Name Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every week, one reader’s name questions will be discussed.
We’re relying on thoughtful comments from the community to help expectant parents narrow down their name decisions. Thank you in advance for sharing your insight!
I’m pregnant with my third child, a sister for William and Edward.
For both boys, we would have used the name Hattie Elisabeth after my beloved grandmother and great-grandmother.
I have loved that name for as long as I can remember, and luckily my husband agreed (especially since he doesn’t like many (any!) other girl names).
Two years ago, his sister named her third daughter Harriet. She sometimes calls her Hattie as a nickname. All of her daughters have formal names and nicknames, and they go by both.
I figured it was off the table for us. But when I found out this baby was a girl, I became so sad thinking that our daughter wouldn’t be Hattie as we had always dreamed.
My husband still wants to use the name. He says it’s not actually Harriet’s given name, no one “owns” a name, and we only see his sister and children a couple times a year. I convinced him to ask her about it. While she was nice in her response, she hopes we look elsewhere.
So we are trying, but struggling.
I’ve been scouring the internet trying to figure out if I’m a terrible person if we indeed go ahead with it.
I would not care if the tables were turned, but I know some people are very territorial about names.
Thank you so much in advance!
Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Hi Sara –
This might be controversial but … I think you should name your daughter Hattie Elisabeth.
And then I think you should brace for potential family drama.
GOOD REASONS TO NAME YOUR DAUGHTER HATTIE
If it were important to you that your daughter’s name be unique within your family, you’d have no choice – your niece is named, and that cannot be undone.
Except you don’t mind sharing.
And it’s easy to see it the opposite way. Your sister-in-law used your all-time top name, the name that you’d planned since your first pregnancy – or even earlier.
If there were simply a name you loved, I might encourage you to consider alternatives.
But it’s also a name that connects your daughter to her mother’s family – her great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother. That’s powerful.
And it’s a name that your husband loves equally, which adds even more weight to the name.
You’ll love your daughter no matter what name you choose, and you’ll grow to love her name, too.
But it’s a sacrifice for you to choose something other than Hattie, and it’s not clear to me that you need to make it.
RELATIONSHIPS MATTER MORE THAN NAMES
Questions like this come up all the time. My guiding principle is that relationships matter more than names.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be guided by your loved ones’ wishes.
Everything in your message suggests that you’re taking the high road. You could insist that she’s at fault, and defend yourself. Except that’s not what you’re saying at all. You and your husband have gone out of your way to be thoughtful and sensitive about the potential conflict.
That’s what matters.
I can appreciate your sister-in-law’s feelings, as I imagine she chose Harriet partially because it wasn’t very common and didn’t want her daughter to share.
And yet … names repeat.
It might be the tiniest bit confusing at family holidays. Or maybe your daughters will both adore sharing a name with a cousin.
SO NOW WHAT?
The internet may very well tell you that a) you’re a horrible person and b) my advice is terrible.
Your sister-in-law might be less than thrilled. It might be a sore point for years to come.
But … that goes both ways! You might feel resentful for years to come, too.
Is it worth using your long-time favorite, richly meaningful name, even if it means your sister-in-law possibly holds a grudge?
Because you can control the name you give your daughter. But you cannot control your sister-in-law’s reaction. That’s tough, because no one wants to make the birth of a baby a contentious moment.
If you can live with her reaction – and any potential damage to your relationship – then I’d proceed. And to be clear, you’re not at all a bad person if that’s the way you feel.
Because it sounds like your daughter’s name is already Hattie Elisabeth … even if it would be easier if you could find something you liked instead!
Okay, readers … am I off-base on this one? How would you react if you were the sister-in-law … or the mom-to-be?
I can’t believe my own daughter’s name is the one being discussed here! Ours is Harriet who always goes by Hattie. It was important to me to give her a big formal name to match her siblings. We considered several other ways to get to Hattie, but ultimately I didn’t want a Hadley or Katherine-inexplicably-called-Hattie, or Hadassah.
