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By Any Other Name

While pregnant with baby number two, I looked long and hard for her name. I found many beautiful possibilities, but when I presented them to Steve he pooped all over them. We have very different tastes in names and argh, it was frustrating! Towards the end of the pregnancy I thought we had found one we agreed on, but after she was born, Steve decided against it. So, we were stuck. There was a cute little dark-haired baby with squinty eyes, waiting to be named. People started coming to visit, asking what her name was. We were starting to feel the pressure, so we chose a name. It was a compromise for both of us, and neither of us really loved it, but we felt it was the only one we could agree on. Thus, Jolie Grace Brown was named and made herself at home in our hearts.

At first the name felt strange to say, since I had my heart set on something else, but I thought I would get used to it. Months passed, and it still never felt quite right. I remember confiding in a friend, when Jolie was about eight weeks old, that I didn’t really love her name, and I felt so guilty about it. I adored her big sister’s name and felt as though I had cheated our new baby. 

I assumed that the feeling would pass, but it never did. Add to that the fact that 90% of people mispronounced it, and I was growing less happy with it by the day. I spoke with Steve about it a few months ago and told him that I really didn’t like the name, to which he replied, “Well, I’m not all that crazy about it either.”


At that time we didn’t have a different name in mind that could replace her current one, so we just left it at that. Then a few weeks ago I stumbled upon a name. Not just a name, but A Name. As soon as I saw it, it leapt into my heart and hasn’t let go. I loved it, and told Steve about it. He liked it too (although not as fiercely as I) and advised we just sit on it for a while and let time be the judge, not wanting to rush into anything.

Since then, I have grown more frustrated and disappointed with “Jolie” and more pleased and excited about the new name. I shared these feelings with Steve (pretty much every day, much to his annoyance) and he finally agreed that yes, we can change her name.

So, I’d like you to meet Karenna Jolie Brown.

I know you might think we’re crazy for doing this, but hear me out. She’s still young enough to only be mildy scarred by a late name change, and I figure that if kids from foreign countries who are adopted at 18 months can go from being called a name in their mother tongue to something totally different, then our girl will be just fine.

To transition, we’ll probably call her by both names (Karenna Jolie) for a while, and if later we (or she) decide to go back to her original name, she’ll be able to legally use her middle name without any further paperwork required.

For many of you this is probably coming out of left field, but those who know me in real life know how bothered I had become by her old name. I know this is drastic and a little nutso, but I figure there’s no point being dissatisfied with her name for the rest of our lives if we don’t have to.

*Updated to add: Karenna is pronounced Ka-RENN-a, with a soft “e” sound, not Ka-REEN-a, for those who were wondering.

Lisa - Beautiful new name for a beautiful little girl!! (…I think Jolie Grace is very nice, too!)

jackie - i don’t think it’s nutso at all! with our second his name came out of thin air and i just wasn’t loving it for quite a while. thankfully i HAVE fallen in love with it and couldn’t imagine him with any other name.. but i can’t imagine how i would have felt if that love never came along.
i think she looks like a beautiful karenna! :)

~Madelyn - Precious. Just precious. It’s a beautiful name.

You’re not nutso – just “BOP” anyone who has a different opinion about naming YOUR baby.

~Mad(elyn) in Alabama

Jamie - Naming someone is such a huge responsibility. Now you have a cool story to tell her when she asks how she got her name. I kind of like the idea of naming a baby when they grow into themselves a little bit. It’s hard coming up with a name for a little newborn. When they have more of a personality you can say, yea, she’s definately a Karenna!

Congrats on finally finding a name you love!

Marie Green - This same thing happened to me with our 3rd baby. I wanted to name her Marin- for my entire pregancy I had my head and heart set on it. My husband never completely nixed it, but he wasn’t a huge fan either. So then, her birth ended up with a 28 hour labor, and a csection gone awry. I was sick, and very anemic (hemoglobin: 4!) and quite out of it.

The next thing I know, by older 2 are minutes from the hospital, and David is saying “we should really name her before they get here.” And we looked over our list, which Marin was at the top of, and decided on a different name.


