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Monday, September 26, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: A Name Similiar to the Name of a Lost Baby

Michelle writes:
Good morning. I have a bit of a baby name conundrum and could really use some help. We are trying to come up with a baby girl name and have a name that we love, but there is a problem. We love the name Claire Elizabeth Welter (whatever first name we choose, the middle name will be Elizabeth. It is my middle name, it was my great grandmothers name, it was my great, great grandmothers middle name, etc. My grandmother always expressed an interest in passing this name down. I love it, so I would like to do that). My husband and I both love the name Claire. This should be an easy decision. However, my sister-in-law lost a baby to Trisomy 18 about 3 years ago at 26 weeks. They named their baby girl Blair Elizabeth. My husband is worried that Blair and Claire are too similar, especially since the middle names would be the same. The more I thought about it, the more I agree with him. However, a number of people that I have talked to didn’t seem to think that it was a big deal. My question is, should we even continue to consider this name, or should we move on to other names? We do have a short list of other possibilities (Ellie, Amelia, Charlotte, and Lyla) but both just love Claire so much. We have a two year old son named Jack Ryan already, so our only real criteria beyond the middle name is that we do not want the name to start with a J. Thoughts?

Thanks so much!

My opinion is that it's too close, but let's have a poll over to the right to get a group opinion. [Poll closed; see results below.] At first I thought it might be okay (it's been several years; it's not exactly the same name), but as soon as I imagined being a family member hearing the name of the new baby, I flinched hard. If it were just the first name I would already be hesitating, but the one-two punch of first and middle seems too painful---and unfortunate for your daughter, too, to have her name so evocative of a family tragedy.

I think it can be very hard to move on and choose another name after something like this. The natural inclination is to compare each new option to the unusable name and find it wanting, instead of choosing which usable option is the favorite. One mental trick I've found helpful is thinking of other situations that would render the name unusable. For example, in your situation I might think "If our surname were O'Hare, we wouldn't be able to use Claire" or "If my husband's first wife's name were Claire, we wouldn't be able to use it" or "If my husband hated the name Claire, we wouldn't be able to use it." I'm not sure why this works for me, but I think it's because it reminds me that there are many reasons names can be ruled out, and that we all have our own groups of such names.

Perhaps if you have another daughter later, you could use Claire as her middle name (it's what I'd be suggesting for this daughter if the name Elizabeth weren't already set). Or perhaps a name like Clarissa would work: it has much of the sound of Claire, but I no longer get a strong flinch from Clarissa Elizabeth.

Or do you like Cecily, Celeste, Cora, or Corinne? Or Abigail?

Or Rose. Rose Welter; Rose Elizabeth Welter; Jack and Rose. I love that. I like the repeating Z sound, and Rose has the sweet simplicity of Claire. [A commenter points out that Jack and Rose are characters in a movie. I wonder if Hope would work? Hope Elizabeth Welter; Jack and Hope.]

Or Eve. Eve Elizabeth Welter; Jack and Eve.

Or Lucy. Lucy Elizabeth Welter; Jack and Lucy.

Or Grace. Grace Elizabeth Welter; Jack and Grace.


Uzbekistan Andronicus Liebschutz said...

I'd strongly discourage Jack and Rose -- don't forget about Titanic!

Bethany said...

I think you should just talk to your brother (or brother in law) and gauge his reaction. I have lost babies and I know I am sensitive about this topic BUT I am not unreasonable. Its reasonable for you to name yours Claire Elizabeth. I don't think its necessarily too soon. By talking to the father, you can probably gauge where the couple is in the grief stage. I would he a little honored if my sister in law ASKED how I am doing with the loss of my daughter while she's pregnant with a girl. It would be so kind. I think that if she is hurt by your name choice, she might just be hurt that you are pregnant with a girl, and you could try to help the relationship by reaching out.

Skipping out on your first name because you don't want to offend without even asking if the name is offensive seems short sighted.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above poster that gently asking, while saying "its very much ok if its too painful for you" is probably wise. The one thing on your side for me is that Blair and Claire are somewhat stylistically different. So while they rhyme, and Elizabeth was bound to be used either way, maybe they will think of the names as being different enough that it won't be painful for them, but I bet they won't be upset that you asked, if you ask gently and thoughtfully.

Slim said...

It doesn't seem too close to me, but it seems as though your gut is telling you it is, which makes me think that I am wrong and you (and your guts) are right.

