How We Chose Our Children’s Names

Hi friends! I’m here today to talk about baby naming! I’ve loved the subject of baby names for as long as I can remember. Even as early as elementary school I can remember drawing photos of my imaginary (HUGE) family and giving them each names.

As fate would have it, I didn’t enter the world of motherhood until I was 35 years old, so yeah, I had plenty of time to acquire a very long list of beautiful and unique baby names. If I would have become a mother at age 20 or 25 or 30 (or honestly 31, 32, 33, 34 …) who knows what our kiddos would be called because I have changed favorite baby names throughout the years. So props to you if you’re one of those people who picked a baby name in high school and you still like it! I’m impressed.

Anyway, back to our story. Some of you may remember that we actually named Nova twice (lol) because after we knew we were adopting from China, but before we were matched with Nova, we decided to call her Winter. We still absolutely love the name Winter, but it wasn’t right for Nova—both because we felt it was too literal because of her albinism, and once we saw her we wanted to give her a more powerful name. We ended up calling her Nova Winter. It feels kind of magical to me now that her middle name was winter and we met on December 4.

We knew we wanted a celestial name for Nova once Jeremy had told me he wanted to adopt her during the solar eclipse. We looked at every possible celestial name and Nova was the one that stuck. We love it because it’s short, easy to say/understand (we avoid names that are confusing to pronounce, just one of our preferences) and super bold.

Nova grew into her name very quickly. It fits her and she’s so proud of it.

When it came time to choose a second name, the struggle was REAL. We had about six months to brainstorm options between the time we began paperwork and the time we were matched. It was slightly easier to visualize our imaginary “little sis” since we knew we were adopting a child with albinism, but we still wanted to wait until we saw her photos to officially choose the name (just in case).

The one thing we knew for sure is that we didn’t want to do a second celestial name to “match” with Nova. We felt more excited to choose a different name, maybe something earthy, with some contrast.

I had been keeping a list on my phone since before we had Nova of baby names and adding anything we thought was pretty along the way. You can see the full list here. We had three or four frontrunners. I kept coming back to Rosemary and Jeremy kept coming back to Noelle. But neither of us were sure about the other name, so we took those off the list. I spent several weeks OBSESSED with hunting for names. We even had a wonderful blog reader who works for Nameberry make us a custom list of suggestions (thank you, Sophie!).

In the end, we only really had one name—well, two. Marigold and Goldie. I wanted Marigold and Jeremy wanted Goldie. We then found out that Goldie was a family name (on Jeremy’s side), which makes it even sweeter.

We went to visit friends for the weekend and he randomly announced to everyone (including me lol) that we were going to call our daughter Marigold.

We decided to call her Marigold June. At the time I am writing this post, I don’t know for sure if we’ll be meeting our little gal in June, but I kind of have a feeling. We’ll see!

Oh! For anyone curious why we didn’t keep our children’s Chinese names, read this post. It’s a personal preference that we’ve received a brutal amount of judgment for. So if you feel inclined to judge, be sure you read that post and have more information before you proceed. 🙂 I understand the knee jerk reaction to feel like we “took” something from our girls, but I also think it’s a beautiful and wonderful story to have names given to them, with love, from the parents they will grow up with. As with most things in life, it’s more complicated than a simple right/wrong situation.

Note: This post is pre-scheduled. I am currently on my maternity leave with baby Marigold (!!!!!!!), so if I don’t respond to your comment, don’t worry, someone else on our team will. I am so grateful for the opportunity to take a little time to bond with our new baby. But I left a bunch of posts in the drafts for you to enjoy while I’m away. See you on the other side!

xx. Elsie

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
  • I absolutely love this post! I have been obsessed with baby names from the very beginning (just like you)! We do not have any children yet (although we hope to soon), but I already have a list of names that I started back in High School. A few names have changed a bit, but ultimately our favorites have remained the same! I think it’s so cool to hear all about the process of deciding, and I love the little hidden meanings within each name! Absolutely beautiful!

  • My oldest daughter we called June. We came up with the name about 6 months before I became pregnant. Little did we knew then that I was giving birth to a girl in that exact month! It feels so special on all of her birthdays.

    When I got pregnant with my youngest daughter and people asked when my due date was, they always joked if she was going to be called March (spoiler alert: nope! 🙂). I came across a birth announcement card design with Liz on it. I changed the name to Lizzy and showed it to nu husband and loved it right away.

