How I Named My Baby: Olive Rebecca
Anna, a foster care manager, and Mitchell, a property analyst, live in North Dakota with their daughters: Mara Josephine and Olive Rebecca.
Their youngest, Olive, was born on September 29, 2021. Below, we speak to Anna about how she and Mitch named their daughter Olive Rebecca.
Tell me how you named Olive!
We almost decided on it before I was even pregnant. I would say my husband decided on it before I was pregnant. I wasn’t sure about Olive, but he convinced me. I always have a hard time knowing what the name is going to be before I see them and know it’s real.
Olive was Mitch’s great-grandma’s name. He had really sweet memories of his great-grandma, but even more, he wanted to name our daughter Olive for his grandma, Olive’s daughter. It means so much to her.
Mitch told his dad that he wanted to name the baby Olive, but no one else. I was like, “he told his dad — we can’t go back on this now!” And I fell in love with the name over time. I’m glad his grandma had a really nice name that I loved!
My older daughter Mara has a name that everyone knows and has heard, but there’s never going to be a bunch in her class. We wanted something like that for Olive, too. It feels like that sweet spot between different and special and familiar. Even though I know Olive is coming back in style now!
Was Olive on the list for your first daughter?
No! I didn’t even know about that great-grandma when I was pregnant with Mara. And it just didn’t occur to Mitch. I think we definitely would have chosen Mara again, but the names we had on our list for our first daughter were a lot different than the names we had on our list for the second.
What names were on your list this time around?
Iris was on the list for both girls. I still really love that name! I had a piano teacher named Iris when I was a kid. She was an older Italian lady, and I like the idea of honoring her in that way. Iris will probably be the name if we have another girl.
We decided on Olive so quickly, there weren’t a lot of names that we were looking at. We did that eight-week blood test, so we found out we were having a girl really early.
Were boy names ever a thought?
Since we decided on Olive before I was pregnant, boy names were a part of that discussion, too. Honestly, I feel like there are so many girl names we’ve liked over the years, but if we ever have a boy, we’re in trouble. We have no ideas for boy names. Those first few weeks we were discussing boy names, and I don’t think we came up with anything that we both liked.
Part of the problem is that all of the honor names that we would want to use are taken within the family. Olive has three cousins named after my dad already. Or they’re just those more common, really traditional names. I love those names, just not for my children. Mara and Olive are a little bit different, so we don’t want a brother to have a boring and basic name.
When we look for boy names, we always want something strong and simple, but that also has meaning to us. We haven’t quite found that yet, but my husband really likes Abram for a boy. It’s his great-great-grandpa’s name. He’s been finding a lot of inspiration back in the family tree. I don’t know about Abram yet, though.
Is an honor name a requirement in each of your children’s names?
No, Mara doesn’t have any honor names, actually. We just liked Mara Josephine and went for it, but Olive and Rebecca are both family names.
Rebecca is my sister’s name, and I would have used it whether I liked her name or not. And if we have a boy, his middle name will probably be Peter, after my brother.
Rebecca is four years older than me. Mara is four years older than Olive, and I hope that they’re as close as Becky and I are. We lived in the same city for the first three years of Mara’s life, and we’re just best friends. She babysat Mara every night so I could go to my grad school classes, and they were inseparable. I just wanted to honor the big role my sister has had in my daughters’ lives.
Becky lives in Nebraska now for her medical residency, so she’s only gotten to meet Olive for a few days. I really wanted to show her how important she is to our family.
Did you ask anyone for advice about baby names?
We looked a lot on Nameberry and had one of those apps where you swipe for name matches, but we didn’t ask any outside people. I don’t like others’ opinions in naming. We only told people once we were 100% sure she was going to be Olive Rebecca. Before you’re sure, people have a lot to say about names.
I did ask my sister if, in her opinion, Olive was too close to Olivia and people would think they’re the same name. And I asked for ideas from friends and family members.
Mara gave us some pretty wild ideas. Peen was one. And Scooby-Doo.
I’m the youngest of eight kids, and we all have very traditional names. But the names my mom was suggesting were very out of left field for her, like Tatiana and Rosemary, which I love and would totally use.
I told my parents the name because I was excited about it, and Mitch’s dad knew, but we didn’t tell anyone else. We wanted it to be a surprise for Mitch’s side of the family because the original Olive was pretty significant to all of them.
Mara, who was three at the time, was really excited about the name too, and told pretty much the entire family. It was so cute — they were pretending not to know at first, but they knew her name was Olive.
We had assumed that Mara told her great-grandma— Olive’s daughter — but somehow the one person we wanted to keep it from never found out. When Olive was born, she was so surprised and touched. She texted us, “I wanted to call but I just can’t stop crying!” It ended up being perfect.
Becky was really excited and surprised too. She kept calling the baby “Olive Rebecca” when she was here.
What would your younger self have liked to name a baby?
For some reason, when I was a kid, I was like, “I’m going to have a baby named Carol.”
When Mitch and I first got together, we would have chosen more out-there names. We started dating when we were 18 and 19, and when you talk about names back then, it’s so different than naming a baby. The choices on our list were hipster names. I still stand by the names as super cool, but not when you’re thinking about the kid wearing them their whole life.
Even just a couple years ago, we were thinking Odessa for a girl. I still really love it. We were thinking of Jaco, after Jaco Pastorius, the bass player. It’s cool but kind of weird!
What are the trendy names in your social circle?
We’re in a bigger North Dakota city, but it’s still very small compared to other states. It’s not super cool or trendy! In Mara’s class, there are a lot of names like Easton, Pierce, and Lincoln for boys. There are a few traditional names too, like Caleb. With boys, though, I definitely see it following those trendy and common names. Easton stands out to me because I feel like I’ve seen so many recently.
Girl names follow the trends as well, but the names are more different. There are fun names like Genevieve and Penelope. Names that were big in 2017, when these kids were born. Those are names that I wouldn’t have chosen because I wouldn’t think my kid could say that! But the preschoolers can pronounce them.
There’s a Maris, Sydney, and Cedar in Mara’s class. I’ve noticed multiple girls with Native American heritage named Cedar.
How do you feel about your own name, and how did that influence your choice of baby names?
My name is super common, but I liked that it was classic. I was never one of ten Annas in my class, somehow. It never bothered me, but I wanted more unique names for my kids.
I really like that Anna is feminine, short, and so simple, I don’t need a nickname. I did that with the girls’ names, too. My sister Becky, for example, has only gone by Becky, even though her full name is Rebecca. Olive can go by Liv if she wants, but she won’t need a nickname right off the bat.
What was your biggest fear related to baby names?
I fear that the kids are going to get teased. People can make fun of any name, and I wonder how common that really is. It’s definitely more of a fear among boy names — boys can be mean! I feel like not just bullying as the fear, but thinking they have a weird name or judging them based on their names.
What was the most surprising part of the baby name process?
How quickly we were able to decide! Whenever I’m not pregnant, I think it’s going to take forever to find the perfect name, but with both kids, we were pretty much done once we knew they were girls. We decided on Olive Rebecca at nine weeks.
It always seems like such a daunting thing to choose someone’s name. It’s not like we take it lightly, but every time we’ve had to choose a baby name we’ve just been like, “okay, that’s it.” It was really easy to say, “That’s going to be the name.”
What advice would you give someone who’s just starting the baby name process?
This is something I wish someone had told me early on: don’t be afraid to be adventurous with it. Even with the fears of bullying, seeing the amount of name diversity in Mara’s class and the fact that she can say names like Genevieve and Penelope shows how creative you can be.
Be creative and find something you really love. And once you know for sure, just be confident in it.
Thank you so much, Anna!