Since I am so indecisive, I researched all of these names, made lists of possible sibling pairings, and wrote my top names down over and over again, constantly re-evaluating. One thing we did not do was ask for opinions on our top names or tell people what we had on our list, because we didn't want reactions to sway our decision one way or the other (partly because after sharing only one name early on, I immediately fell out of love with it).
Other criteria: I had to be proud to shout it in front of people, it had to look at least respectable on a serious job application, couldn't start with a B to avoid undesirable initials, look and sound good with our last name, and be equally nice on a kid or a grandparent. It also had to be uncommon, because that's where my interest in names lies, but of course legitimate as well. It was equally important that the middle name had some connection to my family - as a bonus this would make the name substantial enough in case the first name turned out to be too rare. Lastly, I thought it should be a name I would love to have myself or wouldn't get tired of saying. (I'd like to think all this planning ensures that we will not regret our choice.)
The original ladies (first favorite ten from the start of our "name planning"):
Jilliana - I really thought this name was spunky and felt like "home." JiJi would have made a cute nickname, or maybe Jinny, and every time I hear both nicknames I immediately think of my childhood. Jilliana is surprisingly rare even though Jillian/Jill is so common, so I felt like this name could work well anywhere in life.
Calluna - this one is the botanical name for heather, and fit my last name very well. I got the image that Calluna would be free-spirited, love nature, and probably be a little bit of a smart-ass (in a good way). I've also always had a thing for Una, which would make an easy nickname - although Callie works, too.
Freya - the Norse goddess, whose chariot was drawn by two cats (major plus for my cat-loving self), who had a pet boar (awesome). However much I loved everything about Freya, she's uber popular abroad and is looking to get that way soon in the U.S. I predicted a few years ago that she'd soon be in the top 1000 and I was right. Then, when the "Witches of East End" show came on TV with its main character Freya I realized this was not the name I wanted. My main issue was with how dark her hair is in the show compared to the 'blondness' described in legend, and I know my child will not have blonde hair.
Fiamma - an Italian rarity meaning "flame." Also Fiammetta. I didn't think this would compliment my daughter's appearance or compliment our last name, but I still adore it. Other F names have won out against her more recently, such as Fruzsina, Faustina, Faunella and Fairuza because of my love of the letter u in first names to match my last name. Fairuza would have been especially perfect for a December baby (I wrote about her here).
Domenica or Dominika - a feminization of my maternal grandfather's name (who I never got to meet). I was thinking of calling her "little dove" to start with and then moving to Minna or Minka, which are so much fun to say. Rosamunda, Rosaline, Rosmira, Carletta and Carolena are other plays on family names I considered.
Kolfinna - this Icelandic favorite of mine is Old Norse, composed of "Kol" (Cole) and "Finn," two currently popular male names. She's just charming, mysterious and exotic, like a little lady Viking or a smoky-eyed Valkyrie. She simply doesn't get along with my last name, but Vasilisa does, has a similar vibe, and is still on the list.
Sapphira - this name would connect to my September wedding, my grandmother's favorite stone, and a special place in Italy. It's an on-again, off-again love. The religious connection doesn't bother me. Other S-names Scarletta, Seferina, Seraphine, Satia, Sebastiana, Satyana, Sabelina, and Saskia were also on the list.
Jasmina - the jasmine flower, not on the top 1000, very exotic and yet very familiar. Jacinda was similar and could lead to the nicknames Jinny or Jade.
Plumeria - I was so proud of finding this name, since I believe it was completely ignored before I first wrote about it. Among all the different flower names ever suggested, this one rarely makes it onto anyone's list. It was always on and off my list, with nicknames like Plum, Luma and Lumi. I later considered Polaris, equally unusual, and Pola/Polina.
Rumina - Rumina in Roman mythology was the goddess of nursing mothers, while there is a striking butterfly of the same name. I love Runa or Rumi as nicknames. She'll always be somewhere on my list, along with Rudolfina, Rixende and Richenza.
Others I considered: Oriana, Zorina, Miuccia, Serenella, Silveria, Stellifera, Solifera, Ursulina, Lisandra, Camellia, Casmilla, Castalia, Vitellia, Sunniva, Auriella, Umbrielle, Eufemia, Zenobia, Zinevra, Zelina, Mafalda, Olympia, Joscelina, Hildana, Indrina, Vesperia, Anaxandra, Milania, Almira, Amalita, Violetta, Loredana, Tomasina, Valerianella (by far the longest and frilliest), Melusina and Esmerina.
Middles: Gwendolen, Guinevere, Fable, Crystal, Emmanuelle, Ursuline, Chantal, Chantilly, Briar Rose, Charm, Shadow, Shalimar, Snow, Faustine, Estelle, Tanith, Ombeline, Umbrielle, Caspienne, Isabeau, Lux, Serenity, Roselle, Lorelei, Leilani, Ishtar, Rosemint, Marian, Elena, Melisande, Melusine, Scarlett, Violette, Iseult, Serenity and Tigerlily.