I do love her name now, but it took me forever. Also, naming her Marin on my blog helped me get to “use” her name. =)

Deanna - I love the new name! So cute! Good choice!

Angella - We’ve talked about this at length, and you know we support you 100%

Love you both.

(Steve and Avelyn too.)

Tanya - The new name is gorgeous! I too would still change Jacob’s name if Brian would let me. Not that I don’t like Jacob, but I love Levi. Brian says it reminds him of jeans so I can’t. I’m glad you were able to make a decision on this that you feel comfortable with.

BethanyWD - Good for you! I LOVE the name Karenna – we almost picked it for our girl. I agree with the previous poster – it will be a cool story to tell and she can “rebel” from you when she’s a preteen by using her middle name! =) Gorgeous girl, gorgeous name. Congrats.

Stacey - So have you legally changed her name? All the paperwork through the government and everything? That is quite the process.

And the pronunciation? The vowels, I assume soft a like car, but the e, hard or soft? Kar-ee-na, Kar-e-na?

April - I have a friend whose parents did this when she was about the same age as your baby. Now it’s just an amusing story she gets to share whenever one of those nerdy share-something-unusual-about-yourself situations arises!

Lisa - Love it!

Tannis - You go with your gut if you can – much better than having it bug you for the next 50 years! Ella wasn’t my first choice but she’s really grown with the name and it feels good now, if that makes sense. I still really like the name itself but despaired when it skyrocketed up the name charts that year. I was also irritated that the important people came around to the name I really wanted long after she was named. C’est la vie.

Vicki - I love the name! I think it’s amazing that you are doing something like this. I can’t imagine that it was an easy decision to make. To tell you the truth, I wish my mom had changed my name. I think she will be very proud to sport a name that you and Steve love and adore. I also love the way her two names sound together, very poetic!

Also, Lauren hasn’t stopped talking about Avelyn. Loves her!

Amy - BiteTheRabbit - Love the new name! It seems to suit her. I agree that you’ll have a great story to tell her when she grows up.

Ashley - That’s a tough decision , I can only imagine how hard it’s been for you guys! But I’d say you did the right thing, how would it be if on her 16th birthday Jolie came to you and said “Mom, I’m sooooo over my name (I may or may not have said that to my own mother)I want to change it!” and instead of replying with “It’s a beautiful name, I love it and here____is why we chose it.” You answered, “Um yeah, me too!” Craaaazy, you’d have a lot of splainin’ to do. I think Karenna is beautiful and she’s a lucky girl, cuz really no matter what you call her she’s happy, loved and gorgeous – it’s really all that counts!

Andrea Firmani - I love it! I love that you guys are doing that. When my baby was born and placed on my chest I knew in a second his name was BEN! It fits him and is a perfect pick for our boy. I have a girlfriend who picked out Allison for her girl before, she was born, and down the road felt this was really not her name. She should have been a Kate. So, very cool that you are going with what feels right.
Then there is my husband who at 16 hated his first name and now exclusively goes by his middle name…well except for his Mom but I will give her that one!

Shareen - Kudos to you for making such a controversial decision and standing up for it. I love the new name and can’t imagine what I would do if I didn’t feel like the name we had settled on “fit”…you are such an example of bravery and perserverence in so many things. My parents actually changed Julie’s name (she used to be Marjorie – can you even imagine?!?), I don’t think it’s that uncommon. Be proud of your beautiful girls.

shelley - whew hoo! so it’s officially changed?? Love her new name and love my little Renny!

ali - wow. I am sure this was not an easy decision to make, but it sounds like it was the right one for you!!
I have so many questions, though. how did they mispronounce Jolie? and how is she taking to it? Is she answering to Karenna?

kate - I totally think this is both a little wacky and also completely awesome. Good for you for not sticking with something you don’t like because of convention. I don’t think she’s going to be scarred by it at all. With her nickname and full name and various other pet names, my two year old daughter answers to about 5 different names. Karenna is a beautiful little girl.

