BabyNamesShould I name my rainbow baby after my son who died at birth?

This is a question asked by many pregnant parents. You may wonder if you should name your child the exact name or incorporate the name into your new baby’s name.

The first thing to ask yourself is, “Why am I naming my child after your baby who died? Do I want to honor him and pay tribute? Or am I secretly hoping to replace the baby who has died? If you can be honest with yourself and your partner, the answer to your question my become very clear. The heavy burden placed on subsequent children who are really a replacement child carries with it a lifetime of potential troubles. Be sure you are ready for a new and different child. Access your reasons for name associations. And seek the advice and opinions of those who have been through this situation to gain some balance and life experience.

The Exact Name Conundrum

There may be a heavy psychological impact on children when giving them the exact name as their sibling who died. Growing up in this way can be very confusing. People make ask them why their brother or sister who died has the same name. Or your child may feel the need or even pressure to outlive, be like, worry that they too may die young, or even think they need to outdo their deceased sibling. Is she/he to become a reincarnated version of the sibling who died? Ask yourself, “How does one live up to a perfect sibling who never did anything wrong?”

Could these type of messages be carried throughout your child’s life? Doesn’t your subsequent child deserves an identity of his/her own? Be very thoughtful and a bit wary of using the same name. This happened all the time in past centuries, so it isn’t totally out of line. But many of us who work with bereaved families and their subsequent children tend not to be encouraging of this practice at this time.

A Tribute

You can honor your child by using some part of the baby’s name in your rainbow baby’s name, a sweet way to connect them while honouring their uniqueness. For example if you named your baby Angel you could make that a middle name for your new baby. Or you could add two middle names–one a grandmother’s first name and the other your baby’s first name. Sometimes people use initials and shorter versions. For example, if your child who died was named Madison or Andrew, you could make the middle name Maddie or Drew – or even use them for a first name, if you love them and feel it is the right thing to do. Other parents choose a name that has a similar (or very different) meaning. There are many ways to help your living child have a connection to his/her sibling who died. Just as many children are named after their deceased relatives, this can be quite an honor and opportunity to proudly carry on a legacy or tradition.

A Totally Unique Name

On the other hand, maybe your preference it to choose a totally different name, making the point that each child is distinct. Throughout your family’s lives you will have many opportunities to honor, remember, and include your baby who died in your life. Maybe it is not necessary to do it through the name. There are so many ways you can show tribute–You can hold special ceremonies, make memory items, include your child’s name in holiday cards, visit the cemetery together, make donations in memory and so much more. Making a formal name connection may not be at all your preference.

We highly recommend that you and your partner talk about the options weighing the pros and cons. You may wish to solicit the thoughts of others who have been there from our social media sites and even consult with family and friends whom you trust, if you are open to hear their honest answers. Remember, when you ask for opinions you will get ones that you agree with, some you don’t agree with, and probably some perspectives you had not yet considered. In the end, how much you share with others will be up to you. If you can hear and evaluate their comments, while holding your own ground in the end, don’t be afraid of inviting such discussions. However, if you feel this opens up a Pandora’s box and you might be swayed against your better judgment, then limit who you talk with about this important and sensitive topic.

In the end, you will should get to decide, since it is your baby. And keep in mind that whether your baby is named after a deceased sibling or not, she/he will be their own person. Work on having a healthy attitude about each child’s uniqueness. Don’t compare living children with your child who died. As you work to incorporate all your children into your family (alive and dead), your positive and loving attitude which focuses on life and the future will help your subsequent children have a healthy attitude about who they are in the family while being inclusive of their siblings who live only in stories and memories of those who loved them.

David and I choose to name our children distinct names and have no regrets. They know of their brother and miscarried baby sisters. Over the years we have kept them in conversation and included them to some degree at holiday time. We have plenty of friends who found interesting ways to incorporate their babies’ names into the names of their living children and are grateful they did.

No one can tell you what is right and what is wrong for you. Trust your instincts and your hearts. You will make the decision that works best for you.

*Adapted from articles found in the eZine Babies Remembered # 7 found at Babies Remembered.

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