You’ve quietly and politely waited to see if you’d ever have the opportunity to use your beloved name, and now you do! Plus your husband likes it too, a minor miracle! I don’t see what the big deal is with cousins both being Hattie, and I think there’s a good chance they would love sharing it. They presumably have different last names, and also different initials, and they won’t ever be in school together. My parents copied my 6-months-older cousin’s middle name for me, and while I think my aunt was miffed initially, my cousin and I enjoyed the special cousin link. Just don’t do anything annoying like refer to your niece as “Big Hattie.” I’d stick with calling her Harriet, or if she starts going by Hattie predominantly, then refer to her as “Cousin Hattie” or “Hattie + Middle Name” to avoid confusion.
If you think your SIL can be gracious about it, I would forge ahead with Hattie Elisabeth. I think it would feel like an unsatisfying compromise to switch your special name out for Hattibeth or Sadie or Hadley. I would have your husband be the one to deliver the news to his sister (after the birth, when it’s a done deal!) so you don’t have to deal with her initial reaction, and invite your husband’s family to use their own special non-Hattie nickname such as Betsy. The only way I would give it up is if his family is so petty that you think his sister and their parents will hound you about this endlessly. My MIL has openly despised 2 of my 3 kids’ names, but even she shut up after enough of her Facebook friends gave positive feedback to convince her that the names were ok choices. Once the child is born, there’s a lot less room to criticize the name, and people with decent manners and personal boundaries will quickly accept it.
I totally agree. You’ve spent countless years dreaming up the perfect name, hoping you’d get a chance to use it. And, God is good! He’s given you one of the biggest blessings, and a chance to raise a child with the name you adore, and have fussed over, wanting her to feel a connection to her grand and great-grand- mothers. While now, you feel like you have to plan out every last detail of a name, and you would think this should be the easiest name ever, you’ve been faced with an obstacle. You’re passed the stage of looking for rhymes, jokes, and ways for your princess to be picked on from her name. You know exactly what you want, but feel that it isn’t reachable. And you, and your husband BOTH agree on a name. To me, that seems like it was meant to be her name!
Now, to go forward with the name, it’ll have to depend on a few conditions…
1. How close are you with your family?
2. Is Harriet a good girl to be associated with?
3. Will you be together so much that it’ll be a burden to call your daughter a pet name, and have you SIL call her daughter Harriet, or a non Hattie nickname?
4. Just trying to cover all bases here: What if something bad happens to Harriet, or the girls don’t end up getting along. Would you be okay with the confusion involved with having the girls share a name?
And lastly, would any name mean more to you than bringing your daughter home with the name Hattie Elisabeth? Could any name really replace that for you? And, If you only have one daughter, would you be okay with never having a Hattie Elisabeth?
Sorry, I know that this is a lot all at once, but have you considered trying to give your daughter 3 names? A first, and two middle? Or adding a hyphen in the middle of the middles? You could always give her an honor name from your DH’s side, or maybe even bumping the honor names to the middle with a hyphen, and then giving her a unique name from a list you had also considered, but just hadn’t be more special that Hattie, and Elisabeth? And, maybe you decide to keep a list with your hospital stuff, but leave it un-finalized until you meet her?
To be quite honest, when you get her in your arms, and meet her, God will show you the way. Even if you end up reading the list to her during a middle of the night feeding, and decide based on a babble after she hears a name, you’ll work it all out. There will be no way for a shared name to overshadow the joy of bringing home a baby for the first time. There might be a sore spot, but that’ll be up to your SIL to keep it all in check and just focus on how happy you are, instead of her possible disappointment. It isn’t something you should be concerned about while you are trying to focus on your indescribable happiness.
I you still feel unsettled, mention it to her again, and then table the whole conversation. Let her know you are trying to respect her opinions, but also are not willing to lose the honor of the name you chose. In the end, the girls might enjoy the special connection! But, if they dont, you’ll have to realize, that even if you plan to call her Hattie, you might not end up calling her that. And, if she doesn’t end up Hattie Elisabeth, As life goes on, you’ll still find a way to honor your grandmothers.
Another thought, is there a street, or place name that could work that relates to one of the grandmothers? I know that my great grandmother lived on Camelia Court, so if you were me, you could name her Camelia if you also liked the name.
Last thought- I promise-
Such a special name isn’t fair to write off such a beautiful name because of a cousin’s pet name. And, though it seems really big right now, it’ll all work out, and everyone will just come to know your daughter as Hattie, or Elaine, Rose, Beatrix, Ophelia, or whatever you choose.
