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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Last-Minute Doubts

S. writes:
I'm due next week with our first baby, and it's a boy!

For at least 5 years, my top favorite boy name has been Arlo. Early in this pregnancy instead of thinking "I hope it's a boy" I found myself thinking "I hope it's an Arlo". My husband wasn't a big fan of the name at first, but over the years I've mentioned it several times as my favorite, and he's grown to really like it too.

So. This all sounds relatively decided, right? Unfortunately, I haven't been feeling so certain in the last few weeks. I'm worried that my husband had to be talked in to liking this name. I'm worried that my husband's initial reaction to this name will be the same reaction that everyone else in our life has. I'm worried about the name sounding really "early 2010s" in 15 or 20 years. I guess I'm also slightly concerned about confusion with the girl's name Harlow, but that's not my main issue.

I think mostly, I'm worried that the baby/kid Arlo is a kid in my imagination, and that it isn't *this* kid's name, and that I'll continue to feel unsure about this baby's name after he's born and there is a name on the birth certificate.

But yes. This baby is due next week. That's soon. I was really interested to see your recent post on when people actually picked their baby's name, but I didn't see any comments that were along the lines of "I was very unsure about what the baby's name should be until he/she was born, and then I knew what it should be and I've never doubted it since", which is what I was hoping to find there.

I've talked about this with my husband. He (very nicely) suggested that I'm just nervous and hormonal. It's totally possible that he's right, but identifying that hasn't really solved my problem. He also knows that I generally stress out over big decisions, so I'm sure he's not surprised that I'm having such troubles committing. I think he feels much more certain than I do about naming this baby Arlo.

I think the other main contender for this baby's name is Asher. This is another boy name I really love. I wonder if some of my uncertainty about naming this baby is our reluctance to give siblings names that start with the same initial. Since we've made this arbitrary rule, we'll only have an Arlo or an Asher, and I guess it needs to be decided with this first kid.

We hope to have another kid or two in the future, and other names we've agreed on during this pregnancy are Milo, Elias, Rhys, and Jonah for boys, and Elsa, Greta and Adelaide for girls (my favorite girl name is Willa, but my husband somehow isn't really a fan). So for now, those are the potential future sibling names.

The middle name is decided. It's a family name that works nicely with either Arlo or Asher. There's nothing weird going on with either first name and the last name, so that's not our concern.

I hate that I'm so unsure about what to name this baby, and I'm not sure if this feeling is normal at all. I've heard lots of people say "when you see your baby, you'll just know what the name should be" but...what if we don't just know??


It is very difficult to name a stranger, isn't it? And for me it didn't get better when the baby arrived: a baby can still be a stranger for such a long time.

Besides, when we name a baby, we're trying to choose a name that will work for the child's entire adult life: it's a little difficult to tell, looking at a newborn, if the name is going to fit all the way through. At that age, a name like Little Mister Corn-Niblet Toesies might seem like a far better fit---but that doesn't mean we shouldn't go ahead and fill out the birth certificate with Robert Joseph. He'll grow into it.

Even if the name is going to be a perfect fit, it can feel a little awkward at first. I remember the kids' names feeling funny to say, and strange to hear, and someone would ask me how to spell it and I'd stumble and stammer---because it was new. That disappeared with time.

Because of the small percentage of parents who never DO feel comfortable with the baby's name, I can't do what I'd like to do, which is to reassure you that everything will be fine and the name WILL fit the baby.

But I CAN reassure you that it is totally normal to have last-minute doubts about the name: choosing a name is an important responsibility, and any name you choose means eliminating all the rest---that's BIG. It's hard to say "THIS NAME ABOVE ALL OTHERS!" and it's especially hard to do that for someone who will be significantly more hairless and helpless and small when you meet him than he will be later on in life. But for most people, once they've chosen The Name, they find the fit is better and better as they get used to both the name and the little stranger.

And if the baby arrives and his name DOESN'T fit him, it can be changed. It's not likely you'll need that option, but it can be comforting to know it's there.

But you've seen The Arlo Song, right? Who can resist it? And it's a very good sign, how your husband's initial reaction changed to his current feelings about it: it likely means that although the name is uncommon, it GROWS on people.


Barb @ getupandplay said...

I think Swistle has made some very good points. Another piece of advice she often gives that I think is excellent is pick one of the names out of a hat with the intention that that name WILL BE the baby's name. Then evaluate your feelings. Are you disappointed? Are you relieved? Were you secretly pulling for one of the names?

As for Arlo, I think it is a handsome, masculine name that is both appropriate for a child and a grown man. I think you can feel confidant in using it!

For me (a long time lover of baby names), once my child came along, I was so in love with him, I didn't even care what his name was! (I mean, I did care, but not nearly as much as I thought I would). Anything would've been wonderful on him because he was here!

StephLove said...

I'd go with Arlo because you loved it so long, enough to think "I hope it's an Arlo." What a cool story to tell him when he's older.

And if you have another son and find yourself regretting not being able to use Asher, you could revisit that no repeating initials rule.

beyond said...

