Choosing a name for your new baby girl can be quite an arduous task. There are so many things to consider when choosing a name for any child. However, when you have adopted a child, there can be a lot of other factors to consider. Not only do you want to choose a name that you love, but many people want to honor their family through their child’s name. With adoption, there are two families coming into play. There may also be a factor at hand that your child’s birth parents may have already named them. While you certainly have the option of choosing a different name, you may find keeping your child’s name is a way to honor their birth family and keep a part of their identity that may be sacred to them as they grow.
Regardless of where you land on a name for your new baby girl, you may want to take some time to consider all of the people the name will affect, the foremost important being your child. Their name will not only be something that holds meaning for them, but it may hold a link to their past. Choosing a name for your adopted baby girl is not a task to take lightly. There may be changes you will regret later in life or that your child may not fully understand. Take the time to really think through the reasoning behind your child’s new name before settling on anything.
When my husband and I were naming our first child, we were very careful to choose a name that we not only liked, but one that meant something to us. It was really important for us to honor our family somehow. While our first child was not adopted, it still took us quite some time to decide on a name. However, we were able to choose a first name that we simply loved the sound of and choose a middle name that honored my grandmother. It suited him really well and I wouldn’t change a thing.
For our second child, who was also not adopted, choosing a name was relatively easy. We chose a first name that honored my husband’s grandmother and a middle name that we simply loved. When we found out we were adopting our daughter, we scrambled to find a name. We did not have much time between when we found out we were adopting and when she was born. We had a list of names and went back and forth. It was quite a struggle as we wanted to keep with the tradition of honoring family but we also understood that there was more than one family involved. For these reasons, we had to take time to really consider what her name would mean and how to take the best approach.
I will approach the topic of my daughter’s name and the next portion, but I really want to address how we went about naming our son who was adopted about 18 months after our daughter. We knew we were going to adopt our son before he was born. We spent some time thinking of names but really felt from our previous experience that we should work in collaboration with his birth family to name him. In speaking with his birth mother, this gave her a lot of relief as she had a deep hope to be able to name him or at least take part in that process. We very much gave her the reins in this collaboration. While we wanted to agree on a name that we all loved, we took into account the need for a child to have an identity through his birth family.
Our son had multiple other biological brothers who had names that all start with the same letter. While his birth mother did not bring it up, it was very important in my eyes that he also has a name that starts with that letter. It just gave him more connection with his brothers. That kind of set a course for the name we would choose. Luckily, the name we went with was a name that we had loved and actually was the middle name of our second child. For his middle name, we had his birth mother choose family names. Of course, his last name became our last name.
Working in collaboration with his birth mother was a great approach as it gave us a story to tell and an opportunity to provide him with a little bit of input from both sides. When we tell the story of his name, it links both families together. I strongly encourage to work in cooperation whenever it is possible. It is not always easy and you will not always agree, but being able to combine the families together will be very important for your child as they grow. This will be especially important in an open adoption situation. Start your collaboration and communication with the first process of naming your child.
In one of the adoption groups I am in, there are multiple families who have adopted internationally. Many of their children have American names. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, however, it does bring up an interesting point about honoring culture. One of the families within the group has a child who has a name that is very true to the culture and country from which they came. This family spoke about their reasoning for naming their child that name and also why they decided intentionally to not give them an American name. For them, it was important that their child understand and appreciate the culture from which they came. They did not want their child to feel in any way that they could not own that part of themselves and that part of their identity. It was really cool to hear how much effort they went into to find not only a name that correlated with their home country but one that meant something beautiful in that language.
When adopting a child from a different culture or country, it is important to really think about the name you choose and also what that might mean for them as they grow. If you are able to have contact information for your child’s birth parents, they may be a great asset in helping to name your child. You may also choose to keep a name if your child was named at birth by their birth parents. You may also choose to research a culture or country and find out some name choices that might fit your child. Make sure that you inquire with people from that culture or country to ensure that the name is appropriate and one that your child will take pride in as they grow. The effort that you put into your child’s name will mean the world.
When our daughter was born, we did not know that we were adopting her. We were called the day she was born and were asked to adopt. By this time, of course, she already had a name. Her birth mother had named her a name that was beautiful. Was there that little pain of wanting to choose a name myself? Of course. We are only human. We took a bit of time to try and decide whether or not we would change her name at finalization. However, after a lot of education and speaking with other adoptive families and also speaking with adoptees, we really felt it was incredibly important to keep her given name. It was a piece of her identity that she would always carry with her. It was something her birth mother had given to her.
While we have a very open adoption, it was still important to us for her to have this identity and to know that she took that with her; that we did not take that away from her in the process. Some may feel that it’s a bit overdramatic to state it that way, but there’s so much loss in adoption. We can’t prevent that. It happens. It’s just a reality that we need to address. If there is an opportunity for a child to keep their name in a safe situation, that should definitely be given immense consideration.
As with anything, there are always exceptions to every rule. While there should typically be a concerted effort to keep a child’s given name or to honor their birth family in some way through cooperation or otherwise, there are always situations where it might not be in the best interest of the child to keep their given name. If there are safety issues or if the adoption is private for some serious reason, there should definitely be consideration given to changing the child’s name or giving them a name that is not associated with their birth family. This situation is rare but it’s important to note that it does happen.
This consideration is also important for children who are adopted at birth or at an older age. When a child is older, there should be much more consideration given to a child keeping their given name. If a child is old enough to decide for themselves, they may want to choose the option of changing their name. However, forcing a child to change their name is not typically the best option. It also would seem that if a child is given a name then we should not take the right from them to keep that part of their identity. Some believe this is true of children who are too young to make that decision. Some feel that if a child is not old enough to have an input in their name change, it is likely that we should leave it alone.
When it comes down to it, it is really up to you as your child’s parent to make the best decision for them. It is vital that we really think about what that means. Sometimes the best decision will be a decision that we don’t necessarily like or want. We may have a name that we love but feel that it’s very important to honor our child’s birth family or the name that our child was already given. However, there may be a situation where a child was given a name that was either not kind or one that they will struggle with as they grow. In this case, you may need to use your discretion in changing a name or moving something to a middle name for your child’s benefit.
We have to be honest with ourselves about the reasons we change things and the names that we choose. While it is nice to look at things through the lense that having a child through adoption is the same as having a biological child, a child who comes from adoption has already experienced loss and will experience loss in the future. We cannot negate that loss. Losing their name and part of their identity would only add to that loss in many situations. It is our job as adoptive parents to address that and understand that. It is simply important to recognize all of the factors that come into play when naming your baby girl.
It is important that we make sure to not ignore the fact that our children come from adoption. We need to embrace that, accept that, and help our children to be proud of that. Adoption is no longer some secret that we keep until a child is older. When adoption becomes our children’s normal and something that they can take pride in, it is incredibly healthy and life-giving. It is important that we find a way for our children to take pride in who they are and that means who they were before they came to us, whether that was at birth or at 10 years old. One way to do so is to give them a name that connects them with their birth culture and birth family. If you are able to do that in any way, it will be important for your child’s identity as they grow.