I need your help....again! You and your readers gave me the push I needed to name our last baby, and you addressed a naming quandary I was worried about early in a previous pregnancy [naming a second son after someone when the first son already had a name honoring the same relative]. Sadly, that pregnancy ended in a loss. Ecstatically, we are finally expecting our third child, due December 15, but expected to be early. We just found out that this baby is a girl, so that eliminates the previous honor name quandary, but introduces a different one!
We have a son Thomas (family surname) M. and a daughter, Audrey Kathryn M. Both middle names are our middle names, with my son's middle name going back several generations as a middle name. Our naming style is traditional (that less common spelling of Katherine is my mother's fault :) ), and we have a short list of candidates from before. We are not in love with them, but DH hates most female names. I can live with this though. The issue now, is the middle name. I desperately want (need) to honor my grandmother here. The reasons are highly emotionally tied to her death shortly after my daughter's birth and the two losses we suffered last year. So, what's the issue? Her name was, well, not our style. D0nna Je@n Lew1s.
Can your readers brainstorm for me? A great classic first name and a middle name honoring my grandmother? Candidate first names are: Anne or Anna, Mary or Marie or some other variant. I like Elizabeth and Margaret, but DH does not. My favorite idea for a middle name is Lew1s or Anna Je@n but DH isn't sold. Naming our son was so easy! Girls are just hard for us. Flow with the last name isn't a big issue.
Here is what it is going to come down to: on one side of the scale is your desperate need to honor your grandmother by using her name, and on the other side of the scale is the fact that her name is not the style you'd normally choose. Which seems like a more important side of the scale? It would be completely reasonable for you to decide you'd rather choose a name you like better, and to find other ways to honor your grandmother.
It's true the name Donna isn't in style for today's babies, but that's also true of most of the names of adults we'd like to honor: each new generation kicks out of fashion most of the previous generation's names. (Exceptions to this may find themselves with an unexpectedly high number of namesakes.) I think it's even part of the reason namesakes are considered such an honor: it means something to sacrifice fashion for significance. If you were intent on using the name as a first name, I might reluctantly agree that it was not going to work---but in the middle name position, style seems like a very minor matter. Many of your baby's peers will also have out-of-fashion middle names, and for similar reasons.
You could play around with names that aren't your grandmother's, trying to make those names honor her, but all of them will be a significant step down in honor. You could use the same initials, use a name with similar sounds or letters, use a name with a similar meaning, use one of her nicknames, combine names to make a different name, use an updated version of the name, use the name of one of your grandmother's relatives, etc. For each possible solution, think to yourself, "Does this name bring my grandmother immediately to my mind? Would my grandmother recognize this as a tribute to her?" If yes, then they are good options.
If you called your grandmother "Grandma Lewis," you might find that the name Lewis brings her to your mind more quickly even than her first name---though if you're like me, it brings to mind the entire side of the family and not just one person. You could use her middle name; it's done commonly enough. But for me, my grandparents' middle names don't bring my grandparents to my mind, whereas their first names do.
Each time I re-read your letter (as well as the additional part not for publication), what stands out to me is that you are not just doing this because you loved your grandmother and feel warmly about the idea of using her name, but because you NEED your daughter to have her name. So in your case, I don't recommend any compromise names or fixes; I strongly urge you to go directly for the name Donna. I recommend saying it over and over in your mind until it does that thing where words/names turn into combinations of sounds, and see if that helps you hear the sound that caused so many parents to choose the name for their daughters to begin with. You could also see if you preferred it as a double middle name: Donna Jean, or Donna Lewis. This has the additional benefit of dramatically strengthening the connection to your grandmother.
In time, whether your daughter's middle name is to your tastes or not will, I hope, pale in comparison to the comfort and satisfaction it will bring you to be able to say to her "You were named for my grandmother," and tell her the stories you want to tell her. And the good news is that names tend to come around again: by the time your daughter is grown, she may be like one of the current lucky women who have suddenly found that their previously-disliked middle names of Emma or Abigail are now considered wonderful.
The other comforting thought is that middle names are rarely used or thought of after the birth announcements go out. When you do think of her middle name, it will almost always be because of your grandmother---so, with feelings of love and happiness. All the rest of the time, you will be thinking of her first name, which can be something more in your style.
Anna Donna has some appeal to me, as do Maria Donna and Mary Donna, or maybe Marianne Donna or Annemarie Donna. People tend to be split on whether they like two names in a row with -a endings; I tend to be in favor. And because the honor name is so important here, I would only barely consider flow anyway.
I wish I could suggest one of my own favorite names, Eliza, but the movie My Fair Lady has forever connected Audrey Hepburn and Eliza Doolittle in my mind. Maybe Eloise would work? Eloise Donna.
I was also thinking Ella Donna sounded so beautiful to me---and then realized it was certainly because of Belladonna.
With siblings named Thomas and Audrey, I would lean heavily on the Timeless section of The Baby Name Wizard. Here are some of my favorites:
Elsa DonnaEmily Donna
Eve Donna Jean
Grace Donna Jean
Hope Donna Jean
Jane Donna Lewis
Rose Donna Jean
Name update! Stephanie writes:
I am certain neither of us expected this update to come so soon, but baby girl M had other plans. She arrived two weeks ago at just 25 weeks, while we were on a vacation! So far, Mary Lewis M. Is proving to be a tough little fighter with the feisty spunk of her namesake. We were caught off guard with having to name her before we had settled on a name. It felt strange to use her name for at least the first week, but I'm used to it now, and we love the simplicity of her very traditional first name. I will send a picture once she is bigger and stronger. For now, know that we appreciated the input from you and your readers!