Sleepless nights, total confusion, tears of frustration -- and your baby isn't even here yet! For countless new or expectant moms and dads, the perfect name seems impossible to find. Then eureka! You not only agree on one, but it's just right. We asked you to tell how you solved your own little identity problem. Here's what you had to say:
All in the family
"When we adopted our daughter, her birth mother's last name was Allison. My husband and I wanted our little girl to keep a part of her biological identity -- and to thank her birth mom for bringing her into the world -- so that's the name we chose."
-Christina Mainland, San Diego
"I've always known that I'd name my daughter Katy after my grandmother. She was the only child out of twelve siblings to graduate from college, and she even went to graduate school -- quite an accomplishment, considering that it was the 1920s. I'm happy that my daughter, who's only four, already has her great-grandmother's kindness and spunk."
-Teresa Price, North Yarmouth, ME
"We carried on my family's tradition of naming daughters Mary with a middle name starting with an 'E.' I'm very proud to have passed this custom on to my daughter, Mary Emily."
-Mary Elizabeth Baldwin-Anderson, Austin, TX
"To name our daughter, I played a word-scramble game to see how many names I could come up with using the letters in my husband's mother's and my mother's first and middle names: Sharon Jean and Anita Louise. When I finished, I had more than sixty options, but my husband and I could agree on only one: Alina."
-Sue Adams, Black Diamond, WA
"I lost my parents in a plane crash, so when my husband and I were blessed with a daughter four years later, we wanted to honor their memory. We named her Lauren Marie, after her grandparents, Larry and Mary. My mom and dad will always be with her in spirit."
-Debra Barker, Modesto, CA
"My husband is a huge Elvis fan and wanted to name our daughter after Lisa Marie Presley, but I was looking for something more sentimental. So I took the first letter from each of the names of the most important women in my life: my sister, Leticia; my mother, Esther; my aunts, Yole and Sylvia; and my grandmother, Angelita -- and they just so happened to spell Leysa (pronounced like Lisa). My husband thinks he got his way, but I know better!"
-Laura Adames, Camp Lejeune, NC
Hats off to Hollywood
"While we were struggling to find a name for our son, my husband would joke that he wanted to call him Luke Skywalker or James Bond. We'd laugh, but then one day I realized that Luke James was the perfect name. When our newborn had complications at birth but pulled through, I thought, 'He's a fighter just like the characters we named him after.'"
-Becky Wille, Martinez, GA
"When my husband and I found out we were expecting, we agreed that he could choose a boy's name and I could choose a girl's. He picked Gunnar, after the band Guns N' Roses -- the group we listened to all the time when we were high school sweethearts. At first I protested, but eventually the name grew on me. When we had a boy, Gunnar it was."
-Carmen Rielly, Darlington, WI
"Since our last name is Golightly, we named our daughter Holly after Holly Golightly, Audrey Hepburn's character in Breakfast at Tiffany's. For a middle name, we chose Karsten, after Karsten Solheim, the inventor of Ping golf clubs. I had once mentioned the name in jest -- I'm a huge golf enthusiast -- and my wife loved it."
-Greg Golightly, Noblesville, IN
"My husband and I both work at an architecture firm called Group Mackenzie, where we met years ago. When we were first dating, we always said that Mackenzie would be a great baby's name -- so that's what we chose for our little girl. Our coworkers say we should name our next child Group."
-Donna Bezio, Portland, OR
"For our second daughter's name, we wanted something original, girly, and Irish. My husband is a big New York Mets fan and suggested Shaila, after Shea Stadium. I approved -- and later found out that Shaila is a feminine version of James, my husband's name. How perfect!"
-Devone Hart, Tamarac, FL
"We were at the Olympics in Sydney, Australia, when we found out I was expecting. My husband and I knew that if we had a girl, we'd name her Sydney in honor of our special trip."
-Gwen Cater, St. Louis Park, MN
"Since we wanted our older daughter's name to have meaning, we decided on Monica, after Santa Monica, where she was born. When our second daughter arrived, we lived in Los Angeles, so we named her Angela. It always excites the girls to see their names on freeway signs when we visit those cities."
-Denise Hampton, San Diego
"When I was pregnant with my first daughter, my husband had a problem with every name I chose. I finally told him that he'd have to pick her name. He came up with Elizabeth Ann, after Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the church where we were married."
-Tricia Olivarez, Bryant, TX
"During a vacation in Spain, my husband and I came across a small town called San Nicolas Del Puerto. Since our last name is Del Puerto, we decided that if we ever had a baby boy, we'd name him after that town. A year and a half later, Nicolas Del Puerto was born."
-Charlene Del Puerto, San Diego
The Inspiration of Strangers
"When I was in first grade, I sat next to a boy named Eric. He was cool and quiet, yet he talked to me (which was unusual because I was extremely shy). After that year, he left school, but his name stuck with me: Twenty-one years later, I named my first son after this boy, whom I can still envision leaning over and asking me questions."
