A weekly series in which our expert in all things everything solves life’s conundrums, big and small.  Got a problem that could use a no-nonsense perspective?  Tell it to the Co-It-All at voice@intheco.com


Dear Co-It-All,

I am pregnant, due in August. It’s a girl and my husband and I have our name all picked out. I would say it is somewhere in between common and unique (#142 on the baby name popularity chart we consulted), and we are super happy with it. The only trouble is that I have five girlfriends who are due between now and August. I worry that one of them will steal our name. Should I keep my mouth shut or tell everyone in the hopes of “stamping” it?

To name the name or not to name the name: that is the question. And in this post-post-post-Shakespearean era of competitive parenting, it’s not such a small one. A few years back, a friend of mine was in a similar dilemma. When I asked my own mom, what she would have done if she couldn’t have named me Courtney, her answer was simple: “Something else.” But that, as they say, was then. Like so many other aspects around child-rearing these days, landing on the perfect, cool-but-not-too-cool moniker has become a competitive sport. No wait—it’s more like an illegal dog fighting ring.

I make this distinction because in the competitive sporting world there are rules of conduct and if you want to play, you have to obey them. If that were the case, then a term like “stamping” would come with specific and non-negotiable guidelines. Instead, it is one of those notions that only means something until somebody has a reason to ignore it. I will elaborate on this in a sec, but first—

Can we choose a stand-in name for the person in your stomach who is currently the size of whatever fruit your iPhone tells you it is the size of? How about Amelia? That seems nice and definitely somewhere between Anne and Apple on the originality scale, right? Okay, so you and your hubby are totally sold on Amelia, can’t imagine a daughter by any other name, have already stenciled a giant A on the nursery wall, and so-forth. 

And now you’re out for brunch with your fellow preggos. The topic of baby names comes up and you decide this is the moment to throw down your big stamp. Everyone is all, “Oooooh, Amelia,” “That’s so cute,” “That’s so perfect,” That’s so you guys.” And then two months from now you get a birth announcement introducing little Amelia Elizabeth SOMEBODY ELSE’S LAST NAME (!!!) Don’t think this can’t happen, because it does. I’m sort of convinced the whole “baby brain” thing is something moms invented up to justify what is ultimately a fairly inward-facing period in their lives.

It doesn’t matter that women have been doing it since the dawn of time, the experience of having your own baby feels totally singular and if your pal Angela decides that Amelia was “meant to be” her baby name, then, trust me, she’ll find a way to rationalize the back stab. Maybe she’ll tell herself that whoever gives birth first has dibs, or that her husband has had Amelia on his list “since, like, the beginning,” or she’ll spend hours on Ancestery.ca until—low and behold—she has a great, great, great, Aunt Amelia twice removed and she just feels, like, such a strong connection. Point is, she’s going to do what works for her, and in some ways, why shouldn’t she?

Two of my girlfriends were pregnant at the same time. Mom A (the one who was giving birth first) encouraged Mom B to share her baby name so that she wouldn’t accidentally steal it. Mom B responded that she didn’t mind if Mom A “stole” it because her name was her name and not dependent on what anyone else did. (N/b: If you can work yourself into this not-influenced-by-others headspace, then you really do hold all the cards, but based on your letter, I’m guessing that’s not likely.)

In the end A and B had babies with different names. Hard to say whether B really would have gone ahead and used the same name, or whether she was just playing a shrewd game of baby name chess. Either way, she kept quiet and if your primary goal is to maintain Amelia as yours and yours alone, so should you. End of story…

…except that I’m a little bit torn on this advice. Because denying yourself the right to talk baby names with your gals while you’re pregnant is sort of like denying yourself the right to talk about crushes with your gals when you’re single. (Plus, brunch can be a long and tedious ritual without free flowing mimosas).

When my bestie was pregnant, we discussed possible handles for the better part of her pregnancy. Those are some fond friendship memories. I’m not saying you spill, but maybe consider your priorities. As Shakespeare (and also my mom) said—an Amelia by any other name would still smell as sweet. And maybe, seven months from now, you’ll find that other flowers are smelling even sweeter.

Clearly Amelia owns your heart at the moment, but she may not be the one you end up going the distance with. It’s called name ennui and it’s happened with at least half of the new parents I know.

Have you ever had a super fun night out on your calendar and bought an outfit for it way in advance? This frock seems absolutely perfect at the time of purchase, but after it hangs in your closet for a couple of months, it starts to feel…not ugly or anything…but a little…meh. Not that your daughter’s name is the same as the peasant dress I purchased at Urban Outfitters in 2002, but the same principal applies.