Why We Name Our Babies with Tender Care

“A good name is more desirable than great riches

and loving favor is better than silver and gold.”  

World English Bible Proverbs 22:1

I once met a woman named Glorious.  Her name was absolutely perfect for her—open, joyful, warm and, frankly, glorious is every way.  She told me that her name had led her away from bad decisions and toward a better path.

Names are important.  A name is the first gift a parent gives to a child. Names are often passed on from generation to generation.  Names reference and honor ancestors.  Bestowing a name upon your child marks the realness of that child.  A name is one’s legacy.

In the case of a baby who was born still, your baby’s name, photos, or footprints are the only connections to a wanted and beloved child. A name that is special to you is your first and last gift to your child. The name you bestow is a living tribute to someone who is not here physically but who remains in your mind and heart for the rest of your life. Your beautiful child lives on in his or her name. I encourage you to speak your baby’s name. Doing so honors the baby and you as a parent.

And most important, there is no right or wrong.  You can offer a name or not do so.  My friend and colleague, Dr. Julie Bindeman, has written beautifully on not doing so in “What’s in a Name?  A Different View to Naming.” 

The Meaning of Your Baby’s Name

Parents have many strategies for naming a child. Sometimes it’s the sound of the name in one’s ears. Sometimes the name invests in the parent’s dreams and hopes for that child’s future. The baby born still cannot carry out those dreams and hopes but the parents still have dreams and hopes.

Many parents give inspirational names—Hope, Grace, Will, Faith, Peace, Angel, Felicity, Blessing, Patience, Precious, or Purity. This may fit for babies who were miscarried early in pregnancy and gender was not determined Biblical names or names with meanings, like Luke—Light Giving—or Benjamin—Son of the Right Hand, bequeath a sense of greatness or specialness. Hindu parents often name their children after gods and goddesses, the highest quality that can be stowed. Similarly, parents in Latin America often name their child Jesus or Mary. Catholic families may offer the name of a saint, to honor the saint’s importance and to connect that child to the saint’s greatness. Perhaps the name reminds you of a place that is special to you, like Paris or Florence.

Symbolic names

I learned early in my practice about the power of perennials, flowers that regrow year after year.  Many parents bestow names that they can see and interact with in memorial or legacy perennial gardens—Rose, Lily, Iris, Daisy, Lotus, or Poppy—or fragrant plants like Rosemary and Ginger.

Picking a name that represents the size of your baby

A number of my clients have chosen to name their babies by the approximate size they were when they died. This includes Clementine, Coconut, Apple, and Tomato.  Sweet Pea is one of my favorites, learned from my Southern upbringing.

Using the Name You Saved

Many parents have committed to a name for their child to come.  When a baby comes in a tragic way, some parents are reluctant to use the name they have saved.  Some parents suffer terribly with guilt when they do not use the name and save it for a living child.  Again, there is no right or wrong here.  If you would like to bestow the name you chose for the baby of your body and your heart, please do.  The name and your baby are special to you.  If you would like to save it for a different child, that is okay, too.

Parents think hard and long about how best to name their baby. So many parents have told me that they want the name of their baby spoken aloud. The baby matters and you matter as a parent, whether or not people understand. Please speak of your baby, by whatever name you choose, with love and connection, and encourage those around you to do the same. In this way, your precious baby is remembered and loved.

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About the Author:

Dr. Deborah Simmons
Deborah Simmons, PhD, LMFT, is a marriage and family therapist and co-owner of partners (in)fertility of Minneapolis, a holistic mental health center. She has been working in the area of infertility, pregnancy loss, and reproductive complications since 1997. She has been a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine since 1998. She is on the Medical Advisory Team of the Star Legacy Foundation for Stillbirth Awareness. Dr. Simmons has worked in a fertility center and in private practice. She is particularly interested in the topic of reproductive decision-making. She is trained in EMDR and hypnosis, both of which have been very helpful to patients undergoing or healing from medical procedures and pregnancy loss. She is active on social media on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

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