Anonymous said...

It seems way too close to me. In your sister-in-law's mind, Blair is still very real although she is not living and I think it could be very painful for her to have a niece with a name so similar. Also, would you use this name if Blair were alive? If it would be a deal breaker for you then it should still be a deal breaker. As someone who has lost I think it would be best to respect Blair's memory and choose something different for your daughter's name.

What do you think about Clara? It's similar but not an exact rhyme so it seems better.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to go with what you seem to already know, that the name is just too close. I have to wonder if the people who are telling you that the names are not too close, have ever had a family member lose a baby or a child. You know your sister law, you know the situation and it seems like you already know that the name is off limits.

M.Amanda said...

Normally, I'd say while they are close, they aren't too close considering, as someone else said, they are different stylistically. However, the loss of a child so young is an extremely painful experience. You could follow Bethany's advice to speak to them about it. Who knows, maybe they would consider it a kind of namesake that would aid in the healing process? Still, my instinct would be to let it go.

That said, I don't think Clarissa or Clara would be too close, but are close enough to Claire that you could use that as a nickname, at home at first then more commonly once the family is used to the full name so that it doesn't seem so much like you named your daughter Claire-rhymes-with-Blair.

Nik-Nak said...

I'm with to them. They may say it's fine. But then again you run the risk of them saying it's okay and it's really not.

It would be too close for me but it probably also depends on how close you are with them and how often you see them.

Sally said...

It seems like since what you are most worried about is how it will make your family feel, they are the ones you should be asking. Speak directly to your sister-in-law. Let her know you are thinking of her and think of Blair as an actual member of the family, not a might-have-been member of the family. Only the people who might be hurt by it can tell you honestly whether it will be hurtful.

Phancy said...

Personally, at first I thought, "Oh no, not too close, and so different styles, and the name Elizabeth is just as much YOURS..." And then I reminded myself that no one is telling you that you cannot use it, rather you and your husband are worried about using it. And I think that right there answers your question--your gut is telling you that it is too close and would be uncomfortable, and you should listen to your own gut above all; regardless of what everyone else says.

How about asking yourself "Would we regret more using it and always feel slightly guilty about it? Or would we regret more not using it and have it be the "one that got away." ? (I play this game when I feel namers remorse--sure I miss the names I haven't used yet, but I would REALLY miss the name we did use, that is, if we hadn't used it.)

I really like what an above commenter said about considering if you would use it if the child were still living.

Marjorie said...

I wrote Swistle with the same problem (it's one of the posts below under Evangeline). My sister in law lost a baby and used the middle name we loved. We decided to pick a similar name and while I didn't love it as much as the original, I'm glad we did. I didn't want painful memories to overshadow our daughter's birth. I would say if you use Claire, find a different middle name or use Elizabeth and find a different first name.

I like the suggestion of Clarissa or Celeste. Search name books/sites with C names. Speaking from our recent experience with the same problem, try to be open minded. It's really hard not going with the name you love.

Marjorie said...

I love Morgan Elizabeth. Morgan and Jack is very cute!

StephLove said...

I agree with those who said Clara Elizabeth would be a better bet, but even that might be too close.

I like Charlotte and Amelia off your back-up list.

Karen L said...

I think Bethany offers good advice to reach out on the topic of how they are feeling. (I know you know this, seeing how considerate you a being by even considering Blair's parents...) But, I'd also suggest that you tread very lightly, agenda-free, that the conversation really be (and not just appear to be) about THEM, not just an opening to see about the name. Let the name come up organically, if at all. I also think anon has nailed it that you already know that it's off-limits.

On the actual question, I agree with Swistle. I'd be hesitating even if Elizabeth weren't the mn. But Claire Elizabeth is definitely too painfully close. I don't think Elizabeth Claire would be though, if you like Elizabeth or any of its nicknames enough. Jack and Elizabeth, Jack and Beth, and Jack and Eliza are all nice pairs. I'd still double-check with your SIL and BIL/brother. Otherwise, I'd suggest you choose Elizabeth OR Claire, possibly saving the other for a future sister to have a special name too.

Whether Claire or another name is the mn, moving Elizabeth to first really ups the honoring and might feel more special to you than just another name on your list of possibilities. I think I'd like a one syllable name or a two-syllable name without an L and with the stress on the first syllable.