    They have both ‘music’ names. June is called after June Carter (wife of Johnny Cash) and Lizzy after the band Thin Lizzy. It both suits them so well!

  • Elsie, I really admire your willingness to tackle hard subjects with honesty and vulnerability. It is also encouraging to see you wrestle with issues until you find where you stand and then speak from there instead of out of hurt or anger or defensiveness. Thank you.

  • You’ve chosen such beautiful names for your girls!!

    My daughter was born this last December. We decided to call her Josephine Dorothy – Josie Dot as a pet name.

    It turned out she was born early and very small (3 pound 11 oz!!!), and before the special care nurses knew her name, they’d been calling her the “little dot” of a baby. It’s funny how names can turn out so appropriate, even so quickly!

  • This is my favorite post. Fellow name lover here! I have a huge running list of favorites and we’re not even close to having kids. I love the stories behind names – thank you for sharing! And thank you for your honest about difficult decisions related to adoption. I did my honors thesis on communication in adoption. Knowing their original name is important, keeping it isn’t. Adoptees should know where they came from, but feel secure in the bond with the parents who CHOSE them. I think giving them a name, with a story behind it, helps to secure that bond.

  • I just read your list of names you did not use (our second daughter’s nickname is Flora, short for Florence) and your post about naming Nova. It’s very clear that the childcare providers who cared for Nova did not have a consistent name for her. I love that within two weeks she was saying her name (Nova). So sweet. I’m sure it was comforting to her to have an identity, finally! Your story is unique and lovely, and Nova should be happy to have her name. It’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

  • I love the names you chose! I also love that each girl has both yin (earth, cold) and yang (heaven, warm) elements within their own names that perfectly balance and complement their sister’s name. It is a nice, subtle nod to their Chinese heritage. Congrats Larson family!

  • My childhood favorite that I thought I created all by myself was Annette. What a vain child I was! haha. I think it’s still pretty but it’s not something I’d name my daughter now. My favorite two names in high school and college were Winter and Corina. Lately, I’ve also had a penchant for Ellis and Everly. We will see if the future provides me a daughter someday if one of those make it! <3

  • I just read about naming Nova, loved the very personal and informative post! Nova is so lucky to have you!

  • We named our little girl Rowan in April. Everyone thinks she’s a boy when they hear her name but we have her the middle name Charlotte if she wants to go by that instead 🤷🏼‍♀️

  • Thank you so much for sharing! I’m so excited when you share any of your adoption process that it hurts my heart to read that you got criticism on naming your daughters- especially since it is so deeply personal to you and your family. <3

  • Hurray for June as a middle name! I am Linda June, named for my Aunt June – both of us born in June of course! When my parents wanted to name me Linda June, one of my Grandma’s became concerned because there was no “Saint’s name” in my moniker. As I was born, at St. Mary’s Hospital, there was of course a Chaplin available for “consult”. Ever so politically correct (in 1955 this was not even on the horizon!) he informed the family that it was ok because “Linda” was a corrupt form of Magdalene, so we were covered! I enjoyed this post and my little trip down memory name choice lane! PS We have 3 children, all in their 30’s – and with the last name of Brown – we ended up with Lane Thomas, Katylin Marie, and Hayley Margaret in an effort not to have any more Bobby Browns running around (much to my MIL Mary’s dismay).

  • Dear Elsie,
    you choose good. They are Your children and I am sure that you don’t know but in some European languages Nova means new. Like new in life, new for us.
    I wish You and Your family all the luck in the world!
    Lots of love from Bern, Switzerland

  • It makes my heart hurt for you that people judge your family’s choices. I admire the strength and kindness with which you respond to that. Thank you for always mirroring the behaviour you wish to see in your community.

  • My daughter is named Elsie 🙂 (after her great-grandmother). And I’m named Emma, so I was thrilled when I found this blog! My son is named Egon (90% after my favorite artist, Egon Schiele, 10% after the Ghostbuster) 😀

  • When I was young I wanted 12 children all named after the Gilbreth kids from Cheaper by the Dozen, the original family. Anne, Mary, Ernestine, Martha, Frank, Bill, Lill, Fred, Dan, Jack, Bob and Jane. I have one daughter named Kailen.

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