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Should I Hold Out for the Perfect Name?

After having 2 boys, my husband and I were incredibly excited to find out our third baby is a girl. However, now that I have an opportunity to name a girl I can't come up with that perfect name! We "decided" on Zoe, mainly because I was sick of saying "the baby" and feel like I've seen every possible name twice. I've looked in every book, website, and list I can get my hands on! Should I stick with our choice and settle for Zoe, or is there a perfect name out there that I haven't found yet? I had terrible name remorse after my second son when family and friends talked me out of the name I loved and I don't want to go through that again. - Angsty Mom

Ah, the elusive Perfect Name! It's the naming equivalent of Mr. Right. An expectant mother is supposed to fall head over heels in love, and know beyond any question that this is the one and only name for her.

But life doesn't always work that way, does it? Sometimes, instead of one Perfect Name you find yourself with five Really, Really Good Names. Don't worry, having a hard time choosing doesn't make the name you ultimately choose worse.

Think of it like ordering at a restaurant. Suppose you're a vegetarian, and there's only one meatless choice on the menu. Bingo, you've found the dish for you, with 100% confidence! Now imagine instead that there are five delectable-sounding vegetarian options. Your decision is suddenly a lot harder, isn't it? No one dish stands out, and you're likely to feel some pangs of regret no matter your choice. But you'll still end up with an awesome meal.

Choosing a baby name is getting harder all the time, because our menu has expanded. A much broader range of names and styles is acceptable today. With more options comes more angst and second thoughts, and more parents trapped in the kind of indecision you're facing.

Let me try to reassure you. It sounds like you've gone about this perfectly. You've done your homework and researched all of your options. You've found your way to a name, Zoe, that has a distinctive personality and a quirky flair, yet is fashionable enough to fit in anywhere. Nice work, mom! Feel free to keep looking if you like ("the baby" is a time-honored placeholder). Just remember you're playing with house money: you've already won the baby name sweepstakes.


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May 28, 2012 11:04 AM
By British American (not verified)

We still call our 3rd "the baby" sometimes and he's 14 months old now.

I think you should take a break from looking at names - presuming you're not super close to your due date - and live with Zoe for awhile. Perhaps it'll grow on you some more or perhaps you'll decide it's not the name for you. Even wait until your daughter is born and make your decision then. I'd have a couple of other options in your back pocket, in case she's born and you don't think she "looks like a Zoe".

And sometimes you give a child a name and don't realize that it is the perfect name until you've lived with your baby and their names for a while. :) That happened with our daughter.

May 28, 2012 11:51 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Do you like Zoe, or is it just something you randomly picked to stop saying "the baby"?

You don't have to have a name ready before the baby is born, so why not just try out a few names you like, or go back to saying "the baby" and wait until she is born? the name may come to you once you stop trying so hard to find the "perfect" name.

May 28, 2012 12:56 PM
By Juli (not verified)

As another commenter suggested, perhaps it's time to step back and stop overthinking this. Call the unborn baby The Baby or Peanut or Bean or whatever. In a couple of weeks or months (depending on how far along you are!), revisit the question. You can even start over, with each parent writing a list, comparing the lists, coming up with a combined list of contenders, etc. Or you can just start with Zoe, and see how you feel about it after a break.

To put this all in perspective, forty years ago my parents not only didn't know the gender of their impending child, they didn't know there were two of us. After my mother had been in labor some ridiculous amount of time, they finally gave up and did an X-ray to figure out what was wrong. So my parents (mostly my father -- mother was much too tired) had about an hour's notice to come up with another girl's name, when all along they had been hoping for a boy. (But when I asked them thirty-some years later what that boy would've been called, neither one could remember.)

Both my sister and I managed to grow up just fine with our spur-of-the-moment names, so don't worry too much about choosing Exactly The Right Name. Anything chosen with love will work just fine.

May 29, 2012 10:30 AM
By Michelle (not verified)

If you are not in love with Zoe, stop using it. Continuing will only cement it as her name. Choose another pet name and step back from the names for a few weeks. Then, revisit those at the top of your list. Play with fun middle name pairings. If nothing is clicking, put it down again. Remember that sometimes it's not instant love. Even thought I liked my girl's name well enough, it was well after she was born that I fell in love with it.

May 29, 2012 11:34 AM
By Another Anonymous (not verified)

I agree, there is no rule that says you have to name the baby before it gets here. Find a silly nickname like Bean or Peanut or something and leave Zoe alone for a while. Instead of putting all your effort into finding the one perfect name, focus on coming up with a short list of names you really like, you'll know which one is "it" when the baby gets here. This is what we did with our 2nd and he ended up with a name that wasn't even on the short list-and I've never regretted it. Also, don't announce the name until after the paperwork is filled out, even if you settle on a name months before the baby gets here. Nobody can try to talk you out of it then. :)

May 29, 2012 12:15 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Find a name you'll LOVE...and that may not be just one, as people have noted. So don't suffer over trying to find THE one...or maybe THE one turns out to be whichever one you end up giving her. Maybe the name you eventually settle on is actually destined to be THE ONE. Maybe your son whose name you regret was actually meant to have the name he ended up with. Was the name you actually loved for him a very masculine name? Is it perhaps usable for your daughter now?

