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The Situation
Charlotte and Jake have been blessed with a beautiful daughter, and they couldn’t be happier – except that she was born seven weeks ago and they still haven’t decided on a name for her. Charlotte was relieved to read on the blog that no terrible fate awaits parents who don’t make the 60 day registration deadline, but they still need to choose a name as soon as possible.

During the pregnancy they considered the names Myrtle, Elsie, Rosie, Mabel, Maeve, Mae, Agnes, Florence, Iris, Ida, Fern, and Pearl. Jake’s #1 choice for the name is Rosie, which Charlotte isn’t that keen on, while he completely vetoed Pearl. During the name process, Jake went off Iris and Ida.

Just before the birth, their short list of front runners was:
* Myrtle
* Agnes
* Elsie
* Mabel
* Rosie

How the Problem Started
As Charlotte was wheeled off to recover after giving birth, she and Jake were in complete agreement: the baby’s name was Elsie. Charlotte was sure she was an Elsie, and told the doctor that was her daughter’s name. Meanwhile, Jake was telling all the nurses they had chosen the name Elsie.

Unfortunately, Charlotte couldn’t bring herself to commit to Elsie because of a family issue. Elsie is the name of a family member, no longer in the land of the living, that Charlotte didn’t know or have contact with. However, other family members who did know Elsie didn’t get along with her, and weren’t pleased at the prospect of another Elsie in the family.

The baby came home without a name, and Jake was annoyed, believing they should have just stuck with the name Elsie.

Everyone Has an Opinion!
Jake and Charlotte have an older daughter called Olive, and Olive instantly recognised the baby as Myrtle, and called her such. However, Jake and Charlotte had already decided she definitely wasn’t a Myrtle.

Mostly Jake and Charlotte have been calling their daughter Mabel since she was born, and Charlotte is getting a strong emotional attachment to it. However, Charlotte also reasons that if Mabel was such a good name, wouldn’t they have committed to it by now?

Furthermore, they have shared the name Mabel with others, and received extremely negative reactions to it. They’ve been told it’s an awful name, a cow’s name, a scullery maid’s name, and an elderly relative said they could call the baby anything they wanted – but not Mabel.

Charlotte loves the name Fern, but this has resulted in people “pulling faces” when the idea is floated past them. She also worries that Olive and Fern are too botanical together, and wonders if Fern really has vintage charm, or is it actually a hippie name? She also wonders if Maeve really has that vintage feel as well.

Everyone loves the name Rosie, but Charlotte thinks of it as a “dog name”, and a bit too common.

What Charlotte and Jake Want
* Ideally, a vintage-style name
* A soft, beautiful name to suit their gentle, placid daughter
* A name that isn’t a “burden”
* Jake likes names that have a nickname

Current Name List

* Elsie (Charlotte is still concerned about the family issue, and isn’t sure about the -ie ending)
* Mabel
* Maeve
* Fern
* Martha
* Maggie
* Alice
* Nora
* Edith or Edie (Charlotte not keen)
* Mae (too short, but maybe a nickname for Mabel or Maeve?)
* Agnes, Ida, and Rosie are still in the mix and seem usable, although Jake has gone off Agnes

Middle names they are considering are Birdie, Josephine, and Rose. Charlotte quite fancies Birdie as a short form of Brigid (and it could be her name for everyday use), Jake really loves the thought of an Elsie Josephine, and the Rose is a sop to Jake, so that he can still have the option of calling his daughter Rosie as a nickname.

Where They Are Now
Going around and around in circles and getting stressed and anxious. Charlotte can’t let go of any of the names, and has been through the complete register of all births from 1880 to 1920 to find fresh name inspiration. The 60 day deadline expires next week ….

* * * * * * * * * *

Goodness, you two have got yourself in a real pickle, haven’t you?

This is the fourth time on the blog I have heard of a couple having trouble choosing a baby name after the birth – three of you have written in, and one was a news story. What you all have in common is that other people have become involved in the baby naming process, and in each case, this wasn’t the slightest bit of help, and turned the whole thing into a huge drama that went on for weeks.