For boys, the early process was quite simple, and my full list hadn't changed in over five years - I'd choose between Caspian, Alaric, or Evander, and use either Gregory, Stellan, Salvatore, Atreyu or Archer as a middle name. Then when we found out it was a boy for sure, all of a sudden I panicked and redid my list about fifty times. Seeing the 3D ultrasound helped narrow down the final list, but when we saw the baby for the first time everything went out the window and only one made it back. He just looked so different from what we expected that nothing felt right for him.
Alaric - this one seems ancient and powerful, while fitting in with other names like Alec and Rick. He's all darkness and musk, ruggedly handsome, intelligent, and definitely a warrior. I did notice that he was getting talked about more often thanks to the Vampire Diaries show on TV, but not nearly enough to make him popular.
Evander - this was our top name for so long (six years!) thanks to his meaning, "good man," mythology roots and easy nickname of Ev. Then around 6 months pregnant my husband and I finally started sharing this option, and found that while absolutely everyone loved it... it was the most irritating thing to hear people pronounce that first E so dramatically. "EE-vander." Ugh, it only took two weeks for that "EE" sound to drive me insane. The Turkish name Evren, meaning "cosmos," took over for a short time after that.
Indy - while Indiana and Indigo seem to be girl names now, Indio and Iskander (an international variant of Alexander) were boy name options to get Indy as a nickname, but I couldn't find a way to make Indy + a full name work for us.
Cillian - someone distantly related to us used this before I could, and while we never see her it just felt wrong to use, and also like our son wouldn't feel unique knowing another one was so close by.
Caspian was another name I really, really loved and knew how easy it would be for a little boy to wear since pretty much everyone is familiar with either Prince Caspian or the Caspian Sea, but it didn't feel right as a winter name.
Archer - being pretty sure our son would be a Sagittarius, the archer, I was pretty sure this name or possibly Arrow would work somewhere in his name. We decided it was better as a middle name option due to rising popularity.
Rainer - this is a regal name that screams "rain" to me even though it means something like "war counsel" or "decision making warrior." In the end it just felt too summery, too blue-eyed, if that makes any sense. (Once I was overdue I had to start narrowing down the list any way possible because at 40 1/2 weeks I still had 8 names to choose from.) Roland was an alternate R-name and an anagram of my husband's grandfather, but we aren't particularly close and Rollo seemed like an undesirable nickname to me. Too bad because Roland has wonderful history. Ronan could have won out if not for his increasing popularity and, most recently being the name of the villain in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Casper - this little guy has so much potential nowadays, and even though the Casper the Ghost image is still fresh in a large portion of the population they seem to be getting over it. Now it seems refreshing and international. My personal issue with it is that I still have a girls name on my future-use list that competes with Casper for my affection, the two being extremely similar. Plus I still have Castalia and Casmilla on my girls list. For the same reasons I had to cut Casimir, though he suits our Polish roots, and Caspian, which I mentioned above.
Silvan - so woodsy, silvery and quietly magical, as well as honoring my family in three different ways, this was "the name" until we saw him and realized it didn't quite fit him. A back-up family name we pulled out last minute was Salvatore, but my husband liked what we finally chose just a tiny bit more. Stellan was the last S-name on our list but dang it, Stellan Skarsgard makes it seem like a blondes-only name. Maybe if my baby had "looked like" a Stellan I could have tried harder to keep it on the list, as it reminds me of quiet, warm winter nights when suddenly it rains instead of snows.
Aubin - here's one that's rare everywhere but France, the name of a little-known saint, and so unique but it fits right in with today's more popular choices. I fought for this one in the hospital but my husband quickly decided he didn't like it.
Other boy names considered: Macsen, Maksim/Maxim, Vero, Onnen, Tannen, Oren, Lonan, Hawthorn, Escher, Gustav, Jove, Jovan, Eoin, Jensen, Everest, Rubin, Onyx, Carsten, Sven, Oberon, Auberon, Auburn, Theron, Thurstan, Emmeric, Sander, Sullivan, Rhydian, Odin, Orion, Stefan, Dashiell, Mack, Gusten, Drystan, Thatcher, Thayer, Glastian, Howell, Howard, Caraway, Schuler, Shepherd, Sherwood, Sheridan, and Alasdair.
Middle names not mentioned above: Shadow, Oliver, Crispin, Oscar, Storm, Mercury, Valor, Cloud, Venture, Equinox, Hemlock, Maverick, Gunther, Tarragon, Coriander, Sorrel, Gunnar, Oak, Romaric, Sebastian, Malachite, Mercade, Robin and Rafferty.