Attention: You Do Not OWN Your Baby's Name

I was talking the other day to one of my childless-by-choice friends. I happen to love doing that because it's a study in how the other half lives. I spend at least half of our conversations marveling at the things she says.

"Wait, so you can eat dinner WHENEVER YOU WANT? CRAZY!"

"So you DON'T have to get up at least three nights a week to take care of someone else? WILD!"

"Tell me more about sleeping in on the weekends! Don't leave ANYTHING out!"

Since we've been friends for so long, she puts up with me. But the other day, we got onto the topic of baby names. The discussion was quite ... illuminating.


I was prattling on about someone or another that we know who is pregnant with their first child and acting like this was the second coming of Baby Jesus. Somehow we got onto the subject of naming children.

"I hated naming my kids," I confessed. "It seemed like a big job to do for someone who I don't even know yet. You know my kids [all named normal names] are going to grow up and hate that I named them something so vanilla. But if I had named them like Apple or Pear or something, they'd have hated me too. You just can't win."

"Yeah," she agreed. "I hated my name growing up." (Her name is something entirely innocuous and very classic, by the way.)

"Me too," I replied. "But what can you do? I can't leave the kid Baby Boy Harks until he's old enough to name himself. Besides, he'd decide to call himself SpongeBob or something. And that's not *ahem* a very classic name."

"So I was talking to my husband last night," she said. "And we got onto the subject of hypothetical baby names. Y'know, since we're NOT HAVING BABIES because we LIKE GOING ON VACATION."

She loves to drive the point home sometimes. I can't say I blame her.

"And we decided that we'd name our boy, Walter. If, you know, we ever HAVE a baby boy," she continued.

I laughed. The idea of her giving up her lazy Sunday mornings is hilarious to me.

"That's a great name," I replied. "I really love it."

"Yeah," she agreed. "But someone at work is naming their kid Walter and I'm kinda pissed."

"WHAT?" I was shocked. "Why would you be PISSED?"

"Well," she continued. "It's OUR name!"

"Wait a minute," I wanted to go over this one more time. "You're mad that someone you barely know used a name you never told anyone you wanted to use for a baby that doesn't exist?"

"Yes," she replied smoothly. "I am."

I stopped for a minute. That seemed so ... bizarre to me.

Then I remembered back to when I was pregnant.

I'd accidentally chosen -- and used -- a name for my daughter that someone I knew who was also pregnant had chosen for her daughter's name. I had, of course, no way of knowing that she'd chosen it. Or that I was infringing upon something so sacred.

But she stopped talking to me after that. We are no longer friends. All because I took a baby name she never told me was "hers" and had the audacity to use it on my unborn child.

And it's left me puzzled. For years.

Do you OWN a baby name? Do you have the right to expect that someone else will not use the baby name you've kept secret and chosen for your unborn (or not-yet-conceived) child?

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