Just dont change your dream because of someone else’s.
Can I suggest you try approaching your SIL about this again? In the time since she was last asked, she may also have been thinking about it some more and may have either softened her opinion (realised it’s actually not too bad) or decided that she definitely doesn’t want a similarity and regrets not being clearer when last asked.
As with those who mentioned this above, it’s not ‘their’ name to own so you are free to use it if you choose. However, I also agree that you don’t want the birth of your daughter to be marred by potential family conflict.
And in the scheme of things, you are not going to love your daughter more or less based on what her name is. I had to give up the name I always loved dearly for a daughter, because my husband truly disliked it. I tried many many times to dissuade him and reasoned why this name was ideal (honor elements etc) but he was set on his views and in the end I decided that peace in our relationship was worth more to me than a name. Six years later and I still feel a slight twinge of sadness that I didn’t get to use the name I loved… but that sadness is just for a name and not for a person – if that makes sense. I would not change a thing about my daughter now, including her name.
I wish you all the best.
I don’t think I saw anyone suggest hyphenating and always calling her Hattie-Elisabeth, like Emily Elizabeth from Clifford the Big Red Dog. I suggest the hyphen so it’s clear the intention is that she will be called Hattie-Elisabeth. Normally, I probably wouldn’t suggest this, but you mentioned both names are important honor names, so it seems reasonable. Also, I think Hattie-Elisabeth is adorable. Additionally, it will give you the opportunity to use an honor name from your husband’s family as the middle name. It may seem like a lot of name to hyphenate the first name and still use a middle name, but i think that will solidify the idea in everyone’s mind that your daughter is Hattie-Elisabeth, not just Hattie. I would still talk to your SIL, kindly and firmly letting her know that you are using Hattie-Elisabeth because it has always been important to you, but that your daughter will be going by Hattie-Elisabeth. I think that;s compromise enough.
I have several “same-named cousins” in my family, and I promise it’s not a big deal. I didn’t even realize this was an issue for people until I joined name communities online.
Lorna Grace says
I would use the name you love. If your sister-law is still not on board after telling her why this name is so important to you I would find out why it is a problem. Maybe she wants her to have a unique name. Grandparents might be confused…and so on. Then come up with a compromise name. This would show you respect her and her child’s name, while giving your child the name of your dreams. I like the idea of calling her Hattie Elisabeth, a nickname with family like Tibby. I go by two different names. My name in English is Lorna, while my Spanish name is Grace. I have no problem switching between the two. Lots of people have names they use within certain groups. Also, you could ask Harriet your niece how she feels about sharing her name with a new cousin. Consider your husband’s current relationship with his brother. Names alone do not destroy relationships. If there are underlining problems this would add onto that. I believe open communication is key to this name conundrum. Best of luck.
Jean C. says
I am close to my husband’s family, even though we only see them once or twice a year. It would be uncomfortable for me if someone wanted to use one of my kids names…however, both of them have frequently used nicknames, and my son’s nickname is a common nickname for many names although not frequently a stand-alone name (Mac). I wouldn’t be pumped about that being used, but I wouldn’t be resentful either.
If the honors are the important factor, I would consider reversing the order to Elizabeth Hattie. I think it sounds just fine in that order…and it gives you the option that she can still go by Hattie. I also would consider the nicknames Betty and Betsy, as they have a similar feel to Hattie. Anyway, then neither girl’s first name is Hattie, and when they’re together they can be Elizabeth/Betty/Beth/Betsy and Harriet, and she can be Hattie to everyone else all the rest of the time. I’m guess what would bother me about giving up Hattie altogether is there is a chance that when cousin Harriet gets bigger that she NEVER goes by Hattie…and that would make me wistful.
Thank you for your thoughtful insight, Jean! I love Betty as a nn for Elizabeth. Your final point is one of the main reasons I haven’t moved on 100%, that and my husband and I have yet to agree on anything else so far! Luckily we still have a couple months to go.
Have you and your husband considered naming your daughter Hadley Elisabeth, nickname Hattie? I know some people would say Haddie is the “proper” nickname for Hadley, but I think Hattie works equally well! Your niece would be Harriet, sometimes called Hattie, and your daughter would be Hadley, mostly called Hattie, except when her older cousin, aunt, or other family members on your husband’s side are present.
