Baby name consultation: Remembering Lily in no. 5’s name (boy or girl)

I posted the winner of the giveaway this morning — go check it out if you haven’t already!

Laura and her husband are expecting their fifth baby, a little green bean 🌱 (=gender unknown)! This little babe joins big sibs:

Thomas Blaise “Blaise”
Augustine “Gus” John
Rose Elizabeth “Rosie”
Lily Marie

So many great names!! 😍

Laura writes,

Finding a name for this little baby has presented more of a challenge. Just over a year ago, my husband and I unexpectedly lost our daughter, Lily, full-term at birth. We chose her name quickly after she arrived, not knowing how much peace it would bring us going forward. Spotting a lily now unites us with our daughter we so grateful yearn for. And having our daughters linked through their flower names is very special to me. Regardless of boy or girl, I’d really appreciate a name that nods to Lily’s memory somehow, if possible.”

It was such a special thing for me to be able to offer some thoughts and ideas for this beautiful family, such a gift.

She continues,

We are unaware of the baby’s sex, but feel especially called to solve the dilemma of keeping or scrapping the flower trend, should the baby be a girl. We also have chosen all saint’s names, other than Lily, who most likely would have been Lillian. We prefer to link each child to a saint.

It seems we also prefer a name that can have a nickname- and are open to the more “non-traditional” nickname options. (Two examples of yours that we LOVE are Miles for Michael and Pierce for Peter.)

We would not consider a “D” first name, and family names to avoid would be: Elisa, Conor, Jameson, Colin, Finn, Cecilia, Mary.

So, the question is, to flower or not to flower?

Laura also said I could share with you all the one photo of they have of the whole family, including Lily:

IMG_4993 2

❤❤❤❤❤

So I wanted tackle their “to flower or not to flower” question first: I love that they have a flower theme, and it sounds like they love it too—if Laura and her hubs were to continue with a flower name for all their girls, their Lily would always be looped in in a way that Laura said is “very special” to her. So my vote is to keep it! Sometimes themes like this can start to feel constraining, even suffocating, if a family continues having a bunch of kids and it becomes increasingly difficult to find names that fit. But I think there are a few ways to work with this theme in such a way that it doesn’t have to feel so. First, there are so many great floral names for girls! And if they opened up their theme to either first or middle name (rather than just first), some of the more unusual options become more doable. Second, if they were to extend their theme to “plants” rather than only “flowers,” or even more broadly to “nature” names, they have a lot more options that can be just as beautiful as flowers. Third, they could choose names that could nickname to flower names, which also loops Lily in an extra way because Lily—though it can be (is) a name on its own—is also traditional nickname for Elizabeth (which also connects Rosie and Lily in a special way!). (I have a suggestion of how to do this below.)

If Laura and her hubs decide the flower (or possibly plant/nature) theme is too restrictive, they could decide to do *Marian names* for their girls instead. Both Rose and Lily are considered Marian names, since they both are symbols of Our Lady, so it wouldn’t be any fuss to change mid-stream as it were and give this baby a Marian name—she’d fit in nicely with both her sisters. I’ve included a non-floral Marian suggestion that I think they might like below as well.

Alright, so first, I had some ideas about how to nod to Lily for both a girl and a boy. I’ll do boy first, since there aren’t as many ways to do so:

(1) Leo
I was trying to think of ways to connect to Lily through name, and one way that parents sometimes honor people is by using the same letter of their first name. After looking up the names Laura and her hubs have used and those they like in the Baby Name Wizard (which you all know is how I start each consultation, as the BNW lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity), I actually already had Leo on my list for this family. I also like that, in addition to starting with the same first letter as Lily, it’s short and two syllables, just like Lily. Pope St. Leo the Great is a … *ahem* … great (!) patron as well! 😁

(2) El(l)iot(t), Elijah, Eli, Elias
That first jumble of letters is meant to be Eliot! Or Elliot. Or Elliott. Haha! I thought it could connect to Lily through her traditional usage as a nickname for Elizabeth, drawing on the similar beginnings between Elizabeth and El(l)iot(t). Elliot is also a style match for Miles, which Laura said they like, so Elliot seemed a name they would like. However, I’m also sensitive to the fact that their other kids have names that I would classify as Catholicky Catholic, and Elliot doesn’t really fit into that, so I could see them not loving it as a first name, but having it in the middle spot would be a fine place for Lily’s honor name. Or, perhaps a different El- name that doesn’t seem as similar to their names they like but is more obviously faithy, like Elijah and Eli or, maybe the best fit, Elias (which is the Greek form of Elijah, and is actually where Elliot comes from—Elliot is a medieval diminutive of Elias).

