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Just before deadlineSarah and Rupert are expecting a baby girl, due in only a few days. They always agreed that their first daughter would be named Isabella, which is a traditional name in Sarah’s family. However, as time went on, the name Isabella became extremely popular, and also associated with the Twilight phenomenon, so Sarah grew less enthusiastic about using it.

Sarah’s solution was to use the name Isabel, which is traditional on the other side of her family. She and Rupert like its simplicity, and they plan to use another family name in the middle position.

However, with just a few days to go, Sarah is wondering if they have chosen the right name for their daughter. Although Isabel is towards the bottom of the Top 100, if you add up all the Isabellas and Isabelles, that makes quite a few girls called Issy or Bel. Sarah wonders if the name Isabel is really distinctive enough.

Sarah likes names in the style of Sibella, Arabella and Violet; Rupert prefers names like Molly, Ebony and Lila. As such, they haven’t really agreed on many names. The only other names Sarah and Rupert have agreed on are Camilla and Clementine. The Duchess of Cornwall puts Sarah off using Camilla, and for some indefinable reason, she can’t quite commit to Clementine.

Sarah wonders whether a personal meaning or family association is more important than popularity, and whether they should just stop discussing it and go with Isabel. She wants something classic and unique, yet can’t quite find it … and if she started meeting lots and lots of little Isabels she wouldn’t be happy about it.

Sarah has a very popular name, and it never bothered her, and Rupert loves his unusual name, so they know that children can be content with their name whether its common or rare. Sarah and Rupert have a nice solid one-syllable surname, such as Mack or Holt.

Sarah’s sisters, who have children already, tell her that once the baby arrives, she won’t give a thought to any of these worries, but right now they feel like genuine concerns!

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The last few days before a baby arrives can be quite frustrating, and there’s so many “What ifs …?” involved. Some of us worry that the car will break down and we won’t be able to get to the hospital; some of us worry that we’ve packed completely useless things in our little bag; and some of us worry that we’ve picked the wrong baby name. I expect all these little worries are a coping mechanism to keep our minds off the really big worries that we could be having instead!

I think that you might just be having last-minute jitters. Like someone getting nervous before their wedding, you may be slightly anxious about committing to the name Isabel for life. You wonder if you’ve made the right choice – what if things don’t work out the way you hoped? And could there be a better name out there that you haven’t thought of yet?

The good news is that you are in a much better position than someone having doubts about their wedding. Unlike a wedding, you get to have the baby first and then decide if the name seems right. You don’t have to make any commitment until the baby arrives, and you get a good long time to make your mind up after the birth. Most importantly, the name Isabel won’t be heartbroken if you decide to go with another name instead.

At this stage, I believe it’s too late to be actively searching for, and arguing about, a different baby name. I think Isabel [Middle Name] [Surname] is a really delightful combination: one that’s a nice balance between pretty and feminine, and neat and sensible, and could belong to a wide variety of girls. It doesn’t sound like a name that someone has to live up to, or pull off, or get used to. To me it seems like a name that isn’t boring, but would be easy to live with.

Let’s take a good look at Isabel:

  • Isabel is a name both you and Rupert like You’ve only managed to agree on three girl’s names in the past nine months, so let’s face it – your chances of finding another name you both like in the next couple of days aren’t that high.
  • You haven’t come up with anything better The only other names you could use just don’t seem quite right. It’s not impossible you’ll change your mind once the baby is born, but for now they don’t seem like viable options.
  • Isabel fits both your requirements You like pretty, feminine names for girls like Arabella and Violet; Rupert prefers simple fuss-free names like Molly and Lila. Isabel seems like a perfect fit – as elegant as Arabella, with the clean lines of Lila.
  • Isabel honours your family heritage Isabel is a name from one side of your family, while also providing a distant nod to the Isabellas on the other side. As you don’t want to use Isabella any more (and it doesn’t seem possible to have both), Isabel appears to be a great solution to your dilemma.
  • Isabel is a classic that has never been common There is no such thing as a name which is both classic and unique, so I’m not surprised you haven’t managed to find one! The closest you could get would be an underused classic – one that has never left the charts, but never been popular. Isabel fits reasonably well, because it’s a classic, but never got any higher in popularity than the bottom quarter of the Top 100.
  • Isabel is falling in popularity That makes the chances of you running into lots of little Isabels in the future less likely. And as you can’t control what other parents name their children anyway, I wouldn’t give it another thought.
  • Popularity isn’t that big a deal anyway I do think that personal meaning and family associations are more important than popularity. You’ve eliminated Isabella for being too well known, which is fair enough, and Isabel seems like an excellent replacement. You know from having a popular name yourself that it doesn’t necessarily cause a child any problems – and your name is much more popular than Isabel.
  • If Isabel is not distinctive enough, what is? If you look at names for girls, there are certain family resemblances between them. Once a certain sound becomes popular, you tend to see it in other names too. I think you’d have trouble choosing something which sounded nothing like any other baby name being used – and still like it.
  • Isabel does not have to be an Issy or a Bel You could make her name distinctive by giving her a different nickname. There are old-fashioned nicknames for Isabel such as Isa, Ibby or Tibby, and more unexpected choices like Sabel, Tizzy, Whizz, Zibby or Zsa Zsa. Or you could not use any nickname at all.

My advice would be not to think any more about the name. Wait until the baby is born and then see how you feel about calling her Isabel. Once you have a baby to hold in your arms, it all becomes a lot more real. I truly believe that if Isabel is not the right name for your daughter, the perfect name will come to you by the time she arrives.

NAME UPDATE: The baby’s name is Isabel!

POLL RESULT: Most respondents thought Sarah should stick with the name Isabel, with 60% giving this as their answer. Another 33% thought that Sarah should wait until the baby’s birth before deciding. The rest thought that Sarah should keep looking for another baby name, or consider their suggestions.