“She was very nice and said she knows she has no rights to the name/nickname, that it’s our decision, etc, but they just wished we would try to find something else.” I’m quoting you here — I think the key word in her response to you is “try.” It sounds like you AND your husband are genuinely trying to come up with another name that you both love as much as Hattie. It’s not as if you are the only one who loves the name (and has for quite some time); your husband loves it too. If you decide to name your daughter Hattie and can say with a clear conscience that you were unable to find a different name that you liked as well, then I think your SIL ought to respect your decision.
Thank you, your words have definitely given me some peace of heart!
Ugh that’s *such* a tough question. I think Abby’s advice makes absolute sense, but if it was me, I don’t think I could bring myself to do it, knowing that my sister in law would very much prefer me to pick another name. It’s not about ownership exactly but more that I would want the arrival of my new baby to be a cause of unadulterated joy and I wouldn’t want to taint any of that joy by anxiety that I’d upset a close family member and caused a rift or resentment. I really like the suggestion of using another name to get to Hattie as a compromise though? Henrietta is great, but I think you could also get to it another way – maybe Katherine?
You’ve summed up my feelings exactly! Even after Abby’s awesome advice and many responders saying it’s “ok”. I don’t love the thought of announcing my daughter’s name with trepidation and worry. So we are going to keep looking and brainstorming, much to my husband’s agony;) If I meet her and we do go through with Hattie, or find it another way (Kathryn is actually my middle name and I’d not thought of that!) at least I will have tried hard to find something else. Lucky for me I love poring over baby names and blogs!
I know you’ve been tying yourself in knots over this, and as much as it would be lovely to find a perfect solution, I just don’t think there is one in this situation.
The nearest I can think of is reversing the order … but I’m not sure Elisabeth as a first name has the same appeal for you as Hattie does. Would Eliza Hattie be better? If you could bring yourself to love it you’d still be using a variant of a meaningful name and have Hattie tucked in there and special. And you’d still be honouring the two women you’d love to honour with your daughter’s name
Another not ideal suggestion … Sadie has a similar feel to Hattie and is a variant of Sara. It would mean not using Hattie at all though, but Sadie Elisabeth still gives you two family names.
If you don’t use Hattie Elisabeth for your daughter, it could also be a darling name for her special doll 🙂
All the very best!
You and your husband deserve to be able to name your baby a name you love just as his sister named her baby a name she loved. Her baby girl was born first, but did you love the name long before she did? Did she love it before you? Who knows. It does not matter. She can choose to be “victimized” by your use of the name Hattie– quietly or otherwise– or not. You absolutely did the sensitive, mature, respectful thing to give her a heads up, and you owe no one anything else. Congratulations to your family!
OP here! I just want to thank you ALL for your thoughtful feedback. And of course the wise and wonderful Abby as well! It has been so helpful and means a lot to me. I’ve tried to reply individually, but they aren’t posting so I’ll just comment here. And hope they don’t all show up tomorrow and make me entirely redundant.
To answer a few questions- we did share our girl name with my first two pregnancies with family. I might have even shared it before I was ever pregnant. Most people who know me, know that was THE name. But I don’t necessarily think my husband’s sister or family remembers. We found out the sex well before our boys were born, so it’s not like we discussed a girl name for very long. Which is no big deal if she or anyone forgot- I assume not everyone is name obsessed like I am;)
So when she mentioned Harriet with a possible nn Hattie as one of their choices for their 3rd girl, I just kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want to color her decision or make it seem like I was calling dibs. Especially as I had just had my second son and wasn’t even sure if we’d have another baby, much less a daughter! Should I have said something? Who knows. But I don’t Really regret that I didn’t, in case it would have seemed like calling dibs, which is not my style.
There is another living Harriet in their family, my husband’s aunt. She goes by Harriet only. (My MIL let it be known she thought i should skip Hattie and use Harriet after her side when we discussed it with her the first time around!)
We have used honor/family names for both boys, first and middle, and for a while I was trying to go outside that box but realized it was making it harder for me to move on since the original name (and the women it’s after) is/are so meaningful to me. And because my family tends to reuse names, the pool is quite small! my husband especially is underwhelmed with the other family options on his side and mine.
