today i’m sharing how we chose all of our little ones’ names (no, we didn’t name samson after the regina spektor song!), thoughts on baby names in general, middle names, nicknames… the works! this can be such a fun topic, but it’s also so personal! there is definitely not one way to go about picking a name or naming a baby and that’s what makes the whole ordeal so fascinating. i love hearing stories of how people come up with names, or the significance and meaning behind theirs. did you know i was supposed to be named ruth and my parents switched it to naomi last minute?! and did you know that i tried to have people start calling me by both my first and middle name in college, naomi megan?! i don’t even remember why i tried that but no one took me seriously and it never stuck. it actually backfired completely and got shortened to nay by a few professors and teachers and also nay nay by friends around that same time. jokes on me i guess!
so let’s back up a little before we get into the names josh and i chose for our children. because maybe it’s just me, but in the months leading up to each of our children’s births, the topic of what we were going to name our children always stressed me out a little. it wasn’t that i didn’t have a long list of names i loved, or that josh and i couldn’t agree on names together (about 70%–okay maybe more like 50%– of the time we’d be on the same page with names), it was more so that naming another human being felt like such a big responsibility to be assigned when this was a tiny little human i barely knew.
a name shapes so much of who you are, who you’ll become in many regards as well. i know people with more playful names who have said it’s been harder for them to be taken more seriously as they are now grown working professionals and i’ve heard others with more unique names to pronounce or spell share how it’s been an constant hassle in their everyday to have to keep reminding people how to say or spell their name. not that any of that should ever stop you from choosing a name you love, it’s just interesting to hear how names can be perceived by those around you as well as yourself. something else that truly fascinates me when it comes to picking out a name for your baby is that everyone seems to have an opinion on the name! from a grandparent to a stranger on the street, it’s crazy how people can really take it to heart. we decided before eleanor was born not to share any of the names we were considering with friends or family until after the baby arrived. my reasoning here was that i felt like people couldn’t really be like, “hmmm. i don’t like that one” after the birth certificate had been signed and you have an adorable little baby face to go with the name! ….unless of course you’re in our family, because funny side story– that rule didn’t seem stop a few of our family members who called josh and me minutes after we arrived home from the hospital with one of our new little ones to tell us we should change the name (they even said they’d taken a poll from their friends over the past few hours since we had first called them to share the name with them and their friends agreed with them that it wasn’t a good name). true story! that was a fun first day home from the hospital! oh, family! (ps. we didn’t change the name.)
a name both josh and i loved seperately before we were ever together. a name with a royal heritage. the famous queen eleanor of aquitaine was the most powerful woman in europe during her time, a ruler of important lands, the mother of kings and queens herself. i loved this because we felt that this name for our own eleanor doesn’t just connect her to a distant queen here on earth but will hopefully remind her of her true royal heritage in heaven, that her royal birthright is divine, her inheritance one from heavenly parents, and that her potential is that to be a queen in heaven.
ironically, it was my top baby girl name for years before she arrived. but when we got to the hospital, it wasn’t on my list of top 5 girl names anymore, although it had remained on josh’s short list of top names. then there was this special moment maybe only 30 or 60 seconds after her birth, where i was looking at her as she was placed on the scale a few feet away from the operating table where i was as the nurses cleaned her and began the series of routine tests. i started to go through the list of my top 5 names in my head while looking at her and each one was a definite no. then i swear she looked directly at me and it felt like the room hit pause while our eyes locked for what felt like several minutes even though it probably was only a second or two. it was such a powerful moment. and i knew she was eleanor. as though i’d known her my entire life as eleanor. once we were wheeled into the recovery room and left alone for the first time as a family of three, i had her craddled in my arms as josh leaned over us from the side of the bed hugging us both. i hadn’t shared with him my experience in the operating room yet which is why it was such a sweet and special moment while holding me and gazing down at her, he whispered “eleanor.”
