Choosing a Baby Name

Our son was originally supposed to be named John. Instead, we named him Malcolm. We picked John because it followed an important naming tradition in Kenny’s family. I loved the tradition because it means our son would be named after my dad. We thought for years we would follow this tradition with our first son, but we decided that this was the wrong name for us and we broke the tradition.

The Tradition

Kenny’s family has a great tradition that carries on the father’s name without leading to a line of Senior, Junior, The Third, etc. The first-born sons all have the same middle name, Stoddard, but rather than taking their father’s first name as well as his middle, they are named after their maternal grandfather. It sounds confusing, but it’s simple.

Kenny’s grandfather on his mom’s side was Kenneth Bates. So Kenny is Kenneth (after Kenneth Bates) Stoddard (after Kenny’s dad). Kenny’s dad is Stephen Stoddard (after his maternal grandfather and his dad).

Following that line, our son would be named after his maternal grandfather (my dad, John) and have Stoddard as a middle name. So he was supposed to be named John Stoddard. It honored my family through my dad and it honored Kenny’s family through the name Stoddard and their tradition. It was perfect. Plus, John Stoddard is a pretty solid name.

Kenny had a beloved cousin, Jack. They were more like brothers than cousins and extremely close. Jack died a few years ago. While the full story of Jack could be a series in and of itself, the important thing is that Jack was and is tremendously important to Kenny. After Jack died, we decided we would call our first son Jack as a nickname.

John “Jack” Stoddard Weiss. We both loved the name. It was perfect. But…

Breaking from Tradition

There’s always a “but” in my stories, I’ve found. I often think I have everything figured out and then something changes. This time, the “but” was my ultrasound. I found out the week of Father’s Day that we were having a boy. I brought home this picture to proud papa Kenny.

Kenny had wanted a girl but was thrilled to have a son. I had known from day one our baby would be a boy. I had a dream the night I conceived that we had a son (you can read a little more about that here) so I was sure he would be a boy. Once we knew the gender, we naturally had to pick a name. We talked about our son John. We tried calling him John. And Jack. And Jackamo. And I felt nothing. No attachment, no excitement. I thought I just needed to get used to it.

A few days later, on Father’s Day, Kenny and I agreed that even after giving it some time, John was the wrong name. What the heck! We had picked this name out years ago. It was perfect. We ran through a list of names we had brainstormed years back on a road trip, all of which we loved. None of them felt right. We spent days trying new names, researching online, going through our contacts and Facebook friends for inspiration. None felt right. Kenny thought the name would come to us. He said that since I had some intuition that we were having a baby and then again that he would be a boy, I would have an intuitive sense of his name, too. That was so sweet. But no. I needed this little babe to have a name and I didn’t want to wait. (You can read more about the importance of the baby’s name here). I needed him to feel real. Nobody could tell I was pregnant, nobody asked, I never got to talk about him. I was tired of feeling like he was a baby-to-be instead of a baby.

On Father’s Day, I told Kenny that we were not leaving our bed and he was not getting his first Father’s Day card until he his son had a name. We got to work. We ran back through our list of favorite names. Nope. We ran through a list we had made that week of other great names. Nope. Kenny had one or two he really liked, but I felt they weren’t quite right. I made him sit with his hand on my stomach, starring at the ultrasound image, and say each name out loud. Fortunately, he was used to my mommy juju by this point and just went with it. And he agreed. None of those names made us feel a connection with our baby.

Then I saw the name Malcolm on a website. I said it out loud. This name felt different.

I felt like I had uncovered a little-known fact about our baby; like I had unlocked a key to his tiny hidden life and personality. I tried to keep as un-expectant of an expression as possible as I looked at Kenny. He dutifully repositioned his hand on my stomach, looked right down at the ultrasound picture and said “Malcolm.” He looked at me. Maybe he could see it in my face, or maybe he had the same feeling I did. I’m not quite sure. It was sort of a chicken-or-the-egg moment. Either way, he immediately responded “Did we just name our son?” I nodded hopefully and he looked down at the picture. “Malcolm,” he said, and it just fit.