You both chose the name Elsie, which I think is a beautiful name which sounds lovely with Olive, and with your surname, and pretty much ticked all your boxes, being vintage, and soft-sounding, and nicknamey. It sounds as if you would have happily come home with a baby called Elsie if not for the opinions of family members.

I tend to agree with Jake – I think you should have just named her Elsie, and announced that as her name. Despite the family disagreement, I don’t think it would have taken them more than a few minutes (a few weeks for anyone of exceptional stubborness) to realise that the Elsie they didn’t care for is gone forever and will never bother them again, while little baby Elsie is a completely separate person and utterly sweet and delightful in every way.

That’s another problem with choosing a baby name several weeks after the birth. Your heart is bursting with love for your daughter, and every minute you fall more and more in love with her. And each day she’s getting cuter and cuter, developing winning little ways and adorable baby quirks. No name is going to seem good enough for her, and a great enough expression of your love, and if you wait until she’s giggling and cooing, you’ll be toast.

You look down at her and think, “Oh she’s such a beautiful baby, so soft and gentle and placid and cuddly and happy. We need an extra specially soft and beautiful and cuddly and happy name for her”. But what name is ever going embody that unique combination of beauty and softness and gentleness and placidity and happiness to your perfect satisfaction?

And she’s so tiny and perfect and fragile and defenceless that you can’t bear the thought of anyone poking fun of her name, and every name you consider seems to have a hidden trap in it. Of course you don’t want her to grow up in a family where people say, “The last Elsie in the family wasn’t very nice”, or amongst friends who say, “Mabel sounds like a cow”, or pull a face when they hear her name. The more time you think about it, the more every name will seem as if it has tease potential.

Also the longer you wait, the more you feel under pressure to come up with something amazing. It will seem ridiculous that it took you three months to pick the name Elsie Josephine or Mabel Rose or Fern Maeve. You have to drop the idea that there’s a perfect name out there that will match your daughter’s personality with exqusisite taste, silence all criticism, be utterly tease-immune, and make everyone think, “Oh well no wonder it took them all this time to find a name that good”.

I have two main pieces of advice for you, and even if you ignore everything else, please please please PLEASE follow these two things in the headline.

1. Nobody Else Gets to Name Your Baby Girl
It’s time the committee meetings on what to call the baby come to a complete halt. Other people haven’t helped, and have made you second guess all the names you’re considering. I feel absolutely furious that people have been so rude about the names you like, and I agree it’s absolutely none of their business. On the other hand – why did you ask?

You worry that their opinions show what your daughter will have to face in the future, yet, being extremely blunt, some of these people will have passed on by the time your daughter reaches adulthood, and your colleagues aren’t going to be part of her life (they won’t even be part of your life forever).

In any case, asking a ton of people for their opinions is a waste of time. The kind of names that  won’t be criticised are ones like Amelia Mae, Chloe Elizabeth or Olivia Grace – “safe” names. And besides, if you were going to pick a name based on what other people approve of, Charlotte would have agreed to Rosie – Jake’s favourite name, which everyone else likes, including me. But none of that matters, because Charlotte doesn’t really like it.

Baby name discussions should only be held between the two of you, in private. Don’t ask other people for their opinions, and if they offer them, just say something like, “Thank you, we’ll have to think that one over”. Don’t let people see that the process is getting you stressed, because that’s an opportunity for them to “help” you. If they ask how the baby name choosing is going, smile brightly and say, “Oh we’re nearly there – we’ll be announcing the name soon”.

If they make a comment about how long it’s taking, say something like, “I know the time we’re taking must seem a little silly to an outsider”, then change the subject at once. That lets them know that it’s no big deal, and puts them firmly on the outside – and the bigger fuss they make, the more of an outsider they become. It’s a polite way of letting them know it’s none of their concern.