-Andria Mickenbecker, Plainfield, IL
"At a restaurant one evening, our waiter introduced himself by spelling his name out in purple crayon on the paper tablecloth. The name he wrote was Kelton, and we loved it. Two years later, our son, Kelton, was born."
-Robert Ashe, Cincinnati
"While my husband and I were dating, there was an elderly woman in his neighborhood who was always sitting in front of her house, waving at passersby. Years later, we were trying to name our son and this woman came to mind. Her last name, according to her mailbox, was Gaebele, so we named him a version of this, Gaeble."
-Tonia King, Lake Stevens, WA
Out Of The Mouths Of Babes
"Before our third child was born, we gave our son Trent, who was six, an action figure named Garrett. From then on, he insisted the baby was going to be named Garrett. My husband and I had other ideas, but the baby did look like a Garrett, so we went with that. Now we're expecting another child, and my six-year-old daughter has already put in her vote for any of the Powerpuff Girls' names. Buttercup Schuck, anyone?"
-Julia Schuck, Hannibal, MO
"My husband and I still hadn't chosen a name for our second child when I went into labor. After the baby was born, our three-year-old son, Brett, came in to meet him, took one look, and went back to the waiting room, where he told our family that 'his' baby's name was Lucas Paul. It stuck, and Brett loves knowing that he named his little brother."
-Josie Holman, Sylacauga, AL
"I was still on the fence about expanding our family when our two-year-old, Sydney Raine, announced, 'God just told me he's going to send me a baby sister named Katie.' Afterward, my husband said, 'God told our daughter to tell you it's time. Will that convince you?' Ten months later, Katie was born."
-Lisa Newberry, Suwanee, GA
"When we found out that our second child was going to be another girl, we chose the name Bridgid. But my daughter, Julia, kept saying, 'I want a boy, and I want to name him Liam!' To our surprise, the ultrasound was wrong -- and so Liam it was. Julia always gets her way!"
-Jill Maguire, Wilmington, NC
Written In the Stars
"Years before meeting my husband, I decided I wanted to name my future kids Andrew and Grace. When we were dating and serious enough to talk about kids, I told him my wish. Turns out that his godparents' names were Andrew and Grace. A few years later, I gave birth to our son, Andrew."
-Kari Rutten, Kindred, ND
"During my pregnancy, I dreamed that after my baby was born, my mother-in-law came in and said, 'It's a girl! What's her name?' I replied, 'Karleigh.' When I told my husband about my dream, he loved the name."
-Tina Tomasik, West Chicago, IL
"One night when I was twelve, my dad took me outside to show me the constellations. He started with Orion, and I told him right then and there that if I ever had a son, I would name him Orion. Sixteen years later, I did."
-Lynda Hoffman, Mt. Lebanon, PA
How To Find It: 3 secrets to a one-of-a-kind-name
These days, many prospective parents are looking for a name that's unique, one that will make their child stand out from the crowd. This isn't surprising when you consider that many moms and dads grew up with megapopular monikers themselves, and felt that it compromised their individuality. For instance, from 1970 to 1985, Jennifer was the number one girl's name across the country. Masses of women currently of childbearing age were one of four or five Jennifers in their class, and now there are Jennifer support groups on the Internet and a Society for the Prevention of Parents Naming Their Children Jennifer. There were almost equal numbers of Jessicas, Amandas, Lisas, Michelles, Amys, and Heathers, not to mention all those Jeffs, Joshes, Jonathans, and Jasons.
The taste for rare names is also driven by a general feeling of depersonalization and lack of distinctive identity in this era of ID codes and PIN numbers. And the past decade or so has seen a movement toward increasingly unusual names. When today's parents were growing up, a kid named Sonata or Sawyer was considered weird. Now that the concept of cool permeates the culture, kids take such names in stride: Ash or Dash, Miles or Allegra, Lex or Xan -- almost anything goes.
The parent who wants a truly distinctive name for her baby has to move further than ever from the established roster. She might choose from ethnic names, place names, surname names, and words as names. To truly come up with something one-of-a-kind, she can make it up herself. Here, three easy ways to do this (the first two work best with boys' names):
1. Take a name you like the sound of and change the first letter. You can play around with the spelling, especially if you need to do that to make it rhyme. So, for example:
Aiden becomes Brayden or Jaden
Darren becomes Jaron or Zarren
Gavin becomes Davin
Jason becomes Brason or Tayson
Logan becomes Brogan
2. Approach it from the other direction and add another letter or syllable at the end. Thus:
Blake becomes Blaken
Grey becomes Greyson
Kyle becomes Kyler or Kylan
Trey becomes Treynor or Treyton
3. Drop the first syllable or syllables or even an initial letter of a name. So, for instance, Drew and Ward emerge from Andrew and Edward. Other possibilities:
Priscilla becomes Cilla
Andrea becomes Drea
Olivia becomes Livia
Jeremy becomes Remy
Matilda becomes Tilda
Irving becomes Ving
-From Cool Names for Babies, by Parenting contributing editor Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz, just published by St. Martin's Press