5 Reasons Why I Don’t Name My Babies Until They’re Born


Our second baby boy is on his way. And to everyone’s dismay, we answer the big question, “Have you picked a name yet?,” with a shrug of the shoulders and a smile to ease the pain. Why pain? Because for some reason, our baby not having a formal identity in the womb seems to be received like terrible news.

Our poor parents! What will they call the little guy among friends? And how will our friends decide on a monogram for his onesies? Worst of all, how can we expect to connect to him without a name—a name that makes him real?

Well, we’ve heard the concerns, and still, we’re going to be weird and wait, just like we did with our first. Here’s why:

1. Imagination can only take you so far.

When I try to conjure up a picture of the baby in my belly, this is what I see: curly blond hair, eyes as blue as the sky, and a goofy, constant grin. Why? That’s what I know. And yet, chances are, this guy will be totally different from his brother. Assigning him a name without first taking a peek at him seems risky. Maybe I was clouded by the emotions of new motherhood, but after I took a good look at my first son, it was confirmed: Henry felt right.

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2. A formal introduction is a whole lot of fun.

In this social media age, big public announcements are all the rage. That’s why there’s something particularly special about making the birth of our baby old school. When Henry was born, my husband made the 4 a.m. trek to the waiting room and announced with a pale face, “I’ve seen some things,” and then, with color returning to his cheeks and in a voice filled with ultimate joy, he said, “He’s here! 9 pounds, 2 ounces, 22 inches long.” Minutes later, grandparents, aunts and uncles piled into my room for a sweet family moment. We were able to introduce our son and announce his name to them, and for a little while, we were the only ones who knew him.

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3. There’s no pressure to people please.

I once met a friend for breakfast at a local donut shop, and an older woman stopped me to comment on my cute little bump and asked how far along I was. “Umm, three months?” I managed to answer. Folks, I was not pregnant. I’m just your above-average people pleaser.

So, when it comes to actually having a baby in utero, I don’t have the stomach for testing out names to risk thinking: He agreed it was a cute name, but his face suggested otherwise. She really wants us to consider great grandpa so-and-so’s name, and I’d hate to hurt her feelings. Regular hormonal swings are enough for me. I don’t need the added pressure of trying to make everyone happy. Deciding alone with my spouse feels both sacred and safe.

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4. Procrastination can be a good thing.

Do you want to know what’s especially tough about coming up with a boy name? The sound and meaning must look sweet on a baby but work for a man—a tall order, to be sure. So, for us, sitting on the weighty decision for nine months is necessary. We brainstorm occasionally, then evaluate, rewrite and reorder our list. We let the list breathe for a bit and pick up the conversation again from time to time. We find pleasure in the procrastination.

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5. Family and friends will make do—in their own fun ways.

And what about our family and friends, the ones for whom waiting feels like sheer torture? They learn to cope other ways. Before Henry arrived, they collaborated on a truly hilarious combination of family homage—my dad’s middle name and a twist on my father-in-law’s first name, with a suffix thrown in for good measure—resulting in Ricky Darryl Jr. They gave us monogrammed bibs and a onesie that proudly displayed the little inside joke.

And this new guy who is due next month? Well, everyone calls him Donald. Our son tossed out a few surprising suggestions—including Tony and Bert—but it’s Donald he’s got his heart set on, so we laugh and play along.

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Truth be told, we don’t have a clue what we’ll name him. We just know there will be a moment, there with our closest of companions, that will make all the waiting worthwhile.