I have loved reading your column for the past few years. I am writing so late in my pregnancy as my father recently passed away in September. I am not as prepared as I always imagined I would be for my first pregnancy but "that's life". To be honest it has been a rough few months emotionally and very difficult to focus on the concept of bringing a little human into this world. This is further complicated by the fact that halfway through my pregnancy we learned our baby had an umbilical cord variant which made the pregnancy high risk and has required extra monitoring.
I am having a baby girl and my official due date is November 10. The baby will have my last name - Italian name starting with M and ending in "ti". Since learning of our baby's health complication during a trip to Banff I nicknamed her "Louise" after Lake Louise to help with feeling more positive. The name has stuck and my husband is happy with that name. But I feel like my other top names never really got a chance as Louise stuck so well from the start. My other top names are Eve, Margo, Hannah and Madelyn. I prefer 2 syllable names as I have a longer name that can't really be shortened and it's always bothered me. For middle names we are thinking two names: Josephine (to honour my father Giuseppe) or the grandmother names Clementina and Rose.
I am emailing because I am just not sure Louise is right. I expected to spend months hemming and hawing over names but now I feel like I am down to the wire. I am not sure if I am settling with Louise.
I would love to hear your thoughts and if you have any other names suggestions.
You know, I think there can be a feeling that names are chosen in a bubble. I probably even perpetuate it myself, since I talk about how ‘meanings’ are overrated and ‘feeling’ is all you need. I believe it, but that doesn’t mean names are chosen outside of the greater context of our lives and experiences, especially in the months right before a baby comes to rock our whole lives.
Which is to say that I think you might be second-guessing a name you love because it came to you during an emotional time when you were struggling. I’m so sorry for the loss of your dad, and for the stress of the high-risk pregnancy on top of your grief. But if choosing Louise gave you comfort, and makes you smile when you think of the babe, then what else is there? That’s what we all want for our kids’ names, ultimately, right?
You reminded me that years ago, a friend of mine was having a hard time during an uncertain pregnancy, and got a lot of comfort from listening to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. So when her baby boy arrived, it felt extra special to make ‘Leonardo’ his middle name – and I love the story that goes with it.
I suspect one of the bigger but maybe less-conscious reasons that you’re feeling unsettled about ‘Louise’ is that you feel like it might be a reminder of difficult times - but that can be a really powerful good thing, especially when it’s very possible that she will bring you a ton of joy (eventually. Don’t gauge anything on the first 4 months.) and reframe the name, and what it means, in your mind.
But if you really feel like what was meant to be a nickname happened kind of by coincidence, in the way that some people call their in-utero residents ‘Bean’ or ‘Peanut’, then I think it’s worth looking at names that might have the spirit of Louise without being a direct link.
Of course, Louisa and Luisa are obvious here, but I also think about Lucy and Lucinda (which seems short even though it’s three syllables. Why is that?). You could of course create some distance, go with Louisa-called-Lulu or go with Eloise, or even Lois , names that have a reminder of Louise, but aren’t as on-the-nose with the memory. I have a soft spot for Eve, which is never used, and something like Eve Josephine would be beautiful . Or you could go with Eve Louisa, which almost rhymes and yet totally doesn’t. Hannah and Madelyn are, these days, names for high school girls, so they feel slightly of a different vintage. Whether that’s right for you or not is the question. And of course, this is me talking, so I’m never going to argue with Margo or Margot, because I think they’re perfect. And your choices remind me of names like Eliza and Edith and Phoebe and Meredith, if you’re looking for totally new ideas to go into the mix.
I think what’s ultimately going to clinch this for you is whether you want there to be a ‘story’ with your daughter’s name. Inevitably she will someday ask why you chose Louise (or Eliza, or Hannah, or whatever), and you will likely tell her about Lake Louise – or maybe you won’t, and you’ll feel like you’re omitting something. Picture that conversation, particularly in conjunction with a middle name that will likely honour one of her grandparents, and think about how you want that conversation to feel. If you want the months before her birth to be part of that story – which I totally understand – then I think Louise has presented itself as a perfect and beautiful option. But if your gut is to distance the actual, real person from some of the feelings you had at that time, you might want to go further away.
Believe me when I say I completely understand thinking you were going to search harder, for longer – but just because it presented itself this way doesn’t make it an impetuous choice. If it feels right, it is.
Can’t wait to hear what you think, and what you choose! Let us know!