What if You Have a Girl Baby….But No Girl’s Name?

Since today is my oldest child and only daughter’s birthday, I can’t help but think back on the process of choosing her name.

It was easy, totally easy.  My husband and I agreed absolutely: She was going to be named Henry, and called Hank, after Hank Aaron, one of my husband’s favorite baseball players.  We were sure she was going to be a boy because….well, mainly because we couldn’t find a name we both liked for a girl.

Surely that was a sign?  Fate wouldn’t let us bring a daughter into the world when we found it so impossible to find a name for her, would it?

Just in case, when my pregnancy went one week past my due date, and then two, we spent hour upon hour scribbling down girls’ names and then just as quickly crossing them out.  Our early favorite, Flora, was so roundly ridiculed by all our friends and relatives that we’d removed it from consideration, which I still regret.  My mother, whose name was Margaret, came up with a dizzying array of varieties of Margaret.  My mother-in-law campaigned for Rose, HER mother-in-law’s name, except my husband had dated a Rose — along with girls who seemed to possess every single other name I liked.

One of my favorite names, Eliza, reminded my husband of Liza Minnelli, an association he could not shake.  Another of my favorites, Susannah, he ruled out because he had a cousin named Susie.  But I found the girls’ names he preferred — Molly, Melissa — just a little too mild for my taste.

Is it any wonder that, in desperation, I turned to the boys’ section of the 1953-vintage baby naming dictionary we owned?  It was there I hit upon Rory, an Irish boys’ name that I remembered dimly had been used for the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy who was born after his assassination.  I wanted an energetic, Irish name, and the fact that Rory meant red, which related to my maiden name Redmond, made it all the more appealing.

When our baby was finally born and the doctor cried, “It’s a girl!,” I said, “Are you sure?”  The fact that our newborn daughter weighed over nine pounds, had long dark hair and a rousing voice convinced my husband that she was more of a Rory than a Molly.

If I had known, back then, that she would be our only daughter, I might have chosen a more frankly feminine name.  I thought that, in the years to come, I’d have other chances to choose Carolina or Georgia, to debate the merits of Lily vs. Daisy. But we knew early in my subsequent two pregnancies that we would be having boys.

What I learned from that first real-life baby-naming experience:

DON’T LET ANYONE TALK YOU OUT OF A NAME YOU LOVEFlora would have been a perfect choice, and I wish I’d trusted our taste over everyone else’s.

THERE’S A REAL ADVANTAGE IN KNOWING YOUR BABY‘S GENDER AHEAD OF TIME. With an extra six months to come up with a girl’s name, we might have ended up with the same choice, but could have made it more calmly.

NOT HAVING THE RIGHT NAME IS NO SURE SIGN OF ANYTHING. Before I knew the gender of my two sons, I was more sure of a girls’ names for them (JOSEPHINE, called JOSIE for the older one, MARGARET, called DAISY, for the younger) and so guessed they would be girls. You would think I would have learned this lesson the first time around.

What about you, dear readers who are already parents?  Did you have a name for a baby of one sex but not the other….and did that have anything to do with what gender baby you actually had?  How would you choose your names differently if you knew then what you know now?

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11 Responses to “What if You Have a Girl Baby….But No Girl’s Name?”

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Erin Says:

December 2nd, 2008 at 1:08 am

I have to mostly agree. My first baby, we found out at 20 weeks that he was a he. It helped to focus on boy names, and we finally found one we both loved when I was around 35 weeks (Ronan!). Our second baby, we didn’t find out the gender.

(Although, I have to digress — my husband kind of wanted to know and I wanted to wait. As luck would have it, on the morning of the “big” ultrasound, our 2 y.o. was sick. So I had to go it alone. I had the doctor write the gender and put it in an envelope. I did convince hubby to wait. After my daughter was born I opened the envelope, and sure enough, it says, “Congratulations, it’s a girl!” I have it saved for her baby book. If I ever get around to making a baby book….)

Okay, back to topic! I found it much more difficult to focus on names when I didn’t know the sex. We had a couple we liked for each gender, but we did find it more difficult to commit.

I totally agree with the first two tenants above. I would even change the first to: Don’t discuss names with your family! We only discussed potential names on online forums and a very few select friends.

In the end, my husband lobbied hard for Beatrix (Bea) for our newly born daughter, which was one on our list. It fits her well, although if it were up to me, she would have been Elizabeth (Betsy).

For me, though, I don’t think I would have given up the surprise (“It’s a girl!”) just for the naming ease. Although I do understand that point of view as well.

susan Says:

December 2nd, 2008 at 1:46 pm

Our first baby was a boy, and we had his name picked out, but we were having a hard time with girls’ names. I always wonder what we would have named a girl. I probably would have had to consult with my sister because she loves names just like me. She probably would have wanted me to name my baby Sophia-that was before Sophia got so popular. Then six years later we had our daughter. We had her first name sort of picked out and I got to choose her middle name all by myself. So that worked out. But if we had had a second son, we would have had a big discussion about his middle name. We were going to name our baby Philip if it had been a boy. I wanted his middle name to be Arthur and my husband wanted it to be Alexander. We also liked Andrew for a middle name. I always wonder what it would have been. I still really like the name Philip because it is classic and not too common. All three of the middle names are very nice, too.

