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Confronting Name Regret

November 4, 2020 Abby Sandel
confronting name regret

They’ve brought home their new baby, but her name just doesn’t seem to fit. Time for practical strategies for confronting name regret, and finding the best possible name for their daughter.

C writes:

I am having serious name regret. We named our daughter Leila Rose. The name Leila was on our short list, but we chose it at the very last minute. Rose is a family name, so I feel very comfortable with that name as a middle.

Since coming home from the hospital, the name Leila has never felt right. At this point, we’d like to change it. But I haven’t found a perfect – or even mostly perfect – name.

Leila is often mispronounced. I’m worried it has ethnic roots that don’t overlap with our own heritage.

We’d like something a little less unique/more classic. Maybe something more Americanized/more easily recognized, too.

Isabel, Sophie, Juliana, and Amelia are all options.

Do you have any suggestions about where to start? Is it crazy to change your baby’s name? (We really don’t use it, so I don’t think she knows it is her name yet.) Could we use two middle names, adding a new first name with “Leila Rose” for her middle? We’ve been thinking about Juliet Leila Rose.

Thank you for any help!

The Name Sage replies:

Parents have changed their children’s names months after they were born for generations. Long before the internet, even before we’d all heard of name regret. While there’s no hard data, talk to enough people and the stories are there. You’re not alone!

It sounds like Leila is a name you love – but maybe not for your family. Despite your unease, though, my experience is that any name change brings a sense of loss – even when it’s the right decision.

Because of that, it’s often best to change a name as little as possible. Retaining some part of your child’s original name helps, too.

And while I’m sure you know this in your heart – we all do! – no name is ever perfect. Often a name represents the best possible choice, reached through a mix of logic and love.

Let’s start there.

SMALL CHANGES

You’ve mentioned that Leila feels like the wrong fit for your family’s heritage. I wonder if you’d consider spelling it Layla? The Arabic roots remain. But it’s broadly familiar in English. That’s thanks, in large part, to Eric Clapton. (His smash hit power ballad with Derek and the Dominos was inspired by a medieval romance, the poem Layla and Majnun.) But it’s also about our love of Kayla and Hailey. Layla has been a Top 100 favorite since 2006, currently ranks Number 23, and it’s easy to pronounce.

Layla might not be as classic as Katherine or Jane, but it feels like a mainstream choice for a daughter born in 2020.

Another option might be to substitute Lyla (Number 120), Leah (Number 44), or even Lily (Number 34) for your daughter’s name. It’s a change, but a subtle one.  

Of course, your daughter already has a classic, easily spelled and pronounced name: Rose. Would you consider simply calling her Rose or Rosie? If this idea appeals, you can always legally change her name to Rose Leila. Or not. Lots of people go through life as M. Elizabeth and J. Sarah with minimal fuss.

A FRESH START

But if none of those approaches appeals, then adding a new first name might be the right approach. It allows you to retain your daughter’s birth name, as well as her meaningful middle. And it gives you a blank slate to choose something new.

Juliet Leila Rose seems like a great combination. It picks up on Juliana, another of your favorites.

For what it’s worth, though, Juliet is less common than Leila. The spelling Juliette, with an extra –te, ranks Number 170 in the US. But, of course, Shakespeare’s character means that we’re all familiar with the name, regardless of spelling.

If not Juliet, I wonder if you might like one of these names, all ranked in the current US Top 500:

Eden

Evelyn

Josephine

Margot

Vivian

Zoe

As for two middle names? While there’s no official data, it seems more and more common. My younger child has two middles; plenty of families use one parent’s surname as a second middle name, too. While plenty of official forms might reduce Juliet Leila Rose to Juliet L, if two middles make this process easier, then don’t hesitate to use them.  

THE BIG DECISION

My suggestion is to consider each possibility in turn: would spelling her name Layla help? Is a similar-but-different choice like Lily or Lyla a good approach? Could you call her Rose instead?

If not, my vote goes to Juliet Leila Rose. It’s close to the other name you considered during your pregnancy. And it makes for a lovely combination, a mix of the name you gave your daughter at birth, and one you realized would suit her better for her future life.

Readers, over to you! What would you suggest as an alternative to Leila Rose? Any advice for dealing with name regret?

About the author

Abby

Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at namesage@nameberry.com.

View all of Abby's articles

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