What is in a Name?

Once upon a time, we had a list of baby names. Names we wrote down when we both liked them. They were stored in my cell phone so that they were always with us, so we could add/delete whenever we felt like it. We both held the power of veto, so only names that we both liked could be added. We have a decent amount of girls names picked out, and only a few boy’s names.

When I was looking in my phone, I realized that we still have the list. We just haven’t looked at it in months, maybe even years. Somewhere along the way we just stopped talking about baby names, so I hadn’t thought to look at the list.

Yet, now we find ourselves talking about names again. But with a new uncertainty that we didn’t think too much about when we chose open adoption. Quite frankly, I think adoption naming is a bit different and probably a little bit more complex given the nature of the number of people directly involved. Our child will likely come with a name, chosen by their birth mother (and possibly father depending on the circumstances). Depending on the circumstances of our match we may be able to talk about this with the birth mother leading up to the birth, or we may not.

So, we’ve been thinking and yet not thinking too hard.

We do know that even with adoption we envision our child to have three names – first, middle and last.

As for the first name, we still have our list. But honestly, we don’t know what we will choose to do. As we are doing infant adoption, as opposed to adoption of an older child, so we will very likely choose to change the name to our first choice name. Honestly, if we don’t like the name chosen by the birth mother, we will change it because I cannot imagine not liking my child’s name. I’m going to say the name millions of times in my life, so I had better love it.  Maybe we’ll keep it as a middle name. But maybe not. We really just don’t know right now.

As for the middle name. We always known the middle names of our child, boy or girl. They were names of individuals who have had significant impact on our lives. Names of people we would like to honour. And more importantly, we wanted their middle names to be a reminder to the characteristics of those people, the characteristics we hope to instill in our child – like being compassionate, looking out for others, and being willing to forge their own path and to live with integrity. We viewed the middle name as sort of a reminder of greatness that we hoped would shine through and inspire our child.

However, now I have no idea if these middle names will ever be used. We may choose to honour the birth mother with the middle name, because quite frankly, the birth mother seems like the right person to honour. Clearly, she will have a significant/massive/huge/giant/colossal place in our hearts for the rest of time. Or, we may choose to use the first name our birth mother gives the child as their middle name. Or, lately I’ve been thinking Hope could be a really good middle name for a girl (if we have a girl), because honestly, hope is what will have brought her into our lives. Or we may choose one of our first choice middle names.  In many ways I think the middle name might just be the hardest name for us to choose.

We know, that no matter what, we will change our baby’s last name to match ours – we are a family and we will share our name. There is no doubt in our minds about this. (Side note – I didn’t want to change my name when we got married. It was fully my choice without pressure from Mr. MPB. I do not like hyphenated last-names for children and ours would have sounded stupid together. So, in the end I decided I wanted to share my name with my child, which meant I assumed my husband’s name).

Honestly, this uncertainty around the child’s name, and trying to get it right to respect the birth mother and our child is a challenge for us. In many ways this might be the biggest challenges left for us to reconcile. I believe naming a child is a gift, it’s something they will carry with them for the rest of time and will influence all their first introductions throughout their life. I want that to be a gift we give our child. But, with open adoption it’s just not that simple, and part of me is really saddened by that. It’s hard to know what’s right to do to respect everyone involved. I don’t want to place my needs at the bottom of the pile, but I also don’t want to short change our child or the birth mother.

It’s really weird going into this, knowing that we really have no idea what we will decide. Really, there are so many unknowns that we just don’t have the ability to plan. We anticipate that it will likely be a decision we cannot make until we have our child in our arms. We don’t know the birth mother right now, so we have no idea how she will feel about naming. We don’t know what names she will choose, so we have no idea how we feel about them. Part of me hopes that we will be able to talk to the birth mother before the baby is born and we can all be part of naming the child together right from the very beginning. Part of me hopes that she doesn’t want to name the child and just leaves it to us. Part of me hopes that we just serendipitously love the name she gives the baby.