(3) Hawthorn
This is also probably a middle name pick, but I was trying to find what month lilies are the flower for, and I could only find lilies of the valley—one of the flowers of May. Interestingly, May has another flower as well, which is the hawthorn. I’ve actually seen Hawthorn used as a name for a boy (the family that I saw use it—on a name discussion board years ago—used Hawk as the nickname, which I thought was so clever!), and I think for this family it would make an amazing middle name with a really cool tie to Lily. An added fun fact is that there are several titles of Mary related to hawthorns—Our Lady of Arantzazu in Spain is a title for one such apparition (the “arantza” part means “hawthorn” in Basque, and a variant of it — Aranza — which began as a name in honor of OL of Arantzazu was one of the fastest rising girl’s names in 2014 because of a character on a telenovela!).

(4) Pierce or Simeon
Laura already mentioned that they like Pierce, but I think it would make a really nice way to nod to Lily, although in a sad way—this reader said she knows a family who named their son Pierce for the prophecy of Simeon—how Mary’s heart would be pierced by a sword. That’s pretty fitting for a mom who’s lost a baby! Simeon could also work, being the name of the man who prophesied the piercing.

Those are my ideas for first or middle names for boys that can nod to Lily, but I also had some more ideas of first names that they might like. I usually start with girls, but since I’m already talking about boy names I’ll go ahead and do them first:

(1) Xavier
According to the BNW, Xavier’s a style match for Blaise, and its Catholicness also makes it a great match for Augustine. It’s a really fun first name too—you can’t beat that X initial!

(2) Thaddeus
At first I was going to suggest Theodore, as it was listed as a style match for August (as a stand-in for Augustine, as the BNW doesn’t have Augustine) and I liked that it was long, like Augustine, which brings some nice balance to sib set as a whole, but I thought it wasn’t quite right. I often think of Theodore and Thaddeus as two sides of the same coin—they’re so similar but different enough that parents tend to pretty clearly prefer one or the other. The obvious patron is St. Jude Thaddeus of course, but I also love Bl. Thaddeus Moriarty—an Irish Dominican priest martyred for the faith.

(3) Isaac
I really really like Isaac for Laura and her husband! I’ve had it on my own list for ages, and St. Isaac Jogues is the inspiration for me. I know the name is really Old Testament, but to me it’s so saintly—in fact, I overwhelmingly think of St. Isaac before the biblical Isaac. I live near the North American Martyrs’ Shrine, though, which is where he and his companions were killed, and there’s a local church named after him, so it could be a regional thing on my part. I know two little Isaacs — one a brother to Oliver, the other a brother to Owen, so it’s definitely getting use outside of the heavy biblical namers.

(4) Sebastian
As I mentioned with Thaddeus, I was trying to think of longer names that could loop the long Augustine back in with his shortly named sibs Thomas/Blaise, Rosie, and Lily (the nickname Gus is perfect with the others!), and Sebastian came immediately to mind. I think it has that same Catholic cachet as their other names, and some great nicknames too: Seb(by), Bash (like Grace Patton’s Sebastian/Bash), Baz.

(5) Campion
My last idea for them for a boy is Campion, like St. Edmund Campion, but what made me first think of it was when I was trying to think of ways to nod to Lily, I was hung up on finding some flower names that could work for boys (for some reason I’d conflated “nodding to Lily” with “flower names for girls” and was thinking flower names for everyone!)—campion is a pink flowering plant. But then I thought I’d keep it in anyway—St. Edmund’s a great saint, and Cam’s a great nickname, and as I noted in the consultation I did for Jenna at Wilber Huset, Campion means “champion,” and is also of course the last name of St. Edmund Campion. Ancestry.com even says it originated as a “status name for a professional champion,” which is great for a boy—he wouldn’t even need to know about the pink flowers!

(6) Benedict
Nope, I lied—I’m adding one more in. Benedict has the same feel to me as Blaise and Augustine, and Ben is one of the friendliest nicknames, very in keeping with the feel of Gus. It’s also for Pope Emeritus Benedict of course, who I love, and since it means “blessed” they could also think of it as an apt name for being blessed with another baby after losing their Lily.

Now on to the girl names! I came up with loads of flower/plant names that I thought could work with their theme of wanting their girls to have those kinds of names (if they decide to stick with it). I think they’ll see there are a lot of options!

