"Are They Family Names?" - Behind the Names Special

"Oh, how interesting"

"Very.... bold"

"Are they family names?"



These, among others, are the most common reactions we receive to telling people (especially strangers) the names we gave our children. Some people begged us to go more common, shorter or easier to pronounce, but we had very good reasons for naming them their names, and so I'd like to share those reasons here.


I've always had a love of names. Ask my maternal grandmother- she once told me that she believed that in every conversation we ever had for years, I have always brought up names. I mostly love names because I think they are important. I also love them because I like the way they express something intangible and unspeakable about a person. 


Clairvaux is a name I have loved for years. For people who know me, I was never shy about my love for this name. I love St. Bernard of Clairvaux. He is the mellifluous doctor of the Catholic Church. He was an amazing intellectual theologian and scholar. His heart and love for God he was able to express beautifully through poetry and expand upon it thoughtfully in an academic way. I love his way of life. I love his appreciation of music. I like the names Bernadette and I think Bernard is okay too, but somehow I thought what if I chose the surname instead. I thought Clairvaux to be pretty and unique with the ability to sound more normal. I had always thought I would call a Clairvaux "Claire". In reality, I call her "Vauxie" "Vauxbug" or "Clairvaux" more times than not and I rarely ever call her Claire.

I thought for years I had made this name up. I remember typing the name into Google and then into Nameberry and discovering that there was no data at all on this as a given first name. I have to be honest, it made me like it more. Now, let me clarify something because I think some people play this name-stealing game where they get upset if someone else names their child the name they were either *thinking* of naming their child or have *already* named their child. I personally find this ridiculous as you cannot own a name; therefore it cannot be stolen. That said, I have to admit I liked being the creator of Clairvaux. I didn't mind if anyone else named their child it after me, as the name is not mine to own, but I had an attachment to the idea of creating it.

I think I had actually mentioned to a good friend of mine how much I loved this name and said something along the lines of "Have you ever met a Clairvaux? I think my daughter may be the first one". & that friend logged onto a mom blog she knew and showed me that there was one other person (I guess at least) who had named their daughter Clairvaux. Staying true to my theory that no name can be owned, I still chose that name. I do still take some pride in the idea that I thought it up on my own without any inspiration other than a love of the saint. It just makes me happy.

The hardest part in agreeing on Clairvaux was getting my husband on board. However, my husband is a great musician and talented songwriter. St. Bernard of Clairvaux was a music lover and wrote extensively of the song of songs. Once Ryan knew more about the saint, he agreed he liked it enough to use it. This was before we were even wed, haha!

The only part I feel bad for Clairvaux is the many people who don't know the french "aux" like faux, and instead pronounce her name as "Clare- vox" or even worse "Clare-vax". If she chooses a nickname in the future, this could limit the mispronunciations. 


Clairvaux's middle name is Elizabeth. A long time ago, I thought it to be nice to make a future daughter's middle name Elizabeth as it is my middle name. My mother and my maternal grandmother both have middle names that start with E as well, and it has always made me feel close to them. 

I wanted Clairvaux's middle name actually for the longest time to be Fidelis, after Sr Mary Fidelis, a dear friend of mine who is a Poor Clare. Ryan just couldn't agree to two very weird names. And he liked my reasoning for Elizabeth so he nixed it. I hope I can incorporate honoring my friend in a future name though.

Clairvaux Elizabeth sounded very long to me, so I thought about just sticking with the "E" initial as that was what was most important to me, but I read about a newer saint, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity who has an amazing story, I knew I wanted her patronage for my daughter. So Clairvaux Elizabeth she became. It fits her amazingly well.

Some people get confused about my decision to name my children after saints. Some people think that it means I worship the saints or something weird. My decision to name my child after a saint, means that I decide to name my children after people who loved God well in their earthly lives--people who were courageous and merciful and radical in their specific historical time on earth. I would like my children to look up to them, not as gods, but as good examples or big brothers and sisters who, by their example, give us hope to follow God in our own lives now.


Adelaide's name was somewhat harder than Clairvaux's. Her name started with Ryan's love of a name "Kyla". It's the only name he's ever liked enough to think to name a child it on his own. I would love to honor this name, but Ryan's little brother and my best friend is Kyle. And since they share the same last name, it would be too similar. So I started thinking of options for names that sounded like Kyla--Lila, Isla, Mila, Nila. We both liked Isla but I thought it to be not a saint's name, so I was on the hunt for a perfect saint middle name for Isla. (If I had only heard of Our Lady of the Isles at this point). 

One day I was reading the year of Mercy magnificat and I saw a debuted saint story of St. Adelaide. It ended with a memorable line "And mercy was ever her song". I loved her story and I loved her name. Isla Adelaide sounded so beautiful to me. I presented this option to Ryan and he liked it! But he, surprisingly, looked at me and said "What about just Adelaide?" I had never thought of it before but over the next couple of days the name grew and grew on us. 


Adelaide's middle name was simple. In reviewing our boy name options for if we had two boys, I noticed Ryan didn't want either his middle or his first name as a middle for the boys. He said he just didn't care for it enough and he liked other names more.

When I was in utero and my own parents were naming me, they almost named me Ryann, as they loved the name for a boy and thought it could suit a girl. I told Ryan about this and he beamed at the thought of his little girl carrying his name. So Adelaide Ryan it became.

I once tried to switch the names to Clairvaux Ryan and Adelaide Elizabeth but Ry wouldn't have it, he was set. It was really sweet.

Which Baby Gets Which Name?

Most twin parents just pick a name for "Baby A" and a name for "Baby B". I wanted to try to see them first and then give them the name. I wanted to make sure they looked like their name. So we set up a plan: we would try to name them according to what we they looked like, but if we disagreed or found it to be overwhelming or simply didn't know, then we would default to "Baby A" being Clairvaux and "Baby B" being Adelaide.

In reality, they ended up being named the opposite. 

I had a c-section and when I was recovering afterwards, Ryan came beaming up to me and said "I think I know who's who. The little one, baby A, she looks like Adelaide". I thought this to be a weird statement because what does an Adelaide look like? I had never met one.

I was too out of it from the surgery to judge for myself so I asked for more time. A few minutes later Ryan said "Can we make it official she is really an Adelaide!" He looked so content and sure of himself, I agreed without ever really studying them myself. But he soon handed Adelaide over to me and when I looked her in the eyes I saw it instantly. I had never met an Adelaide, but she definitely was one. & sweet Clairvaux with her chubby cheeks, her name fit her so well too. It was perfect.