Think naming one baby is tough? Try naming six….
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.
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on February 3rd, 2014 at 2:41 am
I know exactly how you feel, well almost. We are expecting baby no. 5 this summer and they are all 2-2.5 years apart. After baby no. 4 I am dreading the naming process! My first daughter had a name early on…and after a nickname suggestion by a friend she had a new one. Mckenna was born and I loved her name. 2 years later she received a brother, Barrett. Still love his name best of all because it is strong and uncommon but doesn’t seem too out there (to me). 2.5 years later we were expecting another girl. We still loved the original girls name so we decided we would just fight any lame nickname attempts. Cadence joined her brother and sister in 2009. Had I known how popular “Caden” would be for boys, or even “Kaydence” for girls I may have reconsidered. 😛 2 years more and we were waiting for another daughter to arrive…and she didn’t have a name. She had more like 6 possible names. I thought maybe it was because it was the third girl. My husband didn’t like many of my favourites and the ones he did like I just wasn’t sold on one in particular. 6 hours after she was born I was still debating between two names and my husband made me pick one so he could call his family with the news. Brynn joined two big sisters and a big brother (even though I repeated an initial which I was pretty determined I didn’t want to do). And now we begin again. Names on my 2011 lists that my husband refused, he is now ok with, and others he was ok with he has vetoed. Ugh. I am kind of hoping for a boy this time, maybe it will be easier! He would LOVE to have a son named Magnus and has mentioned the name for years but I just don’t know if I can do it. 🙂 I have 6 months, wish me luck. 🙂
on February 3rd, 2014 at 8:53 am
We live in a community where big families are the norm and no one bats an eye at 10 kids. I love seeing name tastes evolve. It seems as the families grow, so do the parents’ confidence in their naming abilities. Families that start out with ho hum top 5 baby names or run of the mill classics turn to more and more creative names with their later children. After all, what’s to lose?
on February 3rd, 2014 at 9:42 am
I love these blogs about how people came up with there children’s names. I always like to hear what people decided on in the real world and why rather than just peoples ideas and suggestions! Great blog! Thanks.
Tara Wood Said
on February 3rd, 2014 at 10:44 am
Hello, all! Thank you so much for reading and for taking the time to comment. Unfortunately, the link provided to my blog isn’t working. If you’re interested in reading more about me and our cheeky kids, visit me at:
I’d love to see you there!
on February 3rd, 2014 at 6:52 pm
The links to Tara’s blog should be working now.
on February 3rd, 2014 at 7:19 pm
I enjoyed your article. We’re expecting our fifth this spring, and my husband and I always seem to take the “scenic route” to come to an agreement!
Alexia Mae Said
on February 3rd, 2014 at 8:48 pm
This article was so well done! GORGEOUS names, Tara!
on February 3rd, 2014 at 9:07 pm
Excellent piece! And what a beautiful family. Tara, you are truly blessed!
on February 3rd, 2014 at 9:45 pm
Is your husband related to my husband?? Haha! We are Catholic and have four kids at the moment (2 boys, 2 girls), and he always suggests Thor for a boy. I’m pretty sure Magnus was also on his list. And my second son’s middle name is DeWolfe, so that reminded me a smidge of Wulf. Love your names! My husband and I never agree on names, and we are both picky. We go through hundreds of names for each baby, and baby is never named until several days after their birthday. It gets more difficult with each baby, because you also want the name to sound right with the other names. It’s like a puzzle designed to keep our brains young :).
on February 4th, 2014 at 5:55 am
We invited our kids’ participation for the naming process for this one (our 3rd) too. My 5 yr old son suggested Startrax for a boy and Strawberry for a girl! I had to veto them very gently! On the whole I’ve loved having their input though (though My hubby and I have decided without telling them yet). It makes the whole thing feel real for them too. Loved your stories!
on February 4th, 2014 at 12:03 pm
I loved this! Keep writing!
on February 4th, 2014 at 12:17 pm
Great post! I love hearing the stories behind the names parents choose for their kids. I’m 18 and the oldest of 9 kids, and my parents gave us all names that start with the letter S. It’s a unique bond that we’ve always enjoyed having. 🙂
I have a 10 year old cousin named Alec, and his last name is Smallwood. I don’t think I’ll ever hear his name the same way again! 😉 I also have a cousin named Norah and I’ve always thought it was beautiful.
on February 4th, 2014 at 12:31 pm
Thanks for the post!
