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New Mom Shamed By Family For Refusing To Name Baby After Late Aunt With Down Syndrome

newborn baby with mother in hospital
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My two Sisters and I are named after women in our family—first and middle names.

It’s not a family tradition, but it’s something our parents wanted to do.

The only downside for me was my family didn’t call me by my given name. Instead they used a diminutive nickname that I never cared for.

But once I was an adult, I was able to begin using my given name which I greatly preferred.

But what if my parents had been pressured to give us our names by their families? Would it have been OK to say no?

A new mother dealing with this question turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback.

EmergencyShip4791 asked:

“AITA for arguing back when my parents were disappointed I didn’t name my daughter after my late aunt?”

The original poster (OP) explained:

“My aunt died 2 weeks before I got pregnant. When I announced the expectations were on me to name my daughter Elizabeth, after my aunt, if she were a daughter. My aunt had down syndrome and was so beloved and special to our family.”

“I adored her too. But I never wanted to name my daughter Elizabeth.”

“I had my own reasons from not liking the name Elizabeth (and my husband feels the same) to us wanting to give our child their own name that is not a family name.”

“I always knew Aunt Elizabeth wouldn’t live a very long life. She had many medical complications from birth.”

“I always knew how the family saw her, this perfect being, an angel who was with us for not long enough.”

“It always felt like naming a child after her would be dooming the child to being compared to or expected to live a certain way to honor her. And that’s not fair to my daughter.”

“Elizabeth to our family was someone who never did wrong, who was perfect in every single way, and there’s an unhealthy level of devotion to her and they feel like she deserves to have probably all the girls named after her.”

“I understand she was amazing, she was. But the future girls of our family deserve to be able to live without the pressure of being like Elizabeth or making her proud.”

“I told my family during my pregnancy that if my baby was a girl, she would not be named Elizabeth and I refused to communicate about it afterward.”

“My daughter was born 3 weeks ago and my family were furious when we announced her name and it wasn’t Elizabeth. They believed I would change my mind between when I told them and the birth.”

“Mostly due to the fact I was aware they didn’t approve.”

“They came over on Saturday and told me I was wrong and asked how Elizabeth would feel if she knew I hadn’t wanted to name my daughter after her. They told me it was an unkind thing to do and that my daughter would have been blessed to be named after her special great-aunt.”

“I told them talking like that is one of the reasons I wouldn’t want that. I said my daughter deserves her own name and not one where she will always be told she should feel blessed or grateful to be named after my aunt.”

“They told me I was being ridiculous and I was making excuses. I told them they were right and I didn’t need to make any to them because it was none of their business.”

“They wouldn’t let up so I told them to go and not to reach out unless they can accept my daughter is not Elizabeth. My family told me arguing with them was not the way to conduct myself.”

“They argued first but I mean, I did argue back so AITA?”

The OP summed up their conundrum. 

“I argued back with my family over my daughter’s name and the fact I didn’t name her after my late aunt.”

“I feel like I stooped to their level and made this a more dragged out thing when I could have shut them down, refused to engage and maybe it wouldn’t have turned into a real back and forth between us.”

“I’m a mom now and I maybe should learn to deescalate instead of engage.”

Redditors weighed in by declaring:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

Redditors unanimously declared the OP was not the a**hole (NTA).

“NTA and for you daughters sake thank you. I have been named after my grandfather and while now being over 30 I have come to like my name (though for very personal reasons that have nothing to do with my family), I hated all the comparisons made between me and my grandfather.”

“It was really bad for me mentally especially around 16 years when I started my apprenticeship and I got to hear how I should be this or doing that because thats what my grandfather did or how I should be more like him after all I am named in his honor and I am not half the man he was and so on.”

“This man haunted my life even though he died years before I was born and it took me and also my family a long while and a lot of arguing (as well as the deaths of some of the older more stubborn family member) to get to a point of having a civil relationship, but it will be forever strained with some relatives.”

“I know not everyone has such a negative expierience as me with being named in honor of somebody but I can only say please let children be their own persons and not have to live in the shadow of some ideal memory of a deceased (or sometimes still living) person. It’s just not worth the risk on their mental wellbeing.” ~ CrankMike

“You don’t owe them excuses and your reasoning is perfectly valid.”

“This is your daugher, let her grow up without the shadow of Elizabeth looming on her.”

“If they don’t reach out, tell them it’s on them. They are choosing to cut you out, not vice versa.”

“Stand your ground, OP. NTA.” ~ Daikey

“NTA. You are laying down the law. Your daughter has a name, they know the name, they call her that name.”

“How would someone feel if they dated a guy, met his parenrs, and they kept calling her Jessica because they always thought their son would be with a Jessica?”

“How would your aunt feel if she knew her memory was being used as something to drive a wedge in the family during what should be a celebration of new life and love and family?”

“I really hope they don’t hold onto this because it would be awful for you to tell stories of your great aunt only for your family to keep bringing up that ‘You were almost named after her, but your mum didn’t want to’.”

“She’s your baby. Stand your ground, or they’ll keep disrespecting your decisions.” ~ JaxValentine91

“NTA, but throw this at them each time they do it. Elizabeth would have loved her great niece no matter what her name is and so should they.”

“It’s time for them to grieve and start moving on in a healthy way, not latching their grief on to new life to keep Elizabeth’s memory alive.” ~ opheliasdinosaur

“Tell them there was one and only one Elizabeth and you don’t want to dilute the meaning of her name by having a new Elizabeth take her place as she’s irreplaceable. That’s how you want to honor her memory. NTA.” ~ babcock27

“The old equivalence between ‘arguing’ and ‘not agreeing with me’. Never gets old. NTA.” ~ Idontlikesoup1

“NTA…and holy CRAP is your family ever controlling. I don’t know them, of course, but this doesn’t seem to be about a name or a special aunt.”

“This seems to be them acting out at not getting their way and not being able to control something. Have they been like that before?”

“I would be very surprised if this were the first time they tried to control you.” ~ canvasshoes2

“It’s very clear that if she had been named Elizabeth, she would have had no identity of her own as far as the extended family is concerned. Can you imagine how they would have talked to and treated that child when she didn’t turn out to be an identical copy of her great aunt?”

“Gifts whilst be given to her based on what they would have given to Elizabeth. If she had no interest in what Elizabeth liked, or even worse, liked something Elizabeth didn’t…”

“They are arguing. You’re not. You are telling them how it is and refusing to cave to what amounts to peer pressure.”

“You are protecting your child. Both by refusing to name her after your aunt and by telling them if they can not accept that your daughter is not your aunt, they can kick rocks.”

“Stand your ground on this, and go no contact if you need to.”

“Don’t allow them to bully you. Don’t allow them to be like, ‘You’re arguing, and that’s not ok blah blah’. Cut it off every single time.”

“Return the focus to what the real issue is. And keep asking them the same question. Why do you think my daughter is Aunt Elizabeth, and how do you think she would feel that you are refusing to let my daughter have her own identity?”

“You are honoring your aunt. You’re honoring her by letting her be the one and only Aunt Elizabeth instead of diluting who she was by trying to recreate her in another person. Tell your family that too.” ~ Nymph-the-scribe

Naming a child is the parents’ responsibility.

And arguing is a two way street.

It sounds like the OP’s family needs to be told, “Don’t start none; won’t be none.”

Written by Amelia Mavis Christnot

Amelia Christnot is an Oglala Lakota, Kanien'kehá:ka Haudenosaunee and Metís Navy brat who settled in the wilds of Northern Maine. A member of the Indigenous Journalists Association, she considers herself another proud Maineiac.