(1) Jacinta
Jacinta is one of my FAVORITE names—I took it as my Confirmation name, and if I’d had a bunch of girls instead of a bunch of boys, Jacinta would have been in there somewhere! Jacinta is the Spanish and Portuguese form of Hyacinth, which is of course a flower, so it sticks with their theme, and also—how perfect to include Jacinta in a name for a girl born right after St. Jacinta’s canonization! Also, Jacinta was such a little girl when she died, and she died alone—Our Lady told her she would, and I saw the most beautiful artistic depiction of her Mary carrying Jacinta to heaven—I’ve found that image so comforting when I think of the baby I miscarried, and I wonder if it might be really meaningful to Laura and her hubs in memory of Lily. I also sort of think of Jacinta as the patron of those who suffer in secret, and the devastation of losing a baby isn’t always as obvious to the outside world. And since they love creative nicknames, Jacinta might be extra perfect for them! I did a spotlight of the name here, along with nickname ideas.  If Laura and her hubs like this idea but not Jacinta exactly, they could also just do Hyacinth, like the Pioneer Woman’s BFF, whom she often refers to as “Hy” on the show.

(2) Violet
Violet was actually a style match for August (standing in for Augustine), Rose, Lily, and Lillian. It’s also considered a Marian name, and would be a perfect sister for Rose and Lily! The only problem with a name like Violet is that it’s so *obviously* floral that it really might make them feel wedded to a style that’s hard to keep up with.

(3) Iris
Iris is also explicitly floral, but it also means “rainbow,” which is so suitable for a rainbow baby and by its very meaning points to the baby who came before. It’s not obviously faithy though, so if they like it maybe they’d prefer it in the middle?

(4) Juniper
If Laura and her hubs wanted to branch out of flowers into plants generally, Juniper’s a great one to consider! St. Junipero Serra’s canonization last year has put this one on the radar of a lot of Catholic families, and Junie is the CUTEST nickname! There’s also a lovely pious tradition that the juniper tree hid the Holy Family from Herod’s men during their flight into Egypt.

(5) Azelie
This name is super saintly (to people like us anyway), like Blaise, Augustine, Rose, and Lily, and also floral without being in your face! A lot of people take Azelie to be a French form of azalea (it is, of course, part of the given name of our St. Zelie—she was born Marie-Azélie). In fact, Lindsay from the blog My Child I Love You has a Rose, Lillie, and Zellie (that’s how they spell them), and she said she loved that the three of them are like a bouquet of flowers.

(6) Margaret or Marguerite nicked Daisy
This is the name I mentioned above that would fit into my idea of having the flower connection come from a nickname. Daisy is a traditional nickname for Margaret! The French form of Margaret, Marguerite, is actually the name of the daisy flower in French! Since Laura and her hubs like creative nicknames, this idea might be right up their alley. There are some great Sts. Margaret too, and it’s obviously saintly like the rest of their crew.

(7) Susanna
I’m not sure if this is overkill or perfect, but I couldn’t not suggest it! According to Behind the Name, Susanna comes from the Hebrew shoshana, which means lily AND it also means rose in Modern Hebrew! So Susanna can tie the other two girls together in one name! Again, I’m not sure if that’s brilliant or just way too much, especially when they consider what to do if they have a fourth girl? As far as saintliness, not only is there a St. Susanna, but the church in Rome for American Catholics is St. Susanna’s, I love that.

Okay! Those are all my flowery ideas for them for a girl, but I had a couple other names that I thought I’d suggest in case they want to put the flower name in the middle and do a non-flower name for the first name:

(1) Clare or Chiara
I probably wouldn’t have included any other ideas than flower ideas except for the fact that Claire and Clara and the next name (Hope) were style matches for them in my research. Clara is a style match for August (standing in for Augustine) and Lilllian, and Claire for Lily, but I thought the variant Clare—often said to have the saintliest feel of the Clare names—was closest to what they’d like. BUT, then I thought maybe the variant Chiara would be an even better fit! It’s got a little more of that heavy feeling that Blaise and Augustine have, and can be for St. Clare of Assisi (whose name was actually Chiara—Clare is an anglicization of it) or Bl. Chiara Luce Badano, who’s such a great patron for modern girls because she herself was a modern girl (she died of cancer as a teenager in 1990).

(2) Hope
Hope was listed as a style match for Pierce, and I immediately thought it was a great idea for Laura and her hubs to consider. It can signify the hope of a new baby after losing their Lily, and can also be for Our Lady of Hope, if they decide to go Marian instead of floral (or even if they do stick with the floral theme! Hope would be a great first or middle coupled with a floral name).