I added “Malcolm Fitzgerald” looked up at Kenny again. I had wanted to somehow include my grandfather’s name, Gerald, but had dismissed the idea several times because I don’t love the name Gerald. My cousin had suggested Fitzgerald and I had mulled it over but tossed it aside. Somehow, with Malcolm in place, Fitzgerald just seemed to work. “Malcolm Fitzgerald?” Kenny asked. I just looked at him not wanting to sway the decision at all. He looked down at the ultrasound. “Malcolm Fitzgerald.” He said whimsically.

Malcolm Fitzgerald

I told him I had to see what the name meant before I could say it was a final decision. I have this thing about the meaning behind names. I had to do several projects growing up about the meaning of my name. Laura means “of the laurel.” What in the world is a laurel? “Any number of shrubs and other plants with dark green glossy leaves” So dumb. I hated that. Kenneth means handsome. That’s appropriate 😉 I wanted our son’s name to have a good meaning. And we wanted it to be Scottish for Kenny’s Scottish heritage. I looked it up and Malcolm is a Scottish name meaning “follower of St. Columba.” St. Columba, they say, is responsible for bringing Christianity to Scotland. Now that’s a name meaning. Much more interesting than a laurel.

I gave Kenny his card and a bag of peanut M&Ms. He ate the whole bag in about two mouthfuls and talked to our little Malcolm, using his name for the first time.

Malcolm is not a name I would have picked off a list or fallen in love with immediately. It’s not a name I had ever considered. That is exactly what makes me feel like it’s the right name. We didn’t pick it because we loved the sound of it or the meaning of it or anything along those lines. We picked it because it felt to us like it was the name that suited our baby. To us, it feels like Malcolm isn’t a name we picked out, but rather, he was always Malcolm, in a way, and we finally figured it out.

And Fitzgerald? That’s a name we picked for him. We chose for him to have a lifetime connection to my grandfather in the hope that one day he will embody even a part of the incredible person that my grandfather was. But that, too, is a topic for another time.


You might also be interested in my 5 part series on parenting decisions

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6 thoughts on “Choosing a Baby Name

  1. From the beginning my first born was to be called Robert. Stephen thought that he was being named after his father. Not quite my thought. He would be named after my brother Robert, who thinks, by the way, that he was named after our Carrien terrier, Robbie, growing up. The middle name would be the same stoddard. The moment I saw my sweet precious boy…. I said. His name is Kenneth. After my sweet precious dad. Stoddard was and is a family middle name. My second love would be Robert (after my brother) Wallace after Stephens grandfather. I love the names you chose. Malcolm Fitzgerald Weiss😍

  2. This is so beautiful, Laura.
    I’ve always thought a lot about names, and it’s an honor to hear your story. You give me confidence that names can mean something, while still being the right fit. Thank you.

  3. Cute story. 😉 I like his name, and Annette and I had wondered if Fitzgerald was after Grandpa, so it’s cool to know the answer to that. I was just talking with a friend the other day about names and how they have to”fit” THIS baby. It is not enough to just like the name; you have to like it for the soul that you are carrying, specifically! I do like his name, and I am happy for you that you were honest enough with yourselves to recognize that little John was a little Malcolm all along.

  4. I love how much time and intention you invested to discover Malcolm’s name while it was unseen in the womb. It reminded me of that Michaelangelo quote that every block of marble has a statue inside it and it is the job of the sculptor to discover it. You did a masterful job.

  5. I still think Rumpelstiltskin has a sort of ring to it.
    Glad you picked something better. John Stoddard Weiss can be your second born. It goes well with Malcolm Fitzgerald Weiss. If you have a girl, she can be Rosemary which goes with Bay Laurel, however we didn’t name you Laurel, we named you Laura Ellen because when we looked at your ultrasound and your dad put his head on my tummy etc etc etc we thought Laura Ellen Anderson was the most beautiful name ever.

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