January 27, 2009

What's In a Name?

Shakespeare tells us that a rose by another other name still smells as sweet. True. But, names are very personal. And when you don’t have full control over naming your child—something that couples who biologically birth their kids have probably never thought off—that, well, kind of stinks.

There are arguments for both sides. Adoption agencies often promise birth moms naming rights, in an effort to help make the difficult, selfless decision to place a child for adoption just a little less difficult. I can understand that, I can. But at the same time, this will be your child. You will be raising this child and calling them by their given name for life. What if you can’t get behind the name a birth mother chooses?

In an ideal (adoption) world, birth moms and forever families (as we fondly refer to ourselves) come up with a name—or two, first and middle—together. But still, for what ever reason, naming is a sacred “right,” or so we are taught to believe, and even a privilege bestowed upon us as parents. It is not something taken lightly, for most people (your average celebrity not withstanding). So yes, it is sad and it does stink when we can’t name our own children. And yes, of course I am happy to have a child, so does it really matter that child’s name? (I’m a little tired of hearing comments from well-intentioned friends and family, can you tell?) It does matter, a little.

To Shakespeare’s credit, we will always love our child(ren) no matter if their name is Pilot Inspektor (actor Jason Lee’s son) or Ella, but there is just something about being able to give the gift of a name to your child. Something magical and wonderful. Though, by the same token—even though it would not have been my first choice—our birth mother gave our daughter her middle name, and that is a great gift our daughter will always have from her birth mother (we were able to give our daughter her first name, the name we call her by).

So then, why is it so important to have control over naming our children? Is that it, an issue of “control?” I’m not sure I can answer that. I think it’s the personal aspect of the whole thing. You spend all this time conjuring up a name for your child—possibly a family name, maybe one you’ve made up, or even one from your favorite character in a book—and then to be told, “Sorry. Yes this is your child, but she’s been named for you.” That stings a little.

But hey, welcome to the world of adoption, where the pros most definitely, hands-down out-weigh the cons by a mile, but the cons offer ups some scenarios you might not have ever considered.


Team Thompson said...

When I adopted my two sons, then ages 13 and 15, I let them decide whether or not to change their names. Of course, we were talking about last names, as at 13 and 15, changing their first names wasn't even considered. Regardless, I told them that I'd like them to have my last name, but that they could do whatever they wanted. In the end, they both decided to use their birth given last name as their middle name and my last name as their last name. In return, I also promised not to change my last name if I were ever to get married (which was a no brainer for this women's lib advocate). Regardless, I can appreciate what you are saying about the name because I was really honored when my children chose mine.

On the other hand, your child does have two families and that's part of what makes adoption so special. Adoption isn't the substitution for "the real thing", it's in its own category. I don't know what it's like to have biological children, but I can't imagine loving a child anymore than I love mine. I also know that having a link to their biological heritage is really important to them. When I talk about some physical condition that I have and how some relative before me had the same thing, it makes me sad that my kids don't get to have that kind of understanding about themselves. They will always have more blanks to fill in than I or they will have answers for, and in moments like those, which are frequent, I'm thankful that at least they have their names.

Regardless, I understand your feelings completely and I am really thankful for people like you.

A K Drew said...

Hello and thank you for your wonderful comment. I agree with you completely--I can't imagine loving a child more than mine, as well! And at the end of the day, that is what's most important. Thank you for sharing your experience with me!