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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Can a Baby Choose Its Own Name?

Sasha writes:
Just saw your site and I really love the in depth name discussions. I have a situation so I thought I would ask your advice.

My husband and I are expecting a baby girl in January. The name we have chosen is Victoria, namely because it has always been my favorite name. We are both Anglophiles, we love the regal sound and I like the fact that it is not in the top ten. Our last name is Marks, so Victoria Marks has a good British feel about it, even though we live in California.

Now the other night my husband had a dream that the baby was born and looked up at him and said "Hi my name is Zoe." He now feels that she is more of a person to him as Zoe than as Victoria. We are thinking of naming her Victoria Zoe and he has started to refer to her as Zoe.

I still want to call her Victoria, as that is the name I love in my heart, but I am also open if Zoe is indeed the better name for her. This is my first and will be my only child. So my questions are: has anyone had a name shake up and how did you feel about it afterwards, and, is it possible for a baby to "choose" her own name, so to speak, in a situation like this?

I am looking forward to your thoughts on this.


The question is not whether I believe it's possible for a baby to choose its own name, but whether YOU believe it. Do you believe that each fetus has its own inherent name even before birth (as opposed to the name chosen according to the parents' tastes), and that the fetus can broadcast that name telepathically into its father's dream?

If you do believe this, then the child's first name should be Zoe: she has specifically chosen it (or, depending on which belief we'd be going with, has come to understand that it is hers), and has specifically and clearly told you. Ignoring those wishes and giving her a name you KNEW wasn't hers would be a serious decision.

If you instead believe that people have many dreams about their babies-to-be, and that those dreams are dreams rather than prophesies or truth-revealing communications, then you can continue to do what parents generally do, which is to choose the name themselves.

My own dream experience has not been one of truths revealed. During my pregnancies I sometimes dreamed a baby boy was a boy, and sometimes dreamed he was a girl. Sometimes I dreamed he was born way too early, or that he was something other than a baby, or that he died, or that I gave birth to him at home, or that he was blonde, or that I wasn't pregnant at all. Sometimes the dreams happened to correspond to reality, and most of the time they didn't.

So in your shoes, I would see a husband's dream as a fun story that we might want to incorporate into the naming process if we happened to agree on the name anyway. I'd go with your plan: sticking with your original agreed-upon name choice rather than dramatically switching styles, and using the dream name as a fun middle name as well as a nickname for her daddy to call her. Victoria Zoe Marks is a wonderful name, and Z. is a very fun initial, and the naming story is a highly enjoyable one.

24 comments:

Nedra said...

I agree with swistle. I think that Victoria Zoe Marks sounds great and that it's fine if her dad wants to call her Zoe as a cute nickname. It's not like the name he dreamed up was Ethel or something formal like that. Zoe is a full name, but it's also casual enough that it can work as a nickname. Victoria also has plenty of nicknames of it's own, so it's not like Zoe is the only nickname she could choose to go by. Plus, you live the name Victoria, so it's not like you're never intending to use that name.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Swistle. Dad's dream is a great story for how you picked her middle name. But it doesn't have to be her name, and it isn't her name unless you want it to be. Victoria Zoe Marks is lovely, and the Z middle initial is pretty awesome.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous poster - great story but definitely not her name unless you WANT it to be. When I was pregnant I dreamt it was a girl and we named her Annabel. It was a boy and we named him Theodore lol. Annabel is pretty but it's not even on our list! My son is 4 months old and I recently had a dream that We had another boy and named him Percival. Even stranger is that the same night my husband dreamed we had another boy! We consider these great stories but nothing more, it's fun to fantisize but I'm certainly not going to hold myself to decisions made in dreams :D

Anonymous said...

I want to start by saying that I'm not at all superstitious, but I actually had such an awful dream about a baby with one of our name choices that I asked my husband to let us drop the name from the list of contenders. It was really disturbing and forever ruined the name for me. Obviously it's a completely different dynamic than your husband's dream, but I guess I wanted to say I understand how a dream could put some pressure on the naming process if the feelings tied to it are strong enough. I think it would be thoughtful to your husband who has such strong feeling about his "vision" to include Zoe in her name. It really works well with Victoria which is a huge plus.

Kim said...