Leah - You know what? GOOD FOR YOU for doing what was in your heart. Not everyone would be so brave. You’ve got balls, Brown family, and I love you for it.

Emma - You guys are brave – well done for going with your gut.

joyce - I think you’re a little more coo-coo than I thought… but I like you better for it! I agree with the other comments…Karenna will have such a cool story to tell when she’s older.

Emily - That’s wonderful! I read this in my Google Reader and thought I just HAD to see the other comments and leave one myself.

I’m so excited for you that you did this. It must have been hard and weird, but I’m sure it will be as natural as anything in a month or two. When she was born, I initially thought Jolie was a funny choice for you (nothing against the name, but after reading your blog for a few years now, it just seemed to come out of left field!) and Karenna is just perfect.

Kaili - I don’t want this to come across wrong, but I think she suits Kareena WAY more! Good for you two for ACTUALLY changing it, and not having it go through your mind all day every day!

I am so curious if it’s lots of work to change a name?

Jennifer W. - Oh Amanda – it is PERFECT. What a beautiful photo of her too. The face in that photo just looks like Karenna has been her name all along. I’m excited and proud that you listened to your gut, and I don’t even know you :P Karenna Jolie… LOVE IT. (I love my Avelyn’s name too, here’s to hoping I find a name I love as much for Baby #2 – whenever it comes along.)

Lisa - Great name! I still love Jolie too!
How do you pronounce it? Kareeeeena or Karennnnna?

Kate - Although I love Jolie, it would also annoy me if it was always being mispronounced. Karenna Jolie is a beautiful combination. And oh my gosh, is she a beautiful girl! Good for you for following your heart.

Leah - When we were expecting our 3rd we had a TERRIBLE time choosing a name. I wanted William, my husband did NOT. At a birthday party, we met a little boy named William who went by Liam. My husband fell in love with the name and agreed to name him William on paper, but he would only ever call him Liam. We have NEVER once called him Liam. He’s just a William. It suits him. We got a lot of flack for “changing” his name even though we always intended his legal name to be William. I can’t imagine what people will say about changing her name, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I LOVE the name Karenna. Beautiful choice.

Vanessa - I love the name Karenna Jolie is a beautiful name! Good for you for going for it – no need to live with the dissatisfaction of naming your child something you were not completely happy with!

Vanessa - Okay, so I did not edit my comment. First sentence is a mess – sorry!

laurie - I know someone who did the same thing with their daughter. So, you’re not alone.

Lovely choice.

Julia - Good for you guys for following your gut! I’ve thought about this before and was afraid about what would happen if I started to dislike my future kids’ names, so I’m glad you posted this :)

Meg - I LOOOOOVE that both your girls have unique, but somewhat not outlandish, names. But can you clarify the proununciation? Kar-e-nuh, Kar-ee-nuh? Don’t want to be thinking it the wrong way :(
And I think it’s awesome you guys did this!

Steph - Amanda,

Just a thought… if you haven’t already changed it legally, that is. What about not changing her name per se, but just adding to it? Like, not dropping Grace… letting her have two middle names: Karenna Jolie Grace. Then she never loses any of her identity, just adds something new. Avelyn has your middle name, and Karenna would have two. So, they would each have something special.

It may already be too late, or you may not want to. But I figured I should suggest it now, rather than later — or never. :)

Steph C.

Teej - I had three different before the one I have now. And I’m really happy that I have my current name, the others were horrible.

NaechsteHaltestelle - My parents changed my name at the age of FIVE to my nickname, something I didn’t find out until I was much older. I’m really happy they changed it. I shudder to think what my life would have been like if they kept my real name.

sarah - i like the new name, very pretty. i am glad you found the perfect name for her, she will one day appreciate you desire to not settle on just any name.

Lauri - Love the new name

we changed our Daughter’s name at 17 months of age, she was adopted from Russia and while I loved her Russian name, the nick name they called her and the only name she knew… bugged me.

