My husband and I have six kids. If naming babies were an Olympic sport, I’m pretty sure I’d medal. Not necessarily in quality or creativity but in experience.
When we had our first daughter in 2001, choosing her name literally took 5 minutes. My husband suggested Juliet. I loved it immediately but suggested the longer French version, Juliette, because I thought it made a better balance with our short, somewhat masculine-feeling last name. He agreed.
Her middle name was chosen before I was ever even knocked up. In 1998, I was visiting Ireland when a bomb blast in the Northern Ireland city of Omagh claimed the lives of 29 people. One of those souls was that of a little girl named Maura. I made a silent and personal vow to use that name if I were ever to have a baby girl. Also, Maura is the Irish form of Mary and we are Catholic, so it was especially precious to me. We never looked back or second guessed our choice of Juliette Maura.
A couple of years later, we found ourselves expecting again- another wee girl. I struggled a little bit with this one. Juliette is such feminine name that I felt we needed something equally girly. After tossing around Rachel and Charlotte, we decided on Bella. Not Isabella, just Bella. Then, however, I wanted to balance that out with a spunky middle name. Ryan is a family surname and I thought that sounded kind of cool with Bella. My husband didn’t have many suggestions or objections this go round, so Bella Ryan joined us in 2003.
Now, this was before that damn Twilight hysteria swept the nation. If I’d known that Bella would be the name of the lead character in books about vampires, I’m confident I’d have kept looking. Also, Bella is used to name everything from olives to sheet sets these days and that makes me sad. Don’t get me wrong: I cannot imagine our girl by any other name at this point. But if I knew then what I know now and if I were a bit more confident (and less worried about other’s opinions back then), she would probably be named something a little more left of center.
Fast forward two years and baby girl number three needed a name. At this point, I wanted to cry. Finding yet another name for a girl that my husband and I both agreed on felt overwhelming. My husband’s idea of input involved thumbs sideways or thumbs down. No suggestions, really, just “meh” or “I hate that name with all my heart.” Again, I felt kind of trapped by having chosen two very feminine names for our first two daughters. This time I wanted something that would “fit” but wouldn’t necessarily be expected. I read somewhere that Mia is a diminutive of Mary. It was (another) a nod to the Blessed Mother but also sounded full of life. It didn’t fit perfectly with Juliette and Bella but it also didn’t feel completely random like, say, McKenzie would have. I’d always loved the name Sloane but was never brave enough to use it in a first name spot. I was willing to go for it as a middle name and that’s daughter number three: Mia Sloane.
Another two years went by (notice a pattern?) and this time, it was a boy. Hurrah! Husband had all kinds of opinions and suggestions with this kid. Crazy ones, y’all. His top pick? Magnus. Second? Thor. Third? Wulf (with those two little dots over the ‘u’. I don’t even know what those dots are called so I’m certainly not naming a kid something that requires those things).
Now, I don’t hate Magnus or Thor. I think they’re quite handsome, in fact. Just on someone else’s son. Like, someone with Viking heritage or a couple who are cool enough to be able to name a kid ‘Thor’ with absolutely no apologies. We are not that couple. Plus, we live in Georgia. You don’t hear those names around here. Ever. While I don’t love Bella and Mia’s names having become quite so popular, naming a kid Magnus, Thor, or Wulf would be inviting torment and I think we all know that being a kid with even a run-of-the-mill name is difficult enough.
For the first time in our baby naming history, we had an honest to God argument about a name for our child. I wanted to include my husband in this process as I always had, but I just couldn’t imagine calling a child any of the names he suggested. Exasperated, I asked him to write down six names, different names, that he’d consider. At the top of the list was Leo. That was a name I’d never, ever considered and I fell in love with it immediately. The best part, though, was that Leo Magnus sounded so badass. Like a superhero, almost. Magnus as a first name, I couldn’t swallow. Leo Magnus, however, felt pretty perfect. Boom. Done.
In 2010 our second son was to arrive. We pretty quickly agreed on Alec Ronan. I created a few polls on Nameberry asking for additional opinions and suggestions, just in case. The only thing that gave me pause was that a few Berries pointed out that we’d likely be correcting people over and over again. “It’s Alec, with a ‘C’. Not Alex.” It didn’t trouble us enough to change our minds, though. What did trouble ME a little later was an innocent comment that a Berry posted on a poll about a month before my due date. “Maybe it’s just me”, she said “but when I say ‘Alec Wood’, I hear ‘I lick wood’.
A few days after going back to the drawing board, my dear, darling Uncle Ronnie passed away. I felt compelled to honor him but how? I didn’t love the name Ronald and his middle name, Wade, didn’t work very well with our last name. I woke up at 3:00am wondering if it would be too much of a stretch to use “Ronan” to honor “Ronald”. We would just move Ronan to the first name slot instead of the middle. That left us lacking a middle name, though.
Ronan was a little less common than any of our other kid’s names so I wanted something classic as a middle. Arthur was a name that we’d tossed around in the past. It’s strong, classic, Irish and my Grandfather’s name. Again, I took to the Nameberry forums and was given loads of positive feedback and encouragement. It was settled and I felt a certain peace about it all. Ronan Arthur joined us three weeks later. His initials spell R.A.W. I just tell people that he’s RAWesome. Because he is.
Our sixth child was born in, you guessed it, 2012. We had ‘definitely’ decided on a name for her about four different times. It gets more and more difficult when you have older kids who want in on the action. Finding a name that everyone agreed on was impossible. The older girls suggested names like Lucille, Charlotte, India, Kate and Alex. Leo suggested “Super Baby” because that could be for a girl OR a boy. Actually, as I was tucking Leo into bed on the night we found out we were having a girl, he said “You can name that baby ‘Stupid’ ‘cause that’s what she is.” I didn’t like that as part of a sib-set, though.
I did want the kids to feel that they had a part in choosing the new baby’s name while knowing that my husband I had full veto power. After weeks and weeks of talking and debating and more name polls and drawing the final few names out of a hat, we collectively decided on Maris Odette. Everyone was on board. I LOVED it. For about two weeks.
I didn’t let on, though, until one night when everyone was gathered at our dinner table. “Guys,” I said, “I hate to say this because I know we’ve all invested a lot of time and thought into this but I don’t think this baby’s name is Maris Odette.”
They looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders in the international body language movement of “Whatever”. Huh. That went better than I expected. We were left with a few favorite names from which to choose. One afternoon, with about two months left before her arrival, the name Norah Maeve fell out of my mouth. I’m not sure if we were just bloody tired of talking about baby names but all of us knew it was a perfect fit. Norah Maeve Wood was welcomed with open arms and hearts full of love by perpetually exhausted parents and five adoring brothers and sisters.
Choosing a name for one child can be challenging. Choosing a name for a child when there are multiple opinions and suggestions in play is downright unnerving. Norah is nearly 16 months old now. If we follow our pattern, we’ll have another baby this time next year. The thought of naming another child fills me with anxiety even now. Excuse me while I take a Xanax.