I agree that it's a great story and Zoe could be a middle name but doesn't need to replace the name you had agreed upon for the first name. I love how the dream helped your husband feel a stronger bond with his daughter. You have a lot more invested in the name Victoria since its been a favorite of yours for so long. But it seems Zoe means a lot to your husband even if it's a recent significance. It's also so lucky the two names sound nice together and I agree Z is a cool middle initial.

Michelle said...

I would switch it to Zoe Victoria- I'll tell you why:

-Zoe still feels British, but less stuffy.

-It is a wonderful thing for a Daddy to name his little girl.

-And, at the risk of sounding like a superstitious dolt, I happen to believe that our spirits can 'visit' while our bodies sleep. Just because it defies our own feeble, mortal logic, doesn't mean that it's impossible.

When you meet her, you'll know if she's a Victoria Zoe or a Zoe Victoria.

Kayt said...

I'm not spiritual at all, but my unborn daughter picked her name. We had deviated on Daphne before she was conceived, but the first few weeks, I felt like it just wasn't right. My husband thought I was nuts, especially because I was only like, nine weeks at the time. I was sitting at work doing some number crunching, and like a lightbulb, this thought came into my head: she's a girl, and her name's Fiona. I called my mom later that day to tell her, and she said very matter-of-factly, "I know. She's visited me three nights in a row to tell me her name's Fiona." I hadn't even told her the name I had thought of in the conversation. I'd only told her I knew she was a girl. It sealed the deal for me. I can't think of any way for a fetus to be clearer on this point.

Kaela said...

I agree with Swistle and thought she laid out the different ways to look at the situation very clearly and intelligently. Way to go, Swistle!

However, I also agree with two of the previous commentators-- maybe you should seriously consider switching it to Zoe Victoria. I think it's wonderful and rare that a father is very invested in a particular name, and if he feels so strongly that this is her name, perhaps that outweighs your preference for Victoria? I mean no offense because of course it's you who will carry the baby nine months and so on...but I think in this position, I would be okay with using a name that had such a particular meaning and resonance for my husband. (Admittedly I would have a hard time if that name was, say, Jayden or Brooklynne or something else really trendy...but luckily in your case Zoe is a great name!)

I also think Zoe Victoria has a better flow than Victoria Zoe.

hillary said...

Another vote for Zoe Victoria, though not for any spiritual or sentimental reasons, just because I like the name Zoe more! I think Victoria is lovely as a full name but I prefer Zoe to the nicknames Vicki or Tori.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering how a fetus can know the name Zoe or any name??? It seems more likely that the name came from your husband's subconscience. But because he likes the name so much now and you like it well enough, it doesn't really matter where it came from and seems like a nice idea to include it in your daughter's name. I agree that Zoe Victoria flows better, but Victoria Zoe works too.

And applause for Swistle for an excellent response to an unusual baby name question.

Anonymous said...

It seems unlikely that an American Victoria will be called by her full four-syllable name throughout her growing up years. Maybe in the UK, but I think less likely here. If you like Vicky, Vick or Tori, then I'd go ahead with Victoria as the first name. But I find Zoe much more appealing and current -- just darling, really. Zoe Victoria is a great name and leaves the name Victoria in its full form.

Anonymous said...

I'm an anglophile too and wondered how both Victoria and Zoe were ranking in the UK today. First I looked at London Telegraph birth announcements for the past three years. I found lots of Victorias, but all but one were mums, not the babies:
mothers named Victoria - 101
babies named Victoria -1

Victoria must have been a very popular name in England about 30 years ago.

There were far fewer mentions of Zoe in the birth announcements for those three years, and they were more evenly divided between mums and babies:
mothers named Zoe - 9
babies named Zoe - 8

Then I looked at England/Wales baby name stats for 2011. I wasn't surprised to see Zoe at #92, but amazed that while the name Victoria seems to belong to the mothers' generation among the "posh", it is still doing well overall and ranks at #107.

I found this interesting and thought you might too.

Julia Holmwood said...

I say you should decide once she's born. Upon meeting her you might find she looks like a Zoe but not a Victoria. I know a few children who were named before they were born and sometimes the name just doesn't seem to sit right with them. So I say hold off all decisions until you meet your little girl!

My daughter was going to be Greta, my husband held her for the 1st time and said 'Her name is Penny' a name that was never on our list! And she suits her name perfectly. I apparently did the same to my father, I was born and he felt my name was Julia, a name that was never on their list.