Tara Wood Said
on February 5th, 2014 at 4:42 am
It’s exhausting, isn’t it? Getting two people (or more if you involve siblings and friends/other family!) to agree on a name is a tiny miracle. We have so many associations with different names, positive or negative, that it’s difficult to find one that sits well with everyone involved.
For what it’s worth, I think you have beautifully named children. They are fortunate to have parents who put so much thought into it.
Best wishes in your future naming endeavors. Thank goodness for Nameberry and the forums, huh?
ps- I totally think you should use Magnus. It’s kickass. I’m more confident now and would use it in the first name spot if I could do it all over again 🙂
Tara Wood Said
on February 5th, 2014 at 4:53 am
I couldn’t agree more. While writing this post I realized that my names tastes had really evolved over the years. I started 13 years ago and was timid and unsure. After more experience as a parent and as a person in general, I started caring more about names that made my husband and me happy rather than naming for how others would accept or dislike a name. I definitely am more confident now and much more likely to go with a name a little more left of center. It is interesting, as a name lover, to see how tastes and styles change over the years for parents. Some go eccentric right off the block while others don’t feel bold enough to use a “different” name until the 8th kid.
Thanks for your reply!
Tara Wood Said
on February 5th, 2014 at 4:57 am
Thanks for your kind words! It was fun to write. Our kids were fascinated by the post…I guess I’d never thought to tell them the story of their names. It was fun hearing what they “wish” we’d named them. They started telling us what they’d name their own children. That freaked me out a little bit so I had to send them upstairs. I can’t think about grandchildren or their names. I’m young! Young, I tell you!
Thanks so much for your comment and for reading the post!
Tara Wood Said
on February 5th, 2014 at 5:00 am
Thanks so much for your kind words! It was a lot of fun to write 🙂
Take good care-
Tara Wood Said
on February 5th, 2014 at 5:03 am
We certainly are blessed. They are fantastic little people. I’d want to hang out with them even if they weren’t our kids. It’s always good when you actually like, not just love, your children, isn’t it 🙂
Thanks for your kind words and for reading the post.
Tara Wood Said
on February 5th, 2014 at 5:10 am
Certainly, they MUST be related! How funny! I feel your pain about the naming process. I have literally woken up in the middle of the night (on more than one occasion) with names running through my brain like a news ticker. It can border on obsession if I’m not careful. It’s a lot of pressure for any one but particularly name lovers. It DOES get more difficult with each child, you’re right. There are so many associations and opinions and any number of other factors to take into account…it’s kind of miraculous that we don’t throw up our hands at some point and just call it “babychild”.
Thanks for your response!
Peace be with you 😉
Tara Wood Said
on February 5th, 2014 at 5:15 am
I’m just going to put it out there…Startrax is fantastic. I mean, why not? It’s intergalactic and strong and dreamy. Just my opinion, but I think you might want to reconsider that veto 😉
Best wishes to you with naming your new little one and for the remainder of your pregnancy. I hope he or she is shaped like a bullet at delivery time.
Thanks for reading and for taking the time to respond!
Tara Wood Said
on February 5th, 2014 at 5:16 am
Thank you so much! I’m trying!
Tara Wood Said
on February 5th, 2014 at 5:21 am
Thanks for your response! How do you like having all those younger siblings? My oldest daughter likes to tell us that she didn’t sign up for all these kids running around.
Hope I did’t ruin your cousin Alec’s name for you! Maybe don’t tell him or his parents about the “I lick wood” thing. I sort of wish I’d never heard it because I did have my heart set on Alec and I still love the name to pieces.
Thanks for your sweet words.
Tara Wood Said
on February 5th, 2014 at 5:24 am
The scenic route is always more relaxing and you get to your destination in the end anyway, don’t you? Best wishes for a calm, peaceful and fun naming process. Hope your pregnancy and delivery is beauty full.
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