May 29, 2012 12:18 PM
By Maranda (not verified)

I didn't name any of my four children until after they were born. With the three boys no name really clicked with me until after I met them; I had a long list of "really good names". When they were born it was super easy and there was no discussion, it's like they arrived with their names.

We had a girl's name picked out all along, just one that was the 'perfect' name. We didn't find out the babies genders in advance so we didn't use it, but it was a list of one. When our fourth child turned out to be a girl, her dad looked at her, looked at me and said "This isn't Ruby.". And she wasn't! So we picked another name on the spot and it was the perfect name for her.

You don't need to settle for a name you don't love before your baby is even born. If your child is weeks old and you haven't found the perfect name that might be the time to compromise. But she's not even here yet, so don't stress yourself out for nothing.

May 29, 2012 1:56 PM
By Patricia (not verified)

For some reason(s), you've settled on Zoe after looking everywhere for the 'right' name. Since there's no other name waiting in the wings, it seems that you may have namer's remorse again if you name her something else. Zoe is a lovely name.

And as I recall, Laura Wattenburg has a daughter named Zoe (and another named Nina)??? If so, I'd say that's about the best recommendation for those names that any name can get.

Best wishes!

PS Just thought of a great sister name for a Zoe -- or an alternative to it: Esme! There's a baby Esme in our extended family, and everyone seems to really like this unusual name.

May 29, 2012 3:00 PM
By Mama2Clara (not verified)

I was like you with my first. I stressed over her name and drove my hubby crazy. The funny thing was I kept coming back to same name...And that was the name we eventually went with. So if you have a list, wait til she is here and see what name fits her. For my son it was different, his name had been picked out since before his older sister was born because it was one of the only boys names we could agree on. Good luck and Congrats.

May 29, 2012 3:44 PM
By mk (not verified)

The baby isn't even here yet, there is no need to give her a definite name or settle on anything. Just refer to her as "the baby" or something else that is clearly not a name. Stop looking at baby name books, websites, etc. Instead, if you happen to hear a name you like during the course of your day, write it down. Maybe there is someone you admire or a family member you want to honor?

By the time she is born you will have a list and you can either choose one of those, go back to Zoe, or chose something else entirely on the spot.

May 29, 2012 9:01 PM
By Bubamara (not verified)

I'd say as above, stop using Zoe if you aren't sure that's the name. I used a fake name for our babies, but one that we would never really use. I think Agnes or Edgar. We don't find out the gender, so it was just two ridiculous names. However, by the time delivery was close, I'd said "Agnes" so much, I really wanted that name! LOL!
So don't use it, either you'll get so used to hearing it, others will, or it's just "the baby" so much that it might stick.
I personally do NOT like Zoe and Cloe and the like. Not pretty and girly. Sorry, just that's NMS.
I agree other posters. Make a potential name list of names your husband and you can both live with and (at least) one of you really really likes.
Then keep weeding it out. Use all the criteria that matter to you most but don't get hung up on ONE thing, like the not using an initial someone else has. Keep culling, and culling the list. Then on Delivery day, you can see which the baby looks like, or let siblings help choose, or write the faves on the whiteboard in the room and ask everyone who comes in to vote and help you decide!! I've done all of the above ;) Oh, and you can wait a day or so, you don't have to name the baby instantly. I didn't do that either. Good luck!!

May 30, 2012 11:26 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

We had just this problem with our son (now a year old). We picked a name we both liked, but it didn't feel right to me. I liked it, but it wasn't "ours." We kept it for a long time, but then about three or four weeks before the due date, I finally said "This isn't the right name." The strange thing was that all along, the baby himself seemed to be telling me what name he wanted--a long E sound and a long I sound. Not the name "Owen" that we kept batting around.

I never do anything in halves, so I went whole-hog on the name search again and finally narrowed it down to about a dozen. (Middle names were up in the air too.) Husband and I made separate lists without seeing each other's choices, then traded lists, crossed off anything we simply could not stand (no matter how much the other person loved it), and went from there.

Eventually we had five "pairs" of first and middle names, and with difficulty we narrowed it down. But after a few days of trying them out mentally, it became clear what his name had to be--the one he seemed to be asking for all along (so weird!)--Eli.

May 30, 2012 11:29 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Whoops! Clicked "post" too soon!