I typically avoid conflict, so my gut is to find a different name whether I/we love it or not. One thing that gives me pause is if she drops Hattie completely down the road (as she does go by Harriet quite a lot) I know I Would be pretty sad about that. And I do secretly wonder why it’s ok that there are two Harriets in the family and that’s not a problem at all. But maybe it’s because it’s the same generation Of cousins instead of an aunt and niece that’s conflicting? Anyway, I truly appreciate you all taking the time to respond and promise to update with our decision in early November!!
I think having two first cousins share a name IS more confusing than aunt or niece. In my town there were two cousins called Christopher. It worked because one was Chris and one was Kit and they had different last names. My mother, grandmother and a cousin were all Margarets but my mom is Peggy and my cousin is Maggie, etc. In your sister in law’s place, I would be annoyed if you called your child Hattie. In your niece’s place, I would feel that my name had been stolen. It might be different if your daughter is a Harriet called Hallie or Elizabeth Hattie, etc.
I have two cousins named Gabrielle Elizabeth on the same side of my family, and they were born a month apart. They don’t see each other often. The first Gabbie’s parents were a little upset about the arrival of the second Gabbie (but the second Gabbie’s father is named Gabe, and it was clearly planned far in advance, and was just a coincidence). They eventually let it go, and I literally haven’t heard anyone talk about it since the kids were born in 1996. It’ll be fine.
I agree with the previous comment of using Elizabeth Hattie instead. This way you keep all family ties and can call her Hattie the majority of the time if you like. Showing honor and respect for living family members (SIL) is just as important as honoring those who have passed.
While I don’t think cousins who share a given name and nickname is too close (I’m pretty live and let live, so as long as it isn’t siblings sharing a name, I’m not likely to bat an eye), what it comes down to is what you’ll regret more: the possible souring of your (or worse, your husband’s) relationship with your SIL, or not using the name that fills your heart.
Out of curiosity, I would ask your husband whether his sister is the type to be blunt or dance around an issue. Because she said she hoped you’d “look elsewhere” rather than a simple “no,” but I don’t know enough about her to read into it.
Sara (OP) says
Thanks for the feedback! Therein lies my dilemma- I don’t want this to cause a rift at all, but I’m surprised at how hard it’s been for me to move on now that my daughter is real. We are struggling to find a meaningful family/honor name (which so far is our naming tradition/style) that we both like, much less love. My husband is concerned I will always be sad about Hattie if we don’t use it, although I would like to think I would get over it!
She was very nice and said she knows she has no rights to the name/nickname, that it’s our decision, etc, but they just wished we would try to find something else. I would be shocked if it created some huge family drama as that’s not her style, but I’m not entirely sure if it would create some unspoken resentment or not. I’ve also never been at odds with my in laws in general because I typically avoid rocking the boat!
She was diplomatic and nice about it- saying she knew she had no right to the name/nickname, but would just prefer if the cousins didn’t share. I don’t think it would cause a huge drama, as that’s not really typical of her, but whether there would be subtle resentment? That perhaps other family members might feed into? Of that I am not totally sure.
Thanks so much for responding!
keats A q says
I think you really need to exhaust all other options before using it. Is the drama really worth it? Aren’t honor names supposed to make a family closer, not more distant? And what would Granny Hattie want?
But if that fails, what about Hattie Elizabeth as a double middle? Or name her Hattie but call her Betsy for Elizabeth so you maintain the honor and drop the drama? I mean, unless you SIL is a saint, it will impact her relationship with your kid in some capacity. And your kid’s relationship with her cousin. And what a lot of stress that all is!!
I get that you imagined your child and her name one way, but you know that kids often are very different than we ever could have imagined. In a good way! Is your love for Hattie love for the idea of having a daughter? Or is it really this specific kid’s name? Maybe dig through your love for Hattie a bit to see why it is hard to imagine her as anything else.
But at the end of the day, it is your child and you have done a good faith effort to find something else. If you can’t, then brace yourself for the fall out.