(3) Gemma
I actually didn’t see Gemma listed as a match for any of their names, but it just struck me as one they’d like, and when I looked it up I saw that Violet and Clare are both style matches for it! St. Gemma Galgani is a great patron for a girl and—you guys, get this — when I looked her up I got holy bumps because lilies and roses are two of her symbols! And she’s also known as the Flower of Lucca! Ohmygoodness. Whether they use the name or not, these are such fun details to discover!

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little brother or sister of Thomas Blaise/Blaise, Augustine/Gus, Rose/Rosie, and Lily that can also nod to Lily?

Baby name consultant: Rainbow baby needs a meaningful name

Today’s consultation is for a bilingual family living in Canada who are expecting their fifth baby — a little boy. The mama writes,

I am Belgian (francophone) and my husband is American (anglophone) and we live in Montreal, a very bilingual city. We might very well come back to the US eventually, but we need to consider that our kids could live in a French speaking society as well. We want our kids’ names to be written the same in both languages as much as possible (at least their first names), but we don’t mind if the pronunciation differs (so no Luc/Luke, but Colin was ok). We want them to have a clear patron saint.

[Because of our last name] I have a little problem with names ending in “elle” because of the repetition.

Our fourth baby died of SIDS last August and I have been toying with the idea of honoring him in our “rainbow” baby’s name. Maybe by including St.Gerard who allowed us to baptise Thomas 3 days before his unexpected death? Our 5th child is expected for early December.”

What a sadness this family has been through! I really like the idea of using a Saint’s name who had a special connection with the baby in heaven, and I have some other ideas how to connect to their little Thomas as well (below).

Their older kiddos’ names are:

Claire Marie-Therese
Vincent Nathaniel
Colin Matthew
Thomas Francis

I love each one! Such a handsome set of names!

The mama continues,

We’re not really excited by anything we’ve thought up yet, and I admit I actually have a hard time bonding with this new little one and spending time thinking about it. Maybe an awesome name will help! I’m looking forward to hearing your ideas!

I’m so happy we can help this mama by coming up with name ideas!

Alrighty, so jumping right in, you all know that I almost always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have used and those they like in the Baby Name Wizard as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity (according to the American naming landscape, which may not be so accurate for this family, but hopefully it’s helpful!), and I was somewhat surprised when I looked up Claire, Vincent, Colin, and Thomas, as there was more overlap than I expected! These parents have very consistent taste!

Okay! Between my research in the BNW and my own mental files, these are my ideas for this family’s new little guy:

(1) Blaise
My first few ideas are based on style matches for the other kids as listed in the BNW. Blaise is similar in style to Claire and Vincent, and it gets a good amount of love from families I hear from/talk to. And it’s a French name! I assume it’s pronounced the same in French and English?

(2) Julien
Julian did quite well for this family as well, being similar to Claire and Vincent. It’s a great name for a boy, and I think it would fit in well with the other kids. I assume they’d prefer the French spelling Julien?

(3) Grant
I was surprised by Grant! It’s a match for Claire and Vincent, and I was thinking that, if Mom and Dad liked it, they could attach a meaning to it that would be quite appropriate for them, and could be a nod to their Thomas. One possibility might be in Job 6:8, when he says, “Oh, that I might have my request, and that God would grant what I long for” (which is consolation in knowing he never disobeyed or disrespected God, even though he went through “unremitting pain”). Another is the beginning of the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” I think both speak in a gentle and wonderful way to the sadness of losing their Thomas.

(4) Tristan
Tristan was another match for them (Vincent, Claire) that I thought might be nice as a nod to Thomas because of starting with the same first letter—some families honor others this way. Then I remembered that its meaning is often associated with sadness, which could be perfect, or maybe falls too much into the “burdensome for the new baby to bear” category. I am loving Tristan Gerard.

(5) Bennett
My last idea for this family is Bennett. It’s a variant of Benedict (Benedict seemed a bit too heavy for them I thought), which means “blessed” — a lovely meaning for a rainbow baby. It’s also a style match for Claire!

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? Given these parents’ older kiddos’ great names, and the loss of their little Thomas, what would you suggest for their little boy?

Repeating names

Yesterday’s post about the Campos-Duffy family prompted me to look more into what people think about repeating names among siblings. If you remember, they used Pilar (one of my fave Marian names!) as a middle name for three of their girls, and Margarita as a middle for one girl and a first name for another. I’m just noticing too that they used Jack as a middle and John-Paul as a first (it’s the John connection that I’m finding interesting between them).

