Thursday, April 30, 2015

Naming a Miscarried Baby

It's a fairly common practice for parents to name the children they've lost to miscarriage. It's certainly a matter of personal preference (please do not feel that you aren't properly honoring your child or grieving appropriately if you decide not to name your child) but for many parents, it helps them connect with and find closure after the loss of their child. In many families, especially the Catholic families I'm familiar with, miscarried children are talked about often, prayed for (and to, since we have reason to believe that they are in heaven and therefore can watch out and pray for us), and it's easier to do these things if the children have names. I previously wrote about how we chose a name for our daughter and for the first two children we lost and I've decided to share an update of that post with the names of the last two children I miscarried.

I've always been a bit of a name junky (I'm currently addicted to the Catholic naming blog Sancta Nomina) so the process of choosing our children's names is one that is done with a lot of thought, prayer, and love. It meant so much to me that even though we lost four of our children so very young and will never get to experience the typical parenting moments with them as we will with our living child, I was still able to give them their names. It is one of the only ways that I've been able to truly mother those babies.

Lucia Rose, born December 2011
Since we didn't find out whether Lucia was a boy or girl, we had to have two names at the ready.  The boy's name was picked out before we were even pregnant (and in some ways before I even met my husband).  The girl's name was much harder to nail down since it seemed David and I had opposite taste in names.  (We have since resolved our differences and have 3-4 girls names already picked out, in order, for future daughters.) My main choice for name inspiration was a book of women Saints that I owned.  I would thumb through the pages looking for names that I liked and only read the corresponding story if I felt the name was "in the running".  There were several names that were clearly not going to happen, like Hedwig and Hildegarde, but anything I half liked I ran by David and 99% he turned down on the spot.  Very early on, two front runners emerged: Alena and Lucia.  Alena was actually the favorite for quite some time and I can't remember why we decided on Lucia instead, but we did so somewhere between 20 and 30 weeks.  Lucia's name is equally in honor of St. Lucy and Sr. Lucia of Fatima as my husband has a great devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.  Her middle name, Rose, was decided from the very beginning.  It is my middle name and a dear aunt's middle name in honor of my great grandmother, Rosa. 

Francis Michael, miscarried October 2013
After my miscarriage in October 2013, several people urged us to name the baby.  It took a week or so before we felt comfortable with doing so.  Naming a miscarried child seemed so different than naming a living one.  We had names picked out for our next child before this one was even conceived, but it didn't feel right to use either one of them.  I know many parents feel comfortable giving the child a gender specific name based on their gut instincts, but I didn't have any feelings about the baby's gender and was wrong with my gut instinct that Lucia was a boy, so we decided to choose a gender neutral name.  Searching "gender neutral Saint names" doesn't come up with many results, but I immediately found one that I loved: Francis.  Although more commonly associated with boys, Frances is a common enough girl's name and St. Frances Cabrini is one of my favorite Saints.  The biggest decision we had to make was which spelling to use.  While researching the name, I found a source that said that until the last few centuries, both spellings were used interchangeably for boys and girls, so we simply went with the one that was most aesthetically appealing to me.  We chose the middle name Michael after the Archangel.  When I think of this baby, I think of the baby being either "my Frank or Frannie" and joyfully look forward to the day when I find out which nickname fits.

Julian Gabriel, miscarried February 2014
This may sound a bit strange, but I already chosen a name for our second miscarried child before I was even pregnant with him/her.  It was a gender neutral name that would only be used for another lost baby.  Not that I necessarily expected to miscarry again (and I truly did not think I would miscarry twice in a row) but it was a name that I came across when I was looking for a name for Francis and tucked away as another favorite.  It feels a bit odd to give a child a specific name because he/she passed before birth while we would have given that same child a different name had he/she been born.  But at the same time, we feel blessed to be able to do the only thing we can do to parent this child other than conception: name him/her.  We chose the name Julian Gabriel.  Julian, while usually considered masculine, is the name of many Catholic Saints, and the female Julian of Norwich (who though not canonized is often revered as a Saint).  Gabriel, like the middle name we chose for Francis, is in honor of the Archangel.