Arlo is a great name. You've loved it for so long, and your husband has grown to love it, too, and that's why I think it's probably your baby's name.
And I agree with Steph: if you have another son, you can revisit the same initials rule... because Arlo and Asher would would make a fabulous sib set!

Patricia said...

You have two names you love. Both begin with A, but other than that are very different.

Arlo is thought to have been invented by 16th century English poet Edmund Spencer for his epic poem "The Faerie Queene" as the name of a hill where the gods debate; it may be related to Harlowe. Arlo is strongly associated with singer Arlo Guthrie, although Arlo was regularly used in early 20th century America (an SSA Top 1000 name from 1912-1944). While not presently a widely-used name (only 181 boys in the US were given that name last year), Arlo fits in with the appeal of current boys' names ending in 'o' - like Leo, Milo and Theo.

Asher is from the Bible and is said to mean "fortunate". Asher was the eighth son of Jacob and founder of one of the 12 tribes of Israel. The name was rarely used in the US before the 1990s; its current popularity (2817 boys given the name in 2010, giving it the rank of 139) may be due to American parents discovering the name as a masculine alternative for Ashley and Ashton.

If you choose Asher, you may receive more enthusiastic initial responses to the name, but if Arlo is your son's name, he'll have a more distinct name that I'm guessing others will warm to just as your husband did. Most likely you'll only use one of these names: if this baby is Arlo, by the time you have a second son -- if you do -- Asher may have become so popular that it's not as appealing for you; but if this baby is named Asher, you may not want to give a second son the name that was for so long your name for your first son - Arlo.

It seems that you may regret not naming this boy Arlo since you've had that name in mind for so many years and your husband is on board with it too. I'd go with Arlo!

Best wishes!

Leslie said...

Both Arlo and Asher are wonderful choices, so your baby will be well-named no matter what. If Arlo has been your long-time favorite, though, I think you should feel confident about going with Arlo. It's smart, dashing, and handsome - what's not to love?

Best of luck!

Superjules said...

Are you sure we've totally ruled out Little Mister Corn-Niblet Toesies?

I like Arlo. Since you've loved it for so long will you be sad if you don't use it? What about if you don't use Arlo but someone you know DOES?

Also, if you have another boy I think you could still use Asher. Arlo and Asher-- too cute!

Patricia said...

Swistle wrote: But you've seen The Arlo Song, right? Who can resist it?

I just had a look at the video. That song would clinch it for me. And here's the same boy at 6 years. Seeing the name Arlo on a cool kid like this reinforces the coolness of the name.

S. wrote, mostly, I'm worried that the baby/kid Arlo is a kid in my imagination, and that it isn't *this* kid's name..."

Your son will be his own unique person, guided by his loving parents. You love the name Arlo, you'll raise an Arlo. You've imagined your son as "Arlo" for a long time, you wished for "an Arlo". Don't waver now, he'll be here soon!

kimma said...

I’m going to pose some questions to you – I hope I’m helping rather than adding to your confusion…

1) I think sometimes you do out grow your attraction to a name. Do you feel pressured to use Arlo now because you advocated it for so long and not because you really do still love it?

2) Sometimes we love a name on other people’s children, but can’t imagine calling out to little “Arlo” to come to the dinner table. (Felix is this name for me.) Can you imagine calling Arlo in the middle of a busy playground?

3) This is one of Swistles tricks – do you like the sound of Arlo with his siblings’ names? Arlo and Milo? Arlo and Elias? Arlo and Elsa?

Good luck with your decision. Arlo and Asher are fine names for both a sweet little boy and a distinguished gentleman so you can’t go far wrong.

The Mrs. said...

You're not crazy.

Having babies is stressful (wonderful, but stressful). Naming babies, as you've already discovered, is also stressful.

What you're going through is normal.

And, typically, your first instincts are the best. In my opinion, he really IS Arlo.

Everything is going to be fine. And, like another poster mentioned above, how great will it be that you get to tell him the
"I hope it's an Arlo" story? Pretty awesome.

All the best to you and your growing family!!

Kas said...

Both Arlo and Asher are great names! I've never heard the name Arlo on anyone before but i love it!! he could have the nn Ari!! congrats and all the best!!

Auntie G said...

LOVE Arlo. Also think it's completely normal to have last minute doubts. ALSO think it is a perfectly viable option to try out names for a few days after he's here, just in case. (Just know that you may potentially be even more hormonally wonky than you feel now! :) ) FWIW, you CAN leave the hospital without choosing a name. The nurses don't like to 'fess up to that, but it's true. Just find out what the deadline for easily getting a SS# is - in our case, we had seven days to finalize. :)

Casey said...

I don't know if this is helpful or not, but I think you should go with your gut.

I have a one-year old Arlo, and you will get some "huh?!" responses (mostly from strangers-- also "Oh... is that a family name?"). I will admit fleeting second thoughts when the L&D nurse wrote quotation marks around his name on my white board, but honestly he is an Arlo down to his core and every day he grows more and more into his name. I'm glad we stuck to our guns :)

Best of luck! :)