it's sad to have that taken away from you.

What I did to cope: I turned my daydreams of my little Rosie into a short story. It felt like I had honored the wish and the name, and then I could let it go. :)

October 11, 2011 12:21 AM
By Giles (not verified)

Andie, you're not the only one to use names in stories! I adore the name "Lysander," but know it will never be close enough to normal for me to stick a real kid with it. A main character in my current novel got it instead, and now it's like I have a Lysander after all.

October 11, 2011 10:31 AM
By Elizabeth (not verified)

This might sound odd, but I only had (1) child, a boy, and I've used some of my favorite girls name for some of my dogs over the years. One dog I named Tara and my current dog is named Clementine. I thought it was so funny that Clementine was an example that The Name Lady used. My dogs are beloved members of the family and I do put a lot of time and effort into picking out names for them.

October 11, 2011 11:54 AM
By Emily (not verified)

My husband and I had decided on a name for our second daughter, but toward the end of the pregnancy, he decided the name was too exotic. So we chose a different name (and one that probably fits better, anyway), and when we got a new puppy, she was given the exotic name instead.

October 11, 2011 11:55 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

One option is to give the name to a pet.

October 11, 2011 11:56 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'm in mourning for Alice. While I'm currently pregnant and could well be having a girl, it is too close to my ex's name for me to have any desire still to use it. But I love it. It's classic and clean and simple. There are all kinds of literary connections that could be appreciated by a child (Alice in Wonderland) or a serious adult (Alice Walker). Alice, I'll miss you.

October 11, 2011 12:00 PM
By Emily (not verified)

I had an experience like this when I was having my first daughter. At the time, I *loved* the name Abigail. I thought a little Abby would be adorable and it just felt so perfect! My husband, however, hated the name, with a passion! He said it sounded like an old lady, and he vetoed it. We ended up finding another name we both loved (Gabrielle), and it fits my daughter very well! In fact, now that she is 10, we have met so many little girls named Abigail, that I'm really grateful that we didn't choose it for her! Plus, her name fits her so well, I can't imagine ever having chosen anything else! And, in fact, I don't love the name Abigail as much as I did when I was pregnant with my Gabby, either. I think the saying "time heals all wounds" is often true with baby names! :) Hope that helps!

October 11, 2011 12:02 PM
By Emily (not verified)

I respectfully beg to differ about giving your name to a pet.

I do agree that time and appreciating your sweet baby will help.

October 11, 2011 12:12 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I hear you! My problem is that I'm a name nerd so I have about 4 girls names (first and middle) that I love. I likely will never have 4 girls, so I'm in mourning for the loss of a sibset. Boys' names, on the other hand, I only have one.

Luckily I have a daughter so at least I got to use name #1 on my list. And I'll be happy with baby #2 (I'm expecting) because I get to use either boy name #1 or my second girls' name. But as time goes on, if I have more boys, I'm going to definitely miss using the future girls' names!

October 11, 2011 12:18 PM
By Cass (not verified)

It was a little backwards for us. My husband and I are from different cultures, so we decided that the first name would represent my side of the family, and the middle name would represent his.

We ended up choosing our daughter's first name out of a baby name book. For some reason I didn't look at my family tree until after we'd named her. To my dismay, the family tree revealed two names that I love: Clara and Anastasia. I hadn't considered either because they're not from my family's ethnic heritage.

Now I wish we'd looked at the family tree earlier, because those names represent my real ancestry rather than some old-world fantasy, and because they're not as exotic as the name we chose.

October 11, 2011 12:19 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Seriously? As someone who just suffered a miscarriage, I would say that if you've made it through your childbearing years only "mourning" a name you didn't get to use, you're pretty freaking lucky.

October 11, 2011 12:22 PM
By Mead (not verified)

I have one sister and when my mother was pregnant with me and then with my sister my parents picked names that would work regardless of the sex of the baby. Consequently my sister is named Dylan, a name which fits her perfectly.

October 11, 2011 12:23 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I am a name enthusiast, and have like 10 favorites right now (5 boy & 5 girl). I am always thinking of how it will be difficult to choose, or what if my hubby doesn't like my #1 on each list?! It scares me, but I remember that it is not the most important thing in the world.