Just Jiff - I think it’s cute. :)

Kindra - I have really similar feelings about my 2nd daughter’s name. We named our first daughter Eva (not “Eeeeeva” but short e, like “I will love you foreva and eva”) and we were so in love with her name I wanted to do the same for our 2nd. We had really unique and beautiful names as our choices, but when she was born she just looked like an “Isabella” to us, so we went with it. And while I still totally think she looks like an Isabella, I grow more and more dissatisfied with her name because of it’s popularity. There are probably 3 peeps in our network of friends who have chosen the name Isabella or Bella (our little ones nickname)to name their new baby and the “common-ness” of it drives me insane! I really appreciate the guts it takes to change your baby’s name. I never really toyed with the idea because it felt like it too late, but I may actually think about it now.

(P.S. I’m not going to lie, I love Jolie’s name. When I heard it, I was about 4 months away from having my 2nd daughter and I soooooo wanted that name! My husband vetoed it though.) But you guys always come up with incredibly beautiful names, and Karenna is so lovely as well.

Emily - You know what, you are her mother and it’s your right to name her. I like both names and I’m glad you got one you like and feel good about.

C @ Kid Things - It’s completely your right to change her name, especially when she’s so young. Names are hard and stressful to begin with.

Like you, I am very happy with my oldest’s name. My youngest children, though, parts of their names were rushed and my husband and I had a hard enough time agreeing on anything anyway. I’ve thought about changing it, particularly my 3 year old’s middle name, but figure it’s not worth the hassle. No one usually cares about a middle name anyway, right? Eh.

Shelly - What a hard decision to make! I always loved the name Jolie so I am glad you kept it as a middle name. Karenna is a beautiful choice! I couldn’t imagine trying to come up with names for my future children. I have this notepad where I write down names I love if I hear of somthing unique. Of course I may change my mind over the years, but at least it’s a start!

I always wondered what would happen if I had a name picked out, but then the baby was born and it just didn’t quite fit. Pressure! Thanks for sharing your story!

Marin - Good for you and Steve to stick to your guns and make a choice that couldn’t have been easy. She’s such a Karenna. :)

kiki - WOW! I don’t even know you and yet I love you!(I know thats creepy but please don’t be freaked out) You are a powerful, satisfied woman. Completely and utterly beautiful, inspiring. I think it’s great that you followed your heart and didn’t worry about anyone else’s opinions or what fors. Good for you! And I love her new name!

Carolyn - You did it!! Good for you. I think Karenna Jolie is very pretty!! But then, since I stole one of your names, you already know I like your taste! :)

kiki - oh, so what does Karenna mean?

Jolene - Beautiful new name! It think that it was a very smart decision, you really should love your daughter’s name! When I was 7 years old, I decided to change my own name (to my middle name) much to my parents dismay. I refused to answer to my first name (Marie) and would only answer to Jolene LOL … everyone got used to it pretty quickly, although my relatives couldn’t believe how stubborn I was at such a young age :-)

I also wanted to tell you that you take STUNNING pictures. Are you a professional photographer? Because if not, you should be!!

Jolene (Regina, SK, Canada)

SarahD - That name game is hard. We were hemming and hawing over our use of the name “Seamus” (which no one knows how to spell) and calling him “Shea” (which is a common girl name now). But it was one that we loved from the beginning of our naming lists and still did, so we knew that we couldn’t give it up. I’m certain that if you love it enough, how couldn’t anyone else love it.
And out of curiousity…were you wanting her name Jolie pronounced really french, with a softer J? or were they actually calling her Jolly?? I hope you don’t have mispronunciation problems with Karenna, as it looks like previous posters are.

Jen - So … I was out camping all week and unable to check my e-mail. I got a text from my mom while sitting around the campfire about this blog post. My first thought was “WHAT?!!?” I knew you weren’t happy with the name Jolie but I thought you’d decided to stick with it. I wasn’t sure what I thought about the name change at first. But right now, reading this blog for myself, I get it. I scrolled down and saw that picture of Karenna and my heart did this little leap thing and I felt “Wow. That’s her. That name is her.” As if her little identity was finally complete to me.

So yeah … I don’t think you are that crazy after all. :)

Amie Wouda - My sister in laws sister did the same thing when her daughter was 1, they changed from Lauren to Claudia and it worked, people got used to it really quickly. I think it’s pretty, I think she’s pretty!

