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How I Named My Baby: Gwen Catherine

How I Named My Baby: Gwen Catherine

Jessica Lopez, a writer, and Kyle Lopez, restaurant owner, live in Southern California with their baby girl. Their daughter Gwen Catherine was born on September 24, 2020.

We met with Jessica and discussed spiritual signs, celebrity associations, and how she and Kyle chose the name Gwen for their little girl.

Tell me about how you named Gwen!

I’ve always been a huge name geek and have a very long list of names in the notes of my phone. There are some classics, but it’s ever-changing. I talked about names with my husband when we were dating — not even engaged.

Previously we liked more feminine — I call them sexy — names. Three syllables, long A. We thought we were going to use Bianca or Chiara.

Our last name is Lopez — my husband’s family is Spanish but he’s a six-foot-two redhead. People are always surprised to meet us! So we didn’t know if we wanted to go more Spanish and Italian leaning.

It took us a couple of years to get pregnant, but when I was, we started trying those names on, and it just didn’t feel like the right vibe. I’m very spiritual and felt they were off energetically.

I always thought I’d be one of those people who would have three names and then meet the baby to decide, but we didn’t do that at all. Gwen was a later addition — I had suggested it to my sister-in-law for my niece, who’s ten months older than my baby. My sister-in-law reminded me of the name, and I was like “Oh yeah, you’re right — I love Gwen.” I brought it to Kyle, and he loved it more than anything else, so we just went with it.

How did you choose her middle name?

Catherine is her middle name. We had a long fertility journey and found out we were pregnant around the time my grandma passed. When I went to my first appointment, I learned my due date was my grandma’s birthday. It was super emotional because I knew that shouldn’t have been the due date — it should have been two days prior. I took it as a cheeky little heavenly nod of like, “Hey, helped you out!” We decided to use her name, which was Catherine, as the middle name. As it turns out, Gwen came two days after her due date, so she has her own birthday, but it still felt like we had our guardian angel throughout the pregnancy.

What strategies did you use to narrow this down?

I had a hundred different names on the list. I’m very into signs and spiritual nudges. Right around the week I got pregnant, I was really into the name Ivy for a bit. We saw what I would interpret as signs — we took a photo in front of an ivy wall and I was like, “Ivy!”

My boy name — and I don’t know if I’m prepared to share; it’s kind of weird and close to the vest — is a freeway exit. But it keeps popping up — I get these “heavenly hellos” that relate to the name.

Would you say you and Kyle have different tastes in names?

I don’t think he has a taste in names! He didn’t like very many names. He works in restaurants and knows thousands of people, so it’s sort of like being married to a teacher where they just have all these associations with names. That made it more difficult for us.

Kyle is super patient and easygoing and didn’t have any hugely negative opinions about names. But when I did go super far out there — like with Alabama — he’d just be like, “no.”

Were there any names that you hated to let go of?

I love Winter, Paloma, and Edith. I thought Goldie would be so cute with Gwen — and I don’t normally like matching names! My mom’s name is Aileen, so I thought about doing Ailey, but it would just be such a spelling nightmare. It’s already hard enough to spell Aileen with an A.

I really like the name Bettina and call her Betty. I feel like that works well with Lopez. A name that reminds me of Bianca is Beata, which I recently came across. I love Bea as a nickname. And Serena is another one I like that I’d put into the sexy category, like Bianca and Chiara.

My grandma Catherine was from Indiana, so I thought about doing Indiana and calling her Indie. That’s too far out there for my husband. He asked me if I’d ever even been to Indiana.

What about boys?

One name I’m obsessed with right now is Wells. I think I like Gwen and Wells because they both have that strong W sound. I thought it would be fun to do a longer middle name. My mother-in-law’s maiden name is Harrigan, and Wells Harrigan sounds fun and upbeat.

I love Adrian but my husband doesn’t like that. It sounds so good with Lopez! And Dorian has always been an inexplicable favorite.

Well, that’s a “sexy” name for a boy.

You’re right — Dorian and Bianca, it’s like “oh shit!”

I like kind of out-there names for boys too, like Rufus and Elton. I would be stoked if people associated him with Elton John! But we have a Gwen, and people already say “Gwen Stefani,” so we’d have Gwen Stefani and Elton John.

When she first came out of me at the hospital, the doctors sang her Happy Birthday. Nobody knew what her name was at that point, so they stopped at the name part and Kyle, who was super emotional, cried “Gwennnnnn,” and the doctor was like, “Gwen Stefaniiiii!” People just make the association. I like Gwen Stefani — she’s very talented — so it’s fine by me.