Kirstin G says
Normally, I would think cousin is too close of a relationship to share a name, but in your case I think it would be fine for a few reasons: 1) because it’s the other child’s nickname, and she doesn’t use it exclusively. To me Hattie as a given name is distinguished from Harriet sometimes nn Hattie. It would be like naming a child Emmie when she has a cousin named Emmeline who is sometimes affectionately called Emmie. They’re two different names, and Harriet has so many nickname choices. 2) it’s a deep, meaningful connection for you. You have a really good reason for naming your child Hattie. For your side of the family it would be a heartwarming, special decision. To me that’s not taking your SIL’s daughter’s name. It’s using your grandmother’s name. 3) it really does make a different that you don’t see them often. I don’t know if it would matter either way, but there are so many people who know your daughter Hattie but won’t know cousin Harriet. In the majority of her lived experience, that connection won’t be relevant.
I understand not wanting to rock the boat, but if I knew my child’s nickname had such meaning for a SIL, I wouldn’t feel like I had such a strong claim to it. There’s more than one relationship at play here.
It is a little close for cousins who see each other a few times a year. But if it is only « she sometimes calls her hattie as a nickname » it dorsn’t sound that set in stone and she will probably migrate to another nickname. Otherwise, use another hattie-providing name as suggested. If SIL gets that upset then tough.
How would you feel about a different formal name that gets to Hattie as a nn? Could your daughter be Henrietta or another feminine version of Henry on her birth certificate? Harriet and your daughter could be called by their respective formal names when together, but the rest of the time, she could be Hattie.
Congratulations on your daughter and best wishes for a warm resolution to the situation with your SIL and niece, whatever you decide!
Great idea! We are trying to warm to Henrietta, especially as Henry was our boy name for this baby! I just wonder if that would still be too close for comfort for my sister in law?
Sara, you say that Hattie Elisabeth was your choice for a girl with your previous pregnancies — did your SIL know your intent to use this name? If so, did she reach out to you when she was expecting daughter #3 and ask if it would be okay if she named her third daughter Harriet, nn Hattie, knowing that was a name you were hoping to use?
I say go ahead and name your daughter the name that you AND your husband love and that has special meaning to you because of the women it honors. When the family is all together (and it sounds like you only see your SIL and her family infrequently), maybe your daughter can go by her full name to avoid confusion or maybe she could be Hattie Beth or some other nickname.
Hattie Elisabeth is a beautiful name and I feel you would definitely regret not using it. Best wishes to you!
Sara (OP) says
Thank you for your thoughtful response! We did share our Girl name intentions with family, but I’m not entirely sure that she, or any other members of his family remember. When she shared that they were thinking of Harriet and a few other names for this 3rd daughter during her pregnancy, she also mentioned Hattie as a nickname, and I didn’t say/remind “oh that was our girl name!” I didn’t want to color her decision, especially as i had just had my second son and wasn’t sure if we would have a daughter or even a third baby at that point. In hindsight, should I have casually said something? Who knows. I just didn’t want it to seem like I was calling dibs since I’m not really that kind of baby namer anyway. I’m a Sara from the 80s, named after family and share my name with a cousin and many others. It doesn’t bother me (but my sister has a popular name and always hated it- so I know everyone is different!)
We are trying hard to find an alternate name we can agree on, that won’t ruffle any feathers, but I do really love the name, and the women she would be named for, so very much, it’s harder than I thought! Thanks again for your feedback:)
Sara (OP) says
I thought I already posted a reply to you, but it didn’t show up! Just wanted to say thank you for your thoughtful response, and answer your questions.
We did share our girl name with family the first two times around, and I think I shared it even before we were ever pregnant, as it’s been my top choice forever, but I’m not entirely sure my husband’s sister remembered, or if anyone in his family does. I just assume not everyone is as name obsessed as me;)
So no, she never asked me. Which never bothered me. When she mentioned Harriet with a possible nickname of Hattie for this 3rd daughter, I chose not to say, “oh, Hattie is/was our girl name!” I didn’t want to color her decision in any way, or seem like I was calling dibs (when I wasn’t), especially since I had just had our second son and didn’t know if I’d ever have a daughter or even a 3rd baby at that point. In hindsight, should I have casually mentioned it? Would it have helped the current situation at all? Who knows.
If we go through with using it/don’t settle on anything else, I was thinking I would offer to call her Hattie Elisabeth around my husband’s family (I would even call her that all the time if we didn’t have a long last name) or whatever else might make my SIL feel more comfortable.