Elizabeth Portia Welter
Elizabeth Jane Welter
Elizabeth Margaret Welter
Elizabeth Audrey Welter
Elizabeth Abby Welter

But since you like Claire Elizabeth Welter, you probably would prefer an L.

Elizabeth Lyla Welter
Elizabeth Clara Welter
Elizabeth Chloe Welter

I do hope we get an update!

vanessa steck said...

way too close, I think. I feel like it would just be horrid for your brother and SIL to have to hear a name so similar to their dead child. Shame, because it's a lovely name. But you have lots of other options.
Clara still feels a bit close to me, but probably not too close. Love Charlotte and Amelia from your list too.
Other names...lets see. Claire makes me think of

christine said...

Oof, if it were Claire OtherMiddleName it wouldn't be so bad, but Claire Elizabeth would probably bring up immediate feelings regarding you SIL's loss. Clara Elizabeth skirts this problem completely and gets you pretty close to Claire.

I also love the names Charlotte (nn. Charlie or Lottie - so cute!) and Amelia (nn. Mia, Molly, Amy, Lia).

Otherwise, there are so many great names out there! If you plan on having more children, you could go with something that doesn't sound like Claire this go round, and name a possible second daughter Claire OtherMiddle. That way it not only puts more time in between the loss and the new baby, but without Elizabeth, Claire sounds so different (to my ear) from Blair.

Mary said...

It would be an absolute no for me, if the baby were still alive, would you use the name then? also I hesitate asking, it's such a sensitive issue and would they feel able to say no? I'd find another name.

Anonymous said...

Claire on it's own would be fine for me, especially because Claire and Blair are just completely different in style. Claire Elizabeth, however, is too close, and in my opinion the similarity would be glaring. I would either scrap Claire, or scrap Elizabeth. If it were me, I'd probably forego Elizabeth and save it for a potential future daughter, since you both just seem to really love Claire.

There is also the idea of using a second middle name between Claire and Elizabeth. Claire Jane Elizabeth, or something like that. When the names are broken up, at least for me, it doesn't seem like it's too similar. (Full disclosure: with the names broken up with a second MN, I really like Clara. Clara Jane Elizabeth. Swoon!)

Guinevere said...

It seems too close to me, but really, the only people who can decide are your relatives who lost their daughter. However, I would be very skeptical about whether you could actually extract information about it by asking, since I would feel pressured to say "Oh, it's fine!" because it's not the same name after all, even though I think it really would bother me in their position.

Thus, I might decide that it is just too close without asking, as Swistle suggests. I think Claire should be regarded as totally fair game as a future middle name choice... or possibly even a first name choice when the middle name is not also Elizabeth. Generally I don't think middle names matter so very much in terms of carving out identity, but because they lost their child at birth that it's possible that they never went through the period of whittling down the full name to just the first name in day-to-day conversation... I know when my son was very wee, everyone used his middle name much more, but that stopped with time due to considerations of length and getting his attention.

Best of luck to you, and I think it's wonderful that you're being so considerate even though it's obviously hard to give up a name you love.

Anonymous said...

It's too close. I'm thinking not just of the parents of Blair, but also of the grandparents and any other shared relatives. It would be a little shock and a little reminder each time I heard the name.

Anonymous said...

What about just reversing the names and use "Elizabeth Claire"? You could still call her Claire but the initial impression of what her name is wouldn't be almost exactly the same as the deceased baby.

Kathryn said...

As someone who has lost a baby shortly after birth, I would be incredibly hurt if a sibling of mine used a name that similar to my own lost baby's name.

I would say ditch Claire and use Elizabeth. The middle name being the same would not bother me too much, but the rhyming first names and the same middle names is far too much.

I agree that Clara isn't too similar. I love the name but my sister in law used it first. :)

The Mrs. said...

Clara Elizabeth seems enough removed that it wouldn't offend me if I were your sister-in-law. Claire would.

And, as mentioned earlier, it would be hard on me as a grandparent, too, if your daughter's name was Claire.

The great thing about Clara is that you can still call her Claire everywhere but around your in-laws.

If you both don't care for that option, Lyla is lovely!

All the best to you and your growing family!

Anonymous said...

I've family members & close friends who've lost children & that would be too close for my comfort. Even though it's in a different style group, the sound is so resonant, especially with the same middle name. I'd go in a different, personally.

