What Is Your Baby Name Story?

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Everyone has a baby name story. In the Jewish religion, standard practice is to use the first initial of a family member who passed away and choose a name using that letter. Technically it’s supposed to be the Hebrew name, but many of us have Americanized it over the years. Personally, I’ve always been thankful to have the initial as a guide. First, it’s a lovely tribute. Second though, if I had to look through the many baby name books/lists, it’s entirely possible that my kids would be Aaron and Abigail! Don’t get me wrong, I actually really love both of those names – I know I’d get bored and completely overwhelmed looking through those lists!

In addition to the initial game, there were a couple of other considerations. Our last name has 10 letters. Whatever name we chose, we wanted to keep it relatively short. Also, I was definitely one of those girls that had to have pens, notebooks, etc…with my name on it. Oddly enough, in the mid 70s/early 80s’, the name Melissa was hard to find! Not so much anymore, but I always vowed that if I had a girl, she’d be able to find things with her name on it. Lastly, the initials couldn’t spell out anything silly, inappropriate, risqué or icky. For example, I loved the name Brady. It wasn’t going to happen with a last name beginning with a J. That’s just me though. Cause I’m a little silly.

We Shall Call You…

Overall my children do have different stories as to how their name was chosen. We knew for our first child, we’d be using the initials C after my paternal grandfather and H after my husband’s father. My son’s name had been chosen for years before he was born. We caught the show “Boy Meets World” on television once in a while. The main characters were childhood sweethearts, as my husband and I are. We automatically felt a connection to the show. The boy was named Cory and it stuck with us all throughout the years. We knew that if we had a boy, his name would be Corey. I joke that we added the “e” because the name looks naked without it. (It does, right?). And his middle name, which begins with an H, may or may have not been taken from a soap opera character. If he was a girl though, I wouldn’t have used Corey (nor Topanga!).

And with my little girl – I was sitting in a doctor’s office one day and the receptionist was calling patients to confirm visits. As she was calling patients, she’d say, “This is Mia from Dr. So and So’s office,” – and just like that I decided that if I had a girl, her name would be Mia. You never know when that light bulb hits! I’d use the initial guide for her middle name. (Although it did turn out that I would need an M for my maternal grandfather, I didn’t know that at the time).  

My children are now 14 and 11 and I love their names just as much as I did all those years ago. And those short names go nicely with that 10 letter last name. 

Monikers, Titles, Handles and More

I polled around a bit to find out what other’s baby name stories were:

Following Jewish tradition to name after passed loved ones, we had to use J and D. We almost had a Jacob and a Daniel, but my hubby didn’t want names that could be shortened. When I was pregnant I had a student named Justin. He was the sweetest, kindest little boy, and I fell in love with the name because I associated it with him. We joke that Dylan is named after my prom date (yes, his name was Dylan) but really I just liked the name (and maybe Dylan from 90210). Their names really fit them. Jake and Danny, not so much! But as for the shortening of names…they are Jus and Dyl anyway!

Needed to use certain letters – but being in education, the name list was really small as I could not use a name that reminded me of any of my students from years of working.

My beloved Grandma was named Mary Sarah. I lost her when I was just 10 years old. I decided then that I would have a daughter and name her Sarah. I also decided that she would look like me, but have blond hair and green eyes. And she does. That set the trend of using family names. Rachel is named after my Aunt Rachel and my cousin Lynn, and Kiki is named after my mother-in-law Kerstin and my husband’s Aunt Grace. 

Following Ashkenazi Jewish tradition of naming after the dead, my grandmothers were Sadie and Fanny. My husband and I were not quite Sadie people so we kept the S and went with Sophia. Her middle name is Faye. My grandmother Fanny was called Fay as well. I may have also chosen to name my child after a Golden Girl.

Seems like the Jewish initial thing is standard. First child we needed an E name (my Nana was Eleanor). I loved the name Blake so girl or boy that was going to be the middle name, and we went through a ton of names, wound up sticking with Emma Blake. Most people call her Emma, but I call her Emma Blake or EB. For our second child dad wanted Rachel after one of his grandparents but I really didn’t want to name her Rachel so we compromised – suggested using a C name for his other grandparent and using Rachel as middle name. So we have Camryn Rachel.

Harry after my grandfather; his middle name was going to be Jacob as a nod to my other grandfather John, who went by Jack. My grandmother said, “Ew, I don’t like Jacob,” so his middle name is Nelson, which is her maiden name, so no more complaining! Our second child was going to be Ben if he was a calm placid baby when he arrived, Sam if not….(PS His name is Sam!).

My husband wanted an L name, and Landon was the one name we both could agree on! Haha…I wanted Landon Avery, but when he was born he looked so much like my husband’s family. We decided to use Philip for the middle name, which was my husband’s father’s name. He passed away four months before I found out I was pregnant. My husband always wanted Landon to have his “own” name, but when your child is born and he looks just like you, it’s hard to move passed that.

With Tyler, we literally did a Facebook bracket pool with 10 names we liked! The internet spoke! Tyler it is! Lillian was my great grandma’s name and I always said if I ever had a girl, that would be her name. With Nick, I wanted Nicholas (mostly because I like names that can be shortened twice… Nicky, Nick).  My husband wanted Seamus. Two days after he was born, they came into my room and said, “Guys, we really need a name.” I broke down crying hysterically from sleep deprivation and pain and said, “I don’t care. Name him what you want.” To that, my husband (in all his wisdom) said, “His name is Nicholas.” At least all of those mental health issues came in handy for something!