I appreciate your kind words and feedback so very much!
I’ve been on the other side of this dilemma. My cousin asked me if they could use my daughter’s name for their third child who was on the way. The only reason she gave was that her husband loved the name. If I had been told it was the only name they loved forever and had family ties on the other side of the family (and they hadn’t already named their first daughter their favourite name) I *might* have answered differently? But honestly, my gut reaction was “No way, thank you!” I didn’t answer right away, I let my thoughts percolate. But I found another name advisor’s words to a writer that said that once a child is named, it’s a person, no longer a name. That resonated with me. So I thanked my cousin a lot for reaching out and asked her not to use the name. I said it would be confusing for our shared grandparents and family, which was also a factor. Well, here we are five years later and my relationship with my cousin hasn’t ever been the same. There are of course other factors for why we might have drifted a bit. But I do think the relationship risk is there, no matter what you choose (whether you honour her feelings but are resentful, or use the name and experience some resent from her/your niece/your family.) No judgement here. Every family and every situation is so different. I know how hard it is to find a name you absolutely love. So good luck!
(OP here) Thank you so much for your thoughtful response! It is really helpful. And yes- I can’t believe how hard it has been to find an agreed upon runner-up that we love!
I can understand the argument for elevating relationships over names, but at the same time, I don’t like this notion that we “own” names. My mother-in-law comes from a large Sicilian family, where it is not at all unusual to have multiple cousins with the same name or variations of the same name (she shares her own name, Nanette, with at least one cousin, if not two). This happened because they favored honoring family members over picking unique names. In your case, you didn’t just pick Hattie Elizabeth because you found it aesthetically pleasing: you chose it, because it honored people who are very dear to you.
If I were you, I might call your sister-in-law yourself, and politely and kindly explain your deep attachment to this name, and ask her to understand your position. You might be surprised: she may find sympathy after hearing you articulate your heartfelt feelings to her. But I do think you should contact her, not your husband.
Best wishes for navigating the situation!
I’ll voice the other view- I think a warm relationship with her cousin and aunt is way more important than realizing a dream name.
Personally, I had a long-time favorite name, that is a family name on one side of my family, and actually *part* of my own name, and I always imagined giving it to a daughter. But a relative on the other side of my family named her child that years before I was ever pregnant. They also use a relatively uncommon nickname for that name that I preferred.
I was briefly disappointed. It was a perfect, easy naming choice for my own eventual daughter… until it wasn’t anymore. But I did find another name that I loved as much if not more- and was extra glad I had done so when my daughter arrived on her cousin’s birthday! I have no doubts that my relative would have been gracious and civil about it if I had plowed ahead and named my child the same thing as hers. But what a thing to put on a budding relationship between the two kids or the adult and the new child- and more so if you’ve already asked and been kindly told they would really prefer you didn’t.
I have zero regrets about putting our relationship above the aesthetic and emotional pull of a fantasy name. When I see my daughter and her much-adored older cousin playing together, I am so so glad there isn’t even an ounce of the tension that would likely have resulted if I had insisted on naming her the same thing as her cousin. Each of their names is perfect for them now, in reality.
I would not do it. I think it would be rather annoying and confusing and also somewhat of an insult to the Hattie who already exists in the family. How about Elizabeth Hattie instead or some other family name?
I love Abby’s advice, and agree that you should go with Hattie Elisabeth.
Would it be worth talking to little Harriet about it too, and hearing her reaction to knowing there’ll be another Hattie in the family? She’ll probably be super excited, which might help your SIL to warm to it. But I suppose the flip side is you’d have to be prepared in the event that she is not at all psyched about it–that might not do wonders for your case.
You should use Hattie Elisabeth. If you haven’t already, perhaps it’s worth talking with your SIL and sharing the reasons why the name is particularly meaningful for you and your daughter. I’d also let her know that you diligently sought alternatives. Maybe there’s a cute way to connect the girls that would take the sting out of it a little. I wouldn’t necessarily expect any of that to change her mind, but at least she’d have the context for why you’re making this choice. I also think that any drama will lessen over time. She will need to process her feelings and you’ll have to give her space to do that.