Really, I just have a lot of conflicting feelings about this.  I don’t know what will be best, and I don’t think it is even something I have a say in right now.

The name is a huge deal to me, and I want it to perfect. I want to be able to pick out our favourite names again with excitement and joy. But right now it just feels too complicated. I’m afraid of the complexities and the unknowns and so I’m afraid to get my heart set on anything.

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52 Comments on “What is in a Name?

  1. I’ve never actually thought about this. The few people that I know that have adopted, have all chosen the baby’s name. Hope was high on our list for a middle name also, but ultimately, if it’s a girl, I’m 98% sure her middle name will be Faith because that’s what this journey has taken so much of. J wants it for the first name, but I don’t love it as a first name. For our boy, we have our first name picked out, but not a middle name, lol.

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    • Faith is a wonderful middle name (or first name if J gets his way). 🙂
      I think there is a difference between infant open adoption and any sort of older child or closed adoption. And I think these differences would greatly influence naming of an adopted child.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh the pressure of a name! I know this well and I think you’re right-with adoption it’s just more complicated because there are more moving parts. We picked our adopted children’s first names and then used the name our birth moms had picked for the babies. In this way our children could stand by name in each world they were part of. No matter what you decide (for it’s between you and Mr MPB only) your baby will benefit from your thoughtfulness about this and I’m positive you’ll just know when the time comes. Keep celebrating this child that you don’t even know yet, your celebration and gratitude will create such a beautiful place for this baby to arrive in!!!

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    • Thank you for sharing this – I sort of think that might be how we end up doing it – first name is our choice, middle name will be the birth mother’s choice. But knowing it’s an open adoption we really just have to wait and see – we have no idea what will happen.
      Also, I love your advice to celebrate this child – such a great way to keep moving forward. 🙂
      Thank you for all of this.

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  3. This does sound very tricky. It’s very thoughtful of you to be taking into account so many different factors — the birth mother’s wishes, especially. But as you say, ultimately you need to love the name, and as this baby’s parents you and Mr. MPB should of course have the final say. Have you thought about how you’d feel about names if your adoption winds up being transracial? (I can’t remember whether you shared if you and Mr. MPB are open to transracial adoption.) I could imagine that it might be particularly tricky in that situation, depending on the baby’s heritage. For example, my adopted cousin is Native American by birth, but my aunt and uncle decided to give her a full-blown white European name based on our family’s heritage. She passes as white, so it hasn’t been an issue for her, but she’s mentioned that sometimes she wishes she’d gotten to keep a middle name from her Native American heritage (she’s already got two; what’s one more?). Anyway, this may or may not wind up being an issue for you, but I thought I’d mention it!

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    • Thank you for understanding all of this!
      Honestly, we haven’t thought too much about a transracial name, I guess that’s another one of those we just have to wait until our baby is born to be able to make any sort of decision on that one. I think this is in part why I am so frustrated with the naming of our child, I don’t feel like I can wonder and dream about it the way I used to. There are just too many unknowns and too many things to factor in, so any thinking about it now just feels like a waste of time that will only result in me getting my heart on something and then being disappointed if it doesn’t work. I don’t mean to be whiny about it, but I just am struggling to see through the unknowns.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s totally understandable and you don’t sound whiny at all! I can’t wait until you are matched and all of these details start coming together. We are all so excited for you!

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  4. Always my least favorite Shakespeare quote/moment, the “what’s in a name” bit. Answer: A LOT, and I hate that Shakespeare tries to play it off! I’ve always been a bit obsessed with baby names, but even I am struggling to commit to anything with our baby other than middle names. Like you, I have chosen middles that honor people I love, as my mom did with all three of her kids. I sincerely hope that you have a birth mother who is receptive to a conversation about naming and that together you can all three agree on a name that you love.