My SIL & family lost a girl named Mia. We later named our daughter Amelia, not knowing Mia was a nickname. We don't call her Mia (we call her Ammi) at all but our young son, her brother, does (it was the way he shortened her name when he was 2-yrs-old). When my SIL & brother are around, they hear our son call our daughter Mia. It's strange for them. They know that we didn't know of this nickname & that we don't call her that & have no hard feelings but admit that they notice every time.

So, it may be that the sound of the two names that will be resonant with your family members, regardless of the style. You can't know until they hear others calling your daughter a name with that sound.

I'd go with a different name all together - I personally love Amelia Elizabeth! - or switch the names to Elizabeth Claire, which is gorgeous & has options like Beth, Eliza, Elsa, etc built right in!

Juju at Tales of said...

I don't think it's too close. They start with different letters.

Jen said...

As someone who has lost a baby, it would be hard to be reminded of him whenever I thought of another family member. It is hard being reminded of him when I care for my newborn son. I think it would be best to at least switch the names around, if not chose a different first name altogether.

Mrs S said...

I wouldn't use Claire Elizabeth. I'd, personally, feel a little weird using Claire or Elizabeth. Clara Elizabeth is still pretty close. I'd ask friends/mil what they think.

I know this is obvious but it is so, so much easier for you getting over a lost of a name then your family getting over their lost. I'd want stay clear of any hurt feelings. I'm sure it'll be hard with a new baby girl in the family. Also, Do you know if they may desire use Elizabeth for any furture babies? I'd ask before using Elizabeth.

Maybe Claire Eliza, Clara Elise, or Elise Claire, Amelia Claire?

I hope this all works and I'd love to know what you ended up deciding.

Amy said...

I think the combination of Claire and Elizabeth is too close. I think you could use Claire with a different middle name - but using Elizabeth seems like an important way to honor your family and continue a tradition, so I would stick with that. It would certainly be understandable that you wanted to use Elizabeth as a middle name, considering its significance in your family. It could also be a way to honor the lost baby. My sister-in-law used the name of her sister's lost baby as the middle name for her son to honor him and keep his memory alive. While the first name spot would be painful, I think the middle name is a lovely way to honor someone's memory. I think Clara Elizabeth is different enough. I also think it's a lovely name (and one on my list). I think Jack and Clara sound wonderful together. The only problem with Clara is that it would rule out using Claire for any future daughters. I also think Jack and Lila is a perfect sibset. I have a niece and nephew (twins) named Jack and Lila and I absolutely love it. Good luck with your decision.

Anonymous said...

If its even a question in your mind, that it may stir up sadness for your brother and sister-in-law, ( and of course it will) I wouldn't do it. Their loss probably pains them so much more than you'll ever know. I would even go so far as ditching Elizabeth too. Out of respect.

I think Amelia and Cora are great sibling names with Jack. Best of luck.

Brittany said...

Claire Elizabeth is a beautiful name - no wonder you love it so much. I think it's very kind of you to be aware of and sensitive to the impact using the name could have on your sister-in-law. To me, it's too close, and it sounds like you and your husband agree. They are different in style, but sound almost exactly the same, just one letter off. I think your reasons for wanting to use Elizabeth are beautiful and I would encourage you to do so. It has deep meaning for your family, and it's a middle name. I don't think using Elizabeth takes away anything from Blair, especially given your personal connection to the name. I would advise against using Claire or Clara with Elizabeth. It just feels too close to Blair Elizabeth. They got to experience so little with Blair that I think one way to honor her is to let her have her name and not feel it's being "taken" from her by giving an almost identical one. If you really love Claire, I think that you could probably use it as a middle name for a future daughter.

Michelle said...

I wanted to thank everyone for their thoughtful comments. I really appreciate it and love some of the suggestions. We are definitely considering a lot of them. My sister-in-law knows that we plan to use Elizabeth (she had actually asked my permission to use it with Blair because it is my middle name and she knew the significance to me) and she is happy with that decision. While I absolutely love the name Claire, and am sad that I won't be able to use it, we pretty much knew once we said it out loud that we couldn't use it. I will definitely follow up and let everyone know what we decide.

Anonymous said...

My condolences towards your sister-in-law for the loss of her baby, and to you for the restrictions it places on your favorite name. I think the names are a little too close, howver, and it would be best to avoid using Claire or Elizabeth. I'm not sure whether it would be wise to asky your sister-in-law, as it might still be painful to talk about, but you know your family best.

Some other names that might work:
Clarabelle (this still might be too

Hope this helps!

Penelope (this still may be too close)