What’s in a name

Now that we are getting close to referral time, several people have asked us about names. Have we picked out a name yet? Will she already have a name? Will we keep it?

The first thing we did when we learned we were pregnant with Hannah (our oldest, now 8) is to go to Borders Books and look at baby names. I still remember poring through the baby names books, and even running into another couple who just found out they were expecting, also looking at baby books. We found the perfect name after looking over hundreds of choices. Same with Elliot and Logan. The boys took longer, but we like the names we chose, and the names fit the personalities.

But in this case, we really haven’t discussed names that much.

Maybe because Elliot already chose a name … “Ella is our baby sister from Africa” … before we had even told our kids that we were thinking about adopting. This was one of our signs that adoption was right for us. But we are still keeping our minds open as to whether Ella is really THE name.

Another reason we haven’t spent much time on it is that she will probably already have a name. It may be a beautiful Ethiopian name that will fit her just right. It may be something exotic that we will want to shorten to make it easier for Americans to say. And it may be too far out there to remain as a first name, and instead move into the middle name position.

According to the articles I’ve read, there are a couple of schools of thought on naming an adopted child, particularly one from a different race, culture and language. Both seem a little extreme.

The first side says that birth names should always be kept. We know from lots of research that adopted children will struggle with identity at different times in their life. This theory says that taking away their birth name is like taking away a piece of their identity.

The other side recognizes the need for children to feel like they fit in, both with their adopted family and in their surrounding community. A birth name that is too exotic, they say, will make it even harder for an adopted child to establish a strong sense of belonging in their adopted family and community.

I’m not sure either side wins the argument. We will wait and keep our minds open.

In the end, I think we will know what name is right, just like we did with our other kids. And as she grows up, she will add life and meaning to her name … whatever it may be.


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