How Parents Deliver the Perfect Name for Their Baby
By Amy Landsman
Some parents-to-be select just a few possible names for their new babies. Others consider dozens of potential choices.
Harford County mom-to-be, Krissy Zarbos, had a more systematic plan. She chose one name from every letter of the alphabet, everything from “Alexa” to “Carrie,” from “Payton” to “Quinn.”
“Every letter,” laughs Zarbos, who lives in Abingdon.
But even after all that—and just a month before her due date—she and her husband Nick still had not made a final decision. The problem was that the couple just couldn’t seem to agree on what was best.
“The thing is she might like ‘April,’ says Nick. “But I like ‘April-Lynne,’ all put together—there’s more to it.”
Then, there’s pressure from family and friends. Let’s face it, when it comes to names, everyone seems to have an opinion. Zarbos, a hairstylist, says she hears it repeatedly.
“I have customers ask me all the time, ‘Your baby doesn’t have a name yet? Why doesn’t your baby have a name yet? You know, you’re only a month away, and your baby doesn’t have a name,’” says the mom-to-be, noting, “I’m well aware of that!”
Liz Pippin, of Baldwin, in Baltimore County, knows just what Zarbos is going through.
“We’ve been getting pressure from different family members since I was about two months pregnant,” Pippin laughs.
Pippin and her husband, Harry, are trying to cover their bases and not make any big mistakes.
“I saw in a baby name book that you should make sure the kid doesn’t have the initials ‘DUD,’ or something silly like that,” says Harry. “So we have looked at that.”
The Pippins, Zarbos’s, and other expectant parents mulled over the issue of names as they settled in for a baby care class at St. Joseph Medical Center, in Towson, this past February.
“I don’t want one that’s too popular, that every other kid in the class is going to have,” says Angie Ballard, of Havre de Grace, echoing a concern of many parents-to-be. “In the meantime, I don’t want anything so weird that no one will know what it is.”
Angie’s husband’s name is Theron, so he knows firsthand the trials of having an uncommon name. He says his name is frequently mispronounced.
Name of the Game
Michelle and Jon Kessler, of Dundalk, had a simple, straightforward reason for selecting “Olivia” for their soon-to-be-born baby girl.
“It was the only name we could agree on,” admits Michelle. “That was one of the names in my top five and the only one he liked.”
As it turns out, little Olivia may have a lot of company when she’s old enough to start school. Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC), in Towson, reports that “Olivia” was the top choice for girls born at that hospital in 2010, with 34 infants going home with that name.
“Noah” was GBMC’s top boy name in 2010, with 37 freshly minted Noahs making their appearance last year.
The hospital also reports that there wasn’t even one baby girl given the name “Deborah,” “Jennifer,” or “Nancy” at GBMC in 2010, even though all three were among the top 10 girl names for babies born at the hospital in 2009.
“William,” the most popular boy name at GBMC for 2008 and 2009, fell to fifth place in 2010.
Nurses who work in Labor and Delivery rooms have lots of baby name stories. Kara Barlow, who has worked in materntiy at St. Josephs’ for 12 years, says she’s still surprised to hear that some couples don’t have a name chosen for their baby—even when the mom arrives for a scheduled Caesarean-section or induction.
But no worries. Barlow adds that these parents usually have something in mind and are just waiting to see the child before making their final choice.
Lori Kantziper, a postpartum nurse at GBMC, has heard some unusual names over the years, including “Sir” and “Mister.”
The Social Security Administration (SSA) is also in on the naming fun. The SSA releases an annual list of the nation’s most popular baby names on its website, compiled from applications for new Social Security numbers.
According to the SSA, in the U.S. in 2009, “Jacob” was the top boy name and “Isabella” was the top girl name. Here in Maryland, it reports that “Michael” and “Madison” were each number one for their gender for 2009. (At press time, the 2010 list was not yet available.)
Some couples want a name that honors a special or admired individual in their lives. Many Jewish couples select a name that honors a deceased relation or friend. That’s something Dana Marlowe and Preston Blay, of Prince George’s County, took into consideration when they settled on “Micah Reece” for their son.
“We considered the pronunciation. Making sure the initials didn’t spell out anything undesirable,” says Marlowe. “We were naming after deceased loved ones. We wanted a timeless name that has been around awhile.”
That was two-and-a-half years ago, and Marlowe says they remain happy with their choice.
Amy and Vern Hammen, of Abingdon, had a firm choice: “Ashley Skyler.”
“It was one of the only names he liked,” says Amy.
Her husband explains, “She basically came up with a huge list of names and she went down the list. I’d say, ‘Don’t like that one…Don’t like that one.’”
“It was probably like 50 names,” says Amy.
“I got a little pressure from my side of the family about the ‘Skyler’ name. They don’t really like that name. They think it’s too weird,” she says, “but we like it.”
As for Krissy and Nick Zarbos, the Harford County couple who had so much trouble agreeing on a name? It came down to the wire, but they finally chose “Jadeyn Kathryn.”
Krissy likes that it is a little fun, and her husband likes that it is somewhat formal. And little Jadeyn will grow up knowing that her mom and dad put in many loving hours selecting the perfect name just for her. BC
Going by the Book and on the Web
For some of the less-common names parents have come up with for their children, check out the book Bad Baby Names: The Worst True Names Parents Saddled their Kids With and You Can Too, by Michael Sherrod and Matthew Rayback (Ancestry.com, 2008). Two of the strange names they found are “Cash Favors” and “Butcher Baker.”
One website, www.BabyNames.com, receives more than 1.5 million visitors every month. Also, for parents who are truly stumped, BabyNames.com, and other sites like it, offer personalized baby-naming services, for a fee.
Amanda Elizabeth Barden, author of the book, Baby Names Made Easy: The Complete Reverse-Dictionary of Baby Names (Fireside, 2009), blogs about baby names at her website, at www.amandabarden.com. She says that part of the pressure couples feel to find a distinctive name comes from a “societal shift.”
“Everything has to be more unique,” notes the California baby name expert, adding that the trend started with celebrities and has caught on with parents across the country.
However, Barden urges expectant parents to put themselves in their baby’s shoes, so to speak.
“Number one, a name is not just something you bestow. It’s something another human being will have to live with,” she says. “Keep in mind that you’re choosing a name for somebody else.”
© Baltimore’s Child Inc. May 2011