I have heard many stories of Daddys dreaming about what their child's name will be, if they are true, who knows, but it's very special.

Anonymous said...

I did the same thing. Dreamed my son was named Sawyer about a week before he was born. I was extremely undecided about his name and didn't even have time to whittle down my list as he was early. In the end, I decided that his name wasn't Sawyer. It didn't sound well with our last name, and so he now has a family name.

Anonymous said...

This would be a really good way for one spouse to try to get his own name choice used. Maybe you could have a dream tonight that the baby said her name was Victoria.

Anonymous said...

Both Victoria and Zoe are great names but I much prefer Zoe Victoria to Victoria Zoe.

This is mainly because I don't like any of the nicknames for Victoria and, although it is a lovely name, it will inevitably be shortened to Vic, Vicky or Tori.

Best of Luck!

Anonymous said...

You could make an awesome monogram with hose initials FYI

Lyly said...

I know two grown Victoria's that never went by a nickname. The nickname issue is a nonissue. My name has a common nickname. You introduce yourself. Or your parents tell your name. I have on a few occasions Been asked if I go by the common nickname. I just say no.

sarah said...

I think Zoe Victoria sounds better than Victoria Zoe, but both are nice names!
I didn't have a specific dream that I remembered, but I just woke up one morning when I was about 7 months pregnant and *knew* that my baby's name had to be Rosie. It had been on our list, but not a top contender. My husband didn't love it, but it really suits her well and I can't imagine her having a different name.

Anonymous said...

I think some other posters have touched upon this a bit...I think this may be your husband's attempt, subconscious or not, to have a bigger role in choosing your daughter's name. Victoria is clearly a name he has accepted because it is YOUR favorite name, but I suspect the reason he had the dream and is now calling your little girl Zoe instead of Victoria is that he wants the baby to have a name he loves as much as you love the name Victoria. I like the name Victoria Zoe (or the reverse, but I prefer Victoria as a first name) and I think it's a great compromise. I also think that your daughter will likely have some feelings about what name she prefers when she gets older and she now has two great names she could choose to go by!

gail said...

As someone who's kept a dream journal for thirty years, it is my experience that dreams tend to fall into broad categories: fear dreams (falling, exposure, being chased, being vulnerable, etc., probably hard-wired from an evolutionary perspective; rehearsal dreams--similar to fear dreams but a lot tamer, where we cycle through various options and outcomes; junk mail dreams--seemingly just neurons firing and recycling different elements of consciousness and past experience in a kaleidoscopic fashion; problem-solving dreams where solutions spring out of nowhere (well-documented); and guidance/spiritual dreams, where the content seems deeply meaningful and resonant. These latter dreams are a lot more rare, but writers and thinkers and seers have reported them for eons. After years of thinking and reading about dreams, I don't think all dreams are created equal. So, this is a question for your husband to answer, but it seems to me that his dream just might fall into the category of being a guidance dream. So I'd work Zoe in somehow, either first or middle. (Though I find it a much friendlier name than Victoria).

JodieG said...

When my mom was pregnant with me she dreamt she was chasing a little girl with golden brown hair saying--come back Jodie!

And so I was named.
I have no advice except I love the name Zoe.

Sasha said...

I just want to say thank you so much, Swistle, for posting my question, and thank you to all the insightful people who took the time to comment.

We are now going with Victoria Zoe or Zoe Victoria, depending on our feeling once she is born. Also, the two different styles allows her, ( and her family) at some point, to gravitate to one or the other.

When I was a child, I "changed" my name to Victoria, and asked everyone to call me that. That lasted for a few months. Later, in college, I chose the name Sasha in a Russian language class and stuck with it my whole life. So I DO have an issue with names and see the importance of loving one's own name, and feeling it is the right one.

Victoria would be a more elegant and weighty name while Zoe would be quirky and spritely. I think it is an effective combination either way and now we just have to wait and see.

Again, thank you all.

Amy said...

I agree with Michelle above - you'll know when she arrives if she's a Victoria Zoe or a Zoe Victoria. As an English person, both names seem rather English to me. I do enjoy Victoria Z Marks, though - she sounds like a writer!

And I just thought... What nickname would you go for with Victoria? That might change my mind, I guess.

Also: my surname is Marks so I especially enjoyed this! I'm an Amy if you want to consider a three letter name the other end of the alphabet. :)