One Name to Unite Us?

A blogger grapples over the issue of her last name

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When I got divorced last year, it made sense for me to keep my married name. I got married during graduate school, so my entire post-education career had been conducted under that name. It was my daughters’ last name, and I had no intention to ask them to change it. It would be simpler to deal with school and other organizations if the girls and I shared a name. I felt no particular attachment to my maiden name.

I asked my soon-to-be ex-husband whether he had any objections to my keeping his last name. He thought I was nuts for asking. “It’s your name,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you keep it?”

It was settled. I signed the divorce papers and called a realtor. I wasn’t going to go through the mess of changing my name.

A few months later, Alan’s custody instability came to light, and I threw my hat into the ring to be his forever mommy. As it turned out, the US permanent residency (“green card”) that I had held for eight years would be inadequate for the purposes of adoption. I would have to live in the UK with him for two years to be able to bring Alan into the US as my child after adopting him under British law. While I wasn’t completely against that option, my support network was here in Texas. The alternative was to become a US citizen and then adopt Alan using the Hague process for international adoption, which would allow me to sponsor him for immigration immediately. I elected to pursue the second path.

On the citizenship application, I was once again given the option to legally change my name. Suddenly I wasn’t so sure. Would it be weird to give Alan my ex-husband’s last name? After all, they were no longer related. Or were they?

I thought about this whole thing much too hard. I asked every one of my close friends their opinions and everyone had a different perspective. One friend thought I was silly for worrying about it. My married name was my name and no longer had anything to do with my ex, so why wouldn’t I share it with an adopted son? Another wondered whether it would be best to have Alan keep the last name of his birth, given that this would be a kinship adoption. Another friend suggested that I go back to my maiden name, which is also Alan’s birth mother’s maiden name, in a gesture of respect and continuity to his birth family. Yet another friend suggested that I create an altogether new last name for myself, Alan and my daughters, symbolically creating an altogether new family.

I had too many choices and couldn’t choose, so I took the lazy route and kept my married name.

I’m glad I did. Had I changed my name, only to now find myself without custody of Alan, my new name would have been a constant thorn. Of course, I think about Alan all the time as it is, but I can’t help thinking that every time I wrote my new name, whatever it might have been, there would be a big hole within it where I had hoped Alan would be.

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