Adrienne Rafael, miscarried October 2014
Like with Julian, I also had some ideas in mind of names to use if I miscarried again before I even knew this little one existed. I suppose after two miscarriages and one live birth, it starts to feel like a loss is more likely (statistically, it's not). Our third miscarriage was a very early "chemical pregnancy" so we weren't sure I was even pregnant until I no longer was. We debated a little bit about whether we would name the baby or whether we would even count it as a pregnancy/loss but ultimately decided that our belief that life starts at conception meant we wouldn't treat this child any different than we did the babies we lost later on. I started to feel like we were running out of blatantly Catholic, gender neutral names, but I had a short list left and Adrian was on it. Since Francis and Julian are more masculine in appearance, we decided on the feminine spelling Adrienne. Again, Rafael is for the Archangel and we chose that spelling because I love the Spanish language and prefer the pronunciation (rah-fiy-EHL) that is similar to the Spanish.

Christian Michael, miscarried December 2014
After we lost our last baby, I had a hard time coming up with any name ideas. There are some more available that fit the Saint/biblical and gender neutral categories (see below) but I couldn't seem to find one that fit for our baby. I don't know why I initially thought of Christian, but once I did, it just seemed right. Although usually a boy's name, I worked with a girl named Christian in college so it has a very gender neutral feel to me. We were short-sighted (or maybe it was just wishful thinking) when we decided to use the names of the Archangels as middle names for our miscarried babies since there are only three named Archangels. It didn't feel right to break with the tradition, so we decided to cycle back through and used Michael again.

A few of the ideas that we didn't use (yet) but might be helpful for couples searching for gender neutral Catholic names: 

Jean - in English, it's a girl's name; in French, it's the male name John
Jordan - for the Jordan River
Alex - for Alexander or Alexandra, or you could maybe even the full name Alexis - I'm familiar with it as a girl's name, but apparently it's a boy's name too
Hilary - for the male St. Hilary, though it's more often a female name now
Karol/Carol - for St. John Paul II whose name was Karol Wojtyla
Andy - for Andrew or Andrea - or even the full Andrea since it is a boy's name in other cultures, like singer Andrea Bocelli
Quinn - for Ven. Edel Quinn
Noel - means "Christmas" in French
Ariel - one of names for Jerusalem, probably most well known as The Little Mermaid, it can also be a boy's name like Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon

For more ideas, see Kate's post at Sancta Nomina. If none of these names work for you, (affiliate link) The Catholic Baby Name Book may be another helpful resource. If you have any other ideas, please leave them in the comments and I'd be happy to add them to the list!


  1. My two babies in heaven are Noel and Chris. We've never picked middle names. We chose Noel because we lost the baby right before Christmas. We chose Chris because it could stand for either Christopher or Christina.

    1. Thanks for sharing the names with me, JoAnna. Ah, yes, Chris! We considered that name too for the same reason but I forgot all about it this morning while writing the post. I suppose Chris could stand for Christian too, so I suppose it's off our list for the future.

  2. I miscarried in December at 12 weeks and, at the time, my husband and I both agreed not to name the baby. We hadn't gotten very far in name discussions and we didn't want to choose a name just to choose one, when neither of us felt like it was necessary to make the baby or the loss more real. Plus, we didn't have anyone around encouraging us to choose a name.

    Now, as what would have been the end of my pregnancy nears, I wonder if I do want to name him/her. I think about Mother's Day (we have two living children) and the due date, and I know those things would be easier to discuss and to process if we had a term to use other than "the baby we lost". I hate the idea of referring to the baby that way for the rest of our lives.

  3. Abby, it's definitely a matter of personal preference to name a miscarried child or not and is probably something that is a "new" practice in our culture since miscarriages used to be brushed under the rug. I just want to make that clear because I've come across some people in Catholic or pro-life circles who have made it seem as if you MUST name your child and that's simply not true.

    We did decide to name our first miscarried child shortly after the miscarriage, but if I hadn't, I think we would have been ok with referring to the baby as "the baby" or something like that. It would have been hard after our second loss though because there wouldn't have been an easy way to distinguish between them - "the first baby we lost" vs. "the second baby we lost" or "the baby we lost in October" vs. "the baby we lost in February"? I certainly hope you never have that issue, but reading your comment made me think of this.