Amanda - I’ve been wondering if you would (I noticed you had said something about it a while back)… and I love it! You’ll be so glad you did it in the long run!

tammigirl - I think it is wise to change her name now if you don’t like it.

steph h. - Her revised name is great! I have a dear friend with the name Carena and I’ve always loved how it sounds. Good for you for being brave enough to go against the grain and change it. Congrats on bebe Karenna :) (which I just looked up the meaning and apparently it means “pure.” that’s beautiful!)

Corey - I thought Jolie suited her, but now that you say it she’s most definately a Karenna. So beautiful! Congratulations!

Danica - I like it. And I could pronounce it the moment I saw it written. Congrats, not only on finding a name you love, but for having the guts to implement the change. Cheers!

Bethany - don’t feel bad. My aunt didn’t name her little boy for over… um 2 years I think? we all called him “baby boy”. crazy eh?

Abby - I was the same way about my youngest! It took a while to actually feel like he WAS a Maddox and I started to feel like maybe we should have waited until we saw him before we named him but now? He’s totally Maddox and I wouldn’t be able to accept him with any other name. just fits. I applaud you for knowing Jolie just didn’t suit her properly and making the change to something that felt *right*. Good for you!

And least she’ll have a cool unknown to most people fact about her when she’s older!

Bumpa - The kindly old gentleman formerly known as “Bumpa” now wishes to be called “Afi”, the ancient Norse word for grandfather.

Kami - I think both names are beautiful and I am so happy for you that you finally found a name you love and that fits your sweet girl. I love my daughter’s name, but wasn’t sure I would when we named her. It felt long and awkward at first and I was sure I would shorten it to a nickname (her name is Giuliana, I thought I would call her Giuli) but now that she is 20 months old, I just can’t bring myself to call her anything but Giuliana…it’s just so her. That’s how a name should be, I think. Glad you found Karenna’s!!

Green Eyes - Karenna is a very pretty name and goes well with Jolie. One of Al Gore’s daughter’s names is Karenna. I remembering hearing how he and his wife took the name from Anna Karenina, and how I thought it was a unique name.

Nicole - Congratulations on the beautiful name! It’s not crazy, plenty of people acquire nick-names or start going by their middle name and continue doing so by choice for their entire lives. It’s great that you put so much heart and thought into your childrens’ names.

Julie - That’s a really cute name, Amanda! My Mother-in-law (who is working in the kitchen beside me while I peruse the internet) said she LOVED the new name, and ‘Karenna Jolie’ flowed so nicely together. I’m glad you’re so happy with the change!

PS- For the record, I also really like “Jolie”. Like “Julie” with an ‘o’ (hmmm… I WONDER why I like it so much!?!!)!

Lisa - I have friends who are twins and when they were around 5 their parents changed both of their names. They’re now my age (34) and no harm, no foul. Karenna Jolie is a beautiful name and I’m happy you’re at peace now!

karen - thanks for naming her after me! ;) haha!

I have to agree, beautiful name!

beck - I completely support you and don’t think it’s crazy at all. Names are an important thing. My little sister is named Elisabeth. My parents started out calling her Beth or Bethany. I wanted to call her Lisa. She was named EliSabeth because my parents asked me what I wanted to call my baby sister and I said Lisa so they went with the s spelling and they liked Beth as a nickname. When Lisa was six she found out the whole story and was adamantly opposed to being Bethany. She insisted she be called Lisa. So she was Lisa, and still is Lisa (real name still Elisabeth) and I can’t imagine her being a Beth or Bethany at all.

will - I think Karenna is a beautiful name and if fits that little one perfectly. Kudos to you for doing this.

will - Oh, I forgot to mention that I didn’t know my name was Will until I started school and I turned out relatively Okay.

andrea - You might be a little crazy, but I think that is why I like you so much ; ) Beautiful name and if it feels better to you, than it was the right decision. I know two people that have changed their names as adults and that to me was a bit weird, but Karenna will never know the difference.