we named madalena after the woman in the new testament of the bible who knew Jesus, mary magdalene (in english). the spelling “madalena” is the portuguese version of the name and the same as the italian version which just has 2 d’s instead of 1. i have always loved the story of mary magdalene in the scriptures. she was the disciple who first saw the resurrected Lord, and i absolutely love that our Savior came to her first. as a woman, that has always meant so much to me. she was a witness to the most important events of humanity, both the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ. while i wish more of her story was documented, the parts that are written and preserved are so very beautiful. and it was so very evident that she LOVED her savior, her “rabboni” or master. and josh and i hope our own madalena will have this charitable love and intimate affection for jesus and eventually know like mary magdalene knew that he is the Son of God.
as for middle names for our girls, we chose not to give either of them one. i know i am old fashioned in this sense, but i really hope that maybe someday if my daughters do choose to marry and want to take on a new last name, that they’ll keep “davis” as their new middle name, so they still feel a bond with where they came from. in my own personal experience when i was getting married, i found it so complicated to keep my maiden name. i ended up having too many names because i already had a middle name, and i had to do a legal name change to take on “davis” as my last name if i wanted to also keep my maiden name in the middle. in new york, i could drop my maiden last name and keep my first given middle name, or hyphenate my two last names bringing them together, which i didn’t like. my middle name “megan” had no significance to me at the time, and the thought of parting with my maiden last name was so sad since it was such a huge part of who i was. i wanted to take josh’s last name to solidify our new family unit, but i just didn’t want to part entirely with my maiden last name. so i had to do a lot of legal work to drop my original middle name and take my maiden name as my new middle name. it might be different depending on where you live, but it was such a headache here in new york to do this change. anyway, that’s when i decided right then and there that i wouldn’t make it as complicated for my future daughters if i had any. i don’t think they’ll miss having a middle name for now. and i feel like it’s kind of strong and special to have just their first and last name at the moment. :) and also, to be super clear, i don’t think there is only one way to go about taking on a new last name if one is deciding to. josh has a friend from college and she and her husband actually combined both of their last names and came up with a new family name entirely which i’ve always thought that was a cool way to do it. i don’t think there is only one way to keep a family connection or maintain family unity through a name. just through my headache of an experience, i wanted to at least make the option easier for my girls if they ever want to do it like me someday.
when we named eleanor, we went through all the possible nickname scenarios to make sure we were cool with them. elle, ella, ellie, norah… and while we didn’t mind of any of them, she just felt like eleanor from day one so we never called her by anything else. josh is a believer that you should name someone what you want them to be called. like, name them the nickname if that’s what they’ll be known as. it’s so different for everyone, but for us, we decided to go this route. although i do admit, there was a moment in the hospital with our new baby girls where i was like, if they ever want to start a band together, how cool would the band name “madbea” be?! they could be known as “mad” and “bea”. haha, i think i was still on a lot of drugs and painkillers though when this was running through my mind!
while it might feel heavy to be assigned the task of naming someone for the rest of their lives, we have loved the experience and the ways it has brought josh and me together. our older three children were actually really involved in the name process with us while choosing names for the baby girls and i loved some of our conversations and discussions around names as a family. i think at the end of the day, it’s so very personal how you go about the process and what you choose to do. josh and i have looked at sooooo many names (there are great apps and books where you can narrow searches based on the first initial or by region or country, etc etc.). there would be weeks during my pregnancies where we’d be really into it and other times during those 9 months where we just had to put it all away and not discuss any names for a few weeks at a time. but eventually, when you see your baby and try out a name, one always starts to fit. at least in our experience. i can’t imagine my children being called by another now. she is absolutely our beautiful eleanor. he is without a doubt my mister samson. and that for sure is our little conrad. and then with our new baby girls… she is most definitely my joy bringing beatrice, with that smile that already eats up the entire bottom half of her little face. and the one with the piercing blue eyes and calmest demeanor, she is and always has been our madalena.