Yesterday, I read a sweet post on Love, Taza (a very favorite blog of mine for years and years now) about how she and her husband chose the names they gave their five children, and it made me realize I've never really shared how we chose our children's names and the general thought that goes into our decision making! So for no other reason than I was inspired by her post, I'm doing it now :)
Let me start off by saying that I had my children's names picked out before I ever even met my husband, like so many women I know. I used to write fiction stories just to use all my cool names (I'm talking middle school, guys. These stories were gold.) I thought I was sooo clever creating main characters with the names Melody and Harmony, who just happened to love music and be best friends. I cannot make this stuff up.
Anyway, flash forward to now, and I'm still finding outlets for so many of my favorite names by using them in my stationery designs for my Etsy shop. I also tend to use Kate Middleton and Will Cambridge as my imaginary couple for all my wedding designs, so there's that, too.
Anyway, I digress.
I have always loved the idea of naming babies. I thought it wouldn't be that hard, since I already had strong opinions and Matt didn't seem to have as strong of opinions as me, so I figured it'd be a pretty quick decision when the time came.
And then the time came. And suddenly it's not a character in a fiction story or an imaginary bride for a stationery design but an actual real-life human who will bear this name for all of their days and be called by this name in class and this name will be read when they walk across the stage to get their diploma or degree and they'll answer the phone by this name and oh my gosh, the pressure.
I was floored by how much I struggled with deciding on a name when I found out I was pregnant with Xavier! Matt and I decided we'd go ahead and choose a name ahead of time (we found out the gender with both pregnancies) but not share the name with anyone.
Fun fact I've never publicly shared: the name we chose for Xavier was Kip! Isn't that funny?! It's so funny now to think of him as anything other than Xavier! But, yes, Kip was the name we picked. Like totally decided on. I thought it was so cute but with a manly-enough touch, and I practiced it in all sorts of contexts: Kip Keinsley, President of the United States; The Honorable Kip Keinsley, Supreme Court Justice.; His Royal Highness, Kip Keinsley. It has a nice ring to it, you know?! We loved it. And then, I slipped up and shared it. I was talking to my mom and my aunt about keeping kid names a secret, because everyone feels the need to comment on it and share their opinion on it when you're pregnant, but no one will say to your face "wow, really?!" after the fact when the baby is here and the name is a done deal. My aunt totally protested and said no one says rude things about baby names, and that I should just tell them. So, I did. And the reaction was hilariously exactly as I described. My mom made a face and my aunt was like "...Kip? For real?" And then I started totally second-guessing it and it made me want to choose something different, which sounds so dramatic but I truly think was a god-thing!
So fast forward a couple weeks, after tossing around what felt like EVERY baby boy name, but nothing was sticking for Matt and I. I was truly at a loss and so uninspired. I was driving on the interstate heading to a friend's house, and had just had a conversation with my brother about my angst over choosing a name for our son. He very poignantly said, "has it ever occurred to you that he already has a name?" And I was like well, no, Gino, it sure has not. So I very snarkily prayed to God, something along the lines of, "well if you already have a name for him, could you please let us in on that knowledge? That'd be great." And instantly - I mean instantly - I heard a voice clearly in my head say "Xavier." I've never experienced anything like it, never in my life. And I truly feel like it was divine intervention because Xavier had never occurred to us, not once. As soon as it came into my head, I loved it. I loved how it sounded, how strong and sure and manly it was, but not something you hear every day. I floated the name to Matt and although he wasn't super in love with it at first, he came around, especially after I told him the story and my strong feeling that God had truly chosen this name for our son.
Once we'd decided that Xavier was indeed our son's name, I started digging into the meaning behind it. Some meanings I found said "bright", "splendid" and "new house" and I loved the imagery that conjured. I loved the idea of his name symbolizing a bright spot, a new beginning for our family. I also discovered there was a pretty rad saint, St. Francis Xavier, who is the patron saint of missionaries, and I loved the idea of having him as a namesake for our son. Mission trips have been huge in my life and faith journey, and it's my hope that Xavier also has a missionary heart and that that always leads him to pursue the Lord, be it near or far.
We pretty quickly decided that we wanted all of our future children to be named after saints, to have heavenly intercessors praying on their behalf for all of their days and to have a beautiful model of holiness to look up to.
To that end, Zelie is also named after a saint! Again, I thought that choosing a name for our daughter would be pretty easy - wouldn't we just choose from the list of girl names we'd picked out during my first pregnancy and had quickly set aside when we learned we were having a boy? While that might be the process for some, it wasn't for us. I didn't have quite the same divine experience of name discovery with Zelie as I did with Xavier; in fact, I was pretty set on Zelie as soon as I found out I was pregnant, if it turned out I was having a girl. It was never on our girl list before, but I had recently been introduced to St. Zelie Martin, the mother of St. Terese of Liseux, and I absolutely loved her. She achieved sainthood through the undertaking of her simple vocation as a wife and mother with extraordinary love, and by doing everything she did with a heart consecrated to Jesus and eyes fixed on heaven. What a beautiful example for my daughter, who might also someday be called to marriage and motherhood! Plus, I loved the funkiness of having a name that started with a Z (so unusual!) and thought it was just cute, to boot! Anytime I introduce her, people are so sweet, saying it's such an adorable name and they've never heard it before. It's been a fun way to share my love for St. Zelie Martin (and a nod to the Catholic Church) when people ask where we got it!
While we choose a saint name for our children's first name, we've decided to use family names for their middle names. Xavier's middle name is Joseph, after my dad. Xavier was the first grandchild for my parents, and I loved the idea of honoring my dad by giving Xavier his name. Funny story: we were pretty torn between using my dad's name (Joseph) or Matt's dad's name (Gregory). Matt's brother was due with their first - also a boy - three months before us, and they didn't share the name before my nephew was born. Matt's sister-in-law's dad is also named Joseph, so we thought that if they decided to go with a family name for any part of our nephew's name, they'd also be deciding between Joseph and Gregory! As it turns out, they named our nephew Evan Gregory, honoring Matt's dad, so we went with Xavier Joseph and were glad that both grandpas got grandsons with their names in the mix :) And bonus - we also consider St. Joseph to be a second patron saint for Xavier!
Zelie's middle name is James, which is Matt's middle name. I loved the idea of using James as a first name for a girl, after Matt as well as St. James the Apostle, but it was a little too "out there" for Matt to get on board with. So we went with James as a middle name, and I love how it sounds together! I also love that Xavier and Zelie have similar sounding names, with the z-sounding first and the j-sounding middle! Xavier Joseph and Zelie James - has such a cute ring to it!
So there you have it! How we chose our children's names and the meaning behind them. We have a pretty short list of names for both boy and girl for our next babe but given our track record, that could very well change when the time comes! Maybe there will be another voice from the clouds ;)
It's such an incredible, powerful, weighty experience, getting to choose a child's name. It has been the coolest shift to switch from "what do we want to call this child?" to asking God, "what name have you picked out for this son or daughter of YOURS?" Gosh, that gives me chills just to type. What an honor, to get to partner with the Creator of the universe in naming, and loving, and leading these children He's given us. Just such a complete honor. Endlessly grateful for this gift of parenthood. There just aren't enough words to express how truly, truly grateful and honored I am.
photos by Tessa Tillett Robbins