    Random sidenote: I also did not want to change my last name when I got married, and didn’t for over a year. At our wedding we were announced as “Mr. Kevin Waite and Mrs. Anamarie Miller.” I was THAT sure I would never change my name (oh, my militant feminism). Through the first year of marriage we hit a lot of stupid road blocks by having different last names (trying to pay bills, for example), and I started thinking, good god — is this what it’s going to look like whenever we try to do something for our kids? Ultimately what made me decide to take the leap was a huge falling out with my dad. All of a sudden I just thought, what the hell am I holding on to this name for? It connects me to a family that is not my own anymore. Very tough decision. That said, Kevin and I had always agreed that since our kids would have his last name, I had ultimate decision making power over the rest of the name. We are trying to find something we both completely love, but we will see if that works out 😉

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    • Thanks for sharing your name changing process and thoughts! I literally didn’t decide until the day of the wedding, but now I’m good with the decision even though we don’t have children. I love that you get full decision over the rest of their name – I think that’s an awesome deal – I might try to retroactively put that in place for me too. haha! 🙂

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      • Good luck! Kevin is already trying to renege on this deal (which wouldn’t be a big deal if he liked even one halfway decent name!) 😉

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  5. I really hope you get to select your baby’s name. Or select it with the birth mother. I didn’t realize that some birth moms get to name the children at birth. i always assumed that job went to the parents.

    Naming someone IS a big deal and a huge privilege. I hope you are given the chance to name your child(ren) with the blessing of the birth mother. Maybe you’ll share a taste in names!

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    • The child gets a name on their birth certificate and I understand it is often whatever the birth mother writes down. But who knows, because it all depends on the birth mother we are matched with. There are just so many potential unknown scenarios that it’s hard for me to even contemplate all of it. As you say, hopefully we all just share a taste in names. 🙂

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  6. I think of names a lot – the baby we lost was given our first choice name so we’ve been struggling to agree on others we like. However, you can always hyphenate or give a child two middle names – both to honor the person you want to honor and the child’s name given by the birth parents! Perhaps there will even be a way to combine them. For example, we want to honor my spouse’s grandmother; her maiden name was Graeser. We also want a subsequent son to have a link to Anderson’s name. So we’re thinking of Graeson for a future boy’s name. (And for what it’s worth, I also took my spouse’s last name so that our child(ren) would share one name instead of hypenating the last name, as we both have long last names).

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    • Thanks so much for all your thoughts. I like your idea of combining the names, that’s something we had not thought about. And you are right, we might just end up using two middle names – who knows. There are a lot of possibilities, and ways to make it work, even if right now our thought processes haven’t come around to all the possibilities. 🙂

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  7. So much is tied into a name, so it’s understandable that you have worries about the process, especially as there are other factors in play. I was kinda name obsessed throughout the TTC process and have taken a big break from it since our miscarriages, since I feel like the miscarriages were lessons in not planning on certainty. We had a girl same solidified, but when Dumplin comes the naming will be a “when we meet him” kind of decision. I have wanted to change my last name more and more, and might finally do it this summer to match DW’s. I’ve heard that it takes a lot of hassled out of travelling with your kid(s) if you share a last name. And I know you guys will share many adventures with your kid(s)!

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    • Thanks for sharing all of this. I never thought I’d change my last name, but honestly, I’m glad I did it now, even without kids in the picture.
      There really is no debate for us that we will change the babies last name to match ours – I think it just makes everything easier, like traveling but also like picking your child up from school or the daycare, medical appointments, emergency hospital visits, etc. And honestly, it would be beyond weird to me not to have the same last name. We will be more flexible with the first and middle names, but absolutely not the last.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for sharing this – I’d actually been pretty curious as to how that process works. That must be a difficult decision to make, but at the same time it’s hard to know exactly what the birth mother will want. Still, good to think things through in advance and have a plan either way!

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    • Honestly, it’s a process that I want to work my way, but I realize I have no idea what the process will ultimately look like so I really cannot even try to start piecing it all together. And I know this complete lack of knowing is one of the hardest things for me to overcome right now, because I just see it as such a big deal.

