I intended on writing a blog post on potential baby names when I was pregnant… but now, after the baby has arrived (and has a name!) is actually a much better time to put this into words: the names which were contenders, the ones that got away, the could’ve beens, the rejects, and the boy name which we never got to use!
Firstly, I was always pretty certain that this third babe of ours was going to be another girl. Call it Mother’s Intuition or just the idea of having a boy baby so foreign to me, I just knew this was another girl (despite us never finding out the gender during pregnancy, where’s the fun in that?!) So, no need to even look through the boys name list I said to Matt.
But a third girl? Down the line of potential names we went. Eleanor and Harriet were fairly easy to name – always high on the girls names list bouncing around in my head for years pre-babies, and Eleanor was almost named Harriet so when a second girl came along that was a fairly straight forward process. But a third girl? The top two seemed a long way ahead of number three, four, five… The trouble I have always found with girl names is that there are just so many lovely ones! You are spoilt for choice. We would toss around ideas and suggestions to each other: “Oh that’s nice! Oh yes, that one is lovely. Oooo yes!” Boys names we have always found more black and white, a firm yes or a firm no. I could probably have twenty girl babies and name them! But which one is the one?!
We tossed around a lot of ‘M’ girl names… Matilda was always, always, our third girl name, a contender when we named both Eleanor and Harriet. But then, somehow, it wasn’t in contention anymore. My cousin had a Matilda, and I thought it was a bit too popular for my liking. I was always against ‘top 20’ names. We wanted traditional, but not super common, not way out there, but unique all the same. So Matilda was out, next came all the other ‘M’ girl names: Martha, Maeve, Margot, Margaret/Maggie, Millicent/Millie, Megan/Meg (but is she Meg, or Megan? Or Meghan? Or Meagan?! Mee-gan or Meg-ahn?!) When I was pregnant with Harriet I actually fell in love with Martha at one point, but not more than I loved the name Harriet, and Matt looked at me like I had three heads on the suggestion of Martha! And Maeve. And Margot, actually. He was on the Maggie bandwagon for awhile there, but I said it would have to be Margaret and she get’s Maggie – and I’m not a huge fan of long name shortened? Call her Maggie or call her Margaret, take your pick… and I have this weird aversion to shortened girls names ending in ‘ie’. Call me crazy but I just figure it’s a bit ‘little girly’ and one day she might be a 38 year old CEO with a very cute name suitable for a piggy tailed four year old. So, we’ve always needed to come to a name which was both suitable for the piggy tails and the board room (or mine site, or class room, or hospital, or kitchen, or senate!)
Matt, the poor bloke, quite liked names which I deemed ‘boring’ – those top 20 pearlers: Olivia, Amelia, Paige, Abigail, Lily, Hannah, Caitlin, Georgia… and his personal favourite, my middle name, Bridget. I was coming at none of those (yawn!) but did like his suggestions of Sophie or Lucy. We fairly quickly came to the conclusion though that Sophie Steendam wouldn’t fly (what if she had a lisp?!) From then on ‘S’ names were nixed. Lucy remained a firm favourite. My friend Caitlyn has three girls also: Matilda, Evelyn and Lucy. Clearly we all have great taste, Evelyn/Evie was also on the table of discussion at different times… again with my ‘ie’ aversion and shortened names! I had this issue with Elsie too… which is otherwise a lovely name. I know, I’m a bit odd.
The trouble also with naming (yet another) girl in my family, is that there are already so many lovely names taken by my siblings! My parents now have eight granddaughters: Chloe, Scarlett, Charlotte, Ava, Violet, Eleanor and Harriet (and now Mary). On Matt’s side we have a Laura and a Madeleine. All lovely names. All taken! My two besties also have a Claire and a Pippa – also on our lists!
When we were on our big trip through central Australia and into the north-west through the Kimberley in 2018, we befriended a similar travelling family in Kununurra (as you often do in caravan parks and campgrounds around Australia!) They had two little blonde girls like us: Rosie who was Eleanor’s age, and Mary who was Harriet’s age.
We sat and watched them all playing together on those stifling hot balmy evenings. Little Mary. At the time we were discussing, wondering, imagining a third baby into being, I knew she was there waiting for us to just take the plunge. I said to Matt we would have another baby in 2019. Another little girl. And we’d name her Mary.