The thing that I am more worried about is the fact that I have 2 family names that I need to use for a daughter's middle name. Lyn and Anne. I am terrified that I will only have 1 daughter and therefore will only be able to use one or the other (since they do not really flow well together). Technically Lyn is the middle name of all of the first born daughters, myself included. And it flows perfectly with the name that I have "chosen" for my potential first daughter, Audrey. The name Anne is after my sister who recently passed away, and obviously means the world to me as well.

What's a namer to do?

October 11, 2011 12:36 PM
By Julie (not verified)

Hi -- just an idea, what about Audrey Annalyn or Audrey Annalynne?

October 11, 2011 12:50 PM
By KellyS (not verified)

I think it's possible to mourn a name and a real child. My first son died during birth and it took me years to be ready to face pregnancy again. As my husband and I dreamed about our future children, we had a difficult time with boy's names. We finally found one we loved wholly, unreservedly, and we used it regularly to refer to our future son. It was a little bit of sweetness for us - a little bit of hope. Then, out of the blue, my in-laws chose it for their (living) son. I was truly crushed. I will admit it took me about a year to stop feeling resentful. We still haven't found another boy name we love as much and it still makes me sad.
I have had two miscarriages since trying again, and am still sad about the name we lost. I am hoping that once we finally get to have a living child, we will grow to love his/her name as much as we loved our dream child's name.

October 11, 2011 1:11 PM
By moonlady (not verified)

I'd always pictured having a daughter. But when I became pregnant with my second son, who we'd decided would be our last child, I mourned not only a name but the loss of (the idea of) a daughter.

I'll freely give it away, since I can't use it. We loved the name Lilit (lee-LEET), an Israelified version of the name Lilith (in a similar vein, the name Judith becomes Judit, etc.). It was feminine but not too flowery, has a feminist meaning, is not trendy, is unique but still familiar, and calls on my husband's Israeli heritage. Perfect. But it will never be ours.

I'll always miss it, but I guess I got over it eventually. I realized that raising boys is just as important as raising girls (maybe more so, since one day other women may live with them). So I looked at what I have, rather that what I don't have.

October 11, 2011 2:51 PM
By Amanda (not verified)

I have some names that I absolutely love, but won't use. While I don't think I'm quite as emotionally attached to these names as the OP, what I do is use them as part of a computer password that I must type in every single day. Although I don't get to share the name with anyone, at least that way I get to use the name all the time.

October 11, 2011 4:25 PM
By Aanye (not verified)

A similar thing happened to me a few years back. I was totally set on naming my first daughter Ilizabeth Blanche. (Izzy for short!). And then...what happens?! I have a son. We named him Zane. And then the next year we had another child and planned on the name Ilizabeth. But then, we had another son, named Seth. And finally, last year (four years after Seth, five after Zane) we had twin girls!!! And what did we name them!? Not Ilizabeth. Not Blanche. Their names are Sophia Marie and Annika Zoe. Our name tastes changed and we grew out of Ilizabeth Blanche. (But we do have an elderly adopted cat named Blanche) LOL!

October 11, 2011 4:44 PM
By Lissa (not verified)

Yes, mourning names is frivolous, I think it's good that no one has had a funeral or erected a gravestone to an unused name. But, This is a website about names after all. So here are the daughter the Lord didn't give me: Mary Grace, Beatrice Elisabeth, Penelope. Am I extremely blessed to have James, Peter, and Phillip? Yes I am.

October 11, 2011 4:49 PM
By Another British Laura (not verified)

This has kind of made me feel a bit bad because although my boyfriend and I aren't at the stage yet where we're actually making babies (although one day we will be), baby names have already come up in conversation which led to a discussion.

It turns out that my boyfriend struggled to see himself as a father but at some point while at university he decided that maybe he would be a father one day and decided his little girl would be called Sophie. When his friends found out they would ask if each new girlfriend was potentially 'Sophie's mother'.

I put my foot down quite heavily and refused to let go of the name I have loved since I can remember, my middle name Elizabeth, which is also a family name as both my great-grandmothers on my mother's side had the middle name Elizabeth. He wasn't immediately sold on the name Elizabeth, but after further discussion it came out that he was thinking of our daughter learning to write her name and that Elizabeth seemed a long name for a 4 year old to write. We have agreed that we will abbreviate it to Beth, which is easier to spell, although I do still think I may call her Buffy.