    Have you brought up these thoughts to your husband recently? I pray that if you do decide to name your child, the Holy Spirit will help you find the perfect name. And if you decide not to, I hope you find peace in that decision.

  4. Thank you so much for this list. After our first miscarriage last October, we named the baby Catherine Therese because I felt strongly that the baby was a girl (even though I lost her at just 5 weeks). One of my daughters asks me frequently why we gave the baby a girl name when we don't know for sure if she was a girl or a boy.
    I am currently miscarrying my second baby. My husband wanted to name him/her Christopher Michael. After reading your post we agreed on Christian as a more gender neutral name.

  5. We went with Gabriel for our little one- Angels do not have genders like humans do so we figured naming the baby for an angel was a gold gender neutral choice. We picked Gabriel because the baby was due near the traditional feast of the angel Gabriel in March.

  6. Melissa Hunter-KilmerMay 29, 2015 at 2:49 PM

    I'm late responding, but I'm sure you won't mind that, right?

    Our first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. That was in 1979, when nobody really took the pain of miscarriage seriously. People thought my husband and I were way too extreme in our grief for a much wanted, much loved child. We did have live children subsequently, and that took away some of the pain, but it really took about twenty years for me to be able to think about that first child without crying. Even now, it's hard.

    We never named our first baby. We referred to that baby as "Caroline or Andrew," because we used the names we would have used on later children, and Caroline and Andrew would have been used for later children. I kind of had a feeling that the baby was a boy, but my instincts in this area are usually wrong.

    Now it is popular to name miscarried babies—and *so* sensible and helpful, it seems to me. My younger daughter asked me recently if I wanted to name her oldest sibling. The trouble is that my husband died a year and a half ago, so we can't name the baby together. It feels odd and almost wrong to name the baby at this point.

    What do you think?

  7. Hello. I just found your post. I am in the process of a miscarriage right now. I am trying to choose between naming my baby Davy or Arden. They are both names I like that I feel are unisex.

  8. The first baby we lost to miscarriage, we held in our hands, and could see that he was a boy. We gave him a name that we loved but had chosen not to use for our first son because we're a multi-lingual family and I don't like the English pronunciation.

    With our second one, I wasn't really admitting that I was even pregnant until we lost the baby, and there was no doubt. I felt God saying to me, "T (first baby) has a sister," and had a name for her in my mind, but didn't talk with my husband about it, until four months later, when we lost another baby to miscarriage, this one in the hospital and confirmed a boy. This time, we used a name that we both loved, but only liked the English pronunciation of, not the German or Spanish. And then when I spoke with my husband about naming our previous one, he suggested the name I'd been thinking for four months, yet again a name that had pronunciation issues.

    Our last miscarriage, my husband had the strong impression that she was a girl. He agreed to my suggestion of a first name, but I was really worried about telling him what I wanted for a middle name. It turned out, HE was also really worried about telling ME what he wanted...and it was the same name.

    Naming them has been very important to me, for many reasons. And it was nice getting to use names that we really like but had chosen, somewhat regretfully, not to use for our living babies.

  9. Ryan could also be a gender neutral first name. I know someone who used it for a miscarried child. Though, I'm not sure of Saint connections to the name.

  10. Jordan could also be for Bl. Jordan of Saxony! I've thought of using Ryan as a Christ-centric (I made that word up) name, because Rian means "little king" and Christ is the King of the Universe.

  11. Other suggestions:
    Lou - for St. Louis/Lewis (king of France) and St. Louise Marilac
    Jamie - to honor St. James
    Bernie - for St. Bernadette and St. Bernard
    Matt - for St. Mattew and St. Mathilda
    Marty - for St. Martha and St. Martin

    Also, I have to say it: thank you for your inspiration on living trough this pain.

  12. Another one:
    Max - for St. Maxima and St. Maximilian Kolbe

  13. We named our baby Helen Gale. We don't know the baby's sex, so Gale is our gender neutral name. Helen, however, just wouldn't go away; it's a family name, and the miscarriage occurred on the feast day of a St. Helen. We tend to refer to the baby by full name, just to respect that we don't know his or her sex. Helen Gale was #2 for us and would have been due in two weeks.