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  9. Thank you for sharing this. I don’t think many people realize how much goes into the adoption journey – like picking out names. It is such a special thing to pick out a name for your baby, and I hope that you get some sort of experience with it when you adopt. I have heard of people collaborating with birth mothers, changing names, etc. But whatever the circumstance, I think that you’ll end up loving your baby’s name.

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    • Thank you Krystal. I do think in the end, we will end up loving our child’s name, it’s just a matter of getting through all the uncertainty around it right now. I hate uncertainty! 🙂

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  10. I was a teacher, and there are so many names with unpleasant connotations for me now, that I couldn’t blindly okay a birthmother naming the baby. It was even in the adoption agency contract and I said it was cool if they chose the middle name, or maybe even if we picked the first together. But you’re right, this is a name you will say countless times in your life so you should like it. If you’ve dreamed of one in particular, you shouldn’t compromise that. I would plan on working that all out prior to the birth though (if possible) because if you enter into an open adoption and then change the name of the baby that the birth mom thought they would have, it might make for a rocky start.

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    • I think teachers must have the hardest time in the world picking out a baby name! I sorta of just hope that we all agree to a name that we love and no-one feels jaded in the process. I do hope you are right, everything can be worked out prior to birth, but I guess only time will tell. (I hate the uncertainty of it right now, but I also realize I cannot change anything right now).

      Liked by 1 person

      • You and me both, friend! Uncertainty is a killer. Hang in there. We have similar stories, I’m glad we found each other on here! I’m cheering you on from the sidelines!

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  11. I’ve read that quite a few adoptees appreciate that their original name was kept as a middle name. It’s okay for them to have two middle names 🙂

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    • Thanks! While you are right about the possibility of two middle names, it’s not something we like the idea of. But, we also realize it’s not a decision we can make, so we shall wait and see how everything unfolds.

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  12. Picking names is a big enough struggle as it is, and then throw adoption and 3rd or 4th opinion in, and it’s a whole lot to take in! We talked about names for MONTHS and it wasn’t until close to the end that we were fully decided on what we wanted. I have a VERY unique first name, and I know how it completely screwed me growing up, so there were a lot more pushback from me about names then from Callie. I hope that if you don;t get to choose your little ones name, that you can at the very least, work together with birth mom/dad to find something that everyone is happy with. Names are a huge deal…

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    • Thanks for understanding! I so appreciate that you get it.
      I really do hope that we are able to work with the birth-parents to agree to names that we all love. That would be the best situation I can think of. Or that they pick the middle name and we pick the first – I’d be okay with that too.

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  13. We didn’t pick out any names when I was pregnant, we waited to meet our child and see what fit him, rather than the other way around. It worked for us and the right name for him just came to us…

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  14. Gosh, so much to consider! I know whatever name you finally decide on, it will be a beautiful name that honors where your child came from and the journey you took to get to them. And, I’m sure your heart will overflow every time you say it!

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  15. My parents picked all of our names (adopted and bio) but as far as I know our birth mothers didn’t name us anything different. I was just the [overseas] equivalent of Baby Jones. Then my name is a sort of hybrid of an English name and a name in my native language and my sibling’s name is also a little bit exotic… What I mean is we both don’t have traditional English names whilst the bio ones do.

    I’ve always liked my name and people usually compliment it. It’s like an English name spelled differently and it sort of means something in my native language. My dad says it means Beautiful Child but I wouldn’t put it past him to be fibbing about it!

    I think if a child already has a name that it is a bit strange not to keep it. We know people who adopted more recently and in all 3 cases they’ve kept their children’s birth names. They are all a bit, how can I put it… not what you might pick. (In Britain they have this horrendous word “chav” which sounds very judgy, but what I mean is they are not traditional names and they probably reflect a certain social class which isn’t middle class, which is what most adopters are.) In all cases the children already knew their own names – the oldest was maybe 6 and the youngest maybe 2. I think if a child is pre verbal then it makes not that much difference if you call them something else, but if a child is verbal and has memories then you’re actively taking something away. And I think that can come back to bite you when they’re older and they start asking why you changed their name.