It's not all been one sided though and there is a little girl called Victoria Lilley-Ann who will always be skipping through my dreams as my boyfriend has vetoed the name Victoria and now if/when we get to the point where we may be expecting a second daughter we will have to find another name to go in front of Lilley-Ann.

October 11, 2011 4:52 PM
By Another British Laura (not verified)

Oh, and before anyone suggests it- I won't be going for Sophie Lilley-Ann because of a little girl I knew who was called Sophie *my boyfriend's surname*.

October 11, 2011 5:02 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

We had a pact; if our child was a son, my husband got to pick the name. If it was a daughter, I did. My husband picked out James. I picked out Jillian. We had our James. The next time we swapped. I was to name a son, and my husband, a daughter. I picked Jonathan Robert. My husband picked Tegan Marie. We had our Teggy. Why didn't we use Jillian? Well, she was the daughter we didn't have! I did petition for Maria instead of Marie as it's an old family name. My husband agreed. When our grandchildren were expected I was very excited about names, but son and d-i-l wouldn't tell us their list. Fortunately we loved both names.

October 11, 2011 5:52 PM
By lily (not verified)

Oh, ME TOO. Such a big problem!! I have 6 solid girls names that i absolutely LOVE and no first name for a boy that i love as much. I feel like i am settling and if it is a boy, all those girls names go to waste!!!!

It is very challenging.

October 11, 2011 6:02 PM
By With an E (not verified)

Kelly S--go right ahead and use the name you chose that the in-laws chose too. I always thought it was crazy I could not be called Kathy (from my middle name I liked) because I had a cousin with the exact same name one county over that I saw once a year, yet my dad and brother (in the same house) had the exact same name--Joe David Smith, Sr. and Jr.

My kids have three uncle Davids, a cousin named John, and uncle named John and another cousin named Jonathan. In an odd twist of fate, my daughter Kate shares the same name (first and last) with a cousin one county away, that we see about once a year! None of this matters to anyone. Pick the name you want and I hope a baby finds its way to you soon!

October 11, 2011 6:45 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Moonlady - I am in the same situation, had two sons and decided we were done. The name we had picked was Jessica, which I later decided I did like so much.

The main thing I had to mourn was that I would never have a daughter, and I had always hoped for one. I dislike it when people who have children of both genders tell me I should just be happy my children are healthy. I am ecstatic that my children are they healthy and don't wish them to be anyone but who they are. These feelings aren't about them at all - they are about me and what I have hoped for. That's all.

October 11, 2011 7:20 PM
By mk (not verified)

Perhaps you can use the male version of a name you like (or female version if the name is a boy's name)? Or use the name as a middle name? Is it really a mourning of the name, or mourning the fact that there will not be another daughter?

I won't be having children so I use the names I like on pets.

Kelly S: Go and use the name you want. Families can have more than one person with the same name. My family have several repeated names and we all manage just fine.

Anon: Audrey Lyn Anne would make a lovely name

October 11, 2011 7:21 PM
By Jocelyn (not verified)

It's funny how many people have said they have a list of girls names or a prized one they'll never use. I have the opposite problem- a good 4-5 boys names I would use tomorrow, but can't seem to come up with a favorite girls name. I'm afraid I'll never be totally satisfied with any girls name I choose. Oh well, I've got til May to figure it out (if it's a girl that is). Cheers everyone!

October 11, 2011 7:53 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Moonlady, anonymous: count me in. But I'm mourning her in name only, because at the end of the day I'm more of a boys' mom somehow, and with two of them, I anticipate playing together to be easier...time will tell, eh?

Dognaming is a whole different ballgame for me! I have lists of names picked out, and the good news is that you don't have to mourn them, 'cause you can always get another dog. No ticking clock. Fido, Rover and Spot, Spot must be all black so that you don't know whether he's the spot or whether he's named after what he left on the carpet; Genny and Gypo because of a conversation about restoration car parts that amused me; Ernest, because have you ever met a dog that wasn't?...

October 11, 2011 9:02 PM
By Destiny (not verified)

As a name enthusiast who is too young to have children I have found quite a few things to do with my favourite names.

* Give it to a favourite doll.

* Give it to a pet.