... my point was... if you can live with Zoe and not feel too bad, keep it. It's a great name! But if something deep down is telling you to keep looking, then search again. Try some exercises with your husband where you work independently listing your all-time favorites, or perhaps some new ones. Keep the lines of communication open. You might very well take a second look at something you both passed over before. (That's exactly what happened to us.) Now the name is just perfect. He's not Owen--nowhere close. He's Eli, and can't possibly be anything else. You'll find it!

But on the other hand, don't worry that the name won't fit. You'll pick the right one, and after a few weeks or months with your new little bundle, it'll be like you've always known her. :)

May 30, 2012 11:30 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Whoops! Clicked "post" too soon!

... my point was... if you can live with Zoe and not feel too bad, keep it. It's a great name! But if something deep down is telling you to keep looking, then search again. Try some exercises with your husband where you work independently listing your all-time favorites, or perhaps some new ones. Keep the lines of communication open. You might very well take a second look at something you both passed over before. (That's exactly what happened to us.) Now the name is just perfect. He's not Owen--nowhere close. He's Eli, and can't possibly be anything else. You'll find it!

But on the other hand, don't worry that the name won't fit. You'll pick the right one, and after a few weeks or months with your new little bundle, it'll be like you've always known her. :)

May 30, 2012 6:19 PM
By elleireland (not verified)

Well, Zoe is lovely, but do you want ideas? If you don't narrow down the possibilities it's hard for us to know your taste in names. I'm assuming you like classic with a twist. Here goes:


You'll do great.....lucky you, a baby girl!

June 5, 2012 2:37 PM
By TrixiesMom (not verified)

I should print this list out ElleIreland. I love every last one of these elegant and beautiful names! Good list.

June 5, 2012 4:55 PM
By ValenzMom (not verified)

When I had my kids, we didn't know the gender beforehand. Oddly enough, my hubby and I could agree on a girl's name for the first one, but not a boy's name - turned out to be a girl. The second pregnancy, we could agree on a boy's name, but not a girl's name - turned out to be a boy.

July 7, 2012 3:51 PM
By Megan (not verified)

I completely understand what you're going through! My husband ALWAYS wanted the name Lincoln for a boy. Before I got pregnant and naming a baby was a far off thing, I liked the name Lincoln; I didn't LOVE it, but I had no bad associations to it. I thought it was a nice enough name, with a historical figure to back it up. Plus, for us, there were pop culture references (Prison Break and Fringe) and video game references (Link in the Legend of Zelda) that made it even better.

Once I found out I was expecting a boy, I second-guessed our choice of Lincoln. I poured through my favorite baby name book (The Baby Name Wizard) so many times that pages started to fall out of it. I trolled websites. I had a list as long as my arm of alternative boy names. I kept coming back to an old favorite, Nathaniel.

I had convinced myself that this baby's name WAS Nathaniel and we would be making a HUGE mistake if we named him Lincoln. My husband simply told me that no name means as much to him as Lincoln does and if he only has one son, he wants Lincoln to be his legacy; not Nathaniel.

Begrudgingly, I went back to Lincoln, but I still felt in my heart that it wasn't The Perfect Name. I only agreed to Lincoln because I felt that my husband would be sharing in just the same amount of responsibility as I would be and his say should be heard as well.

My son is Lincoln and it fits him PERFECTLY. His middle name is James, so when he was born, I spent about three months calling him LJ before I realized that Lincoln and Linc ARE his names. They fit him so perfectly that I can't believe it. Nathaniel/Nathan/Nate wouldn't have fit him at all (although the name style is still my own personal taste). I would have had the WORST name remorse if I'd used Nathaniel instead.

I agree with what most people have said: sometimes you don't realize The Perfect Name when you find it. Sometimes, only one of you realizes it. =) Yes, sometimes it's a crap shoot and you could wind up with a name that you just don't love after all.

I know a couple who had a name picked out for their baby boy. I believe they were going to use Zachary, but I honestly can't remember. When he was born, they said the name didn't fit him AT ALL and, because they'd settled on a name, they had no "back-up" names handy. You HAVE to name your child before you can leave the hospital with them, so she told her husband to put ANYTHING on the birth certificate so they could take him home. At that point, she realized they had a few weeks worth of trying to figure out what to name him ahead of them. (His birth certificate actually wound up saying Dillon was his first name - which she still can't figure out why her husband would have picked Dillon because it was NEVER discussed at all and isn't a family name, but that's beside the point.) It took them THREE MONTHS to find a name, but they legally changed it to Chandler; which fits him PERFECTLY. And they both agree that Chandler is The Perfect Name for them and him.

You can always go with Zoe now if you want, see if it is The Perfect Name and, if it isn't, pick something else. Our courts offer the option of legally changing your name - or your child's - so you CAN go that route if need be.

Good luck!

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