    Also this is maybe controversial but many adult adopted people who go through reunion then change their name back to their original name or change some part of their name to reflect their origins. I don’t know that I would ever do that as I’ve never been through that process. And also didn’t have an original name. But I can see why as an adult you might want to reclaim that. I’ve a school friend who was adopted and she reclaimed her original name when she was in her 20s. I kinda think I’m me and I’m used to my name so can’t imagine going by a different one!

    I think if you want to use a different first name then it’s nice if you can keep the original name as a second/middle name. Also when I was at school many of the kids from different places had an English name and an original name. Like they might be known as something Asian but then they’d have an English name that they’d chosen. One of my friends was Kit XXX XXX and she was known as Kate. Now she’s back in her home country she’s back to being known as Kit XXX.

    Oh and this is just random thoughts so hope you don’t think I’m telling you what to think! Names are so emotive and I’m sure everyone has an opinion… I get what you’re saying about the sadness of maybe not getting to do that. I hope you find a solution and hopefully it won’t be something you have to worry about too much!

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    • Thank you for sharing all of this!! As always I really appreciate your thoughts and experience.
      It’s interesting, the point you made about if a child already has a name that most people keep it. Here, that seems to be the case in the situation where the child is a bit older. But as an infant international adoption, it seems most people change the name. (I’m not sure about local infant adoptions, I’m not sure how that tends to play out).
      Honestly, this is the part of the adoption that now leaves me with the most stress. Naming is just so important to me and I want to get it right and I want to respect all the players involved. And for once, I will acknowledge that respecting all the players also means respecting myself. I am not willing to put our needs at the very bottom of the pile – that doesn’t mean we will be at the top of the list, quite frankly we wont be, the child will be. But I don’t know what that looks like right now and I hate the uncertainty of it. There are just so many different ways that it could work perfectly (i.e. we all agree to a name or we choose hte first name, the birth mom chooses the middle name, etc.), and for now we just need to wait it out and I need to stop obsessing over it.

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  16. I so understand how you want to get this.right. I think it feels too complicated because you don’t have all the factors right now. You don’t know the birth mother yet, you don’t know the scenario that will take place for YOUR open adoption which will be different to any other open adoption going on out there. I think it’s great to have ideas and a plan in mind but then it is also great to put those ideas aside until the time comes. This is the sort of stuff that is anxiety creating…trying to solve problems that can’t possibly be solved yet.. so try not to be so hard on yourself! The answers will unfold as the process unfolds. And you WILL get it right as you care about it being right SO MUCH. 🙂

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    • Thank you, you are right, the complicated feelings right now are all the result of not having all the factors right now. It’s the uncertainty of it that is causing me stress and frustration. I know I cannot overcome the uncertainty right now, so I do need to sort of tuck away the emotions and wait until we have more information to develop a plan for moving forward.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I picked our name because after going through infertility treatments-miscarriages…you know the story…I started looking for names that mean _____. I wanted my baby’s name to reflect the gift that we knew him to be, so we looked up names that meant “Gift from God.” It just so happened to be my late brother’s name as well, and that felt like an omen. Whatever you choose, I’m sure it will be perfect.

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  18. I kinda feel like once you have the baby in your arms, you’ll just kinda know what to do. Definitely think about it, talk about it, even talk about it with the birth mother. In the end it does have to be something you’re happy with, as you said. I feel like when the moment comes, you’ll know what to do to make everyone involved happy. 🙂

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    • I hope you are right! It’s hard for me to wait and not think about it, but I also realize there is just too much uncertainty around it right now so there is no point. And, I really do hope that in the end we all agree to a name so that no-one ends up hurting.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I can relate to this so, so, so much. We had names all picked out, and our middle names were honoring special grandparents, and now there’s so much else to consider. We could be able to name the whole shebang, or we could be using a middle name chosen by or honoring the birth family. I think I’d have a real issue with giving up the first name. Sometimes it feels like a whittling away, all these things to consider and adjust to (for us, starting with using donor material), and I feel like there’s a point where I just can’t give up any more. The first name is that for me. I feel though that I can’t worry too much about this situation until it comes, because depending on the birth family and the level of openness and the timing of everything, it may not even be relevant. I have been slowly getting used to not having a middle name that we choose though. So many tough decisions and things to think about, right?

