How I Named My Baby: Spencer James
Clara Freitas Metta, a doula, and Alessandro Metta, a software engineer, live in Brooklyn, New York with their son Spencer James.
Spencer was born on March 3, 2022. Below, we speak with Clara about how she and Alessandro named their little boy.
Tell me Spencer’s name story!
I am from Brazil and my husband is from Italy. Portuguese and Italian are Latin-based languages, but we live in the United States, and English is a Germanic language. Alessandro and I have been talking about baby names since we got married, and we had to decide whether to go with a more Latin name or an American name.
When I first moved to the United States at the age of 18, my mom said, “I know you’re not coming back, but the only thing I’m going to ask you is that whenever you have a kid, please name that child something that I can pronounce.”
Every time I came across a name, I would consider how my mom would pronounce it. My husband always talked about names like Xavier and Atticus, which my mom would not be able to pronounce without butchering. I wanted our baby to have a name that was pronounced the same in English, Portuguese, and Italian so it wouldn’t get confusing.
When I got pregnant, I knew I was having a boy right away. We each made a list of names we liked — not just sticking to Latinate names. We liked Spencer, James, and Thomas — they sound similar in all three languages but still feel American. When I first moved to the US, I was an au pair, and I took care of a little boy named James. The name holds a very special place in my heart.
I love Criminal Minds, especially Spencer Reid — I think he’s such a sweet kid. I started loving the name, but I didn’t want to share it with anyone before we knew it for sure. But I needed to find a way to get my mom to pronounce it.
I started asking some of my Portuguese friends what they thought about Criminal Minds and bringing up Spencer Reid so they would say the name for me. Then my aunt fell for it, and we had a full-on conversation about Criminal Minds one day. So much so that the day I told her we were going to name him Spencer she asked, “Is it from the show?!”
Early on, we started calling him the three different names to see if he would respond to them and if we liked them. Alessandro started calling him Spencerzinho, which means “Little Spencer” in Portuguese. Jameszinho didn’t sound as good!
We called him Spencerzinho for weeks, but when I would ask my husband, “So, is it Spencer?” he would say, “No, I’m not sure! I can’t decide.” Finally, at 30 weeks, he agreed that the baby looked like a Spencer in the 3D sonogram. We also wanted to use James and thought Spencer James sounded better than James Spencer.
What names did you like when you were younger?
I loved names that start with L. They sounded great to me! I thought I was going to have a child with an L name. My go-to names were Leticia and Leonardo, or Leo. But my high school boyfriend was Leonardo so that one’s out of the picture now!
My dolls always had L names — usually Leticia and Leonardo. I was actually surprised that none of the names we considered for Spencer start with L!
How do you feel about your own name?
I pronounce my name CLAH-rah with an open sound, the way we say it in Brazil. Soon after coming to the US, I remember going to Starbucks and people never getting my name right. I’d get Qlara or Claire. After a while, I stopped saying Clara and would just go by Claire.
I had a conversation with my host mom and told her, “People cannot spell my name”. She said, “Well that’s because you say your name wrong. Here it’s pronounced CLAIR-uh.”
For a while I introduced myself as CLAIR-uh until I realized that if people can pronounce Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, they can say CLAH-rah.
I love my name — how short and easy to pronounce it is, how I can go anywhere, and people will understand it. But it was hard to commit to a name for our son! I wanted to make sure we were choosing the right name.
What are the trendy names in your social circle?
My circle of friends in Brooklyn is very international. There are a lot of baby names that are new to me, like Arlo. We know an Agatha, Valentino, Joey, Mac, and Clover.
A lot of our friends are also Brazilian or Italian — one of them just had a baby named Mateo. People pretty much stick to the Latin names.
How would you describe your style beyond baby names?
I am a very colorful person! I’m bubbly and loud — I can talk a lot. I color-code everything and am a huge Disney fan. My inner child is very much alive.
But my style is also very practical. Fashion-wise, I’m always wearing sneakers and a hoodie. My clothes are simple and easy to throw on.
We’re flying to Brazil for the holidays and I’m already thinking I’m going to take a specific backpack that has tons of pockets — practical!
How did you decorate Spencer’s nursery?
Everything is sky themed. He is our rainbow baby, so we wanted to incorporate all the colors. But we’re not too attached to sticking to an aesthetic. My mom and mother-in-law bought things for Spencer that are stylish in their countries — we incorporate it all.
We went with basic, neutral furniture colors. His crib and dresser are light wood. The nursing chair is gray. We wanted the decorations to be pops of color.
What was your favorite gift you received for Spencer?
I adore the little door sign that my mom made for his room — it has his name on it. I made him a mobile for above his crib.
My mother-in-law gave him a leather shoe holder that I hung above the side table next to the nursing chair. It’s a great spot for me to take my earrings off, and we keep the thermometer and lip balm in there.
What are the cool things for parents and kids to do in Brooklyn?
I’m in a mom group that meets up at the park every week, which is great. Spencer was born in the pandemic, and it’s been hard to connect with people — plus we moved to New York from California and lost our community there. I’m so happy that I found these other moms. We help each other out.
I honestly love to take him to the grocery store. He’s eating food now and absolutely adores the fruit and veggies section. I swear he chooses the fruits that he wants for the week. He’ll see something and get super excited.
Now that winter’s coming, we’re going to start exploring more indoor activities, like museums. I love the Natural History Museum, so I’m excited to take him there. And in Brooklyn, of course, hipster coffee shops and brunch places are the things to do. That’s what we do on the weekends when Dad’s not at work.
Clara’s (and Spencer’s) Favorite Things
Custom nameplate necklace
I got a Spencer necklace as a gift for myself.
ezpz Mini Cup + Straw
Spencer adores this!
RE-PLAY plates, bowls, and utensils
These are made from recycled plastic, come in great colors, and are dishwasher-safe.
OXO Tot On-The-Go Wipes Dispenser
We have one for home and one for the diaper bag — the wipes don't dry out!
Snuggle Pug: Finger Puppet Board Book
We have a pug named Chubbs at home and Spencer is starting to notice that he looks like the dog in the book.
Babyzen Yoyo Stroller
It’s perfect for living in New York City — I can just pop to the grocery store with this! I’m excited to test it out in the airport when we travel internationally — it folds up so we can take it in the cabin with us.
UPPAbaby VISTA V2 Stroller
This is great for a long walk!
Milk Maker Rainbow Sweatshirt
Thank you so much, Clara!