I also love the name Gwyneth, but I’m obsessed with Gwyneth Paltrow and thought people would think I named my baby after her. She’s one of my personal gurus, so it would feel kind of creepy to name my child Gwyneth.

If it was totally up to you, what would you have named your baby?

Gwen felt like spiritually who she was. I could have gone more out-there, something like Winter. I mentioned I like Alabama, but that was too quirky for Kyle. Now Travis Barker is all over my feed, and I’m like, “See? It works.”

I could have done Bettina or Beata — I like the B names a lot. I don’t feel any name remorse with her, but I’m also excited to name another!

What is on your list for another girl?

With Gwen in mind, Beata is a good one. Interesting sounds, and Gwen and Bea sound like cute sister names together. I really like Goldie, but I have a friend who has one, so probably not. Billie for a girl is so cute.

Kyle and I both like Colette, we just wouldn’t be able to use Coco as a nickname. One of my best friends and our nanny are named Coco.

I like Iris — Iris and Gwen sound good together. But for some reason, I think I’m going to have a boy, so I haven’t put much thought into that!

How do you feel about your own name, and how do you think that influenced your choice?

I feel so bad now that I’ve named my daughter! I gave my mom so much crap about giving me the Number one name of the eighties. I was like, “Could you not think outside the box a little bit more? I hate my name!” Now I realize how offensive that is. If Gwen ever came to me and said “I hate my name, it’s so weird-sounding” I would cry! Do you know how much thought and spiritual energy we put into that? So now I don’t ever dare say anything like that to my mom.

I have affection for Jessica because it’s mine, but at the same time, I don’t intrinsically like the sound of it. It wouldn’t be one of my top choices, however, I am grateful to my mom for it. I wished I either had a more classic name, like Kate, or just something less eighties. My husband is Kyle, and his siblings are Justin and Kelly, so between the four of us we have the top eighties names. I felt like Gwen was ambiguous since it was never hugely popular.

I have a family friend who just had a daughter and named her Jessica. It was shocking! That’s like meeting a baby named Kevin today. I was flattered that I didn’t ruin the name for them.

Did you have any fears associated with baby names?

For sure! With all of these people around me having babies within a couple months of each other, I thought someone was definitely going to use Gwen. Even though it was kind of obscure, I just had this horrible nightmare that once we settled on the name, I would wake up and my cousin — who had her baby three weeks before me — would have used it. But then I thought, “Whatever, I’ll still use it!” With people that I don’t see more than a couple of times a year, I could get over it, I guess.

I was pregnant all of COVID and since we weren’t around people, I didn’t think as much about introducing her to others. I wish I would have done an exercise like, “Hi, this is my daughter Gwen” or spoken it more. I have a soft voice, and when I’m out in public people will mishear me and think her name is Glenn or Jen. I have to say it a couple of times before people get it.

What was the most surprising part of the baby name process?

How serious and real it feels when you’re actually pregnant. I always had so much fun thinking about names and throwing them out there before I got pregnant. It’s super fun when you’re theoretical about it, and then it becomes more of a responsibility. You’re creating such a big fraction of a person’s identity with the name in terms of first impressions. And of course, they’re going to become their own person independent of the name — it’s not everything — but it does matter a lot. It felt like this big responsibility that we owed her. I didn’t expect the weight of this process.

What advice would you give someone who’s just starting the baby name process?

Write them all down, even if they seem super out-there or quirky. Often one will lead to another. You get into a rhythm of what you like, whether it’s three syllables, ending with an A, a certain origin. It helps you see the patterns of what you like. Nothing is too weird to write down and go from there.

Also considering the test of the teacher reading the full name. I remember that from growing up — your name would be something like Seraphina, but you’d go by Tina, and then it’s so embarrassing to have the other kids be like, “who’s Seraphina?” For me, that was a reason not to go with a name so wildly different than what she would go by.

Thank you so much, Jessica!

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About the Author

Sophie Kihm

Sophie Kihm has been writing for Nameberry since 2015. She has contributed stories on the top baby name trends of 2021, baby name synesthesia, and the top names in each state. Sophie is Nameberry’s resident Name Guru to the Stars, where she suggests names for celebrity babies. She also manages the Nameberry Instagram and Pinterest. You can follow her personally on Instagram or Pinterest, or contact her at sophie@nameberry.com. Sophie lives in Chicago.