How I Named My Baby: Jeneva Mabelle
Kinda Saunders, a blogger, and Charles Saunders, a plant operator, live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with their six children.
Their youngest child, a daughter named Jeneva Mabelle, arrived on February 8, 2021, joining older siblings Lola Mailani, Charles Khari, Kaleia Jazara, Nyla Bijou, and Maliha Raine. Here, Kinda talks to us about how she and Charles chose the baby name Jeneva for their baby girl.
How long did it take you to decide on a name?
I took lots of time planning out the names for our children. The importance of a name was something instilled in me by my parents. They always put a lot of thought into the meaning of a name.
When did you know you found “The Name?”
Jeneva is our sixth child and was a surprise, so I had already used all the names on my potential baby names list. I had a few options I was toying with, but I never really felt that zing you feel when you know it’s “the name.” One day it just came to me — I immediately knew Jeneva was the one!
How many names did you take into the delivery room?
We had the name all settled before we got to the delivery room. I was determined to get the name finalized because I was worried I’d make a hasty decision if I chose a name while I was floating on pain meds after the birth.
What strategies did you use to narrow down your name choices?
Okay, I was very meticulous with my naming strategy. All my daughters have names that end in A, and their initials are in alphabetical order (even though they were not born in that order). We had to use a name that started with J or O, because the other girls’ names start with K, L, M, and N (Kaleia, Lola, Maliha, Nyla).
Most importantly, Jeneva is nicknamed Jennibelle, a portmanteau of my grandmothers’ names, Jenny and Mabel. My grandmother Jenny had six kids — one boy and five girls just like me, even in the same order. It felt very symbolic and I wanted a name to honor that serendipity.
Did you ask anyone for advice about baby names?
I selected the name myself, but I asked my family and friends to sound off on it. Once everyone gave their greenlight, I asked for help with spelling variations as well. My sister’s opinion holds the most weight in my book. She’s my best friend.
What name did you hate to let go of?
Honestly, with five daughters there is no name I had to let go of! I’ve used them all. I think in my mind I knew I was destined to have more daughters because I only ever had girl names picked out.
When I was younger, I was all about mythological names, Hera, Osiris, Aphrodite, Ra, Freyja. I grew out of that trend. In time I became much more inclined toward family names. All of my kids have names with a family connection.
What would your baby be named if it was totally up to you? If it was up to your partner?
All the names were my choices. The deal was I would name the girls and my husband would name the boys. With five girls, I won in that scenario. Our one son is named Charles, after my husband.
If Jeneva was a boy, she may have been Gene since my grandmother's name Jenny was short for Eugenia.
How do you feel about your own name and how did that influence your choice?
It took time but I now love my name. Kinda Johari means "precious jewel" in Swahili. My parents put a lot of thought into it and they wanted a name that would honor our African ancestry.
At first, I was embarrassed. I felt that my name seemed weird or exotic. When I was little, I desperately wanted my name to be Kelly. As I grew older and more confident, I began to appreciate that I never met another Kinda while growing up. I felt special! I could always tell people the story and meaning of my name. That is something I have passed on to my own children.
Was it important to choose a name that ‘matched’ your baby’s older siblings’ — or future siblings’ — names?
It was very important for all my kids’ names to flow. For example, starting or ending with the same letter, the same syllables, or all having a similar rhythm. I think that is something I achieved!
What was your biggest fear related to baby names?
I don’t know if it’s a fear, but I would hate for a name I chose to become related to something negative after the fact. For example, I loved the name Isis when I was in high school, when I only knew it as an Egyptian goddess.
Did your baby’s older siblings have opinions or suggestions for names?
My oldest daughter, Lola, said the name Jeneva had to grow on her. She suggested a name I equated with a famous adult actress. Lola had no clue why I vetoed her choice.
Did you experience ‘name regret’ at any point?
I have never experienced name regret. However, I have thought I could have switched middle names around with the kids because Kaleia Jazara has two three-syllable names and I feel like the flow would be better if you mixed the syllable count.
What was the most surprising part of the baby name process?
I was surprised that coming up with names came quite easy to me. It became so fun, I spent hours on Nameberry just reading name meanings. I find the meanings so interesting!
What advice would you give someone just starting the baby name process?
I would say definitely research the meaning of a name. Look for purpose and qualities you want the baby to embody — they just might happily live up to their name :)
Thank you so much, Kinda!
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