We are having a girl in February. My name is Erin, my husband’s name is Timothy (always Tim), and the baby’s last name will be Mark!evitz. We live in Los Angeles, so pretty much anything goes name-wise.
We were completely set on naming a girl Colette Revere (nn Cole). I was sure it was our daughter’s name. And then I had my husband talk out loud as if he would talk to the baby, and he was unable to say Colette- he just naturally called her Coley (which I hate) every single time. When I forced him to use Colette instead, it sounded weird. Something suddenly changed, and now I don’t like it when I say it out loud either, so it’s out.
We again started talking about a name we had previously liked for years, even before we got pregnant- Marleigh Revere. My husband loves Marleigh and Colette equally, and I used to love it too, but now I’m wracked with anxiety about it. I’m worried people will constantly say “oh, like the dog?”, and we are having trouble with a spelling. I like Marley just ok, my husband likes Marlee (which I hate), so we decided on Marleigh. The problem- I am completely against creative spellings and this feels like one. But this time it’s the most aesthetically pleasing to me for some reason! I’m just afraid it makes the name seem too trendy and people will think it’s stupid.
The biggest problem is now I’m having massive anxiety about what people will think about her name/spelling. I am aware that I’m clinging to the name because it is the only thing I can control about the pregnancy process, but it’s really unlike me to worry so much about other people’s opinions. I’m afraid to tell friends and coworkers the name when they ask what we’re considering, and sometimes when I look at it written out I feel revulsion- I have no idea where this is coming from. I feel like it’s her name though, so when I look for other ones, I just don’t even consider them seriously. We both like Ryan, but again, haven’t even talked about it much because it feels like she already has a name. But sometimes it feels like I’m scared of the name Marleigh! Ugh, I’m such a mess! Is this level of panic and strange feelings about a name normal?
Sometimes I think the perfect name is out there still, but nothing else appeals to me. We like more unisex names, or feminine names with a boyish nickname, and for a boy we love Wyatt and Walker. I don’t know what to do- is this just normal pregnancy-related hormonal issues?! Is the Marleigh spelling too made-up? How do I get over this panic and anxiety and shame about a name that I’m pretty sure is hers?
Sorry this is so long, feel free to cut stuff if you decide to use it on the blog! I really hope you do- I’d love other people’s opinions on this and trust your readership.
I’m going to start by separating into three lists the feelings you’re having about the name Marleigh.
• Feel like it’s her name
• Have liked it for years
• Nothing else appeals
• “Oh, like the dog?”
• The favorite spelling goes against your usual naming preferences
• Might seem too trendy
• People might think it’s stupid
• Afraid to tell people the name
• Occasional feelings of revulsion at the sight of it
• Panic, anxiety, and shame
I also notice that the name Colette was ruled out because you hated the nickname Coley, which sounds similar to Marleigh.
It’s very normal to worry about what other people will think of the name. I usually mention something we all already know but that can be reassuring anyway, which is that there is no name you can choose that will win universal approval: if you choose something popular, some people will think it’s boring and some people will love it and some people will think it’s weird because they’re not familiar with currently popular names; if you choose something unusual, some people will think it’s weird and some people will love it and some people will still think it’s too popular. But fortunately, no one cares about the name anywhere near as much as the parents do: everyone else will have their brief reactions to the name, and then it’ll drift right out of their minds.
Because of this, my primary concern is what YOU think of the name. It can be hard, however, to separate out your own feelings and reactions from the worried-about feelings and reactions of others. Or at least, it’s hard for me: I get to the point where I can’t tell if I really do have an issue with a name or if I only have an issue with other people maybe having an issue—and this may be what’s happening to you, too.
One option is to tell a few people the name and see how they really do react to it. You could try it with strangers who ask, or you could try it with a few people where it doesn’t matter as much if they hear the name ahead of time (co-workers, casual friends), or you could try it with a few close trusted friends or family members who could give you a better feeling of what the people most important to you would think. If it’s not typical for you to worry about what people think, you may find that getting some actual reactions (positive or negative) helps you get over that hurdle: maybe their reactions will be positive, or maybe you’ll find you don’t mind a negative reaction as much as you’d expect you would. Or you might find that people’s reactions are something to add to your naming preferences (I found that to be the case for me), and it may in fact end up influencing what name you choose.