Jeanine Bean Says:

December 2nd, 2008 at 2:17 pm

We did not find out the sex of our first baby, and since my husband and I quite boringly settled on our favorite girl’s name 9 years prior when we first started dating (I know!), we fixated on boys’ names and arrived at Theo (just Theo) in time for our son’s birth.

BTW, this was in 2005; do we get any credit for being on the vanguard for Theo??? It is so popular now in our neighborhood!

In any event, I am now 19 weeks along in our second pregnancy. Our long-cherished girl’s name is holding on, though many alluring alternatives have popped to mind (and my nameberry favorites list). Naturally everyone in our extended family wants a girl and we would love a girl to round out the family at least gender-wise, but I am preparing myself to learn next week (at the 20 week ultrasound) that it is a boy. And of course, there is no boy’s name I love, not like I love “Theo.” We are stumped. So I am open to suggestions for a sibling name for Theo…..

(-: It occurs to me only now that Rory is a sweet boy’s name, too, isn’t it?

pam Says:

December 2nd, 2008 at 2:22 pm

Rory absolutely sweet for either sex! I’m so superstitious I’m afraid that if you DON’T have a name, that’s the gender child you’ll have….

Jenne Says:

December 2nd, 2008 at 2:30 pm

This couldn’t describe our situation better if we’d written it ourselves. I was always convinced I would have a son and couldn’t imagine it any other way, so when I finally became pregnant I was sure it was a boy. (Plus friends and family telling me they were getting a “boy vibe” helped solidify my belief!) We settled on the name Hudson easily, thinking it was just perfect. We had everyone’s approval, not that it was necessary but it was nice to not have to defend our choice. Then came the ultrasound and the words “It’s a girl!”, which sent us into a 5-month-long name-searching tailspin. Our last name being Doll was a major obstacle–so many names either sounded too cute, too “girlie”, or like stage names for the adult entertainment industry! I had my heart set on Rory, since typical girls’ names just weren’t working and Rory seemed just right. My husband, however, did not agree. The debate waged on and on, with everyone putting in their two cents’ worth and just adding to the confusion. We have finally chosen our daughter’s name, with just a few days left to our due date, and have not revealed the name to anyone. After months of family, friends, and strangers giving us very strong opinions and suggestions, we just can’t handle any more. We don’t want to deal with any conflicting opinions or people telling us that we chose poorly. And I am glad we decided to find out our baby’s gender; who knows what we would have come up with if we didn’t have all that time to weigh our options! We are happy with our choice and can’t wait to meet her!

pam Says:

December 2nd, 2008 at 2:35 pm

wow, you have to promise to come back and tell us all the name!!! And as much as I love the name Rory, I have to say after living with it for a long time, it does present plenty of pronunciation and comprehension problems. can’t wait to hear your news…..

Naomi Says:

December 2nd, 2008 at 8:41 pm

I do not have children but my Dad called me Joshua for 9 months, and he called my sister hannah Joshua for 9 months, by the time my brother got here he became Jonathan. : )

Shelly Says:

December 9th, 2008 at 9:11 pm

I too thought that I was having a boy. I had the most wonderful name picked out. He was going to be Ryan Caleb. Then I went to my ultrasound and was told I was having a girl. I cried. Then I came up with the perfect name and seven years later, it’s still the most perfect name. She is named Marina Ranai. She was named after Princess Marena of Greece! It couldn’t be more perfect for her. I can’t imagine her with any other name and she loves knowing that she was named after a Princess!

Shelly Says:

December 9th, 2008 at 9:12 pm

I can’t believe I spelled my daughter’s name wrong! She is Marena, not Marina!

Kate Says:

December 9th, 2008 at 10:40 pm

My first I didn’t find out the sex. We picked a girl name immediately (Olivia Parker–after George Harrison’s wife, Parker after Peter Parker), had trouble settling on a boy first name. We knew the middle name would be Harrison (this was 2001/2002 and George had just died), but it took us almost to the end to come up with the first name. And of course, he was a boy, and his name is Elijah Harrison.

Number 2 we found out the sex as soon as we could–mainly because if it was a boy we knew it would take forever to come up with a name. Before we found out, we were tossing around Oona, Nina and Ione for a girl. We had absolutely nothing for a boy. (Not true–I liked Indigo or Henry, but DH would have nothing to do with those). A few MONTHS after we knew it was a he, I came home and demanded DH just pick a name already. He says, “Alright, either Hendrix, and we can call him Henry, or Gideon.” To which I said, “Well, what about Gideon Hendrix.” And that’s the story of #2.

#3 I was convinced was a girl, because, seriously, how could I end up the mom of 3 boys? With a 6 y/o and a 4 y/o I was so on top of the naming trends, both from online info., as well as checking out all the names on the bulletin boards at school–this kid was going to have the rockingest name ever. Ramona Holiday Page. Named after a punk band, a jazz singer, and a rock guitarist.

And of course, he was a boy. And we named him after his great-grandma’s maiden name and my husband’s favorite comic book character: Lukas Hawkeye.

Jenne Says:

December 10th, 2008 at 8:38 pm

Just wanted to follow up from my previous post–we had our daughter on the 7th and her name is Greta Lucyanna. Lucyanna is for her 2 maternal grandmothers and Greta is simply because we love it. Her initials also spell out GLaD, which works out great since my husband’s grandmother’s name is Gladys. So far all of the comments on the name have been very positive; everyone seems to love it or at least be faking it well! And she looks nothing like a Rory so good thing my husband didn’t like it!

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