In following with Jewish tradition, we named Rachel after my mom. My mom’s name was Rosalind though, not Rachel. For several reasons we didn’t want to use the name Rosalind. Rachel has the R initial and my mom’s Hebrew name-Rayzel. 

I named my daughter after a 9th grade student I had named Marissa. A lot of names were shot to hell thanks to teaching high school English, but this girl was smart, kind, creative and uniquely beautiful. My son was supposed to be Justin because it seemed like a safe, solid name. On the car ride home from finding out he was definitely a boy, I casually told my guy that it was a shame his name was Charlie (technically he is Charles) because I really liked the name but didn’t want a Junior. He said, My name is really Charles, so if we name him straight up Charlie, that’s not a Junior. And boom. Done. Charlie it was!

I had two great grandmothers named Esther. One was Esther Blema, hence Erica Beth (and then Esther Blema is my Hebrew name  – Purim was brutal!).

Well, we were trying to think of an H name in memory of my father, Howard, but H names for boys generally stink. So we decided to look for biblical names. (My husband works in a school so many names have bad associations), and we both liked Benjamin. Once we narrowed in on that, I found more reasons to love the name (like Ben Cartwright, the dad on Bonanza, and Benny Hill, a childhood favorite of mine). We decided to use my dad’s name as his middle name.

My husband proposed to me in Madison, WI. Eight years later we named our first child Madison.

After I found out I was pregnant I started doodling and kept writing Marissa Kaitlin (not knowing she was a girl except for a gut feeling). My husband was good with what ever I liked  – until years later he said I should have reversed the names and he sometimes calls her Kaitlin.

We settled on basically the only two names we could agree on for our boys. It seemed so odd to me that I wouldn’t get to choose whatever name I wanted  – seeing as how they were going to be exiting MY body. Ah well, we compromised. When we announced the name of our son to my in-laws when he was born, they stammered and said ‘oh uh interesting, is that a family name?’ And my husband retorted ‘It is now’ LOL.

We created a system: no names in the top 100 names for that gender in the year they were born, traditional names that were just less common (no making up names), a good reason for choosing the name – not just based on the meaning of the name, but what it meant to us and no repeating initials. We came up with: Gabriella Ann: my first baby, before marriage, named with a ton of input from family. We call her Gabbi and it fits her perfectly. Her name means “my strength is in the Lord” but we didn’t start following Jesus until I wanted her to have the experience of going to church when she was one – seems providential now. After marriage, name picking looked a little different because we decided on the why before – Autumn Elizabeth: Autumn is our favorite season, the season we were married and the season we found out about our first baby together. Elizabeth is a name I have always loved and we wanted to include a name from the bible. Our third is Scarlet Grace – we wanted a simple, beautiful name that you didn’t hear often. Grace was picked because the year I was pregnant with her we felt like we received so much grace after a hard couple of years: we found a home, got a raise, decided I would be able to stay home indefinitely. She was my easiest birth, my only home-birth and her personality fits her name so much. By the time we got to our fourth girl it was tough. We heard Emerson once and loved it, and we paired it with Belle because Belle was always my favorite Disney princess as a kid and we were going through the movies with the girls at the time. Wouldn’t you know that our Emmy LOVES stories, sings her way through the day (literally), is very strong willed and wants to be an actress some day. Her favorite princess is Belle. Our fifth was a tough decision because I had gone through a truly rough battle with Postpartum Anxiety and we didn’t know if we should have another. But, we wanted to and we were pregnant as soon as we stopped preventing. I relapsed in the beginning and suffered panic attacks. During that time, we were naming her and we decide on the female version of Matthew (my husband) since it appeared we wouldn’t be having any sons. When we were looking at alternative spellings of Macy, we found the French Macie – which also means weapon. We chose her middle name after my sister who had battled deep mental health issues and won them – the year I was pregnant felt like the first time she was out of the terrible cycle she had been in. So her name is Macie Renee – and wouldn’t you know, after all of the planning and preparing, my PPA stayed at bay and surviving her postpartum period made me feel like I had really beat PPMDs for good.

And because I’m an 80s girl, this one is my fave: My daughter is named after my nana and papa. For my son Jake – I bought the movie 16 Candles to explain it to him.

It’s All Relative

Or is it? It could be a name that you’ve always liked. My husband says his middle name, Oliver, is from the old comedy duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. In all these years, I’m still not sure if that’s really the case! And my sister, Julie, is named after a soap opera character that my mother always liked.  

On the flip side, I have two friends that were named after their parents in the most unique way. One is her dad’s name spelled backwards and another has a name that is a combination of her mother’s and father’s names.

I loved learning about how friends chose their baby names! So much originality! The common theme seems to be feeling a connection to the name, whatever that may be.  Somehow the name and the child wind up fitting together beautifully. But whatever you choose – try it out in your screaming voice first. You’ll need that skill for the next 18 years or so.

Tell us about your baby name story!

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Melissa is a Bronx native who moved to Westchester County after she and her high school sweetheart got hitched in 1997. She and her husband live in Mount Kisco with their son Corey (2004) and daughter Mia (2007). Melissa spent many years working in Human Resources and currently works in enrollment and marketing for a child care organization. Melissa is a two-time survivor of Postpartum OCD. She initially became interested in writing to raise awareness for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders but has discovered that writing is a newfound aspect of her life that she thoroughly enjoys. Melissa is excited to write with the Westchester County Mom team and hopes you’ll enjoy her stories of the trials and tribulations of a born-n-raised city girl raising teenagers growing up here in Westchester.