One thing that concerns me about the name Marleigh is the surname. Is the exclamation point an L? Marleigh Mark!evitz is hard for me to say and repeats the L sound as well as the Mar- sound.
I can’t tell from my end whether the feeling that Marleigh is Her Name (usually a very strong point in a name’s favor) is enough to outweigh the issues such as having feelings of revulsion and shame. Normally I would be very reluctant to start over when there’s a name that feels like it’s already the baby’s name, but it helps that you’ve gone through the same process with the name Colette: it felt like Her Name, and now it doesn’t. I think in this case, I’d suggest re-thinking the name (as in, with one of the possible outcomes being choosing the name Marleigh). One way to do this is to take a break first, a little soothing rest from considering names, and then pretend that there was some reason you couldn’t use the name Marleigh (a friend uses it or something) and you had to start over.
A first baby’s name can cause extra anxiety because you’re also choosing your whole naming PHILOSOPHY. It’s similar with a lot of other first-baby stuff: you can’t just buy diapers, you have to decide on a diapering system; you can’t just buy something for the baby to sleep in, you have to decide on a sleeping plan. I remember the sweet relief of the second baby, and knowing we could just plug him into the systems we set up for the first baby and fine-tune from there.
For girl names, you’re all over the spectrum: you like Colette, which is used only for girls; Marleigh, which is somewhat unisex but used far more often for girls; and Ryan, which is somewhat unisex but used far more often for boys. If you’d like sibling names to coordinate, this is something to think about ahead of time. I find it helpful to mess around a little with sibling sets—not seriously trying to name all the children ahead of time, but more like seeing what feels right when I imagine the group sitting around the dining room table. Do you picture asking Marleigh and Wyatt about their day at school? Or Ryan and Walker? Or Ryan and Colette? If you have two girls, would you mind having one girl with an unmistakably female name and one with a more-likely boy name, or would that not be an issue?
If you’d prefer to avoid alternate spellings, and you have other style-related doubts about the name Marleigh, it may be that it falls into the category of Names We Love That Are Not Right for Our Family. I have a bunch of those: names I love and really really really want other people to use, but names that just don’t work for US for one reason or another. That’s the category that can give me the sorts of conflicted feelings you’re describing: like I really WANT to use the name, but it’s not FITTING.
In which case I might start by looking for names with a similar sound. Maybe it’s just the ending of Marleigh that’s giving you trouble: it’s the source of the spelling concerns, and you didn’t like the sound of Coley either, so perhaps you’d be happier with the name Margo/Margot, or Marlow(e)? The long-O sound reminds me of Colette, too. I have problems pronouncing either of those with Mark!evitz, though.
The name Margaret doesn’t strike me as being quite your style, but on the other hand it does have such great nickname possibilities: Meg, Maggie, Daisy, Maisy, Greta. Again though, I have surname trouble.
Or maybe something like Mara or Amara? Marina? Marin? Maelyn? There’s a Marguerite in one of my kids’ classrooms this year, and I’ve been surprised at how well it works (and how little it made me think of margaritas, which I would have expected to be an issue but hasn’t been). Mara, Amara, and Marguerite give me trouble with the surname, but Marina, Marin, and Maelyn are less of an issue.
Or we could look for more names with the -arl- sound: Carley (though that may have the same issues as Coley), or Charlotte with the nicknames Charlie (sounds like Marleigh) or Lettie (sounds like Colette). Harlow.
Or Ryleigh (Ryan + Marleigh), unless that has the same issues as the name Marleigh.
Or I know you don’t like the spelling Marley as much, but would going with a second-choice spelling eliminate enough of your other concerns to be worth it? That is, if spelling it Marley takes away the creative spelling issue and a big chunk of anxiety over how others might feel about the name, and also fits better with your overall naming preferences, it could be a worthwhile trade.
The name Colette makes me think of Celeste, which is one of my own favorites.
Colette/Cole also makes me think of Magnolia and Nola and Cleo. Or would you like Collins or Holland or Hollis or Ellis? Or Etta or Scarlet or Juliette or Greta or Beckett or Elliott or Britt? Or Henrietta is a fun one with lots of nicknames: Henry, Hennie, Etta, Ettie. Or Fiona, or Josephine with the nickname Jo.
Or would you like Colette again with the nickname Lettie?