When my husband and I adopted our children there were many things we just didn’t think about. I don’t think we went into adoption completely naively, but there were some things that weren’t talked about in any of the traditional places we went to gather knowledge. Things like racism, post adoption depression, and how painful it is for a child to be separated from their siblings weren’t covered in the sunshine and unicorn books that the foster agency recommended. Another thing that wasn’t covered was the sensitivity that a child might (or might not) feel surrounding their name.
I have a distinct memory of fretting over the idea of changing my daughter Mariyah’s name. In the end we didn’t, and for our family’s situation, I’m glad about that. But the nonchalant way a caseworker said, “Just rename her. It’s really not that big of a deal,” has stuck with me.
Names are a big deal. Maybe more and maybe less depending on the individual, but overall they are a big deal.
A name may very well be the last thing a mother gave to her child. Or in an equally painful scenario, it may have been something a mother was never able to give.
My daughter came home with a fun little school assignment recently. Now I know what you’re thinking, all homework assignments are fun. But this one was very literally assigned by the teacher with the intention of being fun.
NAMES – Where did yours come from? Who picked it? Why? What does it mean? How do you feel about your name? The paper stated in big bold letters.
Mariyah wanted to work on the assignment herself. I looked over her shoulder at the paper to check on her progress. It was set up as a web with her name in the middle and blank spaces for information scattered around it. Although she had been working for several minutes, most of the spaces remained blank. “I feel happy with my name, and sometimes I feel sad,” appeared to have been erased from the side of the page. I could still make out the words. There was a familiar tugging in my chest which I quickly realized were my heartstrings. Such simple questions. Unless you are an adoptee.
Now we’re pretty lucky in that we are able to have an open adoption with James and Mariyah’s birth mom. When I reminded Mariyah that she could call and ask about her name, she was pretty excited to be able to get the answers. We decided to put the phone on speaker to make sure she wouldn’t forget any of the things her birth mom told her. Hearing the story for the first time of how her birth mom came up with her name, and what she was doing when she came up with it, and what other family members thought, and all those other things made me that much happier that we didn’t “just rename her”.
I think of all the different scenarios you hear about with names in an adoption. Birth parent picks a name. Hospital picks a name. Orphanage picks a name. Foster mom picks a name. No one picks a name. Adoptive parent picks a name. Unlike what that caseworker said, they all feel like a very big deal. They all feel like a very big piece of a person’s history.
My daughter filled her web in with the information her birth mother gave her. She got to the last squares and paused. “How do you feel about your name?” was the only thing she hadn’t yet answered. “I feel happy with my name, and sometimes I feel sad,” she rewrote and then looked up at me. I smiled back at her, “That makes a lot of sense.”
Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!
New to linking up? We’d love to have you join us, here’s how.