So we are due to have our second child late March and are struggling with names. Our first child, Micah, is a girl. We know it isn't a traditionally used as a girl's name but we felt it was beautiful and loved the writings of the prophet by that name. Since then, it is not secret that I have had some name regret worrying about how she will feel about her name when she meets boys with the name. But much of that regret, I feel, was fed by post partum hormones. And now, pregnancy hormones have made me so fearful of naming the second. I think this will be our last child and the two kids will be approximately 2 years apart.
I guess the struggle that I put out to you is what do you name the second when the first has a gender 'neutral' name? If we have a boy will folks always think we have two boys? If we have a girl and go feminine with the name are we running the risk of making Micah seem even more masculine in comparison? I am truly at a loss.
Names we like:
Many thanks for any input you have. I am taking this very hard and keep thinking that i didn't think through our daughter's name/vet it enough.
Thank you in Advance.
[I should warn everyone that every time I went through my reply to make it shorter, I ended up adding more. So it's a bit. Er. LONG. It was just SUCH an interesting topic.]
In the early 1990s, the baby name book that was blowing my mind was Beyond Jennifer and Jason. I remember it giving this advice: that if you give one child an androgynous name, a child of the opposite sex should be given a name that is very clearly the sex that they are---and certainly not a name that leans more towards the opposite sex.
...I'm not putting this well. I need pictures. Imagine us sitting in a coffee shop, and I will draw on a napkin. I think of a spectrum of names, like this:
If the first child is a girl, and is given a name that is more often used for girls but isn't ultra-feminine, a mark goes on the spectrum:
When it is time to name the next child, we draw brackets. If the next child is a boy, it's important that his name not be to the RIGHT (the girl direction) of his sister's name---and I've drawn the bracket closer to it than I think it should actually go (I think it's better to have a nice gap). If the next child is a girl, her name could go more girlish or a little more boyish, but shouldn't go MUCH boyish or she'll sound like a brother:
But that's not what we have in your case. You haven't chosen a gender-neutral or boyish-girl name for your daughter, you've chosen a boy's name that is occasionally used for girls. According to the Social Security Administration, in 2009, 341 new baby girls in the U.S. were named Micah. More than ten times that many baby boys were given the name Micah: 3490. Furthermore, the name is falling for girls and rising for boys.
So we're not talking about a boy name that's WAY to the left (Michael, for example, which was given to 40 baby girls in 2009 but to well over four hundred TIMES as many baby boys), but we are talking about a name that falls on the boy side---in that most people hearing the name Micah would assume the baby was a boy (as opposed to wondering whether the baby was a boy or a girl, as they would with a neutral name such as Jaden):
(It looks like I've got that mark right in the middle of boy names, but the arrows go well off the napkin on either side.) Now we make our brackets, so that a future brother will not be to the right (the "girlish" side) of his sister's name, and so that a future sister will not be so much more girlish that she will make her sister's name seem like a brother's name:
Again, I'm not sure my brackets are quite right, and the left edge of the brother bracket ought to be an arrow, but you get the gist: no sisters named Clarissa, no brothers named Avery.
Our goal, then, is to find you a boy name sufficiently masculine to help people remember which of your children is a boy and which is a girl if they hear both names and know you have one of each; and to find you a girl name that isn't so feminine it creates the illusion of differing expectations for each girl. This is assuming we can find names you really like that meet those conditions: sometimes I think the only solution to a situation like this is to shrug and choose a name that doesn't work as part of a sibling set, with the knowledge that in the big-picture/long-run, it's okay: people may be a little surprised, they might make a mistake at first, but eh, they'll soon adjust, and your kids will eventually be adults whose sibling names won't be a big deal.
I think we will have the happiest result if we go into this thinking that we will do our best to diminish the issues, but YES, people who just hear the two names still WILL think you have two boys, or else a boy and then a girl: no name we find for your second child will make Micah feel like an obvious girl name. And that is annoying but it is okay. We will correct them, and then they will know. And everyone who actually knows you will ALREADY know you don't have two boys.
One thing working for you here is that by sound alone, Micah OUGHT to be a girl name. It, like many of its biblical contemporaries, is made up of girl-name-like sounds---especially the -ah ending, which is mostly feminine in U.S. English, with most of the exceptions being those biblical names (Noah, Jonah, Isaiah, Ezra, Elijah, etc.). If we separate the name from its associations, Micah belongs with Mila and Monica and Kayla and Jessica and Erica. In fact, if it were spelled Mica or Mika, no one would blink (but you'd lose the prophet association you wanted).
Awhile back we answered a question about a family with a girl named Emma, wanting to name a second girl Ezra. It may be the only time I've ever put my foot down on an issue. You're in the opposite situation: you have the equivalent of an Ezra FIRST, and one of the names on your list is Emma, and again I say no: mixing the #2 most popular (and not even slightly neutral) girl name in the U.S. with a "boy's name occasionally used for girls" is unfair to both girls. You could, however, use Ezra.
The names on your list with the most potential, I think, are the ones that are unfamiliar enough to give people pause: if you have a Micah and a Rebecca, people hear "biblical traditional" and assume a boy and a girl; but if you have a Micah and a Sivan, or a Micah and a Sigal, people feel uncertain and they think twice before making any assumptions.
For other possibilities, I'd look in these categories:
1. Biblical boy names with girl-name sounds (Asher, Noah, Jonah, Elisha, Ezra)
2. Names usually thought of as boy names that have already started being used for girls so it's no longer a total shock to hear them (Blake, Carson, Evan, Greyson, Hayden, Mason, Sawyer, Tristan)
3. Androgynous names (Avery, Casey, Grey, Hollis, Parker, Peyton)
4. Boy names that have been abandoned by the boys and might work well for girls, as Sydney worked for Sidney (Clarence, Sterling, Winslow, Murphy, Percy)
I put those examples up there pretty casually, so there could easily be disagreement with one or another ("Hey, that's not androgynous, that's a boy name starting to be used for girls!") but this shows you the gist of what I'd be looking for.
For a boy, I think any of your choices are fine. I'd lean toward the more definitely boyish ones, but I don't think there are any boy names that would make Micah seem like a girl name by comparison. And as with Sigal and Sivan, I think the benefit of using a name like Etai is that it's unfamiliar enough to call the whole sibling group into question: people will be less likely to make assumptions.