Old fashioned, traditional, without being too overtly ‘trendy granny’ (it’s a thing!) Not wildly out there, common but not uncommon. Seemingly a well known moniker, but when was the last time you heard of a little girl Mary? A good strong Irish Catholic name, I have an Aunty Mary on my mum’s side and a great Aunty Mary on my dad’s side. Feminine, sweet and soft for a little piggy tailed girl, strong and simple for an adult woman. Yes, the simplicity of Mary appealed greatly. Mary. Hmmm…
But…I digress. Back to being pregnant and throwing allllllll o’ those name possibilities into the ring. Because you’ve got to be sure, y’know?! I had always been much more inclined to go more old school than traditional. Names I threw at Matt were the likes of Joan, Beatrice (Betty!), Dorothy (Dot! My Nan is Dorothea, but goes by Thea), Peggy, Nancy, Winifred (Winnie? Freddie?!)… Matt threw them all back at me with an incredulous laugh, basically. Clearly not on the same page with the ‘granny chic’ theme.
Other contenders, always on the list when we were naming Eleanor and Harriet too were: Annabel, Josephine (Josie), Ruth, Bethany, Penelope (Penny), Kate… We also liked Nella or Norah, but had Eleanor, who sometimes gets both as a nickname?! Bummer. Elsie was also out, as were other E or H names I felt (there goes Hazel!) Then there was the old chestnut of Tessa (our dogs name!) It was right up there in contention too, but then do we rename the dog?! The dog wouldn’t be around forever… have a period of two Tessa’s?!
So… we had it down to Lucy and Mary which we both liked. Matt was still pushing his Matilda/Caitlin/Bridget bandwagon. I was still pushing my Martha/Margot/Dorothy bandwagon. Hmph. Lucy and Mary middle ground it was then. And I of course knew that when I had the baby (after I’d done that job) then Matt would be all like “call her whatever you like!” And he was. Ha!
After she was born, when we were about to make the first phone call to my mum to let her know she had her eighth granddaughter, I said “Well, we’d better have a name to tell her!” And Mary Alice it was. Alice was always going to be my daughters name, for years and years before we started down the path of starting our family… then somehow it wasn’t?! We had Eleanor, a name which I really did/do love too (obviously), and then I felt the El/Al sounds were too similar to have together… Harriet as a buffer between them probably would have been fine, but in the end it lent itself to be the perfect middle name with Mary – and was Matt’s paternal grandmothers name (who he never knew, so not overly sentimental), but now all three of our girls have their great-grandmother’s names (Joy, Gwen, Alice).
And what about a boy, I hear you ask? Well…
Since well before Eleanor was conceived, when we very much thought we would have a tribe of boys (ha!) we always had the same boys name that we never wavered from:
George Western Steendam.
Matt’s great-great uncle who came to Australia and settled land in South Gippsland with his brother (Matt’s great-grandfather), where his grandparents eventually farmed, was George Western (Matt’s mum’s maiden name). We really wanted to carry on the Western name in a boy’s middle name, and I just always loved the name George for a little boy. But, of course it was not to be.
Other boys names we loved were Henry, Angus, Theodore (Ted), Patrick and Hamish. I went off Henry as a contender as I wasn’t sure about having a Harriet and a Henry, the same with Hamish, but my grandfather was Charles Henry Lincoln – I always said a second boy of ours would have been Henry Lincoln. When I was first pregnant with Mary and had fleeting (panicked!) thoughts of twin boys I thought George Western and Henry Lincoln may be imminent! Theodore I loved too, but Theodore and Eleanor?! And I also wondered if a Patrick would get Pat, then we’d have Matt and Pat!
Naming a baby is a big job. You’re not just naming a baby, mind you. Naming a person. For the rest of their life, and beyond really. It is quite the responsibility, but also shouldn’t be overthought too much either – there is ease in simplicity. We always found we would toss around a thousand possiblities, but always came back to the same favourite stalwarts. Now, with our Eleanor, Harriet and Mary I of course can’t ever imagine them being a Caitlin, Dorothy or Matilda! Or George, Henry or Patrick for that matter. I often look at Mary and shake my head at the thought that she could have been named anything else. She was Mary Alice all along.
I’d love to know how you named your babies, or tell me all about those names that got away!