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    • Thank you so much for sharing Jess – it sounds like we are really similar in having significant attachment to the first name. And I also like your description of it whittling away – it seems like in choosing to adopt so many of the things we care about are whittling away. For us, substance exposure was the first time we really realized how much we might have to compromise because I just cannot imagine exposing a child to anything, and here we are considering what we are actually okay with – it’s just so counter intuitive and someday it feels like us, the adoptive parents are at the bottom of the list. And the name is just another one of the things that we didn’t expect to lose control over, and yet here we are realizing that we may not have full say.
      Honestly, I just hope we all agree to a name and everything works out perfectly. But I know I cannot get my hopes too high.

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  20. We were asked about naming recently too. You expressed all our thoughts. It’s just a hard thing to decide before you know the expectant mom/dad and the relationship. We could guess, but that’ll drive us all mad. We have a list too, but have paid very little attention to it. We might comment on a name we think is pretty in a movie or we overhear. BUT I think ultimately we’ll wait to see how it all pans out.

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    • It’s nice to know that we are not the only ones sitting on pins and needles trying to wait until we can actually try to figure out the naming process. It’s sort of like something that is in our minds, but we are also smart enough not to get to invested in right now. Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. We were pretty set on our children’s first names because we had fallen in love with their meanings. Turkey-Man’s means “God has strengthened” which is exactly how we felt we had gotten through the journey to him. Little-Flower’s name means “God has answered” because there was a lot of prayer that went into her placement both on our part and that of her birth mother. We used hubby’s first name as Turkey-Man’s middle name, but for Little-Flower we used her birth mom’s middle name as hers. It was a generational family name so we wanted to keep that tradition alive.

    Turkey-Man’s birth mom did not really ask to have any input, but Little-Flower’s birth mom did. We let her know what we were thinking and both she and her mom’s mouths dropped open because it was almost the exact same name they were thinking. (Odd how those things work out!). I think it meant a lot to them for us to keep the middle name tradition going.

    When you meet your child’s birth parents, you will feel out what is best for your situation. There is a lot in a name and it has to be something you are comfortable with.

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    • Thank you so much for sharing this! It’s honestly so nice to hear from someone who has already gone through it and get’s how complicated it can be. I think it’s beautiful that both your children’s names have such strong meaning to you and that the names worked for the birth families too. I so hope our situation is similar.

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  22. I think after all you’ve been through getting your heart set on anything is definitely complicated.

    The name will come.
    It will

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    • You are right, at this point it’s hard to get our hearts set on anything. I suspect even once we have our child it will take us a lot of time to think it’s real and not just some sort of dream. 🙂

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  23. Naming is a hard task with adoption! I thought I was the only person who thought so much about all the different factors to consider with naming. Since I’m adopting an older (school aged) child changing the first name isn’t something I plan to do unless they choose – I’ve heard of a few older children choosing this. I’ve decided to add a 2nd middle name that will be similar to my nieces 2nd middle name. Thankfully there’s dozens of wonderful variations of it for both genders. Also, since I’m adopting as a single parent I’ve decided we will take a new surname together. I feel it’s a bit arbitrary that they take my last name vs me their last name when it will be just the 2 of us. So I’ve carefully thought out taking my grandmother’s maiden name. She is my hero and inspiration. She overcame some astonishing adversity & trauma with grace. She was filled with a kind spirit rather than bitterness despite of her very difficult life. I’d like to pass some of her lessons to my child and this – like your mention of your middle name choices – is my way of honouring my grandmother AND reminding myself of the values I want to help my child follow.

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    • Thank you so very much for sharing this – I really appreciate knowing that others also struggle with all the complexities involved with naming and adoption. I think it is beautiful that you are going to share a new surname together that also represents so much to you!

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