While the pressure to find the perfect name is a standard for any parent, for adoptive parents there is a door that opens up to a whole new set of questions that can become completely overwhelming. The Birthmother. Will she choose a name first? If she does should we keep it or change it? What if we have a name we’ve always wanted? Is there a “right” way to do this?
We are unique individuals. This is why each adoption is so unique, and also why making a decision for a name will be unique as well. Most importantly, understand that your opinion DOES count. Talk about how you feel, be open and honest. On the other hand, also be respectful of what you hear from others and how they feel. When everyone approaches this with respect and honest emotion, the answers will come.
When I placed my son for adoption in 1985 I was told that if I wanted to name him I could but that it was likely the adoptive parents would change it. I was okay with the idea of them changing it, but I also didn’t want my son to be called “the baby” for two weeks. So I named him. And I put as much thought into it as I knew his parent would. I named him Joseph, because we had called him “Jo” throughout my pregnancy. I have an Aunt that calls all of us grandchildren with this as our middle name, which it isn’t for any of us! Patty Jo, Debbie Jo, Karen Jo, so it was obvious to us that the baby would have to be a “Jo!” Then I chose Paul as his middle name. During my pregnancy my friend Paul was the only one who didn’t react with shock and dismay at my announcement. He smiled big and replied, “That’s wonderful! Children are such a gift.” I wanted my son to be blessed with that kind of compassion. So it was Joseph Paul. My little gift to him, it would go on his original birth certificate and always be a reminder of his beginnings. And that was enough for me.
When the first letters from his parents arrived, they extended a gift to me. His mother wrote that they decided to keep the name I had chosen because they felt that I must have had special reasons for choosing it and it was their gift to me. They wanted me to know that they would always honor his beginnings and understand it was an important piece of who he was, so they wanted him to keep it. They said it also represented names within their family so they felt that it was the perfect representation of the blend between my family and theirs. I could not have been more honored and happy. I remember crying and clutching the letters, looking to the sky and whispering “now you’ll always be my Joe too.” At that moment my heart totally broke open with love and trust for this couple. Their sign of respect for me came full circle as I then became full of respect for them. This became the foundation for an amazing relationship.
The focus should always be the child. Sometimes, a name is just a name. And that’s okay! Sometimes it holds great importance, and that’s okay too. Take the time to discuss it, share expectations and respect what you hear from each other. With the thousands of possibilities of names in this world it seems incredible that both parties wouldn’t be able to find one that everyone can agree to – especially if their focus is on the child and not themselves.
Isn’t every child worth a story of how their name was chosen that’s full of love and respect? I think so.