I think the majority opinion is that names shouldn’t be repeated? Grace (Camp Patton) once said, “Simon came up with Xavier as the middle name and I wish we’d saved that for a first name because I love that name as well.” In the Name Lady’s Can I Recycle a Middle Name post she describes it as “not an ideal situation,” though she also acknowledges that it’s not “totally out of bounds,” and “In fact, quite a few parents give in and reuse older kids’ middle names. You never know it, because they carefully avoid mentioning their children’s middle names at all.” (I would find that so hard! I love each firstname-middlename combo my hubs and I came up with for our boys — I’d hate to feel like I had to “carefully avoid mentioning their … middle names at all”!)

I know a few people who gave multiple children the same middle name — one family gave all the girls the middle name Marie, and two other families I know gave two daughters the middle name Catherine (but not all the daughters). There does seem to be a difference between giving all your children, or all your children of the same gender, the same middle name vs. only giving some children the same name and not the others.

The mumsnet thread Would you reuse a middle name as a subsequent childs first name? brought up several potential issues with reusing names — both using one child’s first name as another’s middle, and even repeating first names:

  • “many people have said to me that in the future DD1 may resent the fact that DD2 “took” part of her name. Or DD2 may resent being “named after” DD1″
  • “I personally wouldn’t do it, although the middle name we’re about to use is gorgeous and I would love to use it as first name, but I don’t want to hold it in reserve in case I don’t end up having another child to use it on!”
  • “I know a guy who is named (first name, middle name, surname) after his older brother who died from SIDS! That’s V weird!” and “I do know a boy who has the same name as his brother, who was stillborn sad and I know somebody who is pg who already have a DD but they are expecting a DS, and they are going to give him the same middle name as their DD’s middle name!”

I was particularly intrigued by the second bulletpoint — I think a lot of people might load up all their fave names at the front end of their family because of not knowing how many they’ll have of one gender — or how many kids they’ll be blessed with overall — and not wanting to miss out on using a beloved name.

Regarding the third bulletpoint, in the old days reuse of names from older deceased child to younger sibling seems to have been somewhat common. Genealogy.com says that,

Up until this century, parents could usually count on one third of their children not surviving. If a child died, the name was often used again. If a baby died, the next child of the same sex would often be given the same name. When checking birth records, you should never stop when you find the name you are looking for. You should continue for a few more years, because the first child could have died and your ancestor could have been the second child in the family with that name. If an older child died, a younger one would often be named for him or her. If you see George in the 1850 census as a six year old and then in the 1860 census as an eight year old, it may mean the first one died shortly after the 1850 census was taken.”

And we’ve seen how at least one Catholic royal family reused names with abandon, and not necessarily because of infant/child death.

I’m not sure what I think about the first bulletpoint. Probably that kids (big and little, adult and not) get in a huff about a million things that parents don’t think they will, and don’t get upset about things parents were sure they would … if I’d chosen to do this with names, my approach would probably just be to be sure to always positively talk about the choice we’d made — make a big deal about how wonderfully meaningful it was meant to be and a choice given in love — so at least if the kids hated it later, they would know it wasn’t done to upset them. And then pray for the best!

I’m also thinking that sometimes, as with one of the families I know that used Catherine as a middle name for two of their daughters, the reasons for using it were different each time — which then sort of makes it like two different names being used: one daughter was named after St. Catherine of Siena, and the other was named after Grandma Catherine. I myself would have used the name once and been pleased with the double honor, but that’s just my personal preference — I can definitely see it seeming like two different names in this scenario, even though it looks and sounds the same. It kind of ties into what Abby wrote in one of my favorite of her posts, The Secret Meaning of Names:

Some of the best names have backstories that are unique to the family in question. Mallory doesn’t mean sorrowful if your parents met in Mallory, Indiana. Then it means “small town where my parents met.” And if your parents happened to meet there because it was a dark and stormy night, and your mom had a flat tire and the repair shop was closed and your dad just happened to be in town for a meeting and suddenly, there they were nursing coffee at the Mallory Diner just one seat apart … well, then your name means “serendipity, twist of fate.””

And it ties into what I wrote in my Nameberry post Good-Intention Baby Naming: “The intention behind the bestowing of the name can be as important—or more so—than the name’s actual origin or meaning or other specifics.”

In the case of the Campos-Duffys, their repeating of names is so exuberant — one of you used the word “confident,” which was so great — that it really strikes me as not that strange at all. And the gorgeousness and saintliness of the names they chose makes me think of that royal names post — each one is sort of decadent and fabulous, really beautiful choices.

What do you all think? Would you (have you?) use one child’s middle name for another’s first name? What about other types of repeating — using the same middle name for all the children, or all one gender, or the names of lost babies (miscarried/stillborn/died when they were older) being given to younger siblings?