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Faith Urban is the most surprising celebrity baby of 2011, because until she had actually arrived, we didn’t know of her existence.

Her mother, red-haired Hollywood actress Nicole Kidman, has a well-known history of medical problems related to fertility and childbirth. Married to high-profile American actor Tom Cruise for ten years, Nicole suffered an ectopic pregnancy early in her marriage, and then miscarried soon after her separation from Tom in 2001. During Nicole and Tom’s marriage, they adopted two children – Isabella Jane and Connor Anthony – who still live with their father.

Nicole married New Zealand-born country singer Keith Urban in 2006, after meeting him at a G’day LA event the previous year. (G’day LA is an event where Australian celebrities are honoured in Los Angeles around Australia Day).

In July 2008, Nicole gave birth to their daughter, Sunday Rose, at the age of 41. According to an interview in The Australian Women’s Weekly magazine, she never expected to become pregnant or have a baby, and described Sunday’s birth as a “miracle”. She attributed her pregnancy to the mystical properties of the waters at Kunnunurra in far-north Western Australia, where she swam while making the Baz Luhrman film, Australia. Apparently seven women working on the movie conceived after swimming in the waterfalls, and of the babies subsequently born, six were girls. Sceptics pointed out that Sunday’s birth might have had a little to do with the IVF programme the Urbans were reportedly using, although that doesn’t explain the other six pregnancies.

They chose Sunday Rose’s name with care. Sunday is the day of the week that Nicole and Keith were married on, and Sunday is also the day the week that they consider their “special” day, when they spend time as a couple away from their busy work schedules. Rose is the name of Keith Urban’s late grandmother.

While the public may have assumed that the Urbans’ family was now complete, Keith and Nicole had other plans, but kept them a secret from outsiders. Keith may have dropped a tiny hint when he released his latest album, Get Closer, in November last year.

In the dedication, he wrote: “I continue to be brought to my knees by this love of ours … I am in awe of how this blessed family we are creating stretches and fearlessly opens my vulnerable heart … and I just want to be a better man, for you, and father for our heavenly Sunday Rose and have you go to sleep every night knowing that no one has ever, or will ever, love you as much as I do … and all we need is faith.” (my italics).

If this dedication was intended as a private allusion to their soon-to-be-born baby between he and his wife, it probably indicates that they had already chosen Faith’s name at least six weeks before her birth.

Faith Margaret was born on December 28 2010 at Centennial Women’s Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. On January 17 2011, her birth was announced on Keith Urban’s website:

“Our family is truly blessed, and just so thankful, to have been given the gift of baby Faith Margaret. No words can adequately convey the incredible gratitude that we feel for everyone who was so supportive throughout this process, in particular our gestational carrier”.

When Sunday Rose was born, the media was intrigued by her name and why her parents had chosen it. However, at the news of Faith Margaret’s birth, all anyone could talk about was the method by which she had been born.

They wondered what genetic relation she was to Keith and Nicole (she is their biological child, but carried and delivered by a third party). They wondered who organised the baby’s conception and birth (The Center for Surrogate Parenting, in Los Angeles). They wondered what Faith Margaret had cost them ($150 000, with 20% going to the woman who gave birth to her). They wondered who the surrogate had been (strictly confidential). They wondered why the Urbans used the term “gestational carrier” rather than the usual “surrogate mother” (probably because it’s a term common in the US, where the surrogacy and birth were arranged).

Australia has a long and not-very-proud tradition of criticising Nicole Kidman. Everything from her appearance (too thin, too pale, hair too difficult) to her lifestyle choices (too American, too much Botox, married a Scientologist with a reputation for weirdness). For the past few years, criticism had died down to a low rumble, but Faith Margaret’s birth reignited it as a storm of controversy raged over the method of her birth.

In general, there has been a lot of disapproval directed at the Urbans. Much of it is because paid surrogacy is illegal in Australia. Altruistic surrogacy is permitted in most states, but only medical expenses can be paid to the surrogate. In Nicole Kidman’s home state of New South Wales, recent legislation has been passed that also makes it illegal for residents to procure paid surrogacy overseas. The penalty for breaking the law will be a $100 000 fine and up to two years in prison. The law will not be retrospective, so the Urban family do not need to worry about being charged over Faith’s birth.

Many people have also expressed shock, outrage or even horror at the term “gestational carrier”, which to them seems degrading, too much like legalese, or just plain creepy. Others think it distasteful and unethical for a wealthy movie star to rent another woman’s uterus for her own convenience, and some believe the whole process to be unnatural, and reminiscent of Brave New World. However, there are also many people sympathetic to her desire for another child who feel it is her right to have one by whatever means she chooses, and a few who believe that our surrogacy laws are too strict.

Although Faith’s birth has re-opened the surrogacy debate in Australia, thankfully those issues are outside the scope of this blog, so I don’t need to offer any opinions or suggest any solutions, and can get back to discussing her name.

Nicole Kidman gave a brief interview to E! News Online at the 17th Screen Actors Guild Awards on January 30 2011, where she explained how Faith’s name was chosen.

Her name is Faith because Keith and Nicole needed to maintain their faith throughout the entire pregnancy, and because they never gave up faith that they would have another child together, even though that seemed unlikely because of Nicole’s age and medical history. After Sunday’s birth, Nicole told People magazine that they would have more children if it was part of God’s plan. So Faith’s name refers not only to their personal confidence that they could have another child, but also to the trust they placed in God as part of that process.

The middle name Margaret honours Nicole’s grandmother, who gave birth to her last child at the age of 49. “She’s my inspiration,” says Nicole at the end of the interview. (Keith used the SAG Awards as an opportunity to proudly show off pictures of baby Faith on his mobile phone).

You can see that Faith Margaret’s parents used the same naming formula they used for her sister: vocabulary name with personal meaning + name of relative.

From polling and suveying people online, most baby name enthusiasts thought that Faith was a nice name, and Margaret a lovely classic one. There was less enthusiasm for the combination of the two, with respondents almost evenly divided between people who thought it was a good sensible name, and those who thought it dull and plain. However, almost nobody really disliked it.

I don’t think that Faith Margaret is the prettiest name in the world; to my mind there is something slightly frumpy about it. But I think it is a good name, because it was chosen with a personal meaning in mind, and connected to the name of a beloved or even “inspirational” relative. Both Sunday Rose and Faith Margaret have names with a story attached to them, and that makes them more special than just picking a name that is “cute” or “sounds nice”.

Because of that, I’m giving Faith Margaret Urban thumbs up, and congratulations to her parents, who always knew that you’ve got to have faith.


Information on how the surrogacy was arranged from Adelaide Now 23/1/11


Information on current surrogacy laws in Australia from The Australian 19/1/11


Suggestion that Faith was secretly mentioned on Keith Urban’s latest album from Herald Sun 8/3/11


Interview from E! Online 31/1/11