* My family names their GPS systems. We had one named Natalie. I would still use that name in the future, though, possibly

* Give it to a book character.

* I've given hairstyles I like names that I also like so I can identify them easier. For example, The Madeleine ( a bob parted on the side) and The Anastasia (longer hair put up into a partial ponytail)

* You could give them to your Sims.

* You could name your phone.

* You could name your car.

* You could change your own name to that if you love it that much.

* You could use it for an online game such as an MMORPG or and RPG of some sort. Or any online game where you can name your character.

* You could name your fashions. For example, designing a dress and calling it The Lucille.

That's all I can think of at the moment but I'm sure there is other things you could do with it. Be creative.

October 11, 2011 11:45 PM
By Beth (not verified)

I name my computers and fish favorite names that have been rejected. It helps to detach from them. There's no way to name a kid Ezekiel anyway when you can remember flushing an Ezekiel down the toilet.

October 12, 2011 1:51 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I am mourning Marianne, Seren, Rhiannon, and Abigail! (I have beein planning girl names since I was 12....)

But totally blessed to have my Alec James, and Arran Joseph...

I suppose theres NO chance my future daughters in law will let me name their daughters, lol?

October 13, 2011 7:47 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Even if you got to give your child the name you adore, things can change. I chose my first daughter's formal name and my husband chose her nickname. We reversed the process with our second daughter -- he picked the long classic name, I picked the nickname. But I mourn because my eldest is never actually called by the lovely name I chose for her years before she was born -- at least not by anyone but me. The nickname, which admittedly suits her well, has become HER NAME! She's even thinking of changing it legally now that she's an adult.

October 14, 2011 1:49 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I was sad about loosing Sophie or Sofia. It became too popular (strike one) and then my aunt used it for her dog. I am currently mourning Allegra, lost to the allergy medicine.

October 14, 2011 4:35 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

A bit of perspective:

Some people are unable to have children at all. They (...we) mourn a lot more than just names. Try using the name for your iPod or car.

October 14, 2011 4:51 PM
By Mary (not verified)

Maybe mourn is the wrong word, since that seems to connote a deeper loss; perhaps regret or disappointment might be better? At any rate, I totally understand! Our girl name was Magnolia... aaah, I still love it! So now my avatar on rock band is named that :) And with our boy we felt like we'd have no trouble naming quintuplets, but how to narrow it down to just one! We ended up with Archie (Arthur) and it fits him perfectly.

October 17, 2011 10:41 AM
By Meg (not verified)

I understand the disappointment. My husband is very opinionated on naming. It was very important to me that our new daughter have my Grandmother's name, Pearl, as her middle name. I wanted Felicity as the first name. I love it. My husband hates it, with passion, lol. He loved Vivian. I liked it. So we compromised, and named our daughter Vivian Pearl. It fits her well.

October 30, 2011 9:47 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My husband and I picked out the perfect name after a beloved grandparent. Another family member got to use it first and we were crushed. We have decided not to choose another name until we actually get pregnant and find out the gender of our child.

November 2, 2011 7:08 PM
By Namestory (not verified)

My husband and I have mourned our boy's name after having 3 girls. It is mostly sad for him, because it is a name that reflects his Catalan heritage, and it was actually a name that his mother considered naming him. He has always loved it. And the middle name would have been my husband's name. We would consider going for 4 kids if we could guarantee a boy, but it seems that we only make girls, so I think we're done. I love the idea of using mourned names as a computer password! I mourn my two favorite girls names that my husband vetoed- Paloma & Tanith. I think they would have suited my girls, but of course, I adore the names they have.

May 3, 2012 6:55 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'm the eldest with a younger sister and then a baby brother. My mom loved the name Lily and was planning on it for my brother, if he was a girl, but he came out a little Benjamin. So, when we got a dog a few years later, she named her Lily. I think using the name for a pet is a wonderful idea. :) On the same note, there are names I love that I have to remind myself not to use for pets now, because I'd like to use them for a child some day! I have a friend who always loved the name Chloe, and used it for a hamster a few years back. Last year she had a baby girl and was debating between Chloe and Emily during the whole pregnancy. She ended up going with Emily. She just said she looked like an Emily when she was born, and it's a wonderful name, but I think having used the name for a pet may have influenced the choice as well.

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