2. Your Name List Should Be Getting Shorter, Not Longer!
I’m bewildered as to how you had five names on your name list before going to hospital, and now you have around fifteen. I know you said that you were having trouble letting go of the names, but you’re still adding to your name list, which means you’ll never pick a name at this rate. You’ve even put names that have been vetoed back on the list!

You’ve got to stop thinking up more names, and just stick to what you’ve got. That means no getting out of the shower with a great name you thought up while shampooing your hair, no wondering if a name you vetoed is really that bad and could still be considered, and definitely no going through four decades of birth registers!

Let’s see what names could be trimmed:

Elsie – I think this name has been ruined for Charlotte by her family’s interference, and she’s gone off it because it’s too much like Rosie.
Rosie – Charlotte thinks it’s a dog name, and too common. I disagree, but to heck with me, it’s not my baby.
Maggie – I’m getting the feeling Charlotte isn’t mad about two syllable names ending with -ie. And Maggie is actually a common name for dogs, so if Rosie is out for those reasons, then Maggie should be triply out.
Edith and Edie – Charlotte doesn’t like them.
Mae – you both agreed it’s too short.
Agnes – Jake has gone off it.
Ida – Jake has gone off it.
Iris – Jake has gone off it
Florence – neither has vetoed it, but you never mentioned it again either, so you can’t be that keen

And what’s left:

Maeve, possibly nn Mae
I think it’s a beautiful name, but you did wonder if it sounded vintage, and I don’t think it really sounds vintage at all – it’s only come into common use in Australia quite recently.

Fern
I love the name Fern too, and although some people might see it as hippie, it was quite popular in the late 19th century, mostly in the middle. It does sound botanical with Olive, if that’s an issue. Blog contributor Madelyn suggested Fern as a nickname for Frances – could something like that work?

Martha
This is a very dignified name, and I think it does have that gentle image you were after – although it also seems strong. Very much in line with British name trends too.

Alice
I think this is bang on for beautiful, soft and sweet, and a nice match with Olive, but if you wanted to get technical, it’s a classic rather than a vintage choice. It seems like a great replacement for Elsie – it’s got a vaguely similar sound, without being so alike that it brings back memories of Elsie (as Elsa would, for example).

Nora
Very hip choice, excellent match with Olive, well ahead of the trends. I wonder if it might be too nicknamey for Charlotte’s taste though. If so, what about Eleanor, nn Nora?

Mabel
This just leaves Mabel, which seems like the obvious choice. It’s beautiful, soft and sweet but still spunky; it literally means “lovable”; it’s vintage-style; it makes an awesome match with Olive; it sounds adorable with your surname, and it’s the name you are already calling her, and have taught Olive to call her.

You’ve said that you’re getting emotionally attached to Mabel, which makes me think that you may have already chosen it without quite admitting it to yourselves. You say that the fact that you haven’t committed to it yet shows it can’t really be that great, but you haven’t given yourselves a chance to.

I know other people have been critical about Mabel, but there’s a good reason for that – you’re slightly ahead of the trends, because Mabel only came back on the charts in the 2000s, and it’s not zooming up in a bothersomely trendy way, but remaining fairly stable. People just aren’t used to it yet because it’s so fresh. And your friend who thinks it’s a scullery maid name? Hasn’t she been watching Downton Abbey – doesn’t she know that “scullery maid names” are hot right now?

I love both the middle names you have picked out, and I think Mabel Birdie Rose is utterly, utterly lovely. It gives you the option of calling her either Mae, Birdie, or Rosie for everyday, and luckily you don’t have to register nicknames so you can take as long as you want to decide which one (or use all three if you want – there’s no law on nicknames!)

If it was up to me, I’d say Mabel Birdie Rose. But it’s not up to me – it’s your privilege to name your daughter, and no one else’s. So what will it be?

NAME UPDATE: The baby’s name was Mabel!

POLL RESULT: The overwhelming choice of the public was Mabel, which received more than 50% of the vote.

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