How to Handle Baby Name Hecklers

July 26, 2015

Tyler and I take a vacation once a year, mostly marking our wedding anniversary on October 27th. So when we decided we were ready for a baby we bumped our trip up to late March and headed off to Japan.

While we were there I took the liberty to make a wish at one of the shrines that we would soon be blessed with a baby. The shrine – Fushimi Inari – is located in Kyoto and pays homage to foxes, as many Inari shrines do.

Wall of Fox's at Fushimi Inari Shrine

Wall of Fox’s at Fushimi Inari Shrine

One and a half months later I found out that wish I made had worked. I thought about the shrine and realized that the name that fit best would honor that wish – we would name him Fox. I told Tyler and we knew that was the one.


I had been warned time and time again that strangers would touch my belly without permission, and I can honestly say that never happened! What I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of chatter from people I knew, barely knew, or didn’t know at all about our baby’s name.

I’ll preface this with saying that I’ve always been a big supporter of unique names – mostly because I noticed the difference when telling people my name is Sara vs. Sarabeth. No one seems to remember Sara, but Sarabeth always gets an immediate reaction. I find this very helpful when networking. In the event that Fox grows up and says, “What were my parents thinking?!” we opted to give him a traditional middle name – Henry – so that he could run with that moniker instead.

Now for telling people.


The first time I tested out his name was at work in front of both family and coworkers. I spilled a bunch of names out on the proverbial table and got the typical “That’s a nice name” response. Then I got to Fox and everyone lost it. They all agreed that was the best one.

The next time we weren’t so lucky. The next round of family and friends that we ran the name by were straight up confused. They all tried to be polite, but we could easily read between the lines to see that they thought we were crazy.

Because of the second round of announcements I did a lot of Googling. Piling through the answers of people asking about unusual baby names, I came to the general consensus of “Haters gonna hate!” or “Don’t name your kid something weird!” The only bit of advice that seemed helpful whatsoever were those that suggested responding to those who questioned your baby’s name with, “It’s a family name.”

Sounds like a plan.

Nope. The first time I tried that for a spin I found myself at a networking event for work, visibly pregnant and separated from my group. A well-meaning couple walked up to me and struck up conversation: “What are you naming your baby?” I was caught off-guard since they didn’t ask my name, what company I was representing, even boy or girl. So I said it, “Fox. It’s a family name.”

My answer was quickly followed with a barrage of questions like, “What side of the family?”, “Who is he named after?” and more. I have never felt so uncomfortable. And for that I felt guilty and started doubting my choice in what I thought was the most meaningful name I could find for my son.

Fox's Name Announcement

Fox’s Online Name Announcement

From that point forward I changed my frame of mind and marched on with a different foot forward. Here are a few tips I wish I knew before the name announcement:

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Announce Before the Birth of Your Child – Many people suggest hiding the name so as to not get negative feedback from others and tarnish the way they feel about the baby’s name. I think it’s important to get everyone used to the baby name as early and often as possible in order to avoid any awkward glances in the hospital room or tough conversations.
  2. Don’t Downplay the Significance – I’m not a very mushy person who likes to share my feelings with others which lead to me to downplay the back-story of Fox’s name at first. I later discovered that people – even complete strangers – could identify with our baby’s name knowing that it was well thought out. It’s totally okay to feel like you don’t owe anyone an explanation of your choice, but if you genuinely care about the reaction you get from others, disclosing the history of your decision has always made the experience more comfortable.
  3. Use the Name as Much as You Can – Use your baby’s name when giving the barista a name for your cup, setting passwords, when making a reservation at a restaurant, or as your shipping address for online purchases. Last Christmas Tyler and I were working off the same Amazon account for Christmas shopping. In order to make sure we didn’t open each other’s gifts when the arrived, Tyler used Fox’s name to differentiate packages. Seeing his name in print made everything feel more real.
  4. Expect it to be a Talking Point at the Most Random Times – Stay on your toes because baby talk can spread through a room like wildfire. Expect total strangers to ask questions you’ve never been asked before and be prepared with answers. We’ve been stopped at airport security, at the Canadian border on our recent trip to Buffalo, and asked more times than I’d like to admit if we are X-Files fans (when I was a kid) or if we’ve heard the What Does the Fox Say? song (we hadn’t).
  5. Let People Make Up Their Own Nicknames for Baby – In many cases, especially with unique names, relatives and friends will decide on their own nickname for your little one. Even if you detest some of these, my advice is to resist the urge to fight these decisions, especially before baby has arrived. I had a few people who referred to Fox as Henry and completely refused to acknowledge him as anything else. Without any conversation, he immediately became Fox again as soon as he was born.
  6. Create Your Own Nickname for Baby – Before we even knew if we were having a boy or a girl, we opted to call the baby “Bee.” It felt impersonal to call the baby “it” and confusing the say “he or she” all of the time. For those that acted funny about the name we generally only referenced the nickname “Bee” to avoid it altogether. Even now, we call Fox “Goo” more than we use his name. Somehow he has figured out his name though – I’m truly not sure how hahaha. Goo comes from Mr. Magoo since he came out wrinkly with a little circular nose and closed eyes.Mr._Magoo
  7. Keep Your Story Straight – Whatever you do, know that when you’re having a baby, everyone else feels like they are too! You will be asked daily about your child by everyone you encounter. Be confident in yourself and your name choice, tell the truth, and know that you have made this decision with love in mind. Ultimately, it’s about you and your baby and no one else.

Good luck and congratulations!

XO, Sarabeth

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  • Reply sue October 8, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    My daughter did not tell anyone what they had chosen for either a boy or a girl. She said it was too hard trying to have to explain why you had chosen it. When Ethan was born they introduced him as Ethan and that was that. I’m not sure why everyone has to have an opinion on a personal choice – they can’t help themselves I suppose. Thanks for a supportive post Sarabeth and sharing at #WednesdaysWisdom

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