Nicknaming your unborn baby

Once upon a time the announcement of baby’s name was as much of a surprise as the newborn’s gender and weight. These days, parents-to-be are becoming more and more candid about potential names for their baby. Some are even cutting to the chase and skipping in-utero nicknames altogether, referring to their baby by their Christian name before they’re even born. For those parents still inclined to nickname their bump, Pippa Henderson reflects on the benefits, and provides some inspiration.  

Forget brown paper packages tied up with string, words are one of my favourite things. So naturally I found naming our children both an incredible honour and a massive responsibility. One word had to do so much work: I wanted it preloaded with significant meaning, and, as cheesy as it sounds, to evoke faith, hope, and joy. It needed to be suitable for a baby, but simultaneously be a name that would suit a fully grown adult. And crucially, I also needed it to be a beautiful word to both say and listen to; we’d be whispering it, calling it, yelling it at least a million times over the next twenty years or so.

The great thing about choosing a name for your baby in utero is that these pressures are negated. This nickname expires in nine months. It can be cute, jaunty, witty and downright hilarious if you want it to be. And, if you enjoy the process of choosing it, bestowing it and throwing it about, it will give you confidence when it comes to the real thing. Naming a baby in utero is essentially a practice run!

There are other benefits of choosing an in-utero name for your baby. It provides an alternative to the pronouns he, she and it – which simply feels wrong when referring to a human being, however small. This is obviously particularly helpful when you don’t know the gender of your unborn baby, or you know, but don’t want others to.

Having a nickname for your unborn baby also helps you bond with this tiny life, who you haven’t yet laid eyes on, but is taking up an ever increasing portion of your thought space, emotions, budget etc… A name makes this big step into the unknown more personal, and reminds you of the relationship you’re developing with this little life, not just your new responsibilities. To me it seemed to acknowledge the fact that even before they’re born babies are their own unique little entity. Silly as it sounds, I felt like our children’s in utero names carved out some space for them, bringing them to life before they’d actually arrived.

Those inclined to call a spade a spade a spade are also inclined to call bump a bump: Bump is an extremely popular moniker. Joey is another obvious choice. But if you’re looking for a more original term of endearment, here are a few sources of inspiration to help spark a brainstorming session.  

What they look like in the ultra sound. Try working your imagination a little bit harder than Bean or Peanut. Can you make out another shape or form amongst the shadows? Is he/she giving you a high five? Does the sound of the heart beat give you any prompts?

Examples: Sneetch, Haricot, Sprout, Flipper, Tiki, Koru, Eminem.

A play on your &/or your partner’s name. If you’ve got a good old fashioned surname like Fisher, Potter, Spicer, Cook or Baker, try deriving a nickname in accordance with that occupation. If your surname is a colour you could also play with that palette.

Examples: Sprat, Nemo, Fimo, Lamington, Basil, Olive, Emerald.   

A reference to the place – or even manner – of baby’s conception.  You could go with the street name, the suburb or general area, or the city – whatever’s more interesting. But just be aware that people are bound to ask you the origin of this nickname at some stage, including the baby himself! In terms of manner of conception – I've heard of a few Petries out there.

Examples: Cairo, Paris, Brooklyn, Kelburn, Kainui, Sycamore.  

A reference to the date/month/season of their conception or due date.

Examples: Valentine, Storm, Summer, Bud, Snowflake, Rudolph, Monsoon, Supermoon.

A reference your hopes for their future. Pay tribute to your favourite artist, author, musician or sporting hero.

Examples: Pablo, Seuss, Finn, Nonu.

A biblical character. My parents bestowed us with Old Testament names before we were born: Jemima, Jehosaphat, Joshua, and Jesse. I was Joshua. I don’t mind that they got the gender wrong, I like the way it implied I’d be strong and courageous.

Examples: Solomon, Samson, Moses, Barnabas, Priscilla, Mary and Martha.

Their characteristics in utero, or what they make you crave.

Examples: Hiccup, Twitch, Flip, Marmite, Ginger Crunch.

A reference to their place in the family. B1, B2, B3 don’t exactly have the X Factor, but you could go with the language of your forbears.

Examples: Tahi, Rua, Toru…Wahid, Athnyn, Thlatht…

Ask baby's older siblings/cousins. Kids have a refreshing way of being utterly random and hilarious.

Examples: Menguin (cross between Minion and Penguin), Boss Baby, Sponge Bob.

Create a family theme. Our first baby was nicknamed Cheerio before birth, so we continued with the sausage theme for the next two: Frankfurter (Frankie) and Saveloy, which I then changed to Chipolata (Chippie.) I loved that before our second and third were born their names denoted they were already part of a team. It did backfire slightly in that I fell so in love with the name Frankie it was really hard to drop it once he was born. Sure, Frankie could have transitioned into a legitimate Christian name, but we would have secretly always known that we’d named our son after a sausage.




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