  14. We we found out a week ago via ultrasound that our baby didn't make it much past 8 weeks. Now we are waiting for my body to realize "Ryan Sidney" is no longer alive and is ready to leave my womb. This is my first miscarriage... We have been in fertility treatments for quite some time

    1. Ryan Sidney now has a little brother or sister to play with, I actually came back to read over names. I don't have a sense that this was a boy or a girl, I am 7 1/2 weeks and found out yesterday that there is no heart beat. I wouldn't let myself think about another name if I should lose another baby because I hoped and prayed it wouldn't happen again.

  15. Mandi, I don't have any suggestions to add, but I wanted to say that I stumbled upon your blog tonight, and you have been a great encouragement to me in this post. My husband and I lost our little one at around 9 weeks back in late October/early November this year, and it's been hard. We're still in the process of selecting a middle name, and your suggestions may help us. Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry you have experienced this tragedy repeatedly but overjoyed that you have a healthy baby now.

  16. My husband and I recently miscarried our first child this past November. I was diagnosed with a blighted ovem between 8 & 9 weeks. We were only able to see the gestational sack. Witch measured about 6 weeks and 3 day. I did not miscarry until a day shy of 11 weeks. It was the worst pain I have ever experienced. Physically as well as mentally. Mentally I was number by the time I actually miscarried because I had gone from teats of joy to tears of sorrow in a very small window of time. So many years waiting for this miraculous moment just to be told I would never be able hold my child in my arms. Or even feel him/her grow within me. It wasn't until the past few days that I feel that my shock has worn off. I've realized that this past Sunday I would have been 18 weeks. I should have been anxiously waiting my ultrasoud to found out the gender. And it wasn't until I came to this realization that I feel I completely lost control over my emotions. I never properly grieved my baby until know. And my husband and I have finally diced to give our lost blessing. The name actually came to us a lot quicker then I thought. It took us less then an hour to pick a name from the time we started talking about naming the baby. We decided on Angel Fe. Angel I believe is pretty self explanatory. However the reason behind the middle name is in the meaning. My husband is Mexican and in Spanish Fe translates to faith. And that is exactly what this child is to us. He/she is our angel of faith. Because before I became pregnant other hi/her we weren't even sure if we were able to concieve. Because we have been together for over 8 years. Five of Witch we have been married. Through the out time we have on use condoms 2/3 times and I have never been on any bc for more then a year at a time. Usually less then 6 months at a time for medical reasons. Reading your story just puts my mind at ease that u have made the right decisions on my babys' name.

  17. 7weeks and 3 day year old baby was named MIA or TEDDY. we live in DC and we Mia Angelo passed on that day and we went to Roosevelt Island ,Teddy, here and placed our baby there under a beautiful tree and took lots of pics of the surroundings. I was thinking of going back every anniversary and taking pics of the tree and getting it framed for every year but then i thought that would just be such a Huge reminder that I don't think the beauty of our baby would be of happy thoughts. So we have the one pic in a huge frame and when we look at it we smile and remember. Thank you for listening

  18. We named our baby Zion August, gender neutral names since we didn't know the gender. Zion, because of their living in that beautiful land we've heard of all our lives, and August because they are now in the august presence of God.

  19. Angel Baby #1 Ryan Sidney delivered at 10 weeks Ryan was from a dream before we married and Sidney is in honor of my grandpa
    Angel Baby#2 River Noël delivered at 8 1/2 weeks River because the baby passed through so quickly but left a lasting mark and Noël because baby was due at Christmas

  20. I lost my first child 19 years ago and I never gave the baby a name, only referred to the child as "Baby J". (His dad was named Jason) But there is not a day that has gone by that I do not think about my baby. As i watch my other children grow, i always wonder what he or she would have looked like, many, many different thoughts. He or she would have been born in December had i gone the full pregnancy, so every December i light a special candle and tell my baby Happy Birthday. This December my baby would have been 20 years old.

    Someone one told me that its too late to try and give my baby a name...but are they right, is it to late to give my baby a name. I always loved the name Jaelyn (keeping the "J" like the baby's dad). It is weird to finally name your miscarried baby after 19 years. I dont know. But my heart hurts everyday that i watch my other children grow knowing one is not here.

  21. I love the name Blaise for a boy but have heard of several females named Blaise, as well, so that’s what we chose for our tiny soul.