Dear Doula: My Sister Stole My Baby's Name

Dear Doula -

My older sister is expecting her first child this June. She just announced the name - which is one of my favorites. She's known this since we were kids, and she stole the name I wanted to use for my baby! I'm pissed off at her and don't even want to go to her baby shower anymore. I told her I was upset and she blew up at me and stormed off! How do I tell her she can't give her baby that name?

Sincerely, I Called Dibs On That Name

Dear Dibs -

Congrats to your sister on her first child, and congrats on your new niece or nephew! Being an aunt is the best gig of all, so I've been told. I'll let you know when I become one this May! Now, let's get to the meat of this issue: sibling rivalry.

Just kidding, we don't have time to unpack all of the dysfunction in a sister-sister relationship. I know; I have an older sister myself! She tells it like it is and sometimes I don't want to hear it. And now I'm about to tell you something you don't want to hear.

Tough luck. I'm sorry, Dibs, but there's really no such thing as a dibs on a name.

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Your sister is pregnant now - you might be pregnant in the future. Since it's her baby, it's her choice on what to name them. Maybe she remembered that you loved that name and figured you would love it as your niece's or nephew's name. Or maybe she knew you loved the name and was planning on using it, and in a moment of sisterly spite and anger, chose to name her child Xanthippe. Ha! The ultimate revenge for stealing her sweater in the 7th grade!

Look, you're presumably an adult with prospects of bearing your own children someday. You should know, then, that the things we liked as kids aren't always so appealing as we get older. You might still love the name you liked when you were eight, but it's more likely that you've moved on. How should your sister have known it was still at the top of your future-baby-name list?

In fairness to you: maybe she did know you wanted to use the name. Does that necessarily mean she named her baby Xanthippe to upset you or antagonize you? I can think of fifteen different reasons to give a baby a specific name. Sometimes, Dibs, life just isn't about you. Your sister has every right to choose the name she likes best for her child - without your input. Even if there is an existing sibling rivalry dynamic going on.

That's where you went wrong, Dibs. It wasn't right of you to burden your sister with your upset feelings. Nothing good was ever going to come of that conversation! If she didn't mean to spite you, you're only going to come off as petty and selfish. If she did mean to spite you, you're letting on that your sister pushes your buttons. In any case, she's not obligated to change her kid's name just because you asked her nicely.

Suck it up and go to the baby shower. Smile, tell everyone how pretty you think Xanthippe's name is, and save your strife for another time. Consider this: your partner might not appreciate your preferred name choice. Maybe your favorites are their absolutely nevers! You'd need to compromise in that case anyway.


Sometimes life doesn't go our way, Dibs. Trust me when I say this is simply not a hill to die on! Put yourself in your sister's shoes and reconsider your approach. If you two do ever have a peaceable conversation, ask your sister to explain why she chose Xanthippe for her daughter (or son). Maybe you'll find common ground and bury the hatchet together!

Look on the bright side, Dibs: you get to hear that beautiful name every time you see your new family member! All in all, that's not a bad deal.

Do you have a burning pregnancy or parenting question that you want some advice on? Send us an email at deardoula@babygaga.com, and rest assured that your identity will be kept anonymous.

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