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To Honor, Love & Name the Baby

To Honor, Love & Name the Baby

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

I don’t know if you’ve answered this before and I’m sorry if you have, I’ve been reading your blog for the past 7 months since I got pregnant and stumbled upon it.

My older brother died 3 years ago and all of my siblings and I decided we would name the first child one of us had after him. He has a gender neutral name that I’ve heard used for both sexes several times so naturally when my husband and I got pregnant I told him I would like to name our child that, also she’s due on my brother’s birthday which just makes me want to name her that even more. He agreed for a boy but told me it sounded weird for a girl and didn’t like it. He’s very passive so he never really fought me on it before we knew the sex so I didn’t know how much he disliked it. We found out we are having a girl, so he started calling her by her middle name, I knew he didn’t really like the name but he never really said how much.

My entire family and his entire family LOVE the name and have already started getting stuff with her name on it. Until about a week ago that is, when my mom changed her mind and came out that she thinks it’s wrong for me to name my daughter after my brother and I need to save the name for a boy. This made my husband jump at the opportunity to try to get me to change my mind because apparently he REALLY hates the name. He said it’s too much of a boy name.

I don’t want my husband to hate our daughter’s name or upset my mom, but if I changed my mind a few people would flip because we made that deal and they have already bought stuff. I loved my brother and he was my best friend and really would love having a girl named after him plus I don’t know if I’ll ever have a boy.

Should I change it for my husband or just tell him to suck it up and he can name the next kid?

Yours truly,

So there’s a lot going on here. A veritable tug-of-war of pre-existing plans, expectations, emotions running high, differing opinions on the proper way to honor a prematurely lost loved one, topped off with a growing stash of personalized gifts and thus MONEY.

(Which: Not always the best idea in general, given that 1) parents can always change their minds, 2) parents should always have the freedom to change their minds without fretting over the $75 wall bunting Aunt Betsy bought them on Etsy, and 3) ultrasounds can be wrong, yo. Save the personalized onesie orders until the baby is here and the birth certificate is filled out, just to be on the safe side.)

I completely understand why this name means so much to you and why it would feel downright painful to let it go, either for your hypothetical next child or to a hypothetical nephew. I’m sure it’s a lovely name.


It’d be one thing if the person or people objecting to the name were like, a sibling who just really hoped to one day use the name too (despite a pre-existing agreement among you all), or someone other extended family member or in-law thinking it was weird or morbid or whatever. The fact that it’s your HUSBAND and your MOTHER who are explicitly asking/begging you to not use the name…well. I feel like those opinions carry a bit more weight.

Personally, I can’t imagine telling my husband “too bad, suck it up” and forcing him to go with a name that he hated. Sure, it sucks to hear that he literally hates a name you love more than anything (many of us have been there, during baby naming discussions with our partners). And he absolutely should have been more direct from the get-go that he was not onboard with this name if you had a girl, but I guess I can see where he’s coming from — no need to make a big deal over it until the ultrasound, because if it’s a boy, cool, no problem. And despite it slowly dawning on you that he didn’t really like it (i.e. using the middle name), perhaps a real, direct conversation was in order rather than an announcement to the rest of the family that yep, here’s the name, let’s all get shoppy!

That didn’t happen, though, alas. Now your mother has stepped up and asked you not to use her deceased son’s name for your daughter. Yikes. That’s ANOTHER one I’d personally have a tough time saying, “Sorry Mom, suck it up.”

Do you really think people will flip out at you for acquiescing to your mom’s (and husband’s) wishes? Is the pile of personalized gifts really that enormously huge at this point? Or is that really more of an excuse because you have your heart beyond set on this name?

Which is fine if you do! The whole due date/brother’s birthday thing is very touching (though due dates are rarely that exact, of course), and I’m sure it feels terribly unfair to feel expected to compromise on a name you’ve been set on since before you even got pregnant.

But someone here is going to have to compromise. I don’t like the idea of your mom and husband ganging up on you, but I guess I do get why your husband seized on the opportunity to go, “SEE?” once she voiced her disapproval. He really, really hates the name. Your mother has changed her mind about how she’d like to see her son’s memory honored.

Your choices basically boil down to 1) go against their wishes, 2) keep talking about it hope they change their minds again, or 3) find some kind of compromise. Is there a less gender neutral version of the name? Would you be okay swapping it to the middle name? (Which certainly doesn’t preclude you using the name again for a possible boy. We have a few family names that have been used repeatedly across the grandkids as both first and middle names.) What was your brother’s middle name and is there a girl-version possibility there?

I’m sorry my response isn’t really providing any sort of sure-fire specific solution or HERE’S EXACTLY WHAT YOU SHOULD DO. I’m genuinely sympathetic to all sides here. But one last bit of advice I think you should all keep in mind: The original name agreement was not JUST about a name. It was intended to honor your brother’s memory. Allowing the name and agreement to become a bit, fraught point of family contention is probably not the best way to honor that memory.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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