"We don't even call our child by his actual name"– the midwife warned we'd regret our rare baby name choice and, 10 years on, she was sort of right

But it's not for the reason she thought it would be

Little boy holding his teddy looking at a stately home
(Image credit: Lucy Wigley)

When the midwife said we’d regret our child’s name, I was fuming. I mean, in the end, she was kind of right but still... you think it, you don't say it. And, the reason she thought we'd regret it is entirely different from the reality.

Giving a name to someone who you haven't met yet, is very hard. It's easy to see why some babies are left nameless right until the registration deadline. It doesn't (but also totally does) help that there are a plethora of names to choose from these days, from unique baby names to space-inspired baby names, and for those who don't find out the sex of their little one, unisex baby names are a good option too.

I'm a mum of two, and found choosing my first son's name easy - Elijah - it was one I'd settled on long before kids were even a thought. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I tentatively told my husband there was only one name I wanted. Amazingly, he loved it too, so we didn't even think about other options. When we had a second boy, choosing a name was trickier but we agreed on one we both loved. 

When the midwife announced we'd regret the name as soon as we told her what it was, I scoffed at her audacity. She was right in a way, and here's how our second child came to be known by a different name...

Baby name regret

My mother, one of nine children always went by her middle name. I didn't find this out until I was eight. I was shaken up about not knowing something so fundamental about one of the most prominent people in my life. It wasn't even her who told me, it was somebody I went to school with whose mum knew my mum when they were younger.

Marching home, I said "Somebody at school said your name is Florence. We had a whole argument about it because that's not your name." I was aghast when she said "It is my name," and explained that most of my aunts and uncles were also known by their middle names, and I found out their given names for the first time on that day too.

"I was sure that when I chose names for my own children, they'd be so great that nobody would want them changed and my kids would never be called anything else."

"But why?" was the only question I had. Mum told me she didn't really know, and it was pretty common back when she was younger. I still couldn't get my head around this strange 'tradition.' I was sure that when I chose names for my own children, they'd be so great that nobody would want them changed and my kids would never be called anything else. 

Even when I had my first child, a parent from the antenatal group gave their child a very formal name, but immediately told the group her daughter would be known as something else entirely - a cute and fun name. Even then I wondered why they didn't just use the name they liked, instead of subjecting the child to years of having to correct people and explain their real name.

"Ooof, you'll regret that, what a mouthful! You might want to choose something else."

Then I had my second child, and was forced to eat my words. When the midwife asked what we'd like to put on the name label and we told her his name was Zachariah, she replied "Ooof, you'll regret that, what a mouthful! You might want to choose something else." Exhausted, freshly stitched up, and the reality of caring for my newborn and my 14-month-old at home hitting me like a train, I replied "What? It's a great name and it's his name, we aren't changing it."

At four syllables, I agreed it was a long one, but could be easily shortened - Zac - is a popular name on its own. What I wish I'd said to the midwife is that she shouldn't be challenging hormonal mothers leaking from every orifice, about the name they agonised over. Or in hindsight, I could've said "Come back to me in a few years with that thought, and you'd actually be right!" 

The middle name we'd chosen was after my husband's grandfather, who'd died just before our baby was born - Theodore. It wasn't long before we were calling our son a shortened version of just his middle name - Ted.

I stand by the fact I love the name we gave him originally. It's a very old name with biblical connotations, although we didn't choose it for that reason. I just loved the way it sounded. However, in my mind, it conjures images of an angelic child who possibly sings in the choir and studies theology or art. In reality, he's a rugby-loving wildling, who is perpetually dirty and chaotic, and I'm pretty sure will be the size of Mike Tindall by the time he's 13 (did I mention he was nearly 10lbs at birth?)

Child stood on a rock with arms wide, in front of the ocean

(Image credit: Lucy Wigley)

The more 'Ted' was used, the more I realised I'd felt uncomfortable about the name we'd chosen. I don't think it sat right from the moment he arrived home, and now we know his personality, it's just not a name that's right for him. Funnily enough, from what we've been told about his great-grandfather Theodore (also known as Ted,) the two have very similar hobbies and mannerisms. For that reason, his 'new' name really does honour a family member - his given name had no meaning other than we liked it.

At first, he was just called Ted at home. But then I'd use it to fire off quick replies to party invites, "Yes please, Ted will be there!" It seeped into the school run, and when I called "Ted, don't run too far," and my friend leaned in to ask "Errr, who are you talking to?" I realised we had to make a few decisions.

In the end, I called school and had the "known as" section of details changed. His friends began using his new name, and when he was old enough to decide, he said he preferred to be called Ted. In a way, the midwife was right, we did regret his name, just not because it was "a mouthful." 

It's more because it'll always be Russian Roulette whether you hit on a name that perfectly suits your child, and we'd simply got it wrong. In altering his name, we've also inadvertently carried on a tradition from my mum's side of the family that was destined to continue - my grandmother would've certainly found this hilarious.

What to think about when naming a baby

  • You need to be flexible. It's lovely to be set on a name, but you might find it instantly doesn't feel right and need an alternative.
  • You might find that alternative a bit later down the line, and that's ok - we've already discerned it's hard to name somebody when you don't know them.
  • Your child might not like the name you've given them and want to change it themselves. You expressed yourself when you chose it, they can express themselves in choosing an alternative.
  • Everyone will have an opinion on your baby's name, and not everyone will like it. Essentially, you won't please everyone and don't need their opinions.
  • Consider the spelling - don't use a wacky spelling just to be different, the child will spend their life spelling their name out.
  • Look up the actual meaning of a name and check it doesn't have one you don't know about, or mean something quite different in another language.
  • Give consideration to initials - you don't want them to spell out something awkward or embarrassing. 
  • Similarly, give thought to what the name could be shortened to, this might be something uncomfortable or humiliating.
  • Ask yourself if the name will suit your child at all ages and stages. Cutesy names are great for kids, but might sound a bit silly on a pensioner.
  • Consider the name against that of any siblings. Do they sound too similar, or would any shortenings make them sound too alike or just not work with each other?

For more baby name inspiration, these old fashioned baby names are making a come back, and could make a classic moniker for your child. There are also Royal-inspired baby names that could give your child a majestic air. If you're looking for something a bit edgy, there's bound to be something on this list of cool baby names you'll love.

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and moms.com. In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.